Your four legged companion, just like yourself, likes to feel needed, useful and important. The best way to accomplish that is to give them something to do on your walks and hikes. Giving them their own luggage for which they’re responsible is a great way of giving them an important task which they’ll accomplish with gusto.
Another great thing about your dog having their own backpack is that you’ll get a bit of a load off your own shoulders too.
Don’t overburden them
Dogs can carry only a certain amount of weight on their backs before it becomes impractical and uncomfortable for them. The weight that they can carry depends on their physical fitness, age and overall physiology. Overburden them and they might even be injured so be careful.
As a rule of thumb dogs can comfortably carry about 10%-12% of their overall weight. Some very fit young dogs can even carry up to 25% of their weight, but don’t overdo it especially while you’re still getting them accustomed to the backpack. Know your dog and if they show any signs of discomfort empty the backpack until they’re sure they can handle it.
Most dogs accustomed to carrying a backpack will show you that they’re uncomfortable or that the weight is to heavy by refusing to move, or lying down until you reduce their load.
If your dog has some sort of back, hip, joint or bone or muscle illness do not use a backpack or burden them with any additional weight otherwise they might seriously injure themselves.
Give them time to adjust
Having weight on their back is not a natural feelings for some dogs and they might resist it at first. On the other hand others might find the snug fit of a backpack around their body quite calming and comforting. In any case, don’t rush it.
Use the same positive training as you did while getting them accustomed to a harness. At first secure a comfortable fit with an empty backpack and make it a positive experience using lots of yummy treats and praise.
After they get accustomed to wearing the backpack start loading the pockets – make sure that the weight is evenly distributed on both sides. If you see that they are leaning to much on one side or have a strange gait while walking immediately relieve them, or redistribute some of their load.
What can they carry?
The short answer is almost anything except food and treats. The constant siren smell of yummy goodies in which they’ll be enveloped during your walk if you put anything edible in their pouches will distract them in the worst way possible.
They can carry most of their own equipment – leash, collar, doggy bags, nail trimmers, toys, combs, tick removers, water bottles, bowls, etc. – anything that will fit securely in the backpack and that isn’t to heavy for their constitution. Water bottles are especially good for getting them used to handling weight – they can easily be filled up or emptied to adjust the load.
What should I look out for when buying a dog backpack?
Choose a backpack that is sturdy, has extra padding and multiple points of adjustment for comfort and practically designed pockets that can be securely closed. In my opinion the RUFFWEAR Approach Pack is an excellent choice.
It’s all that you are looking for in a high quality dog backpack plus it has reflective trim so that you can always easily keep an eye on your companion, even in low visibility situations. It also has a padded handle for easy lifting of the backpack (and your doggy at the same time if you are going over rough terrain) and two leash attachment points.
What are your experiences with a dog backpacks? We wold like to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.