Dogs have served and protected humankind for centuries, not least on the frontline.
Armoring dogs goes back to ancient times, becoming common practice in Europe in the late 1800s.
Thankfully, in the face of modern-day threats, the protective equipment available for military and police K9s has evolved greatly.
At Bulletproof Zone, we know a thing or two about ballistic gear for both man and beast.
Here, we’re focusing on the K9 vest – What is it? How does it work? Is it really necessary? Plus our top picks for the latest and greatest dog gear on the market!
Table of Contents:
- What are the main features of armor for dogs?
- Why do dogs need body armor?
- What's the best armor for dogs?
- How much does a Kevlar dog vest cost?
What are the main features of armor for dogs?
The harness is engineered to be lightweight with a streamlined profile so the K9's mobility and agility aren’t restricted while on doggy detail.
The exterior shell of the vest is normally made of hard-wearing Cordura and incorporates the following:
A number of load-bearing D- or V-ring hookups for attaching dog leashes of any length
A single or dual top carry handle for when the handler needs to lift, steer, or control their dog
Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment [MOLLE] webbing on the sides and top in order to mount accessories such as a med kit, flash light, or ID tags
Chest and flank buckles and strapping to ensure the vest’s quick to put on and adjustable to a proper fit, especially for when the dogs need to be deployed ASAP
On the inside of the harness, there’s a removable mesh lining with cooling and moisture-wicking properties to help keep the working dog dry and comfortable even while in hot pursuit.
What about the protective material itself?
Yes, let's not forget those all-important soft armor panels which largely contain DuPont Kevlar. These are positioned to shield the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys as well as non-vital organs of the dog’s torso from a deadly blow.
At least five times stronger than steel, the Kevlar forms a ‘net' of tightly woven and multi-stacked fibers--tough enough, as it happens, to trap incoming bullets and resist stabs from knives (if stab proof protection has been added to the vest.)
The protective material works in two ways - firstly, by deadening much of the impact of the projectile as well as redistributing its energy across the entire armor; and secondly, by deforming the tip of the ammo into a far less harmful mushroom-like shape.
How heavy is dog body armor?
The weight is influenced not only by the size of the harness, but also what level of protective material it bears. On average though, for medium and large breeds, loaded canine body armor runs in the region of 4lbs.
Why do dogs need body armor?
High-risk of injury: For military and law enforcement dogs, encountering potentially life-defying situations comes with the territory. In fact, they're even more in danger than their human handlers since they’re often sent in ahead to perform tasks ranging from detecting explosive devices to tackling armed felons.
Expensive to train: It costs around $20,000 to $40,000 to train a military K9 ( $150,000 to make them explosive detection experts)!
It saves their lives: There are plenty recorded saves of K9s having been kitted out with body armor.
Gabo, an 8-year-old German Shepherd K9 with the Jonesboro Arkansas Police Department, was saved by a ballistic and stab proof vest after being shot five times on a mission. He made a full recovery and is back to work now!
I'm not crying! YOU'RE crying!
What's the best armor for dogs?
While there are a fair few dog body armor products out there, not all are created equal. Quality and performance differ widely.
But, fear not! We’ve sniffed out what gear is currently up for grabs, and here’s our shortlist of the ultimate in K9 carrier vests:
1. Level IIIA Canine Body Armor [CBA] by UARM
Combo design made up of two parts: Canine Collum Body Armor [CCBA] to safeguard the back and trunk of the dog; plus Canine Wither Body Armor [CWBA] which, uniquely among dog ballistic vests, provides full protective coverage for the neck and upper spine.
Military spec near-infrared textiles greatly reduce the dog’s heat signature.
Intuitive system of adjustments and fastenings to allow optimal resizing of the armor.
Product compliant with U.S. National Institute of Justice 0101.06 IIIA - the highest grade of soft armor and capable of stopping at least six .44 Magnum SJHP rounds from going through the dog vest.
Offered in four colors and as many sizes.
2. TEX10 K-9 Vest by Armor Express
Solid budget choice.
Choice of Armor Express NIJ Level II and IIIA ballistics plates.
Integrated mounting platform for attaching a wireless camera.
Comes in half a dozen colors and multiple sizing options.
3. Agile Canine Vest [ACV] by Armor Express
Reputedly the most tactically advanced K-9 armored carrier solution on the market.
Superior stab and ballistic protection to NIJ Levels IIA, II, and IIIA.
Choice of 8 colors and alpha sizing.
Stars innovations such as covered zipper closures to prevent the snagging of the dog's fur and skin, as well as the BOA Fit System with micro-adjustable dial and concealed dynamic cummerbund for an accurate and custom fit.
4. K9 StreetFighter Vest by LOF Defence
Built-in layer of Outlast thermo-technology helps keep the dog’s body temperature cool.
Positively buoyant harness and armor.
Soft body armor panels rated at NIJ II and IIIA & NIJ 0115.00 Levels 2 and 3 for stab/spike defense.
Selection of nine colors and specially tailored sizing options.
Also available in the no less cutting-edge Armored K9 Mini version for dog breeds 30lb and under.
5. Patrol SWAT Vest by K9 Storm
Employed by corrections agencies, security forces, Search And Rescue [SAR] teams, as well as border patrol units in 37 countries globally
The only dog armor on the planet which is custom fit and made to the dog’s precise measurements
State-of-the-art Ultra Light ballistic panels which meet NIJ Level II
To be had in either three colors (Basic model) or six colors (Standard and Advanced varieties)
How much does a Kevlar dog vest cost?
Alas, a dog bulletproof vest doesn't come cheap. They range in price from several hundred dollars to upwards of $30K for top-of-the-line hi-tech military canine hardware. Still, surely it's a tiny price to pay to protect the lives of K9s that protect ours.
Although no body armor can afford complete protection, outfitting dogs with a ballistic vest is a big step in helping them get home in one piece.
When choosing protective gear for your animal, assess their most likely threats and choose an NIJ ballistic level tested to defeat them.
Make sure the vest fits well and that the dog can move, jump, roll, and crawl as needed. With that, you're giving your furry companion every chance to survive.
Have you ever worked with an amazing canine who deserves their own protective gear? Tell us about them below!