Tale of Tails

Assistance Dog Vests!


Author: Elmiri Fox

I’m a vest girl myself. As you can see from the header bar above, my two dogs are a pair of giant fluff balls. Trying to get a standard thin strap harness over these coats and fitted correctly can be a task and as I design and make most of my gear (specifically Po’s vest) I find vests work best.
I also don’t require a mobility approved harnesses.

There are a million different vest shapes, designs, colours, materials and pretty much anything else you can think of! Light weight, heavy weight, waterproof, breathable, cheap, expensive, homemade, custom made, pre made, factory made, leather, cloth, synthetic… I told you the list goes on!

But I’m going to touch on some of the most popular options.

Learning Puppy – still growing, still learning, might not become an assistance dog

If you’ve got or are getting a puppy to become your assistance dog prospect you’ll come across a lot of different opinions.
Some people say you shouldn’t label your puppy as an ‘Assistance Dog in Training’ (or equivalent) until it’s 6-8 months of age, or until it’s learnt certain manners including toilet training. Instead these people suggest you label the dog as ‘In Training’ only. It can cross over with a lot of the first steps of training and I don’t want to get side tracked.
So ‘assistance dog in training’ and ‘in training’ are the main two labelling choices.

You don’t want to splash out a ton of money on a vest that will probably only fit your dog for 1 month, depending on your sizing. Puppies grow, and they do it fast.

So cheap and cheerful is the best option! You probably won’t be reusing this unless you have a steady income of puppies of the same size. So reselling may be important (‘in training’ labelling will have a larger sale market compared to ‘assistance dog in training’).

8+ Months Old – minor growing happening from this stage onward

So your dog is maybe 8 months old. Most of the major growth spurts have happened for the majority of dog breeds now.

You can continue to use a more budget vest or you may be interested in getting a slightly more complicated vest to introduce to your dog. This more complicated very may be a requirement to introduce your dog to some more advance tasks and or sensory issues.

18+ Months Old – fully grown no major surprises in size change, ready for mobility harness fitting

To quickly touch on the title here. A dog should not be doing mobility until 24 months old and health cleared by a trained vet. That said you can get one sized and fitted early if you wish, some creators of mobility approved gear may not make them though until they see a copy of a vet report.

At 18 months your dog isn’t going to be growing much if at all. Perhaps muscle development, fur growth but that’s another area entirely. Your dog may now be fully trained too! It takes anywhere from 18 months to 3 years to train an assistance dog, sometimes longer.

So this vest may be the last one it’ll need for several years until wear and tear calls for a replacement. It doesn’t mean this has to be the last vest but it may well be the last one for now.

This means you may wish to splash some cash on a vest that will last you and your dog several years. Think about the options and extras you want. Will this vest be for all year round? Summer/winter only? Formal wear, party wear, everyday use? Wording? Colours, pattern, shape, reflective, waterproof? Extras like D rings, pockets, attachment options? Some of the many questions you may want to ask.

Places to Buy Vests

Budget Vests – these vests may need the patches corrected to say either ‘In Training’, ‘Assistance Dog in Training’ or ‘Assistance Dog’. Do not use Therapy Dog or Emotional Support for assistance dogs or those in training.

Assistance Dog In Training Vest, available at eBay (click image)
Fully customise-able text vest, available at eBay (click image)

You may find above vests/harnesses that currently have amazon links also available on eBay & Etsy.
Although Etsy is a good source for handmade products, it’s not ideal for budget vests for dogs.

Colan, photo example to the right, is another popular option. They give a wide variety of text, colours, sizes, etc.

Custom or Premade – for custom made vests your best bet is Etsy. That said there are a large number of gear makers who are present only on platforms like Facebook groups and pages or Instagram.

Facebook & Instagram – There are a mass amount of Facebook groups aimed at gear sellers and buyers, the majority of them based in the US. That said there are a few UK based Facebook groups and several UK gear makers. They advertise most through word of mouth, giveaways and Facebook groups.

Facebook Groups – Facebook groups are the most popular place for buying second hand and faulty gear. There are very few UK based groups but here are some that I approve of personally.

Gear Makers – Below are a list of some of the current gear makers of AD vests and capes.

  • River Dog Gear – USA
  • Patience & Love – USA
  • Yup – Italy
  • Sunny Makes – UK
  • Snoots & Boops – UK – temporarily closed at time of post
  • Woofers Assist – UK
  • Foxes Tale Creations – UK – currently got a hold on vest orders
  • Feather & Wolf Designs – UK

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