Considered the "world's largest dog surfing event" with attendance topping nearly 4,000 last year, the annual Dog Surf-a-thon benefitting the Helen Woodward Animal Center was last week and I turned to my friend and surfing dog aficionado Michael Uy, owner of Abbie Girl the Extreme Sports Dog, (at right) to find out what gear he considers to best for keeping the longboarding Lhasa-ahpso's safe in the swells.
"People have several reactions when they see Abbie surfing on her own at the beach," Michael tells The Daily Treat, "But what always surprises me is the interest in her life jacket (never mind the custom board she's riding!). Most people have never seen a doggie flotation device, more don't know what they're for, and nearly everyone wants to know where to get them."
Why a Doggy Life Vest?
A doggy life vest is great for any dog that likes playing in water, whether it's shredding waves or paddling around in a lake.
"For surf dogs like Abbie, a doggy life vest has the added job of protecting her in a wipeout," says Michael, "so we use a pretty serious vest. We've tried tons of vests since Abbie started surfing 2 years ago."
Of all the field testing he's conducted, Michael and Abbie have settled on the Ruffwear Float Coat and here are Michael's top five reasons:
1) It looks awesome. Everyone knows you only surf as good as you look! There are two styles, and each comes in a few colors. Yellow is the easiest to spot in the ocean, especially if you're going deep to impress the dog surfing judges! I even love these little velcro clasps that tie-off the excess straps once you've fitted the vest to your dog. There are also NO flaps to fold over, or things to tuck in, like many other vests. The Ruffwear looks sleek, compact, and clean.
2) They have the most float. Ruffwear Floatcoats are the "floatiest" vests we've tried, which means it's much easier for your dog to paddle around. And in a wipeout, these things keep Abbie from getting pushed under. Additionally, the clean design of the Ruffwear let's it cut through the water efficiently, which is great when your dog is trying to paddle out of a gnarly wave that's double-over-tail.
3) Bomb-proof. The Ruffwear vest is tough. The cordura fabric has some pretty serious stitching, and the straps go all the way around. The top part of the vest is reinforced so it distributes weight along the length of the vest, and also supports a rescue handle. A rescue handle lets you grab your dog to pull them out of a wave, or assist them up stairs out of the water. And believe me, we've used this, and you can count on it!
4) Geeky. The Ruffwear has this one geeky feature that I love - a light loop. It's a small loop on the back support that lets you attach a waterproof light to your dog. We've done some surfing at sunset, and having a light lets us sneak in a few more waves even at dusk. Totally geeky, but I just love the light loop.
From a training perspective, Michael especially likes doggy life vests because they're a good signal to your dog that you're going to play in the water. Abbie wears her whether they go swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, or boating. This way she knows she's going to be near or in water, and it makes her more comfortable in new situations. According to Michael, communicating with your dog this way establishes a trust that gets them motivated to try new things more than traditional obedience training.
Starting at $49.95 you can find the Ruffwear Float Coat at Muttropolis.com