Adding a dog backpack to my pups’ daily workout routine has been one of my best decisions as a doggie mom!
I personally am not a runner, so I honestly don’t know what I would have done without the backpacks when it comes to managing my dogs’ energy.
Update 2021: That applies to my previous Boxer mixes AND to my current Feist mix.
Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.
Why Should I Add A Dog Backpack In The First Place?
Very good question! I’m asked all the time why the pups are carrying backpacks. People usually assume that they’re in training for some kind of rescue work.
Well, they’re not.
They’re carrying their backpacks for a combined physical AND mental workout.
Since the pups are Boxer mixes, they’re part of the working dog breed group. They’re active, strong dogs who were originally bred to perform specific tasks/jobs, like guarding properties and doing police work.
Because of that, they’re medium to high energy dogs and need an outlet for their energy. Dog backpacks offer exactly that! They’re a great way of giving dogs a physical job as well as the mental challenge of focusing on carrying the backpack.
My current pup Wally is a Feist mix. That’s a squirrel hunting dog who has medium to high energy, and he profits from his daily backpack walks just as much as Missy & Buzz did.
That said, the ideal K9 candidate for a dog backpack has medium to high energy and a working background. That includes a variety of dogs, from herding and hunting to retrieving breeds.
Back in my professional dog walking days, I had a client who couldn’t manage their American Pitbull Terrier Doeboy. I went ahead and introduced him to Missy’s backpack, and guess what – he did great with it and started being much more manageable on walks. Turns out he just needed a job!
Make Sure Your Pup Is Healthy Before Adding A Dog Backpack
It’s always a good idea to talk to your vet before trying a new physical activity with your pup in order to make sure he’s fit enough for it.
For Missy & Buzz, I started adding doggie backpacks to their walks when they were 8 months old. I checked with our vet beforehand because I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t damage their joints by adding too much weight at too young of an age, but the vet said 8 months is just fine.
Slow Introduction Of Dog Backpacks
Ok, now to the fun part! Once you get your hands on a dog backpack, take things easy and let your pup familiarize himself with it. You can hold the backpack & let your pup sniff it, then reward his curiosity with a tasty treat or a favorite toy.
Choose his reward depending on what motivates him most. My girl Missy would go for a yummy treat, while her brother Buzz would go for a ball. My current pup Wally, a Feist mix, is just as treat motivated as Missy was, and so was my former client, Pitbull Doeboy.
You can also place the backpack on the floor and place a treat or toy on top of it. That way, it will be associated with something positive. Once your pup has accepted the presence of the new item, slowly put the empty backpack on your dog.
Feeding some of his food or a favorite treat will help associate more positive things with this process. You don’t have to strap the backpack on right away, just let it sit on your pup’s back for a few moments.
Repeat this step a few times before strapping the backpack on.
Side note: Introduce the dog pack when your dog is in a calm, relaxed state of mind, ideally after a long walk or an extended playtime session.
Added Weight Never To Exceed 25% of Dog’s Body Weight
Once your pup gets used to his new accessory, slowly add some weight to the side pockets. I like to add bottled water (comes in handy on a longer hike!) and some tennis balls or other toys.
Remember not to add too much weight ~ a good rule of thumb is to not exceed 25% of your dog’s total body weight in added backpack weight.
It’s obviously up to you what you want to fill your dog’s pack with ~ I also like to add poop bags, some human band aids, and a few pet first aid items whenever I go for a walk (e.g. benedryl in case the pups were to get stung by an insect).
Where To Buy Dog Backpacks
I’ve bought my dog backpacks both online on Amazon and in brick & mortar pet retail stores. As far as brands go, I’ve tried a few different ones.
If you’re not quite sure yet if your pup is going to be a good fit for a dog backpack, I’d suggest to go with a less expensive option. For example, the Outward Hound Daypak. That one’s somewhere between $15-25, depending on whether or not it’s on sale.
It was the first one I bought for Missy & Buzz back in 2012, and although I eventually had to toss it and upgraded the pups to a more expensive and durable dog backpack, it lasted us about a year and half. I will say that we also used the heck out of it!
If you’re looking for a more durable option, I can’t recommend Ruffwear’s line of backpacks enough. They’re considerably more expensive, but also last forever.
I recommend the Ruffwear Approach Backpack for around $80:
…as well as the Ruffwear Commuter Pack for $120:
Dog Backpacks: Bottom Line
A dog pack is a wonderful way of providing your pup with an additional physical as well as mental workout! Remember to slowly introduce a new dog pack, and to check with your vet before having your pup carry one.
Now enjoy your backpack walks & hikes!