As long as people have been sailing for pleasure, they have been taking their pets on the water (see: Best boating dog: the perfect sailing pooch), but in recent years, as more and more people wear lifejackets, the number and variety of buoyancy aids for dogs (and other pets) has also grown rapidly. The ever-reliable Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has tackled the topic of buoyancy aids for dogs head-on in this video below, but keep scrolling down for some more images and videos featuring some quite unusual examples of pets in lifejackets enjoying life afloat. We just couldn't resist!
The RYA video describes how to prepare yourself as a skipper for taking a dog afloat and demonstrates the basics on how to fit a doggy lifejacket. Just as with humans, a good fit is vital – doggy sizes range from extra small, for something like a Jack Russell, through to extra large for, say, a Rottweiler.
Age, general fitness and certain medical conditions are all factors determining how long a dog can safely spend in the water, according to animal physiotherapist, Clare Hucker. "Certain breeds, for instance working dogs, like labradors or springer spaniels tend to be a bit more confident in the water," she says. In most other breeds however, it comes down to each individual dog and its background and upbringing as to how comfortable it might be in the water.
Falling into the water from any height, say off the deck of a boat, could trigger some panic, adds Clare: "The waves and the water temperature are definitely going to have a negative effect on the dog, plus they will be unable to climb back on to most boats, creating a potentially dangerous situation." She also instructs owners to never use the collar alone for lifting a dog out of the water and to consider getting a buoyancy aid with more than one handle on the back.
But it's not just dogs that need buoyancy aids in the water – there's an entire animal kingdom out there dreaming of getting afloat!
The Blackpool Gazette broke the story of Einstein, the fantail goldfish who needed a lifejacket to swim upright, back in 2013, but it soon went viral and the little fish ended up all over the national news.
Animal lover, Leighton Naylor, 32, made the swim frame out of tubing after realising his fish was suffering from a swim bladder problem. Swim bladders are basically air pockets that keep the fish upright in the water and when they fail, the fish floats upside down, then sinks to the bottom and gets stuck on its side.
"People have said I’m crazy but every animal is a valued family member," Leigh told the Blackpool Gazette. The swim bladder problem is not uncommon in aquarium fish, but Leigh's solution is certainly unique. "He'll have to wear the lifejacket for the rest of his life."
Let's goat surfing now...
Surf and paddleboard instructor, Dana McGregor has become a minor Youtube sensation thanks to his wave-riding exploits with his pet goats, Goatee and Pismo the kid.
“Goats are actually phenomenal swimmers; I don’t think people know that,” McGregor told National Geographic website, however, he also uses buoyancy aids for his two pets to keep them from getting submerged in the surf. www.surfinggoats.com
Holly the doggy-paddling cat
Thirteen-year-old Holly the house cat weighed in at nearly 10kg when her owner was advised to get her weight down and make her do some exercise. Holly then got her 15 minutes of fame after being plastered unflatteringly all over US news channels, including this one, where she was introduced by an anchor woman who corpsed on live TV, dissolving into a fit of giggles while narrating the footage. Naturally, a lifejacket was involved, but I think poor Holly might have preferred to just be left to sink after all this humiliation...
The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) is a renowned, if controversial, conservation organisation with bases in South Carolina and Miami. Their one-year-old rescued orangutan, Surya, enjoys playing in the water seated atop his inflatable jetski, wearing a wetsuit and a child's buoyancy aid.
Animal expert Dr Bhagavan Antle said: “Suyra loves playing in the water. But he doesn’t like getting his head wet, so he wears a lifejacket so he doesn’t go underneath. Orangutans don’t swim naturally and so if you introduce them to the pool, they’d sink to the bottom,” he said. "So we discovered wearing children’s lifejackets helps to give them confidence. Now some of them can even swim without their life jackets."
Click on the TIGERS blog for the full story of Surya the jetskiing orangutan.
Heidi the rabbit
In somewhat similar circumstances to Holly the Cat featured above, Heidi the rabbit was recommended hydrotherapy for her arthritis and again, the footage has become quite popular on youtube.