10 Reasons to Buy a Dog Backpack

Dog backpacks

A dog backpack is worth buying if you have an active dog or a dog in need of a “job.”

There are several brands and styles, but my favorites are the Ruffwear dog backpacks because they’re built for durability (like actual hiking and camping). They’re made to last and hold up to my crazy dogs crashing around on hikes!

Most dog backpacks come in several sizes and have adjustable straps.

When your dog wears his backpack for the first time, he might feel a little unsure. It’s just a matter of being patient and praising your dog for wearing the pack.

Give him some treats for being a good sport, but for the most part the best thing you can do is to act like the dog backpack is no big deal.

In no time most dogs will learn to associate the pack with fun adventures!

Order a pack here.

Anyone with an active dog should have a dog backpack.

Here are some reasons why we love ours!

1. Your dog will get more exercise while wearing his dog backpack.

A tired dog is a good dog. But let’s face it, how often are our dogs actually tired?

Whether you go for an hour run or a 15-minute walk, you will most likely be tired faster than your dog. If you want him to get rid of some extra energy, slip his backpack on him and add some weight to the pockets.

I used to put cans of soup or books in the sides of my dog Ace’s pack, but you could use anything. Bags of sand would work well because they wouldn’t make any noise. Just be careful not to add too much weight, especially in the beginning. Work up to more weight.

My mutt weights about 68 pounds, and he probably carried about 6-10 pounds in his pack, depending on the intensity of our workout.

10 reasons to buy a dog backpack

2. Carrying a dog backpack gives your dog a job.

A lot of dogs need a purpose. Carrying his own backpack will give your dog a job. Not only will it help eliminate extra physical energy, but it will also give him a mental challenge.

You don’t have to put any weight in the pack. Just wearing the pack is enough for some dogs, especially as your dog is getting used to the pack.

As a young dog, Ace wore his empty pack on a 20-mile marathon training run with me. Wearing the pack for such a distance was not to tire Ace out, but to challenge him mentally.

Dogs get bored easily. And when they are bored they develop bad habits such as barking, chewing or ripping up carpet. Some dogs develop obsessions or anxieties.

For example, my mutt is obsessed with a tennis ball. Wearing his backpack gives him a real job vs. obsessing over his toys.

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3. The dog will not be as focused on pulling.

If your dog is focused on carrying his own backpack, he will be less focused on pulling, being first and getting overly excited about other dogs and people.

I have worked for years now on loose-leash walking with Ace and he walks perfectly now. Still, when he was a young dog he would pull if he was wearing a flat collar and we were in an “exciting” area.

If he wore his backpack, he was less likely to pull. It was a great tool during the first few months I had Ace and I was teaching him the concept of “heel.”

4. Your dog can carry his own gear in his dog backpack.

When you travel, it will be handy to load up all your dog’s stuff in his own bag. When I travel with Ace, I put his food, toys, bowls and whatever else he needs in his backpack. It’s just less stuff for me to carry, and his stuff is all in one spot.

Ace the black lab mix wearing his red Ruffwear dog backpack at Teddy Roosevelt Park

5. Your dog can carry some of your items, too!

The Ruffwear dog backpack (shown in our pictures) has plenty of room in the pockets for more items than my mutt can possibly need. So guess what? He is often stuck carrying some of my things like gloves or a hat.

6. A dog backpack makes a good water/beer carrier.

When you’re out on a run but don’t want to carry water, just put a bottle or two in your dog’s backpack. He won’t mind. Put a bowl in there and he can have a drink as well.

(This also works for carrying beer. Although the beer might be a bit shaken up!)

7. Your dog can carry his poop bags in his dog backpack.

I don’t know about your dog, but when I’m out on a long walk with my mutt, he tends to stop and poop whenever we’re as far away from a trash can as possible. And then he goes TWICE.

So, I pick it up, double or triple bag it, and have my mutt carry his own poop. Now that’s a dog with a purpose!

This is kind of embarrassing if someone sees you, but it’s better than running with a poop bag in each hand – something I have done many times!

Dog backpack on my Lab mix Ace

8. Your dog can go on more trips.

I like to bring my mutt on as many outdoors activities as possible. When I go camping or backpacking, he carries his own gear and then some. I can’t imagine going backpacking without my dog.

It would not be as fun for me without Ace along. Even if he didn’t carry his own gear, I would still want him to tag along. However, it really comes in handy to give him a job.

9. It’s easier to see your dog while he wears his dog backpack.

The Ruff Wear dog backpack Ace is modeling in the pictures has reflective strips on the side, so it’s easier for me to see my black dog in the dark. Since his pack is bright red, it would be easier for me or someone else to find him if he were to get lost in the woods.

I also walk at night with my dog, so it is an extra safety precaution having a reflective pack.

10. The dog backpack will last a long time.

A good dog backpack like a Ruffwear pack is very durable, and it should last you and your dog several years.

Does your dog have a dog backpack? What brand is the best dog backpack in your opinion?

See more benefits of dog backpacks.

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Ace with his dog backpack

71 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Buy a Dog Backpack”

  1. This is a really good idea. I have to go tell my friend. She always has to carry the dog’s water bottle, but she’s a Labrador and can carry it herself.

  2. It’s not cruel. Working dogs especially like to have a purpose and feel useful.

    I have a friend whose dog loves doing this. If he walks without carrying everyone’s water he is despondent, but when he carries he is happy.

    Too much weight would be cruel, but the general idea is brilliant.

  3. This would seem useful for my Airedale. He never seems fully satisfied after our 30- to 45-minute walks, but I however am completely pooped.

    It doesn’t seem cruel at all either. Dogs love having jobs. Dogs on farms always seem so happy because they’ve got lots of stuff to do.

    This is a very good idea. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I agree, this would be great for my high-energy dog. When we walk, I end up carrying a backpack with water, newspaper to read when we take a break, cell phone and car keys. I think she’d enjoy toting stuff, and it could use up some of her friskiness.

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  6. Haha! Gus just stands there like he’s frozen when I tried to get him to use a backpack. I just wanted him to help carry his water on hikes since he goes through so much. I did get him to wear it a few times, but then hubby gave up and now he isn’t having it. I didn’t even overload him at all. I’ve tried it without. Unfortunately, when you don’t have both people consistent with Gus, things just don’t work out all the time. Hubby is too lazy with him.

  7. Natural Pet Center in Fargo carries good starter backpacks for medium to large and extra large dogs for about $40. We got one for Lucky, who is my spaz dog. Wow, what a difference. He immediately calms down, and almost acts proud. During the summer, he carries produce home from early morning trips to the farmer’s market. 🙂

    Now, what I really want to do is build a light dogcart so Lucky can pull me around. I know he’d love it!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      We love shopping at Natural Pet Center! I highly recommend a dog backpack to anyone with an active dog (hmm, like a husky mix!). Glad to hear it has worked out so well for Lucky. That’s great that he carries produce home from the farmers’ market. haha!

  8. I’ve been wanting to get Charlie a backpack for a long time and I finally got one yesterday. Unfortunately it was raining, so we waited until today to use the pack so it didn’t get soaked. Charlie didn’t react to it at all. He just started walking and he didn’t stop or anything, but he did look like he was concentrating a lot more on going forward and not what was around him.

    The only problem I had with it is because of Charlie’s size he is at the awkward too big for a small, too small for a medium thing. We got the medium, and I have to use a safety pin to hold up the end of the straps because they hang down from his belly too far, and it covers his entire back. He looks like a professional at work though. Hopefully this will stop the kids from running up to him so much.

    I got the Outward Hound backpack because it looked the most durable of the options.

  9. Just wanted to comment to ask everyone to please be careful with how much weight you’re having the dog carry. Unless a dog has been specifically conditioned to pull or work with heavy weights, the maximum in the dog pack should be 10 percent of his/her weight. Packing the pack with ice and beer would likely exceed most dogs’ carrying capacity. Just to give you an idea, a liter of water (or about 4 cups or 34 fl oz) weighs 1 kg, or 2.2 lbs.

    That being said, we have a RuffWear Approach pack, but my boxer-mix dog gets so hot in the summer time (despite her very thin coat!) that I haven’t used it in warm weather. However, I was contemplating putting half-frozen water bottles (especially one of those soft Platypus bladders) to keep her cooler. Not sure if it’ll work that way, but I may give it a try. 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks for the reminders! I like your idea of putting frozen water bottles in the pack. My dog gets way too hot. I never use a pack for him anymore unless we are backpacking. Then he is stuck carrying his own gear.

  10. I just bought Annie, my 85-pound chocolate lab, a backpack today. She carried two water bottles (one for each of us) and my keys through a local nature preserve and took to the backpack immediately. Intead of pulling me on our walk like usual, she stayed in perfect heel position. The only downside is that I bought her a pink one, and she splashed in the mud with it on. 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Haha! Yeah maybe black would be better for hiding the mud – but pink sounds cute! And just for something to think about – don’t put your keys in the pack unless you are 100 percent sure your dog will not get away from you.

      Enjoy the backpack! Glad to hear it helped on the walk. Thanks for checking out my blog and commenting!

  11. Patty Peterson

    I’m taking my border collie mix on a three-day backpack hike with some girlfriends over the mountain in a couple weeks. He has had a pack on a few times, and I’m getting him conditioned now. I love the idea of frozen water bottles (platypus) as he gets hot with his black coat. I’m planning on 10 cups of dog food for him that I’ll switch out with the water; and he can pack out the trash 🙂

    He loves his pack. As a working dog he needs a “job,” and he is part of the team. Since this is our first major hike, any suggestions will be appreciated!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      My dog is always very excited when we get to a new park, so anything you can do to get your dog used to visiting new outdoor places would be good. Maybe he’s calmer than my dog, though. If you don’t allow him off leash, you may want to bring along a long lead so he can at least run around a bit and explore at some point.

      I would definitely keep walking him with the pack on before you leave so he gets used to it. If he’s a dog that gets really hot, try to plan your hike around areas where there will be streams and lots of shade. And depending on how he handles the heat, have a back-up plan for hiking fewer miles than planned just in case he gets too hot. And obviously bring tons of water.

  12. I was considering getting a backpack for my German Shepherd, but I am worried that he will get too hot. It’s quite muggy here in Michigan, and we don’t really go for long, or overnight trips, just quick 3- to 5-mile walks around town and on the trails. Any thoughts about how it will affect his temp? I don’t need him roasting any more than he already does.Poor thing!

    p.s. Check out my blog to learn more about our walks!

  13. Lindsay Stordahl

    Could be a good option for winter walks. If he gets really hot in the summer, you could have him carry the pack with nothing in it. Then it’s more of a mental challenge than a physical one and it shouldn’t make him much warmer than he already is. You could also have him wear it around the house if he’s one of those dogs that seems to need more to do.

  14. Yea, he’s one of those dogs that I think has learned that less is best… Though he does love his walks! I’ve never met a dog with as much personality as this one. 🙂

  15. Hi, I have a German Shorthair Pointer. He’s 9 mos old and weighs 44lbs. He’s about 27″ around the chest. He’s great in the house, follows all the rules and is pretty respectful toward our cats. I got him neutered two weeks ago.

    When we go anywhere together, however, he’s a complete wild man. He pulls so much I can’t really walk him. In fact, a month ago he pulled me over and I hurt my knee. It’s still hurting, so that’s almost completely curtailed our walks. I’d like to try a pack which I suspect might settle him down. Is he still too young?


    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would get one for him. The only argument against it would be that the pack would be too much weight on his still-developing joints. You could ask your dog’s vet, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Just don’t put too much weight in it – no more than 4 pounds. I hope the backpack settles him down a bit!

    2. I have a GSP and the backpack has been amazing. He was a huge puller when we got him (1yr- rescue). Our vet recommended the Gentle Leader which helped a ton- but he still pulled. With the backpack- walks are WAY more enjoyable- and he is at least a little more worn out. I would highly recommend a combination of the gentle leader and backpack for anyone with a super high energy dog like a GSP.

  16. Thanks! I’m really hoping it’ll help him cool his jets, too. I was guessing that four lbs would be about right. I also purchased a prong collar today and we were just out practicing with it. It seems to be helping a bit. If my knee isn’t back to normal soon, I may try and pick up a treadmill for him at the local Goodwill.

    Ozzie is my 3rd dog, so I’m no novice at this. Both of his beloved predacessors (first Dewey, a huge 90 lb Doberman mix, then Ike, a 65 GSP mix) were probably just as wild and in time, at about one year, all the training seemed to click in and each, for the most part, snapped out of it and turned into truly wonderful and totally cool gents. Both would heel off leash, though Ike was more trustworthy with that than Dewey.

    I’m sure Ozzie will develop the same way, but he was so out of control at the vet’s today, it’s making me want to take immediate action just in case eventually achieving “coolness” isn’t part of his plan for the future.

    Since his chest is right at 27 inches and he’s going to be at least 20lbs heavier when he’s done growing, should I get him the medium or the large backpack? Will the large adjust down small enough to accomodate 27 inches?

    Thanks again,


    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      The backpacks adjust quite a bit. I would go with the size recommend for what he’ll be when he’s full grown.

      I hope the prong collar helps as well. If it doesn’t, you could also try a Halti. Some dogs do better with the prong. Others do better with the head collars.

  17. I Have a basset-lab mix and she is a year and a half. She isn’t a complete spaz, but she does pull extremely hard on walks which is why she hardly gets exercise,and me having bad hips doesn’t help, but being that she is a smaller dog (around 45-50 pounds) would you still recommend a back pack?

  18. Shasta loves her pack and a week from now will be doing a 50 miler on the Superior Hiking Trail…From the 1st day she loved it for some reason and it tires her out for the evenings…

  19. I got my boxer/bulldog mix a Ruff Wear pack, and took her for a nice long hike today. She loved it and is totally pooped now. The only issue I had was the comments from other hikers – everyone we passed felt compelled to comment on it, and a couple definitely implied that I was lazy/mean for making her carry stuff. I just said “it gives her a job and she loves it” but I definitely wasn’t expecting that reaction. Other people thought it was smart.

  20. I got Abby a pack last week and she carries 2 water bottle on each side and a fold up water bowl. She loves it and being a pure breed Border Collie she needs the work out. I live in hunting land so she could only go in the fields the first week but now that hunting is over I took her to the woods. She loves it and as soon as she sees the pack she is ready to go. The pack was the best thing I ever did for her. It’s great for both of us.

  21. Hi i have a husky and he is out of control he never listens to me I have trained him and it still no good he leaves the garden and goes into the fields hurting rabbits and when I shout for him to get out of the fields he looks at me and goes on with his own business than comes back 4 hours later and when I walk him it’s like it’s not enough it as come to the point I had to chain him up because the dog pound came to the house because he goes into people gardens and goes in there bins and he nearly killed r cat he bites my other husky Bella she is only a puppie and I’m afraid he will hurt her bad would the dog backpack work for him because I don’t want to buy it if it won’t I have spent so much money on him getting him trained and buying him toys beds witch everything I buy it is destroyed within a day that includes his bed

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Is this a serious question?

      No, a dog backpack is not going to solve your problems. It can help, in addition to training, structured exercise and spending time with your dog. The backpack can be a valuable tool, not a quick fix.

  22. I got a thunder shirt as well as backpack for my daughter’s 1 year old chocolate lab. He has a lot of energy and is rather wild at times, unable to follow commands, chewing up stuff. The thumdershirt immediately calmed him down in the house. I then put the backpack on him with 4 small water bottles in the pockets. Took him for a walk and he was a different dog. He didn’t pull nearly as much and was very focused without responding wildly to the noises and smells of the walk. I’m very pleased as my daughter will soon be having a baby and I really want her to have a well-behaved dog around the baby!

  23. I have a passion for rescues and through out my life I have rescued many. I just rescued a Great Pyre / Alaskan Malamute. I have worked with him for 6 months now and he’s finally coming out of his resource guarding issues. He’s ready for some obedience now too. This fellow has the energy and we do lots of walks and run and he also loves the treadmill. He is coming along, let me tell you 🙂 We are beginning to use a pack and its really helping. I do use the training prong collar as well as a short leash. He’s a powerful and dominant breed. The fun part is he loves to run away ( not really fun ). So for now, he can only be off leash in an enclosed pasture or dog park and I am training him with the dog pack and he is slowing down a bit and really needs a job to do on our walks. Pretty soon, we will turn him loose when he has about 6-8 pounds (he’s 75 lbs).
    It’s great to see him have a job and not lolly gag and goof off so much. Thank you for all the great tips.

    1. I also rescued a Pyrenees/malamute and he is 100-pound pure, pulling machine! I started him on his obedience/behaviour training primarily for his resource guarding (although not with his food) and pulling. I am getting him a dog backpack in hopes it will slow him down.

  24. These are excellent ideas for getting a dog a backpack. I recently purchased one for my rescue dog, Brandy, and she certainly does pull less and it’s calmed her down tremendously. I have fibromyalgia (among other things) so I can’t really walk her as often or for as long as she should be, but having a back pack on has really helped me give her more of a work out. Plus, it’ll give her practice for when we train her to be my service dog. ^_^

  25. Hi, I have a Jack Russell/Pitbull mix named Lucy who has a ton of energy. She is a little over a year old and weighs 28 lbs. We just started using a backpack and after a coupe of walks with it empty I felt she was ready for some weight. I use navy beans, 1/2 pound in each side for now. She use to pull somewhat and stop to mark a lot, but with the backpack she stays focas on the walk. She is also squirrel obsessed, she still spots them but doesn’t try to take off after them. I read that a backpack triples the walk time, I thought this would help when it is cold and we won”t walk as long. I’m glad I tried it, and the neighborhood kids love to see Lucy wearing it.

  26. I am searching a backpack for my Tervuren Shepherd, but the colour should be natural, like stone colour. Does anyone knows a brand?

  27. I’d been considering buying a dog back pack for awhile, as my dog is pretty high energy and gets bored easily. This post has totally sold me on it now. I’m kind of excited about the prospects.

  28. I was having a problem walking our Bernese Mountain dog/German Shepherd mix. We got him from the SPCA. He didn’t know how to walk on a leash when we first got him. He has a great temperament in the house, but on a walk he would pull and bark at everyone walking down the street. Someone recommended a dog backpack. He is a working breed and needed a job and sense of purpose. I just received it. The first time we used it he was a little unsure but got used to it fast. Our first walk went great. I think he really enjoyed it! Now when I go to grab it, he gets excited immediately. Anyone who has a dog that has behavioral problems should get a dog backpack. It really does work. He carries our water and his. We have four kids, and my 3-year-old can even take him for a walk and carry their stuff in the backpack.

  29. I have a wheaten terrier who is high energy. I am wondering if it is safe to use a dog backpack on her when her breed isn’t meant for carrying weight or pulling, but more for hunting/farm work. I am concerned about hurting her spine with the weighted pack, but would love to give her the extra work to tire her out more quickly.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Ask your dog’s vet if you are worried, but I think it would be just fine. You don’t even need to put weight in it. Just wearing the pack itself is mental exercise for them.

  30. Could you tuck the dog’s leash, already attached to the collar, in the backpack in case you want to let her run around freely for a while in the park?

  31. Does anyone have ideas on how to get my stubborn dog to like his pack? When I put it on him he freezes. Right now I am trying to make it a good experience but since the day I got it he freezes up so that is where we are today (it has been awhile but I have not worked with this specific thing).

    Any and all ideas are welcome.


    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Just keep making it fun. The pack only goes on when you go to extra fun parks, and keep the treats coming.

      1. I red in an article today that if you put the pack on him take him for a walk immediatly and keep moving. It said that giving in the the dogs protests make it harder to get them to like it. It said to just be persistent and that after a couple of times he should get over it and associate it with fun things.

  32. I love this idea! I have a year old Shiba Inu that is very energetic. My dude usually takes her for a long walk in the morning then I take her for a short walk in the afternoon and evening. I have severe osteoporosis and can’t walk too long or too far. I also do training and play fetch games to try to tire her out. When my dude goes away to work (weeks at a time) she misses that long walk. So wearing a backpack may help tire her, which will help me. Thanks.

  33. We’ve been using doggie backpacks on our two Boxer/Chow-Chow mixes from Sierra Dog Supply. The pups have worn them since they were about 8 months old / we checked with our vet to make sure that was an ok age for them to start wearing them without damaging their growing joints.

    I’m a huge Cesar Millan fan and “disciple”, if I may call myself that, having read all of his books and following his “exercise, discipline, affection” formula when raising and training our pups. One of his reoccurring suggestions to dog owners with high energy breeds are the dog backpacks, as they give the dog a job to do and refocus their attention.

    We haven’t been able to go for backpack walks due to the summer heat, but we’ll soon be able to put them on again!!

    Great article 🙂

    1. Cesar was the one who originally inspired me to get a backpack for Ace as well. It was sooo helpful when Ace was younger and full of energy. It really helped him learn to walk nicely on a leash.

  34. We recently purchased a backpack for our Pomeranian/Terrier and the immediate results are fantastic. While on walks, she’s easily distracted and exhibits anxiety issues and will bark at mostly anything. Today, my husband and I took her to the PetCo store (wearing her backpack) and she was so very well behaved I was like yeah, this is so awesome. She only once actually stopped to checkout another ‘four legged customer’, but other than that she was perfect! We were impressed with her behavior and couldn’t stop talking about how well behaved she was.

    Previous, we’d have to leave her home or either my husband or myself would stay with her in the car.

    I did a lot of reading and research on how we can help her curb the anxiety issues and one of the articles I found was yours. So by her wearing the backpack (which actually holds her poop bags, a toy, a treat bag and 4oz bottle water – nothing heavy), she actually was very focused on making sure that ‘she was doing her job’.

    Your article is ‘spot on’. Thanks for reassuring us we are doing the right thing for her!

  35. I have a 23 lb Moyen male poodle. He is not neutered and is very strong. How much weight is safe for him to carry? I was thinking 1-2 lbs. is that too much?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I remember reading somewhere to stick with about 6 to 10 percent of their body weight. But I’m not sure where I read that. I think you’re best starting out with very little weight, so a half pound maybe and just seeing how he does.

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