Chillybuddy is a small company whose only product is this reflective cooling vest which is sold through other retailers online and in stores. They put the vest through rigorous testing processes before releasing it to a group of beta testers, and it was only offered to the public after that.
Since we already used the Aluminet car shade with great success, we were interested to see how the same material will perform on a dog!
Some would argue that wolves or hunting/guarding/herding dogs never needed a colling vest or a cooling mat, and they were all fine, so all these products are just the result of the “dog mom culture.”
Well, if you think about it, there are many differences in our dogs’ lives these days compared to even a few hundred years ago. First of all, dogs used to live outside 24/7, so they had weeks/months to get used to the weather warming up at the beginning of the season. These days, most family pets spend most of their time in an airconditioned or at least a somewhat temperature-controlled environment, so it's much harder for them to handle the heat when they go out.
Another difference is that traditional working dogs used to sleep through the hottest part of the day - preferably in a hole dug under a bush - and they didn't venture out unless there was something worth checking out.
These days we might have to take the dogs for a quick walk in our lunch break, or we take them with us for a vacation to a sunny beach, or they sit with us on a boat/SUP in the sun. There are also service dogs and working dogs who need to work even when it's hot, and their owner can't choose to only walk them early in the morning and late at night when it's cooler.
There are also many widely different breeds with very different needs and limitations. Originally dogs were bred for practical reasons, but as we all know, in the modern ages, most breeds were more bred for looks which took them far from those original working dogs/wolves.
Dogs are involved in our lives in very different ways than they used to, and many of them need some help to adjust to the situations we put them in. Does that mean that all dogs need a cooling vest/cooling mat or another cooling product? Absolutely not, but learning about these products and knowing when and how to use them can save dogs’ lives.
If you want to read more about the pros and cons of many different cooling products, check out our article introducing many options!
Evaporation-based cooling vests work by creating a big surface for evaporation. They utilize the same process when humans sweat to cool down because when the water changes from liquid to a gaseous state, it pulls energy from its surroundings, creating a small temperature drop.
Other vests do not provide active cooling but help the dog by reflecting the sun. The advantage of this method is that you can use it anywhere, anytime, without needing to carry extra water or make the dog wet. The reflective vest behaves like a partial shade over the dog, which can be great if they have to wait on the sun during a show/competition or if you are doing long-distance hikes. It also helps to reflect heat radiating from the environment in general, not just from the sun.
While this technology can be beneficial in many situations, it also has clear limitations that are very important to understand to keep the dogs safe! Although they are still called “cooling vests,” these don't cool the dog down and will not limit them heating up due to exercises; it only slows the temperature increase due to heat radiation. Imagine playing fetch on a hot and humid day in the shade: the dog will still overheat fast, although slower than they would in the sun.
Don't forget that a vest doesn't completely cover the dog either, so their head and neck are still warming up in the sun, and the material still lets 30% of the radiation through.
The Chillybuddy Aluminet Vest is a well-made but thin jacket that reflects 70% of the infrared radiation on the dog's back. The outer material is woven synthetic with an aluminized finish (called Aluminet), also used for car shades. The material is durable while used and stored correctly but can get snagged on a branch and ripped quickly if the dog walks into dense undergrowth while wearing it.
The vest is supposed to cover the dog's back all the way. It only has a small opening above the shoulders for attaching the leash to the harness if you want to have it under it.
The insulating cotton-mesh layer under the reflective top provides airflow, which is crucial to protect the dog from heat. Without this underlayer, the Aluminet would just reflect the dog's body heat back and would do more harm than good.
The belly band is secured with velcro on both sides, and the neck section can also be adjusted by velcro.
We received the Chillybuddy Cooling Jacket from Cleanrun at the beginning of the summer and were interested to see how it works since reflective vests seem to divide the dog sport community. I think there would be a better consensus on its effectiveness if it wouldn't be called a “cooling” Vest since it is technically not cooling the dog, and this might confuse the expectations.
Technically you can soak the vest to create an active cooling effect, but this is not the primary use case for this vest. It doesn't retain a significant amount of water and dries fast.
To objectively test the vest's effectiveness, I grabbed the thermal camera that we used for the winter coat article. The idea was that we go for a walk in the sun and check Mia's coat's surface temperature when removing it. I expected to see some difference on the uncovered, “sunny” vs. “shady” parts covered by the vest. But, again, the Aluminet vest isn't actively cooling the dog, so we didn't expect Mia to be cool under it, just to warm up less than on the uncovered sections.
Checking the Cooling vest with a thermal camera shows the reflecting effect over the coat, but we couldn't show a meaningful impact under the vest. We repeated the same experiment on a second, sunnier day, but we got the same results. In the thermal images, the back is slightly less warm than the head or the back end, but it was still warming up and wasn't cool like the dog's side that wasn't exposed to as much direct sunlight.
Since Chillybuddy states that they can achieve a 30% lower coat temperature under the vest, I also reached out to them to better understand their method of measuring the vest's effectiveness in the hope of reproducing their results. They informed me that they used a laser thermometer to test the temperature both under dry and wet/damp vests on different days/times, but I haven't received any more information on how long the dog was wearing the vest or what they did during this time (exercise vs. just laying around, etc.).
I repeated the experiment with an infrared thermometer as well to see if that will show different results but couldn't show a significant difference. The fur under the coat was either the same or less than 1 Celsius/ Fahrenheit lower than her uncovered back end, which isn't enough to assume that it would make a big difference in keeping the dogs cool.
We also have to mention that Mia is brown, and the result might have been different on a black dog or if I exercise her longer, which I was not comfortable with on a hot day.
On a more personal note, when checking her fur with my palm, it felt that while the surface exposed to direct sunlight radiated heat, the parts under the vest were just simply warm, not radiating as much. This aligns with the experiment results with both the thermal camera and the infrared thermometer: it does help a little, but the effect seems limited.
I have conflicting feelings about this Aluminet vest.
First of all, it would be much more beneficial to call it a reflective vest instead of a cooling vest to manage expectations better and help it be used in situations when they are helpful. For example, it will not help a dog much after an agility run when they are already close to overheating because the radiating heat only partially causes the increase in body temperature from the environment, and it's mostly due to exercise. However, it could make a black-coated dog more comfortable on daily walks during the summer.
If we keep in mind the limitations of the vest and understand that it will only slow up the increase in body temps, it can be used to make the dogs more comfortable. This doesn't mean that now it's safe to leave the dog in the sunny yard without any shade - but that's true for all cooling products: they can only help to an extent.
A definite pro is that it is super lightweight and packable, making it ideal for long-distance hikes or backpacking trips where getting water for an evaporation-based vest wouldn't be realistic.
You can find it on Clean Run's website.
For reference, Mia has the medium vest, and as we discussed, it was just a tad too small on her.
Many of you asked Mia's measurements to better understand the different products’ fit. Your best chance of finding a good fitting gear is always to measure (and remeasure) your dog. Even we grab the measuring tape before getting a new product - even though we tested a lot of them, and have a good feeling of her size by now.
I share her measurements below, but don't go ahead and order the same size just because your dog is similar to Mia ;)
• Shoulder height: 19.5 inches (50 cm)
• Weight: 37-44 pounds (17-20 kg)
• Widest chest circumference (where the most harness would have the chest strap): 25-26 inches (63-65 cm)
• Neck circumference for collars: 15-16 inches (38-40 cm)
• Back lengths: 22 inches (56 cm)