When you own a German Shepherd, you can’t help but take them with you on your outings. After all, this is a breed that is meant to be active and engaged with their environment.
If you are the type of person who enjoys boating and fishing, or if you just live near the water, you have probably brought your dog along on some of those nautical adventures.
However, you owe it to your canine friend to make them as safe as possible, and a life jacket is the most effective way to protect your dog from drowning.
Just as you need a life jacket for every person in a boat, you also need one for every dog. With that in mind, let’s look at six of the best large-dog life jackets that we could find online. We will then attempt to answer your questions and teach you how to choose the best one for you.
Best Overall Product: Vivaglory Large Dog Life Jacket
This product is made of soft neoprene that reminds us of a wetsuit. As such, it doesn’t absorb any water at all, which is a good thing.
That means no chance of your dog being weighed down as they try to swim, so that’s definitely a big positive. We also like the extra-thick foam inserts, as they give us more confidence in this jacket’s ability to float.
This one also has dual handles, which can be very helpful at times. For a German Shepherd, this is a very nice feature because most people cannot lift such a large dog with one hand.
This is also the second-cheapest life jacket on our list, so it will save you some money as well. At the same time, the soft neoprene can be cut or ripped more easily than most other jackets, and it can be a little bit restrictive if you tighten it down all the way.
- Very smooth and comfortable (no chafing)
- Foam inserts are extra-thick for better buoyancy
- Two handles instead of one
- Doesn’t absorb water at all
- No loose straps
- Can be ripped more easily than some
- A little more likely to cut off circulation
Best Budget Product: Huret Adjustable Dog Saving Vest
This is a great option for dog owners on a tight budget, as it offers a comfortable but durable product. All the stitching is reinforced in an “X” pattern, which is just what we like to see.
The whole thing is made of breathable fabric, so it’s great for those hot summer days. German Shepherds have a hard enough time with the heat as it is!
We like the thick and solid clasps on this jacket, as they give us more confidence in its strength. We do, however, worry that the soft and breathable fabric might absorb too much water, weighing the dog down. As for the reflective strips, they are just too thin to make a lot of difference.
- All stitches are properly reinforced
- Light and comfortably well-padded
- The handle is firmly attached
- Breathable fabric
- Clasps are nice and solid
- Might absorb some water
- Reflective strips don’t do much
The Runner-Up: Ruffwear Float Coat Life Jacket For Dogs
The most distinctive thing about this product is the way it encloses around the dog. It’s more like a coat than a jacket, hence its name.
This jacket provides a good fit and is very easy to see in dim conditions. We also like the fact that all its straps and buckles have places to tuck and hide them.
For a little extra, you can even upgrade this jacket with a homing beacon, allowing you to find your dog with even more surety. However, that’s an added expense, and this is already the second-most-expensive product on our list.
Not only that, but it might be a little too thick for a long-haired dog like a German Shepherd. In the summer months, when water activities are most popular, they might need something a little more breathable.
- Provides a good secure fit
- Bright and highly visible
- All straps are tucked away neatly
- Can be upgraded with a beacon
- Pretty expensive
- A little hot and heavy for a German Shepherd
Honorable Mention: Max Bone Premium Life Jacket for Dogs
This is the most expensive life jacket on our list, and that’s probably because it is made of high-grade materials.
The top layer is made of a thick canvas-like material that resists tearing and ripping. We also like the double handles on top, which are reinforced with two long strips of nylon webbing.
This one is well-padded on the inside, so it should be comfortable. At the same time, this was done without the use of soft, absorbent materials, so that’s very nice. Adjustment is quick and easy, and the whole thing is backed by a money-back guarantee.
However, the high cost of this product will put it out of reach for many people. We do like the 100% money-back guarantee that is offered, but that won’t help those who can’t afford to buy it in the first place.
- Plenty of room to breathe
- Reinforced double handles
- Well-padded without being absorbent
- money-back guarantee
- Quick and easy adjustment
- Quite expensive
Alternate Product 1: Queenmore Dog Life Jacket
This one wouldn’t be our first choice, but it has several key advantages to offer. First of all, it is made of a very water-resistant material that doesn’t absorb any of the stuff. In fact, it sheds water like few others, and that allows it to dry out much more quickly.
This one has a good mix of security and comfort, as it does seem to fit quite snugly. At the same time, there is still plenty of open areas and breathable areas to keep your German Shepherd from overheating.
The price is highly affordable, and the little shark’s fin is a nice touch. However, we do with that this one was made in a brighter color, and that leash attachment doesn’t look too trustworthy.
It is held with one piece of reinforced stitching, but that one piece seems to be doing double-duty, supporting both the handle and the leash. This is a structural weakness, although it can easily be fixed.
- Secure yet comfortable
- Material dries quickly
- Very affordable
- Shark fin adds a touch of style
- Non-reflective colors
- Leash attachment is too weak
Alternate Product 2: DeenKK “Pink Fish” Lifesaver For Dogs
This one makes your dog look like a big pink mermaid. Considering the size of most German Shepherds, that can make for a very humorous time at the beach.
This style is particularly good for female dogs and provides great visibility from a distance. It is also light-reflective, so it is definitely designed for maximum visibility. It’s also one of the cheapest doggy life jackets that we have seen.
When this one gets wet, it dries very quickly, saving you a little time. Of course, this isn’t the most durable product in the world, either. Dogs that are particularly rowdy might destroy this thing too quickly.
Besides that, there isn’t really a good place to tuck those hanging straps. It would be nice if there were some way to keep them from flapping all over the place, although it isn’t a hard modification to make.
- Great style for female dogs
- Very visible from a distance
- Extremely cheap
- Available in many sizes
- Easy to dry and fold for travel
- Not the most durable jacket around
- Hanging straps
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s look at some of the most frequent questions that we receive on this subject.
Do Dogs Really Need A Life Vest?
Although most dogs can swim, they simply aren’t made for long-distance swimming. A dog will never be a fish, but a life vest can bring them a lot closer. A lot of people seem to think that all dogs are natural swimmers, but this is often not the case.
While some breeds, like Labradors, are bred for water work, others are not. Without a life vest, a dog that falls in the water for the first time is likely to panic and gulp water, drowning pretty quickly.
Should I Throw My Dog In The Water?
Some people recommend that you teach your dog to swim by throwing them in the water while wearing a life vest.
Obviously, the vest will keep them from drowning, but we still wouldn’t recommend this method. Although it might work, it might also cause the dog to develop a fear of water.
Which Breeds Are Most Suited To The Water?
Here is a quick list of breeds that were made for swimming:
- Water Spaniels
- Boykin Spaniels
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Curly-Coated Retriever
- English Setter
- Labrador Retriever
- Lagotto Romagnolo
- Newfoundland Dog
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Standard Poodles
- Golden Retriever
What About Float Collars? Are They Good Enough For My Dog?
Some companies offer inflatable “float collars,” which look exactly like they sound. It’s just a wide, inflatable collar that helps your dog to stay afloat.
However, they are far less effective than a life jacket, which is why we don’t recommend them. For one thing, a float collar doesn’t have enough buoyancy to keep a larger dog afloat.
For another thing, we don’t like the fact that it’s located around the neck. In some circumstances, it could possibly constrict the dog’s breathing, which would defeat its entire purpose and make it counterproductive.
Best Life Jacket For German Shepherd Buyer’s Guide
As we said in the introduction, we want to teach you how to choose the best doggy life jacket for the benefit of you and your dog. With that in mind, let’s look at the essential qualities and features that you should look for in a product of this type.
Good Attachment With No Choking
If your dog finds themselves in a situation where they really need a life jacket, they are likely to be flailing and thrashing around in the water.
As such, there is always the danger that the vest could become detached, making the situation even worse than before. That’s why you need to choose a vest that is secured tightly to the dog’s body.
At the same time, you need to beware of any straps that could choke the dog or cut off their circulation. In particular, look out for anything that seems to get tighter during activity.
This is related to the secure attachment criteria because a weak life jacket will soon fail. It can’t do your dog any good if its pieces are floating away, so you want to make sure that any vest you buy is sturdily made.
The straps and buckles, in particular, need special attention to make sure they are adequate.
Most of the jackets we have seen will use thick nylon straps, which is a good choice. However, you need to make sure that the stitching is nice and reinforced.
Take a close look at the stitching and make sure that it’s reinforced with an “X” pattern. Stitching like this can hold a lot more weight and pressure than a simple line stitch.
As for the buckles, plastic snaps are the norm for products of this type. We worry that they are not durable enough, considering that these jackets are meant for emergencies.
In practice, the strength of these plastic clasps will vary from one model to another, so make sure to test them beforehand.
One last thing about durability: You can usually replace these plastic buckles and clasps with pieces that are made of steel if you so desire.
However, it needs to be well-coated steel so that it won’t corrode from exposure to water. Plastics handle moisture better, but they will never have the strength of a metal.
A Good Handle And A D-Ring
Hopefully, your dog will not find themselves alone in the water. Should they require a rescue, it will probably be up to you, so you want to make it as easy on yourself as possible.
For these purposes, you want to have a good strong handle and an equally strong D-ring. The handle is used to pull the animal out of the water, or maybe to help guide them along as they swim.
The D-ring, on the other hand, is used to attach a leash. In an emergency situation, either of these could be used as a good anchor for a rope or other line.
If either of these components should fail, it could be a serious catastrophe. So, when it comes to durability, these parts should receive your first check.
Long before you go out to the water, you should put the jacket on your dog and make sure that you can lift them by the handle.
It should easily handle all their weight, and the D-ring should be able to do the same. If they cannot stand up to full resistance, they are no good.
You have probably noticed that most of these life jackets are made in bright colors. There are good reasons for that, and they have nothing to do with fashion.
A bright orange or bright yellow life jacket makes it easier to see your dog from a distance, making it far easier to keep track of their location.
If your dog should find themselves in need of a water rescue, every second will count. That’s why a high-visibility color should always be chosen, regardless of what colors or patterns you prefer.
Like bicycles, life jackets will often be equipped with reflective patches. These will capture and reflect any light that is shined toward them, making the wearer even easier to find.
When the safety of your canine friend is on the line, a little thing like this can mean the difference between life and death.
Many models will just have reflective strips instead of being made of bright/reflective material, and these are simply inferior.
A Comfortable Fit
Obviously, this consideration is not as important as the rest. Your dog’s comfort, while important, is a lot less important than their safety.
Still, you usually don’t have to make that choice in the first place. There are plenty of options on the market that allow for both comfort and effective use.
You should always look at the inner part of the jacket before buying one. Check out the surface and see if it has any rough patches. Those can chafe, especially during hard use, so you want to get something that is relatively soft.
A padded inside layer can often be found on these things, but it shouldn’t be too thick. Thick padding can absorb water and make the jacket heavier, dragging the dog down.
Freedom of movement is also something to be considered here. If your life jacket constricts the dog’s ability to move their arms, that will also constrict their ability to swim.
Obviously, this would defeat the purpose of the life jacket, so you should make sure that your dog maintains a full range of limb motion when the jacket is tightened.
Since we are talking about German Shepherds here, this factor becomes even more important. A large dog like this needs to maintain good circulation, and they cannot do that with a life jacket that is too tight.
Finally, we come to what may be the most important function of a life jacket: Its ability to float. Most of these things are made with foam panel inserts, as these naturally want to rise to the surface.
Because foam contains a lot of air pockets, it makes a natural flotation device. Still, that flotation ability will be reduced if the foam panels are broken or missing. You should always check for that sort of thing before buying as well.
If you really want to be sure, you can perform a simple buoyancy test. You don’t want to use your dog as the test subject, since that would defeat the entire purpose.
Instead, attach the jacket to yourself (as best you can) and see if it can keep you afloat in the water. If it can keep you from drowning, it should be more than adequate for your dog.
This test, by the way, is probably not a good idea for people with small dogs. However, it’s perfect for German Shepherd owners because of the larger mass of this breed.
Many dogs greatly enjoy water activities, and it can be a great opportunity to bond with your pet. With a little bit of planning and forethought, it is not that hard to choose the right life jacket for the occasion.
We should apologize for making you think about the possibility of your dog drowning.
However, it is difficult to talk about this subject without discussing that risk, so we hope you will forgive us. We also hope that you will reward our efforts by filling out the contact form below.