|SamTheDog gives a stick the laser-death-stare in his Ruffwear Float Coat|
Many years ago we had a big black Labrador who used to love jumping into water for a paddle whenever he could. Never was he happier than when splashing around or swimming out to some distant stick floating on the water.
And never did we freak out more than the time he jumped overboard from a yacht mid-way across the English Channel because, although he could swim, he was hard to spot, near impossible to reach down to and pull back on-board, and nearly not strong enough to swim for as long as it took to get the boat back to him.
What we needed was a doggy lifejacket!
There have been buoyancy aids for dogs for many years, and the one pictured below is a pretty typical example of what’s been on offer.
I tested this yellow one (made by Lalizas) on a week’s boating holiday recently and although it features a grab-handle, bright colour, a lead-attachment and secure strapping it lacks in both looks and comfort for the dog. In particular, picking up SamTheDog caused him to yelp as the nylon webbing straps must have dug into his neck and chest. And you could tell that he just didn’t feel stylish…
So it was with happy paws this week that we tried out the Ruffwear Big Eddy Float Coat (not a life-preserver, just a bouyancy aid).
|The stick was mistaken to think that the river meant freedom|
With a 10mm thick foam padding all round, the Float Coat is designed to add enough bouyancy so that a dog can swim naturally with its head up, but with a little less tiring effort.
It also has a few features that the Lalizas doesn’t, including a lashing for a light, reflective piping on both sides and strap retainers so there are no loose, flapping bits.
When I first received the Big Eddy, it felt a little stiff (factory fresh), but it went on easily and was simple to adjust to fit properly (snug but not tight). And I was impressed by how quickly it dried after a good swim.
The real testing was done by SamTheDog himself, and he was completely unfazed by wearing the floatcoat. He ran, sat, lay-down, chased sticks and swam as if he wasn’t wearing it which is pretty much all he could have asked for. He even performed watering services on a few trees without problem or hindrance.
|Float Coat is worn high on the dog to keep its head up|
Styling wise, the Float Coat is pretty modern looking and outdoorsy. It uses ripstop nylon on its inner surface and backpack-quality materials and webbings on its top side. The detailing and quality of manufacture are excellent, and SamTheDog reckons he looked pretty cool in its hot red and black colouring
(it also comes in yellow).
The Float Coat isn’t cheap compared to alternatives (£85 compared to roughly £40 for alternatives and £55 for Ruffwear’s own lower-spec Portage Float Coat). But, having said that it feels like it’s built to last a long time and Ruffwear have a great reputation for bomb-proof manufacture.
SUMMARY: Yes, dogs can swim, but there will be times when they could need a little help keeping afloat for extended periods or in fast water. And the benefit of a handle to drag them out of the water is invaluable. This is the top-of-the-range dog bouyancy aid and you get a feature packed, comfortable and contemporary-outdoors styled piece of gear which makes your dog look the part. It doesn’t get in the way of doggy activities (eating, peeing, running, sleeping, sniffing) and is made extremely well indeed. Cost is high, but you’re buying a lifestyle statement to match your North Face jacket and Arc’teryx backpack here.
Tags and search info for this review: This is a dog lifejacket review. GearWeAre.com tests and reviews dog gear, outdoor gear and camping equipment.