Hitting the Trail with a Dog Backpack

by | Dog Care |

dog backpack
Photo: PetSmart

There are several benefits to using a dog backpack. A dog backpack provides added weight for your dog during walks, which allows it to work off more energy in less time. This can be especially helpful on days where you’re pressed for time or if you want to shorten your walk due to unpleasant weather.

Some dogs also love being given a job to do. The backpack not only gives them a sense of purpose on your walks, but for high energy or nervous dogs, the backpack can make your dog feel more at ease and confident.

If you’re interested in the benefits of a dog backpack, here are some tips before making your purchase:

Check with your vet

Your very first step should be talking to your vet. A dog backpack isn’t just a stylish accessory; it’s a way of adding a physical challenge to your dog’s walk, and that may not be appropriate for all dogs. Young dogs may not be developed enough to use a weighted backpack (although you vet may allow the use of an empty backpack) and older dogs may be placing too much stress on their joints.

Know the right weight

If your vet gives you the OK, ask what would be an appropriate weight for your dog to carry. This amount can vary from dog to dog, but in general you should not exceed 20% of your dog’s body weight. When packing the backpack, make sure you keep the weight evenly distributed on both sides of your dog’s body with the greater weight near the shoulders and less weight further down the dog’s back.

Know what kind of backpack you’re looking for

Look for dog backpacks that are of sound construction, durable, and comfortable. If possible, visit a specialty store that carries outdoor performance gear for pets. Consider what type of activity you’ll be doing: there are some dog backpacks that are more appropriate for hiking and camping, and some are more suitable for neighbourhood dog walks or jogging.

Look for things like where the straps fit on your dog, how well you can adjust the fit, and whether there are any irritation points. There should be 5 points for adjustment on the backpack, including a chest strap. The backpack should stay put without shifting and sliding but still allow for full range of movement. When selecting a dog backpack, do research beforehand, try on different packs at the store, and take advantage of the sales staff if you have any questions.

Be patient when introducing the backpack

Your dog will likely need some time to get used to wearing a backpack. Start with an empty backpack so your dog gets used the feel of it. When you’re ready to add weight, start with a little weight and shorter walks, then gradually increase the weight of the pack and duration of your walks. While it’s natural for dogs to feel strange wearing their backpack in the beginning, make sure you watch for signs of pain or discomfort. Follow-up any concerns with your vet.

Remember, your dog backpack is increasing the intensity of your dog’s workout, which means your dog may also get thirstier and tired faster. Now that we’re in the summer months, try to schedule your dog walks in the mornings and evenings when the weather is cooler. For more summer weather tips, check out our blog post on Summertime Safety for Dogs.