Are you planning on taking your dog(s) with you the next time that you are out on the water? Why wouldn’t you? What could be better than a fun day out with your four-legged friend?
If you are involving your dog in water-based hobbies you should give serious consideration to having a Pet Buoyancy Aid for them. You are your dog’s principal carer and you can fulfil that role by keeping them safe around water.
In this post we’ll look at why your dog needs a pet buoyancy aid, what you need to consider when buying one, and how the Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid fits the bill.
Product Review Disclaimer
1 Terminology and Acronyms
Different people often use different terminology when referring to the same items.
Not only that, there always seems to be an abundance of TLAs. That is, Three Letter Acronyms!
Let’s clear up any potential sources of confusion before we move on.
- SUP – Stand-Up Paddleboard
- PFD – Personal Flotation Device
- DFD – Dog Flotation Device
- PWC – Personal Water Craft (small boats and dinghies, paddleboards, etc)
If I think of something that I would wear in order to help me float in the event that I got into difficulty in the water, I would call that a Life Jacket.
A Buoyancy Aid, as the name suggests, is intended to help the wearer remain afloat until close-at-hand help arrives. It is anticipated that the wearer will be able to swim to some degree.
The distinction is that life jackets are intended for use in situations where the wearer may not be able to help themselves. For example, it will keep an unconscious person in a safe position.
That said, the two terms are often used interchangeably.
So, if somebody refers to having a SUP Life Jacket or a Buoyancy Aid SUP to use as a PFD or DFD when using their PWC.
You can roughly translate that as:
A paddleboarder is going to use a Pet Buoyancy Aid for their dog while they use their paddleboard together.
2 Why Your Dog Needs a Pet Buoyancy Aid
You may be thinking ‘Dogs can swim, can’t they?‘
And you’d be right.
However, there are still reasons why it makes sense to use a Pet Buoyancy Aid. These include:
Accidents will happen
As Elvis Costello told me in my teens, Accidents Will Happen.
If your dog falls off your boat and hits his head on the way into the water then he may be dazed, or worse, concussed, and obviously this will hamper his ability to swim.
Even strong swimmers get tired
My dog, Harvey, loves water. If its deep enough, he’ll swim in it (and if it isn’t he’ll just run back and forth through it!).
And he is not alone. A great many breeds, especially Labradors and Spaniels, are very keen swimmers.
However, even the keenest and strongest of swimmers can become tired. And, dogs are notoriously stoic and will keep on going until they are physically unable to continue.
It is helpful, therefore, to have some sort of insurance for when that stage is reached.
(You might also like to keep a mental note of how long your dog has been in the water and how this compares to how long it takes for him to become tired. Be prepared!)
Not all breeds are good in water
We’ve just read about the naturals who love the water.
However, not all breeds are as well suited to swimming.
The brachycephalic dogs are good examples of this. Their flat face means that they may already have breathing problems. Combining this with having to swim is something that should be considered carefully.
Other breeds have physiques which mean that they aren’t ideal swimmers and may need some help. These include those with large heads, like a Bulldog, and those with very little body fat (which aids buoyancy) like Greyhounds and Whippets.
If you have such a breed and want to take it with you on your water-based outing, consider having a Pet Buoyancy Aid for your dog to wear as a precaution.
Most good Pet Buoyancy Aids will have a handle on them. This means, should the need arise, you can help your dog get to safety.
Or simply help it back on to whatever PWC (remember that acronym?) you are using.
If you take your dog for swimming lessons, be that as part of a plan to help survive canine arthritis or simply as a form of exercise that your dog will love, it can be useful to have something that will both help your dog and make it easier for the instructor to manoeuver them.
3 Choosing a Pet Buoyancy Aid for Your Dog
OK, so you’ve decided that a life jacket would be a good idea. What do you need to consider when buying one?
Size does matter!
Size matters for 2 reasons:
- Your dog will be far more happy to accept wearing a Pet Buoyancy Aid if it is actually comfortable to wear. Think ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ – not too small, not too large, but just right!
- The last thing that you want is to grab the handle of the life jacket to pull your dog aboard your PWC and for the life jacket to come off because it is poorly fitted.
Therefore, you will want to pick an item that has both a range of sizes and has adjustable straps for fine-tuning the fit within each size category.
Get a Handle on it
The main objective of a Pet Buoyancy Aid is to help keep your pet afloat.
However, if your dog is struggling and you want to help it out of the water then a handle is invaluable, especially for larger dogs.
Our dog, Harvey, once jumped into a canal when we were out walking. It was my fault: off-lead Labrador + water = Labrador in the water!
Canals have steep vertical sides and there is no way he could have climbed out alone. Fortunately, he was wearing his harness and I was able to reach in and grab that to help him out. A handle would have been even better!
Put a Ring on it
You should also look for a life jacket that has a D-ring on it.
Although it’s primary purpose is as a buoyancy aid it is useful to have somewhere to attach a lead for the times when you want to walk your dog towards or away from something.
It should float!
It may sound obvious but, you want a Pet Buoyancy Aid that provides the buoyancy that you are looking for in such a product. If it doesn’t help your dog to float then its not fit for purpose and you should look elsewhere.
The matters detailed above are, to my mind, the key features of a DFD.
If the product that you are considering has any other useful features in addition to the above then that can only be a good thing, right?
4 Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid
I was asked to provide a review of the Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid.
I have not received any monetary reward for this review and the links to the Aquaplanet website are not affiliate links. All opinions expressed are my own.
I did receive a free-of-charge pet buoyancy aid from Aquaplanet to enable me to undertake the review. Harvey has worn this in order to enable me to perform the review. Once the review session was finished I donated it to the owners of the dog swimming pool.
So, enough of the preamble, keeping in mind the points that I made above about choosing a Pet Buoyancy Aid, how good is the offering from Aquaplanet?
The Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid comes in a range of sizes:
|Length of Pet (*)
|28cm – 35cm (12″ – 14″)
|35cm – 45cm (14″ – 18″)
|45cm – 55cm (18″ – 22″)
|* From collar to base of tail
It also has 3 adjustable straps, 1 at the front and 2 underneath.
Obviously, on first use you will need to spend some time finding the Goldilocks setting but once that is done the buoyancy aid can be put on your dog in a matter of seconds.
And it has a soft, comfortable feel to it. Remember, the more comfortable it is the more accepting your dog will be about wearing it.
I have to say that Harvey was perfectly comfy wearing his (as you can see in the picture below and in the featured image at the beginning of the post).
The Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid has a strong handle located on the top of the item.
It was plenty strong enough for directing an enthusiastic Labrador!
There is a D-ring located immediately in front of the handle. That is, on the top of the life jacket, just where a collar would be.
Although Harvey is a strong swimmer his body alignment is sometimes a little ‘off’ in that his back-end sits lower in the water than most dogs.
One thing I immediately noticed while he was wearing the Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid is that it overcame this issue instantly.
So, there is certainly plenty of buoyancy in this jacket.
I noticed on the card insert that came with the vest that this remarkable buoyancy is provided by ‘soft closed cell expanded EPE foam‘.
Now, I’m no chemist so that doesn’t mean much to me. What I can tell you is that it is very light, comfortable, and it floats well!
In terms of the key features required for a DFD the Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid certainly ticks all of the boxes.
What else does it have to offer?
Well, the top part of the straps (the parts above the water) have reflective trims. If you and your dog are out when the visibility is poor then this could prove to be a very useful feature.
The vest also has a handy pocket for carrying small items. (Is it sad that the first thing that I thought of was poo bags! I’ve changed since getting a dog!)
Is there room for improvement?
One of the few conditions that I placed on doing a review of this product was that it would be solely my opinions. No swapping of a free product in exchange for a 100% positive review. That’s not for me.
So, are there any areas that can be improved?
Well, while I think that the Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid is an excellent product, there are two things that I think may warrant consideration:
- The D-ring on the jacket that I received was made of plastic. Being the owner of a dog that can sometimes be a little, how shall I put it, enthusiastic, I’d be far happier with a metal D-ring like the one on Harvey’s harness.
I wonder if this is a recent change because the D-ring on one of the images on Aquaplanet’s website appears to be a metal one.
- There doesn’t appear to be any choice in the colour of the jacket. While there are reflective trims on the straps of the jacket, I do wonder whether perhaps the option to have bright orange or bright yellow to aid visibility during daylight might also be useful.
5 Your Dog – Training and Pet Buoyancy Aids
Successful, stress-free, use of a Pet Buoyancy Aid for your dog is best achieved with some preparation well before your intended outing.
I would strongly advocate Positive Dog Training for all of the training that you do with your dog. It is the most successful method of training (used by military, police, search and rescue, guide dogs for the blind etc etc).
What training is needed?
Well, it depends on your (and your dog’s) experience.
If your dog has never been swimming before I would get some practice at that first. Look for a local pool where you can engineer a gentle introduction. If your dog is a confident swimmer then he will be far more relaxed aboard your PWC.
Similarly, if your dog has never been on your PWC before then it would be useful to undertake some training to help him become familiar with it. The Karen Pryor website has a useful article on how to Teach Your Dog to Ride a SUP.
Finally, and most importantly, get your dog used to wearing the Pet Buoyancy Aid. I’d recommend using an approach along these lines:
- First, just let your dog see and, more importantly, smell the DFD. Put it on the floor and every time that your dog shows even the slightest interest in it say ‘Yes’, in an encouraging voice, and give a high-value treat (use something that is your dog’s favourite).
- Do this several times throughout the day. Repeat until you get to the stage where your dog is actually looking around for the treat, in anticipation, as he approaches the life jacket.
- Next, we want to get the dog used to touching the jacket but without actually putting it on yet. Hold it up with one hand and with the other use a high-value treat to lure him underneath it. Repeat until you get to the stage where you can drape the jacket on his back. Don’t rush this step.
- Now, make sure that you have the straps of the jacket adjusted, as best as you can estimate without putting it on your dog, so that they are the right length. If in doubt, too long is better than too short.
- Next, have lots of high-value treats ready to reinforce the first wearing of the Pet Buoyancy Aid. If you have somebody that you can enlist as a helper, have them stream-feed treats to your dog while you calmly put on the jacket and click the buckles shut. If you don’t have a helper, put the treats in a bowl in front of your dog (dogs eat quickly so you will need to multi-task and top-up the treats!).
- Praise your dog for wearing the jacket. Let him know how clever you think he is for doing what to him is something that is completely unnatural. Limit the time that the jacket is kept on to 30 seconds or so for the first time. Then gradually increase the time with each session.
- Once you have reached the stage where your dog is comfortable with longer periods then you are ready to go.
6 Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some FAQs related to Pet Buoyancy Aids.
Can You get a Life Jacket for a Dog?
Yes, you can.
And if you are taking your dog on the water then they are highly recommended, not only for their life-saving ability but also because they often have grab-handles to make it easier to help your dog out of the water and they also often have reflective strips to aid in finding your dog in low light scenarios.
Note that they are often also referred to as Pet Buoyancy Aids or Dog Floatation Devices.
Do Dogs Need to Wear Life Jackets?
Many dogs are excellent swimmers. However, if you are taking your dog with you on the water then it makes sense to protect them with a Pet Buoyancy Aid. Wearing one could, quite literally, save his life.
This is because the life jacket will help in the event of an accident, if your dog becomes tired, or if he is of a breed not well-suited to swimming. It also helps with basic safety as the handle can be useful for helping your dog out of the water. They are also useful for swimming lessons.
What Size Life Jacket do I Need for my Dog?
It is essential that you buy a life jacket of the appropriate size. If you don’t, it will be uncomfortable for your dog and, worse, may result in it slipping off your dog.
Sizes vary by manufacturer. Some measure by length, some by girth. Select your chosen manufacturer and follow their recommendations for measuring your dog and picking the appropriate size from their range.
7 Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid – Summary
Here’s a useful little summary of the Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid.
A Pet Buoyancy Aid to protect your pet around water
Ease of use
Straps are easy to adjust. Quick and simple to put on and take off.
Great buoyancy. Handle works well.
£24.99 at the time of writing. A small price for your dog’s safety.
A couple of minor niggles but overall an excellent product.
- A range of sizes
- Adjustable straps
- Strong handle to help with lifting
- D-ring for attaching a lead
- Excellent buoyancy
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Reflective trims to aid visibility
- Handy pocket
- D-ring is made of plastic. May not be strong enough for some dogs
- No colour options (especially hi-vis)
The Aquaplanet Pet Buoyancy Aid is an invaluable aid in helping to protect your pet around water. Particularly useful for those who like to take their dogs with them on their PWC. It is also an excellent resource for use when taking your dog for swimming sessions.
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9 The End
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