Backpacking with Dogs Ultimate Guide

Backpacking with Dogs – Do’s and Dont’s

There are many fun ways to make walks more challenging and exciting, but for you and your dog, and one of the alternatives is to use a doggy backpack. A backpack for dogs allows you to have your dog carry smaller items like their own waste bags, your wallet, a set of keys or any other items you could think of, and it gives your pooch a task and something to do.

Dogs feel good about themselves when they get to help, and they thrive when managing to carry out a chore as requested by the person they love and trust. Carrying a backpack will force your dog to focus, which is ideal for high-energy dogs as it requires them to work both physically and mentally during a walk. Any dog can wear a backpack, but there are a few things to think about before getting started.

Use a Quality Dog Backpack

One of the first things to think about, before starting to train your dog to wear a backpack, is to use a product made for dogs. It may seem obvious to some, but to those that are unfamiliar with doggy backpacks, it is easy to make the mistake of thinking that a regular backpack will work just as well. It won’t, and unless you use a one made specifically for dogs, you risk hurting your fur buddy in the process.

The main reason for why it is so important to use a backpack designed for dogs is because they have straps in all the right places and are made to distribute the weight evenly. It is not the same for a human to carry a backpack as it is for a dog, and back and neck injuries are not something you want to be experimenting with.

Finding the best dog backpack takes a bit of research, and for the research to be successful there are a few things to think about before you start reviewing products.

Looking online is a great way to get an idea of what to expect, since it allows you to read reviews written by real-life customers, and you can compare features and sizes without having to run around to all the pet stores in town. Look at materials, how ergonomic the backpack is if it can be adjusted for a perfect fit and how much it can fit.

Divide the Weight Properly

Most doggy backpacks have two large pockets – one on each side – and it should go unsaid that you want to try and split up the weight of the items put in there evenly. Don’t put two water bottles on one side with nothing on the other, for example, as this could put stress on your dog’s back and muscles in a way that is not correct nor healthy.

The last thing you want to do is to make the experience unpleasant for your pup or to do something that might turn out to be harmful and potentially cause pain and discomfort.

This does not mean that both sides need to have the exact weight but try to distribute any loaded items as evenly as possible throughout the pockets on the backpack.

It is also recommended that you use a kitchen scale to weigh the backpack after loading it up, just to make sure that you haven’t put too much in there. You see, it is not about how much the dog carries, but instead about the act of carrying something, as this gives dogs a sense of purpose and fulfillment.


Switch it up with the items you want your dog to carry! You can start practicing with two small and half-full water bottles, just to ease your dog into it, and you want to place one on each side of their spine (most dog backpacks have two large pockets, one on each side). You can then have your pup carry items you don’t have anywhere else to put; like your house keys, cell phone, wallet or bags of dog training snacks.

It is beneficial to try with different weights, avoiding falling into a routine where it is always the same, and you can double check with your kitchen scale that both sides of the bag weigh the same.

The Importance of Size

Just like with a harness, you want to make sure that a dog backpack fits your pup perfectly.

Step one is to measure your dog, and to not just rely on weight recommendations. Most products come with specific measurements, which you can use as a guide once you know how big your dog is. Always take new measurements, rather than to rely on old ones, since dogs – just like humans – can shift in weight from one week to another, without anyone really noticing. This isn’t usually an issue since doggy backpacks tend to be adjustable but measure your dog anyway before ordering a product, just to be sure.


It is not unusual for dogs to be uncomfortable at first, when wearing a backpack, and it can be expected since it is something completely new to them. They might try to scratch at it, refuse to walk, sit down or try to roll around to get out of it, and you need to handle such a situation with patience and understanding.

Start out with shorter walks and use treats to encourage your fur friend! Reward him or her when things are going well and take the backpack off if needed. With time, your dog will learn to walk normally while wearing the pack, and they are very likely to also learn to love it!

As previously mentioned, dogs love to be given a job, and to feel like they are contributing, and it is an amazing feeling to be able to provide our pups with something that makes them feel great about themselves. A dog backpack gives you something to work on together, and it is a great way to boost your pup’s self-esteem while also providing a fun and challenging addition to your regular walks.

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