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Doggy Backpacking 101

Posted: Tue Nov 07, 2006 6:51 am
by Pineapples
Backpacking with dogs

When hiking it’s a ”rule” in Norway that everyone helps with what they can for the group. This also goes for our furry friends. Dogs will gladly carry a backpack with their own stuff, and some of the group stuff too!

Which dogs can backpack?

In general, all dogs can backpack. But smaller dogs can have trouble walking in the terrain, and if they do they should not backpack. Dogs with a shoulderheight of 16 inches and up should be good backpacking dogs

A dog should be fully grown before you put any weight in the backpack, that means around two years depending on breed. If the dog has any illnesses or injuries which hinders their physics, you should always consult your veterinarian before doing anything strenuous.

How heavy can the backpack be?

This depends on the overall condition on the dog, it's strength and size. Fully grown dogs in good shape used to carrying backpacks can carry up to 25% of their bodyweight on trips over multiple days. Remember, it’s always better to load less than more!

My experience is that there is usually a correlation between the dogs condition and the owners. If both the dog and the owner is in their prime, you can use these rules for longer hikes:

The dog can carry as much as their owner comparing bodyweight

If the owner weighs around 150 lbs, and can carry 37 lbs, meaning 25 % of their weight. Their dog at 60 lbs should be able to carry 15 lbs. If the owner is comfortable with only 25 lbs, the dogs weight should be adjusted accordingly. Don’t forget to add the backpacks weight to the total. The great thing about this rule is that when the owner has to carry his share of the load, the speed will automatically be adjusted by terrain, temperature and other things that also makes the hike more strenuous for the dog.

The dog can probably carry more then what is recommended here, but with a greater risk of injury. These kind of injuries can crop up a long time after the dog was worked. Put 60 lbs in your own backpack and march up a steep hill. I’m sure you can do it, but how long will your knees last?

Which backpack should I chose?

Go to a good petstore and ask a salesperson who knows about backpacking. Ask around groups who regurlarly backpack and find competent people who know what they are talking about. Some petstores only sell backpacks, and don’t really know a lot about using them. Stay away from those if you are new to the sport.

Here are some tips on what is a good backpack, and how it should fit your dog:

1. The backpack should fit your dog

The backpack should be it’s deepest at the front of the dog so that the weight is primarily the front legs ans not it|s back. The packs should reach the dogs elbows on both sides. The most important is that the backpack can be adjusted correctly out from the dogs legs so that it can move freely. When the dog is standing parallel with it’s front legs, the backpack should be held at an inch or so out from the legs. This makes the legs just stay clear of the backpack when the dog moves. If the packs are further out than that, the balance of the backpack will be influenced. If they are closer to the legs, they will hinder the dogs movement. The bellystrap should not hinder the dogs breathing, so it shouldn’t be too tight. You should be able to put three fingers “upright” between the belly and the strap. When the dog moves with the backpack, it should sit stable on the dog and not move around. It’s the backpacks construction and correct packing that primarily holds it in place, not the straps.

2. Shape, materials and seems

The backpack should not make blisters or wear the fur. It should be as waterproof as possible, and so solid that it will withstand a lot of contact with trees, bushes and stones. Leather is very good for the material that is touching the dog, and it’s very durable. A lot of the quality backpacks combine leather with other fabrics.

Packing the backpack

Be sure that the backpack is balanced. The packs should weigh equally much, or they will move around on the dog, or it will carry it crooked. (not good!) The safest it to weigh the backpacks before putting them on. You can also balance the backpack by putting it over your thigh, but this is not as accurate. The best backbacks are already pretty stable when put on correctly and small differences in weight won’t really matter that much.

Put clothes or something soft closest to the dogs body. Sharp edges should not be packed close to the dog. The heaviest items should be placed in front and at the bottom of the pack. Don’t pack items that you need on the hike, all the weighing and balancing will be all for nothing. Put items that are not waterproof in plastic bags. Items that can’t withhold a push or a shove (or water for that matter) should be carried in your own backpack. In other words, carry your own sleepingbag and camera. ;)

Getting used to the backpack

You can get your dog used to the backpack pretty early. A puppy of 7-8 months can practice by carrying an empty backpack, but should not carry weight. You could fill it with newspapers or light clothing to fill it out. It is not crucial to get the dog used to it at an early age. Most dogs get used to the backpack pretty quickly, and don’t really need a lot of time. A couple of treats and praise is good, as in most other dogtraining. When a untrained dog figures out how to not squeeze it’s way through two large stones, but that he actually needs to move over them, deserves praise. It will also motivate your dog to work harder later when it has difficulties.

Let the dog walk normally with the lead either attached to it’s collar or on the backpack (backpacks have D-rings on the back). Don’t let the pull. When going downhill, you need to attach the lead to the backpack, so the load on the front of the dog doesn’t get too heavy.
I prefer a waistbelt and an elastic lead then I go backpacking. The lead is always attached to the backpack itself, not the collar. That way I have both hands free, and it’s a comfortable way to hike.

Special concerns

Check your dog regularly for blisters and worn pads. If the backpack or the dog gets wet, observe both of them closely. The risk of blisters and skinirritations increases, and you might have to carry more yourself.
With a good quality backpack the risks of blistering or irritations are less. When you put the packpack on the dog, make sure that the dogs collar is not under the backpack, but lays free.

For longer hikes, make sure your dogs pads are thick and the dog is in good shape.
Make sure you feed your dog more on long trips, fatty foods are good. Also make sure your dog drinks sufficiently. I mix in some liverpate in the water to make sure my dog is not dehydrated.

Always keep your dog leashed when it has a packpack on. The consequences on a dog taking a trip on it’s own are bigger if the dog is carrying stuff, it can also get stuck and not find it’s way back to you. The dog might think a swim is a good idea, but swimming with a heavy backpack could be dangerous.

A dog that is sick or injured should not be carrying weight before you have talked to your vet. A dog mildly dysplastic with no symptoms can backpack pretty much like a non dysplastic dog, but it might be a good idea to be careful when adding weight to the packs. A dysplastic with symptoms should not carry weight unless your veterinarian says it can.
X-ray your dog before backpacking!




Good luck!
Backpacking is a great way to exercise your dog, and in my experience they really love having a job to do!

Posted: Tue Nov 07, 2006 6:24 pm
by Stormi
Thanks for posting this! My boy got a backpack not too long ago, and I've found it works wonders for exersize on days where the park is too muddy.

Posted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 2:58 am
by Red

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 12:38 am
by bullymom
thanks for the info and is that your dog...he is too cute. He looks pretty small how much those he weight.

Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 2:52 am
by Pineapples
Yes, that's Bacon. She was around 46 lbs. She is still missed every single day. :(

My pack LOVES backpacking :)

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 8:07 am
by PawBone

Posted: Thu May 03, 2007 7:23 pm
by Adrianne

Us too!


Me and Bailey Hiking in the Rockies!!

Posted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:43 pm
by BaiLeY BLue
Saw this thread and had to add...hope you enjoy the pics

Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 10:19 pm
by BaiLeY BLue
Sorry for the double post...the pack pictured above i bought at a local pet store it was cheap and I know isn't really built well for is always sliding around...I found a much better pack at a local outdoor gear store made by ruffwear

The "saddle bags" separate from an actual dog harness holds in place very well, and the water storage is really cool (once I figured it out.

Posted: Sun Jun 10, 2007 10:38 pm
by worldcustom
very nice info, thanks:peace:
but there is no such a backpack for dog in my country :(

Posted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 11:03 am
the backpacks seems like a good idea , I have never tried it though . my dog is 75 lbs . so he could carry alot .

Posted: Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:39 pm
by CeeKay
Aww! He's cute with his hiking backpack! :3

Also, does this rule apply to military standards? (175lb man carrying 90lbs of gear and a 10lb firearm?)

lol kidding.

- CK

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 2:05 pm
by midwestdrifter13
what pack is this???

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 4:11 am
by Sipes13
Wow, I go hiking a lot with my dog but didn't know they had backpacks for dogs, I'll look around online for them. Lots of cool pictures here too :thumbsup:

Posted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 3:23 pm
by bassol808
I was advised to get Oreo a backpack for obedience class...they saw how much energy he has (and no matter how much I run and play with him before class he still has energy) lol anyways...Im looking into getting one for him later....hes only 7 months right now though so I dont know if hes too young or what...but hes about 70lbs maybe a little I dont know what kind or size I should get....