How to Pick the Right Dog Vest

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a golden retriever puppy wearing a blue service dog vests sitting in a wagon
Dr. Erica Irish author of How To Pick the Right Dog Vest
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How to pick the right dog vest: What you need to know!

In the United States, there are over 500,000 service dogs working to make lives better for their handlers. Without service dogs, many people with disabilities and handicaps would not be able to perform tasks that are essential to day-to-day living.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes that service dogs can work with their handlers in public places such as restaurants and stores, places where emotional support animals (ESA) and pets are not permitted.

Restaurant and store owners can ask if your dog performs a specific task and can ask about the nature of the task, but they cannot ask you about your disability or ask you to have your dog perform that task. There is no specific documentation or licensing required of a service dog, but the simplest way to establish your dog’s credibility is to purchase a vest for him to wear while he is working.  


Why a dog vest?

Vests are one of the easiest ways to let the general public know that your dog is a service dog. People will be less likely to cast a judgmental glance when they see a dog in a place where animals are not typically allowed, although the novelty of seeing a dog in a public building usually brings about excitement these days, especially for children!

Vests will usually have labels on them such as “service dog” and “do not touch.” This is important because when those excited children do see your dog and try to pet him, this will distract your service dog from doing his job. Labels on his vest will let people know not to interrupt his work.

Working dog vests are more comfortable than the typical collar. They don’t apply pressure to your dog’s airways because the harnesses that attach the vest to your dog are lower on his body, closer to his shoulders.

Vests can also come with pockets for holding small pieces of equipment like plastic baggies. Mesh vests are more breathable for use during warmer weather while thicker vests will keep your dog warm during the winter months.  


Things to consider when picking a dog vest

A brown and black puppy getting measured with a green measuring tape.

When selecting a vest for your dog, you will need to take his size into consideration. Vests come in a variety of sizes from toy breed to giant breed. There is size variation even among the same breeds of dog which is why most vests have adjustable harnesses to better accommodate your dog’s shape. One must be careful because vests that are too small can dig into your dog’s skin, specifically under his arms and across his chest. If the vest is too big, he can slip out of the vest or trip on the dangling straps and fabric.

To ensure a proper fit, you will need a measuring tape. When taking chest measurements, wrap the tape around your dog’s chest at the widest/deepest part which is usually positioned a little bit behind the elbows while he is standing on all fours.

For his neck measurement, you should measure the widest part which is from the back of his neck (near his shoulder blades) and all the way down to the front of his chest and just at the point where his forelimbs begin. Do not use the collar that he wears as a measurement example because most vests are worn over the forelimbs. Therefore, most collar measurements for harnesses will be too tight.

When measuring for the length of the vest, go from the back of the neck (again, just above the shoulder blades) and then down towards his lower back near the base of his tail.

Your dog’s weight is also a factor, so be sure to keep this in mind when looking at vest weight ranges. Many common service dog breeds are Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, but sometimes Great Danes are utilized, and they tend to have much longer backs than other breeds!

Service dog vests should be easy to put on and take off. Most of them have two straps or harnesses which makes them easier to use. Vests should work with either a leash or a handle depending on the kind of work your service dog performs.

The design of the vest should also be comfortable for your dog, so keep in might the kinds of temperatures in which your dog will need to work. Mesh vests are much more breathable, and Velcro straps make for easier vest adjustability.


Best service dog vests

Some of the best vests can be purchased here at SitStay. One such example is the Service Dog Mesh Vest Starter Kit which comes equipped with one mesh vest, two removable “service dog” patches, one personalized service dog identification card, and twenty-five service dog definition and ADA guideline cards.

These cards list the two questions that people are allowed to ask you regarding your service dog and direct people where to go for more information about the ADA’s policies.  

While it is not federally mandated for you to carry an identification card for your service dog, this card is extremely useful if your service dog’s credibility is questioned by a store owner or a security guard at a public event. The guideline cards are a great way to educate people who are otherwise unfamiliar with what the ADA permits.


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Service dogs perform tremendously important work for their owners. Having your service dog wear a vest is one of the easiest ways for him to go about his duties without distraction. When purchasing a vest, be sure to follow the instructions for taking measurements to ensure a good fit. One of the best examples of vests can be purchased right here at SitStay.


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Meet The Author 

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine