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Right now, my dream home is waterfront property. I don’t mean a beachside condo where I can lie out and get some sun. I’m looking for easy access to a river or lake where Banjo and I can swim, kayak and paddleboard.
Banjo’s been in the water a handful of times. She likes to lie in the river on hot days when we’re running, and this summer, we celebrated Independence Day by helping Banjo swim in the Long Island Sound for the first time.
The more we take her to the water, the more I want to involve her in my aquatic pastimes. But I also know that it’s dangerous to take a dog away from the shore without a flotation device.
A couple weeks ago, Ivan and I took Banjo to a water sports rental company on the river and fitted her with a Ruffwear Float Coat flotation device. And then we took her kayaking and on the paddleboard for the first time.
Getting the Right Fit
Banjo’s not a small dog. She’s a lean 65 pounds with that boxer barrel-chest.
Typically, when I’m buying apparel for her, I buy a large. The large Float Coat was a bit too roomy, though, and she ended up with a perfect fit in the medium.
We were fortunate to be able to try the Float Coat on Banjo. I am notoriously horrible about actually measuring Banjo before buying collars, clothes or accessories, so we would have certainly ordered a size too large.
You’ll want a Float Coat that fits comfortably and correctly, so take the time to measure your dog’s chest and select the correct size. The last thing you want is for your pup to slip out of an oversized life jacket on their first time in the water.
The Float Coat’s Performance
Banjo isn’t what I’d call a “natural born swimmer.”
We began our trip on the river with Banjo perched at the front of my paddleboard. After spotting Ivan in a kayak about 5 feet from us, Banjo decided to make a graceless flop into the water to get to him.
After that, she switched back and forth between us for the next hour. At the end of our fun, she was wet but happy, and her anxiety at the beginning of the trip had faded, leaving her stubby tail wagging confidently.
Here’s what I liked about the Float Coat:
- Fit: The Float Coat has 2 adjustable straps under the chest to cinch it tight so that it won’t slip off. The neck portion has an adjustable strap, but no buckle; it just slips over your dog’s head. The placement of the adjustable straps makes the coat fit snugly but still allows ample movement so your dog can swim freely while wearing the Float Coat.
- Safety: Foam pads positioned throughout the Float Coat ensure your dog will remain floating even if they tire from swimming. And if they do a little backflip jumping into the water, the Float Coat will right their position once they’re submerged — you don’t have to worry about your pup floating upside down.
- Convenience: This is not the first Ruffwear-brand pet product I’ve owned. With each new product, I’ve gotten used to the convenient features Ruffwear adds to its gear. The Float Coat has a durable handle on the back you can use to rescue your pup, guide them or hold them close. There is also a small loop behind the handle where you can attach a safety light (like the type you might attach to your dog’s collar for nighttime walks). And beneath the handle is a ring to attach your dog’s leash.
- Durability: We’ve only used the Float Coat a few times since purchasing, but a few aspects of it make me think this life jacket will be around for a while. The buckles are extremely strong, and even when wet, the straps stay tight despite Banjo’s constant movement. We pulled Banjo up onto the kayak and paddleboard multiple times — dragging the Float Coat against the edges of the heavy equipment — but the Float Coat’s heavy webbing material didn’t snag or show any sign of wear.
Safety at a Price
Not everyone needs a life jacket for their pet. If your dog visits the beach with you but doesn’t go swimming, it’s probably not worth shelling out the cash for this safety device. But if your dog regularly goes swimming, you should have a life jacket for them.
For anyone whose pup is a water fanatic, I’d highly recommend the Ruffwear Float Coat. It’s an excellent product and it could save your dog’s life.
However, if you’re looking for a life jacket for a one-time water outing, the Float Coat is definitely on the costly side. At almost 80 dollars, it might not be worth the investment for 1 or 2 trips.
Here’s a great visual aid to help you learn more about the Ruffwear Float Coat:
You should still equip your pup with a life jacket, but consider a less expensive one. It might not hold up as well as the Float Coat to constant use, but for a couple outings, the cheaper options could be your best bet.
Learn more about the Ruffwear Float Coat on Amazon.