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General info, Training

Are Dog Backpacks Good For Dogs?


Dog backpacks are great for dogs as it gives them a job to do and at the same time the added weight will tire them out much quicker.

What Are Dog Backpacks For?

Dog backpacks are very useful accessories as they allow the dog to carry his toys, food, or water, as well as your items like keys, phone, etc.. They are also used as a training tool, especially to calm those animals that are very nervous during walks.

Dogs love to feel important and love working for their humans. So by carrying their own backpack, you will help your pet to concentrate on the task of transportation and can avoid frequent and uncomfortable leash tugging, making the walk much more pleasant and fun with your pup.

Are Dog Backpacks Good For Dogs?

Dog backpacks are an excellent option for our pets as they allow them to carry their own water and various accessories that can be useful when going for a longer walk or a hike. The walk will be more fun and more rewarding for your dog, knowing they did a good job.

Are Dog Backpacks Safe And Comfortable?

The safety of dog backpacks will depend on several factors. Among them, the position of the backpack on your dog’s body is fundamental. It will not only make it easier for them to accept this new accessory in a good way, but it’s essential so that you don’t cause unnecessary and painful injuries to your pup. The majority of the weight should be on the dog’s shoulders, not his back.

Another factor in determining comfort and safety in the placement of the backpack is the dog’s coat. If your dog is pretty fluffy, their coat can serve as a great protection and prevent possible irritation. If you have a short-haired pup (like, a Weimaraner, for example), make sure to have a padded backpack so that nothing is chafing and causing irritation and redness. This chafing can happen especially under the dog’s armpits.

To be comfortable and provide greater safety, it should be made of high-quality and resistant materials. Ideally, the fabric should be hypoallergenic, padded and breathable. It’s important to check the seams and the edges because these can cause itching or irritation of your dog’s skin. And it’s also important to check the zippers, closures or laces that may come in contact with their body.

Backpacks are not only for large working breeds but also for the little guys. It’s essential to choose a proper fitting backpack, it shouldn’t be too loose nor too tight. If you’re ordering online, make sure to measure your pup according to the manufacturer’s sizing. Worst case scenario you can return the product or exchange for a better fit.

How Much Can My Dog Carry In a Backpack?

Once your dog has become accustomed to carrying their own things, the question is, how much weight can your pup carry? It’s easy to fall into temptation and make the mistake of making the backpack carry an excess of things, making it too heavy for our canine.

The pack shouldn’t exceed 15% or at most 20% of the weight of your dog. This means that if a dog weighs 26 pounds, its backpack should be less than 5 pounds. If your dog weighs about 45 pounds, the backpack should be under 7 pounds, etc. Always make sure that both sides of the backpack are equal in weight.

How To Train My Dog To Carry a Backpack?

For most dogs, carrying a backpack will be weird for them. Having a properly fitted backpack can ease a possible discomfort. It’s not unusual for your pup to not want to move with the strange new contraption on their back.

If your pup hasn’t worn a harness, you can start introducing them to one. First let them sniff the harness, then with small steps make them used to it. Lay it on their back for a few seconds, reward and then take it away. Keep going until you can clip and adjust the harness without a fuss.

For this you can start with harnesses that you can attach the saddlebags to. For example, Ruffwear makes the Palisades pack with removable saddlebags and Kurgo makes the Ready Set Go harness, where you can attach various packs.

If your dog is used to a harness, then training will be a lot easier since they’re already familiar with the sensation of something around their chest and on their back.

Start your introduction at home and let your pup wear it for a little bit in your home. Don’t put anything in the saddlebags, just let him get used to the feeling. Take them on a walk with the empty backpack as well. The trick is to associate the pack with positive things happening, like praise, treats, toys or even a walk can be a reward.

Once they’re fine with it, you can start adding little things and repeating the process until you can gradually add more weight.

Do Dogs Like Wearing Backpacks?

Most dogs do enjoy wearing a backpack, especially large breeds such as herding and working breeds, although many small dogs and even puppies also like to wear backpacks. All dogs, not just the working breeds, like to feel useful to feel that they are helping you, and carrying a backpack helps them satisfy that need, which makes them feel better and happier.

However, just like us, not all dogs have the same tastes, and some don’t enjoy wearing a backpack. Perhaps the sensation of carrying something on their back seems very strange or uncomfortable. And they do not get used to wearing it even if you progressively present it to them as something positive. In these cases, the best thing to do is not to force them to use it, as this will only generate stress for your furry friend.

What Should I Put In My Dog’s Backpack?

First, you should know that a large and healthy dog shouldn’t carry more than 20% of its body weight, i.e. a healthy golden retriever weighing 45 pounds shouldn’t carry more than 9 pounds in its backpack.

I wouldn’t recommend giving backpacks to puppies as they’re still in the growing phase. An elderly dog or a dog with back problems might not be the best candidates either. Make sure to consult with your veterinarian first before putting a backpack on a puppy, an old dog or dog with back and/or joint issues.

As most dog backpacks have a capacity between 3-10 liters, you will be able to put inside everything your pup needs for the road. Here is a list for your reference:

  • Water/food bowl (collapsible bowls work great!)
  • Food and/or treats
  • A bottle of water (some backpacks have inbuilt pouch for water)
  • Poop bags
  • Leash
  • 1 toy (small ball, frisbee, etc.)
  • Dog first aid kit

Of course you can toss in some of your stuff like keys, your own snacks, etc.

After preparing the backpack, be sure to weigh it to make sure it doesn’t exceed the maximum weight your dog can carry. Keep in mind that as the walk progresses, your dog will start to get exhausted, and if the backpack is overweight, it can cause an injury.

Always make sure the weight is equal on both sides.

Pros of a dog backpack

  • Help to train and build muscle

Even though our dogs are running and walking around most of the time, there are many benefits to exercising with some weight. Carrying a pack helps them build muscle, and this helps them have a healthier body.

  • It gives them a task that makes them happy

Many people don’t know this, but dogs like to be given chores. It makes them feel useful and gives them a purpose. By giving your dog his backpack, you make him happier since he’ll feel that he is actually helping you, which will also make him behave better.

  • It’s an excellent exercise of concentration

If your dog is easily distracted during walks, a backpack is an excellent tool to increase his concentration. By carrying the backpack, your dog will concentrate more on the job.

  • They are useful for our dog to help us with the load

Normally, when we go hiking or on a long walk with our furry ones we have to carry a lot of things that can make the walk more difficult. However, our dogs with their backpacks can help us by carrying some things, for example, you can keep his water bowl in one of the side pockets, you can also keep his food or some snacks.

  • You and your dog will rest better

A walk carrying a properly weighted backpack will help your dog to exercise, which will drain his energy and make him exhausted. A tired dog is a happy dog that won’t cause destruction with boredom and excess energy.

Cons of a dog backpack

  • Can stress some dogs

Dog backpacks aren’t recommended for very nervous dogs or for those that get stressed easily since the simple fact of putting the backpack on them can stress them, and this can take away the joy of the walk because they will feel uncomfortable with it.

  • Not all dogs get accustomed to carrying a backpack

Being a new accessory for them, it’s normal that the first experience for some dogs isn’t quite as expected, but with patience and presenting the backpack as something positive, many dogs get used to it quickly. However, not all dogs end up getting used to wearing a backpack, some just don’t like it.

  • Difficult to wash

Many models come with saddlebags that aren’t detachable, which can make it very difficult to properly wash the backpack. Also, some dog backpacks aren’t waterproof.

Recommended Dog Backpacks

The most recommended brands for dog backpacks are Ruffwear and Kurgo. I know a lot of Weimaraner owners who rave about their Ruffwear backpack and their dogs seem to love it too.

Both brands are on the pricier side, so if you’re not sure whether your dog will like a backpack in the first place, you can check places like Aliexpress, where you can get some cool inexpensive backpacks. Then you can upgrade to a more expensive one.

Nelly & Her Backpack

After researching backpacks for dogs – which was really hard since the results were all backpacks for humans to carry their dogs in – I decided to get one for Nelly.

I bought the OneTigris backpack in the sandy brown color and size M, which is what fit Nelly’s measurements. I will make a separate review on the backpack but Nelly was fine with it from the start and didn’t even notice it when we were outside.

Weimaraner with a backpack
Nelly with an empy backpack

First we tried at home with an empty backpack and gave her some treats for being a good girl and not trying to take it off. She is kinda used to a harness, so it wasn’t that weird to her.

When we went outside, we put her poop bags in, two wallets on each side, wipes, hand sanitizer, keys and a pack of tissues. We switched up the items so that both sides were equally “heavy” and she was happily running around outside and drawing curious stares of passerbys. 🙂

Summary

A backpack can be a great tool in training and most dogs enjoy having a job and be helpful to their human.

Let me know if you’ve tried a backpack with your pup, I’m interested in hearing about your experience!



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