Clothes aren’t just for humans. Dogs can be dressed up as well although not necessarily in a frilly costume. Dog vests are used for a variety of purposes — mental health, safety, physicality, training, and other occupations and situations. There are many different types of dog vests, and they all serve their own purpose.
The main reason that most people outfit their dogs in a vest is so the canine can be recognized for something. He may be a service dog, therapy dog, or he may just be unfriendly. Clothing your dog with a vest that clearly describes what you want other people to know about him is a great way to get the word out without having to tell everyone around you.
RELATED: Service Dogs – What You Need to Know
Below, we’ll discuss the various purposes of a dog vest and scenarios in which a dog vest can be used. We’ll give you some product recommendations as well!
Why Dog Parents Need to Invest in Dog Vests
Just in case you were confused, we're not talking about sweater vests in this article. The vests that we are discussing are not clothing or a costume. They serve to mark the dog for safety reasons or as one in a learning or occupational situation.
Hunting dogs often blend in with their surroundings, especially if they are in a field with tall grass or in a crowded stand of trees. If your dog is not highly visible and properly identified, the unimaginable can happen. Putting an easily seen hunting vest on your dog will help you and others see him clearly when you’re out in the field, drastically reducing the risk of your dog being injured in a Cheney-esque hunting accident.
A reflective vest is a necessity for a dog who accompanies his owner jogging at night. Dark, narrow roads or streets without sidewalks are dangerous for both dog and human, and a reflective vest makes the dog more visible to drivers. It’s a good idea for the human too.
Safety vests don't just protect your dog; they can protect other people from your dog. For example, if your dog isn't friendly or becomes aggressive if he is scared you can equip him with a vest that tells others to stay away from him. Wearing a vest like the one pictured below will keep people from coming over to your dog. You may also choose to buy a patch for the vest that says “Not Friendly” or “Please Give Me Space.”
Training and work
If you’re training your dog for an occupation such as therapy or physical assistance, he may need a vest. During training, you want to keep your dog totally focused. Putting a special vest on him clearly identifies him as a therapy/assistance dog and should lessen the chances of anyone trying to pet him. Although dog lovers mean well, it disrupts training.
A dog with physical disabilities
If your dog has some sort of physical ailment such as blindness or deafness, a vest will serve to alert others to his condition so that they’re more careful around him. Dog vests are also useful for dogs who have an arthritic or osteoporotic condition and need help getting into the car or bathtub. The vests have harnesses on them that help the owner pick them up safely.
In line with physical conditions are psychological ones. There are vests for dogs who suffer from anxiety or phobias. These vests exert a firm, gentle pressure that makes the dog feel secure and lessens his panic.
Regulation of body temperature
Dogs may also need vests to regulate their body temperature on hot or cold days. Single-coated dogs (those without an undercoat) are more susceptible to cold in the winter, and putting a vest on them will help them retain body heat in the torso.
During the summer, dogs are susceptible to heat stress and heat stroke, especially double-coated breeds. Dogs cool themselves primarily through their underside, and a cooling vest will help reduce the chances that a dog will suffer from heat stress or stroke. A cooling vest combined with a lot of water is one of the best ways to prevent it.
Signs of heat stroke in a dog include:
- elevated temperature
- heavy panting or difficulty breathing
- increased heart rate
- diarrhea and vomiting
- a glazed or anxious expression
- sudden collapse
If you notice any of these signs, you need to cool him down. If he doesn't improve within a few minutes, take him to your vet or an animal emergency center.
We’ve discussed dog vests that are used for a variety of purposes: safety, therapy dog training, disability identification, assistance with lifting, psychological problems, and temperature control. Now let’s talk products!
What to buy: Some suggestions on dog vests
A good safety vest is the Petflect Reflective Dog Vest. The Velcro fasteners allow you to adjust its straps and fit your dog correctly. The vest is bright orange and according to the product information, visible at 500 feet.
These vests come in small, medium, and large, and they are made of a breathable nylon fabric, which means that your dog won’t be too hot in this vest and can wear it during the summer. These are ideal for hunting dogs or pets walking with their owners at night.
If you are training your dog to be a therapy or guide dog, the Doggie Stylz Therapy Dog Harness Service Working Vest would be a great choice. It has reflective strips so that your dog will be visible if you are working at night and includes a Velcro patch with bright lettering that identifies the wearer as a therapy dog.
This vest has a nylon handle for the owner to grab if necessary and a sturdy, welded D-Ring that can be attached to a leash without fear that the ring will break. The adjustable straps and buckle make the vest fit large, extra-large, and XXL dogs. The neoprene in the vest protects your dog from abrasions or scratches that might occur if he is working outside.
If your dog is blind, deaf, or has any other disability, it is important to identify him for his own safety. The bright white Dexil Limited Blind Dog Vest has an easily readable label, “BLIND DOG,” on the front and back of the vest.
It attaches securely around your dog’s front, with leg holes for his front legs and a hole for his head to go through. It is waterproof, and not only will this vest alert everyone to your dog’s condition, it is designed in a way that will allow the owner to control and guide the dog while walking.
If you need to lift an osteoporotic or arthritic dog without hurting him (or yourself), the Petio Soft-Assist Harness will help. The vest has a handle on the back that you can use to lift your dog (almost as though your dog were a bag of groceries). This vest is especially useful for helping elderly or disabled dogs get up and down stairs.
Antianxiety vests such as those made by Thundershirt will help your dog remain calm when in an anxiety-producing situation. The vest applies a safe, calming pressure, which helps your dog feel protected in situations where he might otherwise feel exposed and vulnerable.
Finally, there are vests to cool your dog down or warm him up. Temperature-control vests such as the HRS4Pets Dog Cooling Vest will reduce your dog’s body temperature if he is overheated during the summer. Soaking the vest in cold water cools it. Refrigeration is not necessary. It provides three to four hours of coolness and is convenient for travel.
The PAWZ Winter Warm Harness will keep your dog from getting too cold during the winter. You can attach it to a leash if you want to walk your dog. The sizes range from small to extra-large, and the vest itself has a warm, water-resistant outer layer and a soft inner layer. It’s also machine washable!
Don’t get caught unprepared. There are vests available for any situation, and they work wonders. When you think of dressing your pet you probably think of frilly outfits and the uncomfortable costumes that some dog owners stuff their pets into. There are also practical articles of clothing for dogs and dog vests are certainly one of them.