Depending on what your outdoor activity is, being seen is extremely important. Typically when you are hunting with a modern firearm your State will have specific rules with regards to the type of clothing, and even how many square inches that clothing must be worn. For example, here in Washington the regulations state, “Under the following conditions a minimum of 400 square inches of fluorescent hunter orange exterior clothing is required. It must be worn above the waist and be visible from all sides. A hat, by itself, does not meet this requirement”. The conditions referenced pertain to hunting big game with a modern firearm.
The idea of being seen isn’t something restricted to hunters. Mountain climbers, skiers, runners, and anyone who might find themselves in trouble tend to lean towards gear that could assist search & rescue finding them. Everything from jackets to ropes are manufactured in bright, unnatural colors just for this reason. One often overlooked consideration with this concept is your dog. Dogs are naturally camouflaged, smaller than a human, and are more likely to be confused with animals hunters are pursuing.
Ruffwear, a premier outdoor outfitter for your dog, has addressed this problem with the Track Jacket (high visibility reflective jacket). As with all Ruffwear products, the Track Jacket is a high-quality, durable product designed with dogs in mind. It is lightweight, and was engineered to be user-friendly. Using Ruffwear’s tension hook technology, once fitted, it literally took me 5 seconds to get this on Loki. I was surprised at how well it stayed in place. I took Loki for a walk, run, and threw some retriever dummies for him, all the while the Track Jacket stayed firmly in place.
Features (Detailed from Ruffwear.com)
- High-Visibility blaze orange fabric with integrated reflective print design for maximum visibility
- Three separate light loops for attaching multiple beacon safety lights
- Streamlined design is easy to put on and stays in place
- lightweight, low-profile tension hooks provide a quick and secure connection
- durable, waterproof fabric
Measurement instructions are simple, and true to the actual product. Following Ruffwear’s guide you measure the dogs girth (slightly behind your dog’s front legs, all the way around the body). This product comes in three sizes: XXS/SS (12-22in), S/M (22-32in), and L/XL (32-42in). As with Ruffwear’s Slackline leash, and Chain Reaction collar, the Track Jacket has built-in reflective materials. This feature is extremely bright when exposed to artificial lights (headlights, or a flashlight), which can make the difference between being seen and being involved in an accident.
Another interesting factor with this vest was the easy with which Loki took to it. Usually when I introduce a new piece of gear to him there is a “resistance” phase that he goes through. Although I can’t wear the vest, I would say this is a testament to the comfort level of the Track Jacket. When I first introduced Loki to his E-collar, it took us a few sessions for him to stop scratching at it (maybe because the E-collar sits tighter than a normal collar?).
At $39.95 I put the Track Jacket at the typical price point for this kind of product. Some companies offer a similar product, but I prefer Ruffwear’s because of their choice of Blaze orange. Blaze orange is the standard for hunter safety, and it should make any hunter naturally hesitate. Even in instances where I am not required to have blaze orange on (bow hunting), should Loki be with me, I fully intend on having him wear this product. I’d rather be safe than sorry.
If you are in the market for a high visibility vest for your dog (you should be), then I recommend giving Ruffwear a look. Even if you don’t decide to go with Ruffwear, the safety of your dog should be an important consideration regardless of your activity. If you want to be seen, he wants to be seen. Do your canine partner a favor and invest in his visibility.
If your canine partner seems to have a hard time adjusting to the vest, there are a few simple things you can do. Remember to associate the vest with something pleasant when you put it on (praise, treat, etc.). Check your size, make sure it isn’t too tight, or to lose. Keep the initial exposures short, and fun. Put it on before the activity to help him adjust to it (put it on, and let him run around the yard with it). Before you know it your dog will be happily running around forgetting that he has it on.