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The Story Behind the Float Coat™ Life Jacket

Ruffwear products are born out of the constant drive to provide a solution to a need or problem. The story of the Float Coat™ Life Jacket is no exception. It began after Patrick, Ruffwear's Founder, had a near miss while running the Kern River with his dog Otis. He saw an opportunity to design a life jacket for dogs that is reliable, comfortable, and safe.

Below, Patrick shares this experience and his thought process leading to the design of the Float Coat.

Thoughts of heading down to that favorite swimming hole, lake, or the ocean make me appreciate those childhood swimming lessons. Those early experiences opened my eyes to a new world, and life was never the same after that first dip. In and around water is where I choose to spend the majority of my time.

Fast forward to 1996 where whitewater kayaking consumed every spare moment. Of course, Otis, my Australian Cattle Dog, was always by my side – the perfect companion for road trips, camping, and river running.

Our days on the rivers were spent with good friends, paddling our kayaks while Otis would join us by running down the riverside. During more technical drops, he would boulder hop and dive in and out of willows and fragrant lupine. In the flat-water, Otis would swim out and join me on my kayak.

As we both adapted to this whitewater environment, it became apparent that I had a significant safety advantage–helmet, dry top, paddle, and ergonomic lifejacket. Otis seemed content with running the river “naked”, but I started to become concerned for his safety as we upped the ante. So, I outfitted Otis in a canine flotation device from a respected whitewater company.

One of our first trips using his new gear was a 17-mile paddle down a wilderness run on the upper forks of the Kern River in California.

At one point as Otis ran the riverside, the granite walled up and cliffed out, impeding his downriver progress. This required me to ferry him across to the other side, just above a significant drop. As I grabbed a hold of his flotation device to lift him onto the kayak, he slipped out of his lifejacket and into the water. After a few seconds of extreme concern for Otis’s safety, I was able to scoop him up, get him back into his jacket, and ferry him safely across to the other side where we completed the run.

Back at camp, I fitted his jacket again, this time trying to tighten the straps to keep Otis from slipping out. No matter how I adjusted the straps, Otis could easily spill out of the jacket. This experience inspired me to create a better canine Float Coat

My goal was to design and build a Float Coat that would allow Otis to run and swim unencumbered while staying in his coat no matter how I tried to pour him out. With this new Float Coat, we could both continue our waterborne adventures with a renewed level of confidence, safety, and fun.

I invite you to discover the added benefits and fun that can be had by adding Ruffwear gear to your adventure. Take a dip for me and remember, it all starts with a doggy paddle.

The Float Coat Life Jacket was born that day on the Kern River with Patrick and Otis. And over the years, countless hours on the water and learning by doing pushes the design team to keep refining and improving it. Today's Float Coat continues to be the ultimate in canine flotation and water safety for dogs that love to join their humans rafting, kayaking, boating, surfing and paddle boarding.

Built to be buoyant while allowing for unencumbered movement, it's designed for dogs of all shapes and sizes. The new foam is PVC-free and softer for a more comfortable fit as dogs run, swim, and play around water. The foam is strategically-placed to support dogs in the water and promote a natural swimming position.

Other thoughtful details include a strong handle optimally positioned to assist dogs out of the water, reflective screen printing for enhanced visibility in or out of the water, and a tucked away D-ring for leash clip-in when getting to and from the water.

Like Patrick said – adding a piece of gear like the Float Coat to your dog's kit opens a whole new world of potential fun for you and your dog. If you've never tried kayaking, paddle boarding, or any kind of water sport together, it adds a layer of confidence that makes it easier to say, "Let's give it a shot" – and then have a blast doing so.