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 that even sneaking in a quick walk in the early morning would be difficult. At the peak of summer, a dog cooling vest can make all the difference!

Desperate for a better alternative than driving an hour to the closest mountains, I started looking into dog cooling vests.

Choosing the Right Cooling Vest for Your Dog | GoPetFriendly.com

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How Does A Dog Cooling Vest Work?

The dog cooling vest concept was new to me before moving to the desert. When we lived in the Midwest, Bailey and I just took our walks after the sun went down. That strategy doesn’t work in the desert, where the temps rarely dip below 80 degrees at night!

The idea behind these vests is that evaporation can be used 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!

Airedale terrier in a dog cooling vest

Each dog cooling vest is a little different, but the general concept is that you wet the garment and then put it on your dog. As the water evaporates, it takes the body heat your dog is generating with it. Adding water to the vest keeps it from drying completely, which happens faster in dry climates.

There are many cooling vests for dogs on the market, but Ruffwear products are well-made and durable, so we tried the three options they offer. All three of these vests fit Bailey perfectly, so Ruffwear has their size charts on point!

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.

Ruffwear Core Cooler

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 options 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 also works best to wet the panel before attaching it to the harness, so it might take you a few times to develop a good routine.

Ruffwear Core Cooler Cooling Vest

I can also see how it could be tricky to handle all this gear at the trailhead before a big hike. Because you won’t want to wet the cooling panel until you’re ready to use it, you’ll need to bring extra water. And, since the panel is against your dog’s chest, re-wetting it is more challenging. That said, this cooling option would be perfect for hikes with lots of stream crossings and water to play in.

Ruffwear Core Cooler Cooling Vest

Perfect for: Backcountry adventures with easy access to water


READ MORE ⇒   7 Essentials for Desert Hiking With Dogs


Ruffwear Jet Stream

My first impression of the Ruffwear Jet Stream Cooling Vest ($39.95) was that it looked like Spanx for my dog. This vest slides over the head and has a side-zip closure. While it was tricky to put on the first time, it was very effective in keeping Bailey cool.

Since it fits close to the body, the wet part of the vest is always in contact, an advantage over the options that fit more loosely. And the material on the back really absorbs water easily. It’s easy to re-wet with a water bottle when we were out and about. Of the three we tested, this was my favorite dog cooling vest.

Ruffwear Cooling Vest

Perfect for: Everyday use in hot temps, extended walks or hikes with access to water for re-wetting



Ruffwear Swamp Cooler

The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler ($59.95) dog cooling vest is the most heavy-duty of the Ruffwear lineup. And it was super easy to put on Bailey, just like their harnesses. The only drawback was that the fabric repelled water at first, so it took quite a bit to soak it in the parking lot before our hike.

The great thing about this dog cooling vest is that it shades the whole back of the dog. That’s especially helpful for black dogs in the hot sun! And it stayed cool for a long time. While Bailey was still warm after our hike, she cooled down much more quickly than normal.

Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Cooling Vest

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 a place to attach a light for night walks.

Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Design Details

Perfect for: Longer walks on warm, sunny days



I’m thrilled to know about the options for keeping Bailey cool, but we still won’t be hiking in the Arizona summer heat! 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, so take care not to overdo it.

READ MORE ⇒   Recognizing and Treating Dehydration in Dogs

What a dog cooling vest means for us is probably an extra month of hiking in the shoulder seasons. The rest of the year, the vest will make our 90-degree short walks a little more comfortable for Bailey.

Have you tried a cooling vest for your dog? Share your experience in the comments!


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  • I have a service dog doo I looking for a cooling vest that goes under the service vest do you make one??

    • Hi Terry! We don’t make cooling vests. We just reviewed the ones available on the market. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful – perhaps contacting the companies directly would give you better results. Good luck!

    • Saratoga Horse Works makes dog coats as well. They have a wonderful breathable mesh fabric called Oasis that is UVA UVB reflectant that provides shade without water. It helps a lot. They make to your size, according to measurements. I opted to have mine embroidered in the back corners with Service Dog. My dog can wear it under a mobility harness vest. I have also used it over a water coat when it has been extremely hot or sunny, to make the water evaporation last longer as well as provide shade. When I do this I use a Kong Brand harness with the loop handle on the back, on the top of everything. This harness does not work as well for mobility tasks like counter balance but will work in a pinch. We will wear this especially if I can function with my cane that day or when carrying things and need my walker. My mobility harness vest extends quite a ways down my dogs back. Putting a water coat under that makes my dogs back get VERY hot under the harness vest. This harness vest is very expensive and does not dry readily. I got worried when it started to stink and became concerned its construction may degrade. A cheaper smaller Service Dog vest or cape, that only covers the shoulders, may work fine over a water jacket. Saratoga Horse Works also makes Kennel Covers out of the oasis fabric to provide shade. You could fine ingenious ways to make use of one of those covers if you are stationary at an event, in order to make shade.
      You may also want to invest in a cooling collar or bandana for around your dogs neck, cooling the blood flow to the brain etc, with a water absorbing polymer. You may want one too. I got a bandana style embroidered with Service Dog hanging down the front. It keeps people from thinking it is cute and forgetting he is a service dog. Can’t remember where I got mine originally, but Keep Doggie Safe has some on their site.
      Remember that even in an air conditioned car, a dog in the hatch in the sun can still get very hot.You really have to experiment and see what works for your situations and the size and shape of your dog. My Service Dog is a black STD poodle. While it is most important to cool heart and lungs, we prefer a water jacket that has more back coverage for shade. I have the Swamp coat as one that I have used. I find it hard to wring out and so don’t go shopping immediately and let it drip out a bit first before going into stores. One we use a lot is a synthetic Shammy type fabric that dries hard like tree bark making it stiff for walking and harder to store. It absorbs water quickly and wrings out easily for my hands. It dries quickly though, so the Oasis on tops slows it down. You can apply handfuls of water to it, while the dog is wearing it, to top it up but you can only do this before it dries hard. I can’t remember the brand or supplier of that one off hand as it is not labled. (I would have to try to find my invoices and see if I kept that info ) Hope this helps. Good luck

      • Thanks so much for your thoughtful response, Michelle! I’m sure that Terry will find the information you’ve provided very helpful. I appreciate you for taking the time to share your experiences.

  • Category: Travel Gear, Travel Tips / Tagged with: Health and Safety, Reviews