What did we ever do before dog vests? Seriously, I honestly feel that the neoprene dog vest helps my lab stay in the game and work better when the mercury bottoms out and those late season mallards come storming down out of the north. My labs and I have used several different makes and models but the best I've seen is the Rig Em Right Bloodline Elite Dog Vest.
This is how the company describes the vest.... "The Bloodline Elite Dog Vest from Rig'Em Right™ Waterfowl offers the utmost protection for your most reliable hunting partner. The unique 3-layer construction of the upper material consists of 3mm neoprene next to "skin" for warmth and comfort, a thin layer of foam for added flotation and an outer layer of heavy-duty canvas for protection from brush and briers. Also features 5mm neoprene throughout the chest for flexibility and warmth and a sturdy braided handle to help your buddy back into the blind or boat. This vest has a more athletic cut around the neck and between the front legs to provide better mobility without rubbing and bunching."
The features incorporated in the Bloodline Elite work together to keep your dog warm and protected in the field. This was the first season of use for Mackinaw and I with this vest and I am impressed with how much protection from both the cold and brush that it offered. If Mackinaw could talk there is no doubt he'd tell me how much of a standout this vest is. I typically will not hunt my dog over water in air temps below zero, the danger of hypothermia and exhaustion are just too great for me to risk my lab's well being. That said, Mack and I hunted in temps right around zero on multiple occasions this year and he was always warm thanks to the Bloodline Elite. After multiple retrieves in almost frozen water I'd stick my hand down inside the vest and Mackinaw was always warm to the touch. I also didn't ever see him shiver for prolonged periods trying to warm himself while wearing this vest.
What about durability? Hunting our big western rivers brings many challenges for a dog and it's vest. Traditional all neoprene vests lack the desired levels of protection against the thick brush and sharp thorns that line the banks of these waterways. If that vegetation shreds a vest over the course of a hunting season imagine what it does to your dog's skin! While the Rig Em Right vest took a beating and has some battle scars after a season of abuse, it has maintained its integrity and most importantly kept Mack free of thorn punctures and nasty lacerations earned from wrestling Canadas and greenheads out of the deep nasty.
All those well thought out features make for a bomber dog vest that is stylish to boot. I chose Optifade Marsh for Mackinaw and that pattern coupled with the heavy canvas top panel just flat out look cool. I also noticed how well the vest fit my lab. It was snug where it needed to be and offered room in just the right spots. The fit allowed Mackinaw to keep his natural speed in the water, something I love about him. A lot of vests have neck and leg openings that are too large and act as a drag in the water, slowing a dog down and making it fight against the added resistance. I saw none of that with the Bloodline Elite, just a sleek design that offered maximum protection, added floatation and cozy warmth when Mackinaw needed it most.
Say what you want about dog vests but I don't know many waterfowlers whose dogs don't wear one. Do yourself and your dog a favor for next season... pick up a Rig Em Right Bloodline Elite Dog Vest and don't look back. Trust me, for less than $75.00 its an investment in your dog's safety and your own peace of mind.