Every year as summer rolls around my daily walks with Dustin become shorter is distance and longer in duration as we take breaks for him to rest. I have heard about dog cooling vests for a long time and this year I finally decided to try one out and see if it helps him feel more comfortable in the heat.
Before purchasing a cooling vest I invested a couple of hours researching what to look for and reading reviews. After seeing it mentioned in numerous places I decided to order the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Dog Cooling Vest. It was $60 plus shipping, but I had seen nothing but good reviews. I’m happy to invest $60 in a piece of quality equipment that will last, but at this point, I was not convinced it would actually help keep Dustin cool. Another thing that swayed me to go with Ruffwear is that they are a brand I am familiar with and they have a great reputation for high-quality dog gear (Dustin has had their winter boots for a few years now and they are as good as new).
The Ruffwear Dog Cooling Vest is a jacket looking dog vest that is designed to keep your dog cool in hot climates. They have two different variations, the Swamp Cooler (left) and the Jet Stream (right). According to the descriptions on the website, they work the same. But I choose to order the Swamp Cooler because it is longer and covers more of the dog's back, and it has two buckles that adjust more easily than the zipper on the Jet Stream.
How does it work?
1. Evaporation cooling pulls heat from the dog
The cooling vest is constructed with three layers that cool the dog’s core. The outer layer wicks moisture and reflects heat, which facilitates evaporation. The middle layer stores water for evaporation and the inner layer transfers the cooling effect to the dog.
2. Reflects solar radiation
The second way that the cooling vest keeps your dog cool is by providing shade.The light-colored fabric reflects solar radiation and provides UPF 50+ blocking 98% of the sun's rays (this is especially important for dogs with short hair who are prone to sunburn).
How to use:
The vest is easy to use. All you have to do is soak it in cool water (the wetter the better), ring out excess water, and put it on your dog. I found that I could do this right before our walks and it added maybe two minutes to our getting ready process. It was not difficult nor time-consuming. It did seem to work better when dunked into water than it did when I just poured water over it.
Sizes range from XXS- XL. Measuring was easy and quick (only requiring girth) and the guide on the website seemed accurate... Dustin is 20lbs and 18.5” around and he fits comfortably into the XS. He is a little long so there are a few inches of his back not covered by the vest but I’m sure if I had gone up in size it would have been way too big. I also really liked that the sizing is not exclusive and covers such a wide range of dog sizes, from tiny to very large dogs!
The vest was very easy to put on and size. It goes over the head and then clips on each side behind the armpit. Dustin is used to wearing jackets in the winter and the rain, but if your dog is not used to a jacket they might not love having it go over their head. You can use a treat to lure their head through and make it an easier process. The neck hole is not adjustable, but it was nice and roomy and I wouldn’t expect that to be an issue for most dogs.
One thing that I really liked about this vest was that it has a sewn-in harness slit in the back (you can see this on the picture to the left). This allowed me to thread the leash through the slit to connect Dustin’s leash. It does not have a slit in the front but it would still be usable with a front-clip harness. This is an important feature for me because if the slit was not sewn in I would have to cut one myself (and ruin the jacket) or slide the leash under which can be a pain.
But did it work?
I am confident saying that Dustin was cooler wearing this vest than he was without it. He was walking farther, taking fewer breaks, and panting less. We made it up to 3.5 miles on hot Sunday morning while he was wearing this. The previous weekend we barely made it 2 miles and he was very hot and tired by the end. Several times throughout our first walks I was putting my hand under the vest to see how it felt and Dustin’s skin was nice and cool.
The jacket seems to stay wet for about an hour or so. Even after it dries I have been leaving it on because of the sun reflecting properties, assuming that Dustin will be cooler with it on and providing shade than he would be if I just took it off.
In no way shape or form does this replace the importance of stopping to take frequent water breaks during a long walk, for more about summer safety click here. Always make sure you are stopping for water and taking other safety precautions when it is hot out.
Can it be Cleaned?
One thing that could be considered a bit of a drawback of this vest is that the bottom does get a little dirty. To me, this is not a deterrent from using it at all. It is no dirtier than any other dog jacket. The Ruffwear website says that the cooling vest can be washed in a washing machine with cold water and then hung to dry. I have not yet tried this. But if you are worried about the dirt this seems like a simple solution.
Overall I am giving this cooling vest 4 out of 5 stars. I really like this vest and it has allowed Dustin and me to have more fun this summer. The only thing that makes me hesitate to give it 5 stars is that this is my first year using it and it was a little expensive. If it works for several years then I will upgrade to 5 stars.
Keeps the dog cool
Comfortable for the dog
Easy to use and put on
True to size
Harness compatible (back clip)
Reflective to lights at night as well
Only comes in grey
Not sure if it will work for year after a year, or if it needs to be replaced every summer
Does get a little dirty
Does drip a little bit of water on the ground when you first put it on your dog
A little pricey (but to me it is worth the price if it works for a few years)
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