Do’s and Don’ts of Doggie Backpacks

You’ve probably seen cute photos of dogs wearing their own backpacks.

Would your dog hate wearing one? How safe are they? And is there any point to them besides a photo opportunity?

You might be surprised to know that backpacks can actually help some dogs—especially working breeds—feel like they have a purpose, a job. For others, however, backpacks are probably just a burden.

So, should you get your dog a backpack? Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider before you make a final decision.

Do Shop Around for Good Construction

Poor materials or accessories can not only mean a backpack that doesn’t last as long, but also one that causes discomfort or even injury to your dog. “The most important factor to consider to ensure you don’t end up with a pup who is chaffing from a backpack is to make sure it is fitted properly,” says Mary Tully from Tully’s Training at Healthy Spot. “It would be worth it to do some research and find out which brands are better suited for your pup’s body type.”

Also, keep in mind any particularities you need to address. For example, if your dog has sensitive skin, you want a backpack with soft straps so they don’t rub against the skin.

Do Make Sure Weight is Well Distributed

Most doggie backpacks are designed like a saddle, with a strap that falls over your dog’s back and a small pocket or bag on each side. When shopping for a bag, make sure both pockets are the same size, so they can carry a similar amount of things and you can evenly distribute the weight of the cargo. “It is important to have even weight distribution on your dog’s bag for the same reasons it’s important to have even weight distribution in a bag that a human is carrying: Uneven weight can cause muscle strain,” Tully explains.

Another important thing to note here: your dog shouldn’t be carrying heavy things in his backpack anyway. Use the pockets for treats, poop bags, maybe a rain jacket, and collapsible bowls. But if you’re going away for a few days, you should be the one carrying his food, not him. “How much weight is too much depends on the size, fitness level, and health of your dog,” says Tully. “It’s always best to err on the side of caution and make the bag lighter than you think it needs to be.”

It’s recommended to start off at 10% of your dog’s weight in his backpack, and work up from there. Still not sure? Ask your veterinarian when in doubt.

dog backpack

©istockphoto/Sparty1711

Don’t Push Too Hard

Carrying a backpack will make any type of exercise harder for your dog—and this is especially true of things like hiking, where the added terrain difficulty and other factors come into play. “A hike or walk with a backpack is more difficult than without one, just like it would be for a human,” says Tully.

Also, talk to your vet to figure out what signs of strain to look for. “If your dog is wearing the backpack and seems to be too hot, uncomfortable, tired, or stressed, you should remove it immediately and give them access to water, shade, and rest,” Tully says. And always také the backpack off if your dog seems to be struggling with it.

Meet the Author: Diana Bocco

Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia,snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com

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