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Ruffwear Float Coat

rated 5.0 of 5 stars
photo: Ruffwear Float Coat dog life jacket

The best doggie life vest I've ever seen...


  • Handle
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean
  • Reflective edging
  • Allows full mobility


  • Expensive
  • Kind of stiff
  • Reflective edging cracks with age

Meet Griffin. Hood ornament, navigator, trusty companion, river rat. We see him here sporting his Ruffwear Float Coat—a life vest for your four legged friends.  

For Ruffwear founder Patrick Kruse, exploring the outdoors has always been a way of life; whether by foot, bike, flying machine, or boat. And he has always searched for ways to include his canine companions in all of his adventures. Today, his company offers quite the variety of outdoor gear for your trusted friend. You can learn more here:

I know a lot of people say dogs naturally know how to swim; and there is truth in that. There's also truth in that people who know how to swim should be wearing their life vests under certain conditions. If you find yourself and your pet in those conditions Ruffwear has you, or your pet as the case may be, covered.

I bought and used a few different vests before discovering the Ruffwear Float Coat. They were all less durable, some looked ridiculous on him, and all restricted his mobility. Of all this vest's outstanding attributes, the way it allows your dog full, unrestricted mobility is the best one.

This is a premium, full-featured, doggie life vest that includes thoughtful details like a strong handle optimally positioned to lift dogs out of the water and reflective trim for enhanced visibility; be it in or out of the water. It has easy to clip, sheltered buckles. All of the straps are fully adjustable, and it even has a telescoping neck closure. Once everything is adjusted to fit your pet it stays that way, and putting it on or removing it is both very quick and very easy.

Griffin loves kayaking and watching the fish he sees down in the cold clear water of the rivers where we live. There have been times he's attempted to catch one. Though not very often, he also has come off in riffles and light rapids. When these things happen I'm able to scoop him right up and back into the boat in mere seconds using that strong handle. I've also used it to carry him, and best of all it's not at all uncomfortable for him, well other than his dignity perhaps when carrying him using it. I've had handles on lesser vests break. I seriously doubt this one ever will.

Durability wise this thing is built to last. It's now around four years old, has seen a lot of use each of those years, has been covered in cow dung (Griffin also loves to stink), mud, slime, and pond scum. In every one of those scenarios it was easily rinsed clean right there in the river, and the only sign of wear it has is some minor cracking of the reflective trim, which has no affect on its functionality whatsoever.

Griffin never did like wearing any of the other life vests I purchased. He only resisted the Ruffwear the first time or two. Once he realized how comfortable it was he forgot all about it. In fact he now comes running up to me when I pull it out because he knows we're about to embark...see what I did there with that word embark...

But I digress. All things said, your dog will be safe and comfortable, which means you will be comfortable too. You will likely only have to buy it once and it looks stylish on your pal to boot. I feel it could be a little less stiff, but Griffin doesn't seem to mind and maybe that would make it less durable; who knows. Compared to other offerings, it's expensive. Compared to other offerings it's superior in every way. Don't waste your money and leave your pet miserable; if you're considering a life vest for your dog you will not regret fetching one of these from your local or internet retailer. Oops, I did it again.


Griffin loves kayaking, chasing cats, our horses, squirrels, turkeys, and anything else that moves, long walks, sleeping in the sun, and rolling in dead things. He's a dog's dog and a member of our family. I wouldn't dream of putting him in any danger. I'm completely at ease during our adventures on the water, even when he goes in unexpectedly. I know that I can grab him by that handle at a moment's notice and pull him out of the drink and I know that it won't break regardless of the conditions. I did not have that kind of confidence with any previous vest. Best of all, it's comfortable and he doesn't mind wearing it at all. It's built to last and Griffin approved.

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $30

Durable, comfortable, and provides high visibility!


  • Strong material
  • Comfortable fit
  • Amazing handle
  • Provides great floation
  • Ease of movement


  • Price
  • I wish there was a second sturdy leash attachment or better placement of the singular one

Another fantastic product from Ruff Wear and probably my favorite of Shyla's gear!

This life jacket is perfect for taking your dog paddleboarding. The large handle allows for easy pick up and placement when I need to get Shyla onto and off the board.  

The jacket provides great flotation while still allowing Shyla to swim freely. The fit is perfect. She is a size medium and is anywhere from 65-70 pounds. Putting the jacket on is super easy (which is important when you’re dealing with a slippery wet dog!). You just slide it over your dog's head and clip at the torso.

The material is very strong and resilient. After two and half years of wear there is no loose stitching or rips in the fabric. This amazes me because this jacket has pretty much encountered everything you could throw at it from rivers and lakes to rocky beaches with fine sand. The buckles have also survived without a scratch. I believe that is due to their open design, which has no closed spaces for sand or dirt to get trapped in.

Very easy to clean, just hose off and hang to dry. After a proper wash down, the jacket retains no smell.

This life jacket also has a second unintended purpose. I use it with the WalkyDog bicycle exerciser. Its top leash access point works really well with the WalkyDog, and the bright yellow dandelion colour/reflective strips are amazing for visibility at night.

My only gripe with the K-9 float coat is the fact the leash access point is tucked under the handle (see below). I wish it were placed on top of the handle or at the base of the neck, so it would be easier to get at.

All in all, I’m glad I spent the extra money on this particular jacket because it shows no sign of giving out any time soon. Money well spent!



Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Retail

If you are looking for a top-quality lifejacket for your canine buddy, this is it! Very sturdy, well constructed, and excellent fit/adjustment. Have already recommended to several friends.


  • Tough
  • Durable
  • Excellent adjustments


  • Can't think of any!

This is a great life jacket for dogs. Well made, sturdy, and durable. Have been on several day/weekend/week-long kayaking and canoe trips with my little Australian Cattle Dog Sheila over these past two summers, and it still looks like new. Easy to put on and take off, and has all the necessary adjustments for fit. In fact she loves putting it on, cause she knows we are going to do something fun!

Although I suppose you could say the same about other lifejackets, it is also, for dogs that may like the water but are afraid of when their paws stop touching the bottom, an excellent way of introducing them to swimming and build up their confidence to do so.  In a matter of a half hour Sheila was happily coming out to swim alongside me!  I think part of it is the design of the K-9 Float Coat...just seems to keep them level and head out of the water.

Sure you can buy cheaper life jackets (this cost twice as much as my own pfd!), but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. This thing is bulletproof. I'd bet the handle to lift the dog could probably be strong enough to lift a dog three times heavier than what the sizing would actually allow!



I have bought and tried a couple other brands. Neither hold a candle to this one!

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $60

When I was notified that we would be reviewing the Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat as Gear Brand Ambassadors for Backcountry K9, I was quite enthusiastic. Many others who paddle with their dogs had insisted that this canine life jacket is the best available. Now I would have a chance to test it out, and find out what all the shouting was about…well, now I am shouting! This is certainly a great life jacket for your dog.


  • Well made
  • Sturdy
  • Bright colors
  • Good flotation


  • None really, maybe that leash loop is under handle

We have canoed with our dogs for many years, and have always put them in a dog life jacket. We have not been dissatisfied with our current brands, both of which have served us adequately. However, as soon as I opened the box and closely examined this life jacket, I could see that the Float Coat was made with high quality standards, and I was excited to let Gryphon test it in the boat.


Gryphon is a big-chested yellow lab mutt, with a thick ruff. He weighs approximately 72 pounds, and has a long body, and is not much of a swimmer. I noticed that the Float Coat is quite thick and padded around the entire jacket. I was concerned that this may be uncomfortable for Gryphon, and perhaps be too hot and constricting for him.

Neither of those fears were justified. The LARGE size fits him great. While wearing the jacket, he can walk and run without impingement, he can jump in and out of the boat, and he can relieve himself without issue. In the boat, the Float Coat passed the “sit, stand, lie down, and turn around” test. Gryphon is fairly mellow in the canoe, but he does like to shift position occasionally.

One factor I noted is that the back length of the Float Coat is 15.5 inches; his prior jacket length was 20 inches, meaning the back of his jacket was prone to getting “caught” on the thwart. With the Float Coat, he actually has more room to move about.

Gryphon can also comfortably wear the Float Coat over his regular harness. We sometimes put the Float coat over his harness, i.e. when canoeing to a campsite where he will be wearing his harness while at the site.

Temperature did not seem to be an issue, even while paddling on some very warm days.

The Float Coat is available in bright Dandelion Yellow or Red Currant, both good choices, providing added visibility for your dog in the water. There is a reflective trim around the jacket, too. The handle is well placed, and sturdy, allowing a good grip on the dog, should you have to lift him by the handle.

I liked the simple, two-buckle fastener system; there is a Velcro flap/strap, allowing you to secure any extra strap webbing up and away from the dog’s underbelly. I know Gryphon does not like  to have straps hanging  around his legs.

The leash ring is actually under the handle, but this has not affected our ability to hook and use a short leash while walking to a launch site. There is also a small loop on the spine of the jacket, permitting attachment of a safety light…helpful for those of us  who sometimes paddle in low-light situations.


The neck /collar closure is easily adjustable, and the buckle appears very secure; the neck adjustment strap is partially enclosed in a “sleeve”, preventing any loose or flopping webbing about the dog’s neck.

We know that inevitably, the bright yellow Float Coat will get dirty, given the amount of canoe camping we do. The Float Coat can be hand washed with a mild detergent, and early tests indicate that dirt washes off the strong, abrasion resistant, fabric fairly easily.

Of course, since this is a Float Coat, we had to give it the swim test, too. Gryphon is not a skilled swimmer, so it is critical that this Float Coat give him the flotation assistance he needs to be able to comfortably and efficiently swim.

Well, it passed this test with flying colors, too! Gryphon was able to smoothly swim through the water, with his head in a natural position, without exertion. I was so thrilled to see him swimming without panic, and in a relaxed manner!


Dry Time? After full immersion, the Float Coat was put outside on a deck rail to dry. It was nearly dry in about an hour, much sooner than Gryphon was, that’s for sure.

I am confident in my strong recommendation of the Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat. As with any flotation assistance device, it should be used alongside other safety measures, to keep your dog safe in, and on, the water.

This dog life jacket is well made, comfortable for dogs, adjustable for different sizes and shapes, and serves well as a swimming aid. The suggested retail price is $79.95,  a very reasonable price for such an important, and well-made item for your dog.


Disclosure: This item was provided to me by Backcountry K-9 for purposes of reviewing it.

Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer (Keeping it)

The author of this review is a brand ambassador for retailer Backcountry K-9.

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Price MSRP: $79.95
Current Retail: $79.95-$89.99
Historic Range: $14.98-$89.99
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