So like many of you, I’ve got a dog. Actually I’ve got 4 dogs but only one is obedient and trained well enough to work as my partner so to speak. His name is Wyatt (as in Earp) and he’s an Australian Shepherd, which is one of the most spectacular dog breeds I’ve had the pleasure of having as a companion. As I’ve said before I’m prior military and law enforcement and I have worked around lots of working dogs but I’m not a law enforcement K9 handler or a SAR K9 handler though, I have worked in SAR as well. I am however, a very enthusiastic dog owner and have been trying to find a good way to better incorporate my K9 friend into my outdoor pursuits and bad day planning. I decided that the best way to do that would be to find a load carrying vest for Wyatt. There are a few options available for various harnesses and vests for dogs out there that are more or less acceptable, but very little exists out there that is truly custom and tailored to fit. What you usually wind up with is something that needs to constantly be adjusted and doesn’t quite fit your dog as well as it could.
This is where Paul at ForceK9 comes in. Paul makes some pretty outstanding vests for dogs. Vests that range from SAR vests with reflective panels in place that are made in the standard colors for the job, to full on MOLLE tactical vests built in most any camo pattern or color that would make the most hardened of tactical operators a little jealous. I chose the latter to better suit Wyatt’s and my needs. In order to have the vest tailored for your dog, obviously you will need to provide measurements and that process is well described on the ForceK9 website, and if you get a measurement that may be a little off, Paul will double check it with you. Then you wait. ForceK9 is a one man operation at the moment so there is a lead time but it’s very reasonable. So lets dig into the details of the vest here.
- Drop-forged V-ring for leash/harness attachment
- Control handle integrated into harness
- Multi-use Adjustable Mission Platform (staggered MOLLE-compatible PALS webbing/Velcro Loop/Elastic Cord) on top for mounting equipment/lights/strobes/accessories
- MOLLE-compatible PALS webbing (6 columns by 3 Rows) on both sides
- Loop fields on sides for mounting ID/name patches
- Fully adjustable front and belly straps
- Secure ITW Hardware, Mil-Spec webbing and Thread
- Durable 1000 denier Dupont Cordura™ fabric
- Compact, custom QuickFit™ design
- Semi-tailored to fit your dogs body
- CoolSoft™ Technology
Lots of thought went into this vest. The quality of the stitching is well above par and the vest is supremely durable, without stifling your buddy under the vest. There is a nice mesh stitched inside the vest to give a nice offset from the fur. The MOLLE is covered in a loop field so if you don’t want to attach pouches to the vest you can attach patches and ID panels for the LEO and rescue types. The whole spine of the vest is also covered in a staggered MOLLE webbing with a loop field and a very useful elastic cord criss cross. The control handle is a fantastic tool on the vest and the drop forged V-ring is an extremely durable anchor point for leads. It’s the exact same piece that’s used on the ever popular riggers belt for rappelling. The buckles are very strong and durable and hold very well.
It took about a solid day of wear for my buddy Wyatt to get used to the idea of wearing a vest around. He did very well with it however. We went on a few solid day hikes to really break it in. With the adjustment straps cinched down (not too tight of course) the vest stayed right in place. I experimented with various pouches to attach to the vest (a Maxpedition admin pouch and an IFAK) to add a little load to the vest and increase carrying ability. One of the most useful things was the elastic cording on the spine of the vest. I was able to slide in a light rain jacket that was held very securely, and allowed me to keep my load nice and light. The other night, we were out and about and it was dark where we were so in order to keep Wyatt visible, I was able to easily weave a chemlight into the staggered MOLLE webbing along the spine of the vest for easy location purposes. By attaching pouches to the vest you permit the dog to carry their own food, water, medical kit and any other necessary gear for any trips longer than a day hike. This is a pretty awesome ability, when weight needs to be kept to a minimum in your pack. One thing to keep in mind though is that much like you, your dog needs to work up to being able to carry a load so conditioning prior to your trip is important.
This vest is fantastic. It allows for endless customization based on your mission or task at hand. It’s made as well or better than any of the high quality tactical gear that I’ve used as a professional. It’s comfortable on the dog and very stable and STRONG! I can pick up my 60+lb dog by the vest to put him in my vehicle (he doesn’t like to jump in the Jeep for some reason) or over a fence or in a window for that matter. If your working dog or companion dog is in the market for a little tactical upgrades, then look no further than ForceK9, their products will do you right!