When standing at the bow of your boat, your dog may feel like the commander of a fishing armada. But should your fearless furry leader end up overboard, make sure he’s outfitted with a flotation device. But why? Aren’t dogs naturally strong swimmers? Yes, but just like us, they can get too cold or exhausted if they fall in the drink, so they should always wear a PFD when out on the water. There are essentially two options: a brightly coloured flotation coat, which is perfect for summer adventures, or a neoprene vest for colder days.
Designed and tailored with closed-cell foam panels positioned to allow for a dog’s natural swimming position, float coats (above) come in sizes for everything from beagles to Bernese mountain dogs. They feature a range of adjustments in the neck and chest to customize the fit, and a handle on the back to help haul slippery, wet dogs out of the water. Float coats also insulate a dog’s core, which is key to survival in cold water.
In the late fall, many waterfowlers protect their dogs from the cold with vests made of neoprene, the same material used in wetsuits. Neoprene is warm and provides buoyancy, though some vests also include flotation pads for extra buoyancy. Many vests also sport handles to help get your dog back in the boat after a retrieve. The neoprene can also be trimmed without losing its buoyancy, so the perfect fit is only a pair of scissors away.