Full Disclosure: We were given this product for review by our affiliate, PetFoodDirect.com. We have not allowed this to influence the honesty or objectivity of our review.
Swimming With Cockapoos
Our cockapoo, Albion, loves to swim. When we lived up north, we would take him to lakes and rivers quite often, and he’d spend the day happily paddling through the water with us.
Since we moved south, things have been different. You don’t swim in the fresh water with your dog in Florida, lest you become alligator snacks. And the ocean can be dangerous, with waves that may threaten to put your dog under.
We live somewhat close to a dog beach called Walton Rocks Beach. It is a long stretch of beach just for dogs and owners, yet we were never willing to go and visit for an extended period without a life vest for our dog. Today we overcame that issue using the by Hurtta, kindly given to us for review by PetFoodDirect.com.
This particular vest is for dogs up to 10-20kg (which is 22-44lbs). Albion weighs 30lbs exactly, so he should be the perfect test. Here’s what we thought about our experiences with the product, so far.
The vest is somewhat rigid, due to the buoyant foam inside the shell. It has several modes of adjustment, including velcro at the front and bottom, and several buckles with adjustable web straps. It can be made to fit loosely or snugly, and it took us some fiddling to get it just right. Albion was able to run on the beach with it on, although I wouldn’t recommend leaving it on in the heat for any extended length, as I am sure it gets warm in there!
My only complaint with the fit would be that the front velcro strap, where the vest wraps around the chest, is hard to get just right. It tends to hang down or stick out at an odd angle, regardless of how you attach it. However, there is a buckle there as well, and the loose end doesn’t seem to affect the usage much. In fact, we don’t feel it affected overall buoyancy in any way.
The is not particularly bulky, but is still relatively buoyant. As you can see in the photo we took, Albion does sink into the water until only his back and the top of the vest are exposed. He can keep his head above water pretty easily, but it isn’t like he’s floating far above it. This is good for him to be able to move and swim, but I can’t help wondering if he would sink further with ten more pounds on him. Even a few inches deeper into the water would be too much, especially with mild waves and turbulence in the water like there was today.
Albi really enjoyed having such a nice, safe swim, and was able to swim longer than usual due to the buoyancy of the vest. That said, without being able to test it on a larger dog, I can only recommend that this particular size be used for dogs around Albion’s size, 13kg (30lbs), or smaller. I am skeptical of the claim on the packaging that it is good for dogs who weigh up to 20kg (44 lbs).
Quality And Durability
We’ve only used it once, but I can already tell that this is durable, quality material. It resembles much of my hard wearing camping gear, in both texture and design, and I did not feel that it was in any way flimsy or shoddily designed.
Overall OpinionOther Features
Reflectors: There are 3M reflectors on the jacket, which would help you find your dog in an emergency situation. This jacket is bright orange, but the product comes in bright yellow and pink, as well. If you are out in the dark on a boat, or at a swimming hole when it is getting dark, this can really become important.
Safety Handle and Leash Ring: There is a sturdy safety handle for lifting your dog bodily out of the water. There is also a leash ring that seems quite sturdy, and we kept Albion leashed and near to us the whole time in case of rip currents, or any other issues. These features should be mandatory on life vests for dogs, and I am glad they were on this one.
Testing: There are many inferior safety products from countries with questionable manufacturers. These products are often not tested, and you take a great risk using them on your dog. Hurtta is a Finnish company with a reputation for making good products. The company claims that this particular jacket has been tested by The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, although I have not seen the results of the study. Still, it is promising to know that they have taken the construction seriously enough to have it tested at all!
Cost: Although we were given this product for review, we would be remiss not to address cost. This is not a cheap life jacket: it retails at $75. Do we think that it is a good value? Yes. This is a quality product. The $75 would be a small price to pay for peace of mind, and after Albion had successfully swum through a few waves without going under, we knew this was something we should have bought a long time ago.
Overall, we were very pleased with the Lifeguard Life Jacket by Hurtta. This is not a substitute for knowing the rules of general water safety for swimming with your dog, but it adds another level of safety and confidence. We will continue to use it when boating, beach combing, or swimming with our cockapoo.
Pros: Strong materials, buoyant enough to keep the dog’s head above water, very customizable fit, and top-notch safety features like bright colors, 3M reflectors, a tough handle, a leash ring, and sturdy buckles.
Cons: Velcro on front is finicky, firm material could overheat your dog if left on too long out of the water, may not work for dogs at the high end of the weight range – go for the 40-80lb jacket if your dog is over 40lbs.