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When we moved to Arizona, I knew the summers would be hot, but I thought the lack of humidity would make up for it. It never occurred to me difficult it would be to even get a quick walk early in the morning. At the peak of summer, temps don’t get below 80 degrees overnight, so Bailey has not been getting her long walks that help keep her energy levels at bay.
Desperate for a better option than driving an hour to the closest mountains, I started looking into cooling vests for dogs to see which is the best option for us.
The cooling vest concept was new to me before moving to the desert. When we lived in the Midwest, we just avoided the heat of the day and took advantage of cooler days that break up the relentless heat. Not a strategy that works in the desert!
The idea behind cooling vests is that they use evaporative cooling to keep a dog from overheating. At first, it seems counterintuitive to put clothing on a dog when it’s hot out, but it really helps!
Each product is different, but the general concept is that you wet the garment and then put it on your dog. As the water evaporates during your walk or hike it takes the body heat your dog is generating with it, helping to keep the dog cool. And you can pour more water over the garment as it begins to dry out, which will happen faster in drier climates.
There are many cooling vests for dogs on the market, but Ruffwear has not failed us yet, so we tried the three cooling vests options they offer. Before we get started, I will say that all three of these vests fit Bailey perfectly, so Ruffwear has their size charts on point!
The Ruffwear Core Cooler ($24.95, plus harness) is a cooling chest panel that attaches to your existing Ruffwear harness. Since we already have the Palisades Pack and harness, this is a great accessory. Of the three cooling vests we tried, this one was the most difficult for me to figure out. Turns out, it’s much easier to attach this to the harness and then put it on your dog. It works best if you wet it before attaching everything, so it will take a few times to get a good routine going.
I can see how it could be tricky to handle all this at the trailhead before a big hike, because you don’t want to wet it at home and then have it dry out in the car. Likewise, since the panel is on the chest, it won’t be as easy to just pour water over your dog to re-wet the vest. But, this cooling vest will be perfect for hikes where we have lots of stream crossings and water to play in.
When I first say the the Jet Stream Cooling Vest ($39.95) I joked that it looked like Spanx for my dog. This vest slides over the head and has a full-body side-zip closure. While it was tricky to put on the first time, especially when wet, I feel it was very effective in keeping Bailey cool.
Since it zips so close to the body, the wet part of the vest is always in contact, unlike the others which fit more loosely. The material on the back really absorbs water easily, so it wasn’t hard to re-wet with a water bottle as we were out and about. Of the three we tested, this was my favorite cooling vest, and the one we will probably use most often.
The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler ($59.95) cooling vests for dogs is the most heavy-duty of the Ruffwear lineup, and it was super easy to put on Bailey, just like their harnesses. The fabric repels water at first, so it took quite a bit of water to give it a good soaking in the parking lot before we started our hike. The great thing about this cooling vest is that it shades the whole back of the dog, which is especially helpful for black dogs in the hot sun! It stayed cool for a long time and, although Bailey was still warm, she cooled down much more quickly than normal after our hike.
As usual, Ruffwear thought of all the details when designing this dog cooling vest. There’s a slot for your leash if you use a harness, and even a little tag where you can attach a light, for those hot summer night walks.
As much as I’m thrilled to have some options for keeping Bailey cool, I do not plan to start hiking in the heat of Arizona summers with my dog! For one thing, it’s still too hot for me to hike in those temps. Also, these vests aren’t air-conditioned bubbles – your dog still gets warm.
What cooling vests mean for us is probably an extra month of hiking in the shoulder seasons. The rest of the year, the cooling vests will make our 90-degree short walks a little more comfortable for Bailey.
Have you tried a cooling vest for your dog? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Disclosure: Ruffwear supplied the cooling vests we tested for free. We did not receive any compensation for this post, and the opinions expressed here are our own.
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