Gear review: The float coat: When dog paddling isn’t enough |

Gear review: The float coat: When dog paddling isn’t enough

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Our family dog is a willing and graceful swimmer. A little too willing, in fact.

We approached her first canoe outing cautiously – mostly out of fear that she would get skittish in the tippy vessel and jump overboard. Even more worrisome was the prospect that she’d tip the canoe over in her haste to exit the boat and leave us all swimming in some frigid mountain lake.

I figured everybody in the boat ought to have a personal flotation device or, as I still refer to them, a life jacket.

Plus, the dog, Kali, is 10 years old now, and a long, cold swim could be a bit much for her. Certainly, it’s a good bet we wouldn’t be hoisting her back into the canoe – she tips the scale at 70-plus pounds when she’s not soaking wet.

“Do they make life jackets for dogs?” I mused aloud. A quick Google search provided the answer, and the Ruff Wear portage float coat for dogs ($49.95 from REI) showed up on our doorstep a week or so later.

It comes in six sizes based on the pooch’s girth around the rib cage. According to the literature, none of which Kali bothered to read, the coat’s foam cells provide buoyancy and its design positions the wearer in a natural, horizontal swimming position. Its “generous, anatomic cut enhances mobility and swimming ease.”

It buckles twice around her rib cage and once around her chest, and a sturdy handle on the top of the coat provides an easy way to grab her. If Kali was a Chihuahua instead of a moose, it would be no problem to hoist her back into the boat.

She didn’t appear perturbed to have it on, though I’ll bet it was uncomfortably warm in the sunshine. I know my PFD was a little toasty.

Kali remained in the canoe for her first voyage, but when we got back to shore, there was no keeping her out of the water. That’s where the float coat really shined. She appeared to find swimming suddenly effortless and instead of her usual, short loop along the shore, she kept on going.

I was afraid I’d have to go swimming just to fetch her.

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