10 reasons to buy a dog backpack



Dog backpacks

A doggy backpack is worth buying. For around $80, there are several brands and styles. I went with the Ruff Wear dog backpack, but there are plenty of other brands out there to choose from. I like Ruff Wear’s gear because it seems to favor usefulness and durability over style. But I also liked the look of the pack, and my mutt doesn’t mind wearing it. It fits him comfortably and doesn’t slide around. The packs come in several sizes and have adjustable straps.

When your dog wears his backpack for the first time, he will probably not want to wear it. He might freeze and stiffen his body as if to say, “I can’t move in this thing.” Or he might try to run really fast as if he can run right out of it. My mutt tried both these tactics. The best thing you can do for your dog is to act like the dog backpack is no big deal. Don’t praise a dog that is insecure. That will just reinforce the dog’s nervousness or anxiety. Instead, go for a walk right away. Do something fun so he associates the pack with adventures!

When you go for your first walk with your dog wearing his dog backpack, keep a quick pace. Do not allow your dog to slow down or stop and “put on his breaks.” It’s hard to get a dog moving once he is at a stand-still. Instead, jog or walk fast and don’t slow down when your dog becomes hesitant. Just keep moving forward. He might protest for about five minutes and try to pull back on the leash. If you give in, he will learn that these little protests work, that he can control you. If you ignore your dog and keep moving, your dog will learn to like his backpack and that you are in charge of the walk, not him.

Anyone with an active dog should buy a dog backpack.

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 get 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 put cans of soup or books in the sides, 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 60 pounds, and he probably carries about 6-10 pounds in his pack, depending on the intensity of our workout.

2. Your dog can carry his own stuff 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 my mutt, 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.

Dog backpack on my Lab mix Ace

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

3. Your dog can carry your stuff in his backpack, too.

The Ruff Wear dog backpack has plenty of room in the pockets for more stuff than my mutt can possibly need. So guess what? He is often stuck carrying some of my stuff or my cat’s stuff.

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

When you’re out on a run, but don’t want to carry water along, 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. If you fill the pack with ice, you might have one good beer bitch on your hands -although the beer might be a bit shaken up!

5. Your dog can carry his own doggy bags in his backpack.

I don’t know about your dog, but when I’m out on a long run with my mutt, he tends to stop and poop three or four times. There aren’t always trash cans or Dumpsters handy, and I don’t like to leave it behind. 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!

6. Carrying a dog backpack gives your dog a job to do.

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. This will also help to get rid of pent-up energy. You don’t have to put any weight at all in the pack to give your dog a mental challenge. Just wearing the pack is all it will take, especially as your dog is getting used to the pack.

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. My mutt is obsessed with a tennis ball because he was not challenged enough mentally or physically his first year of life. Having him wear his backpack is a great way to challenge him and help him overcome his tennis ball obsession.

7. 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 over excited about other dogs and people. I have worked for years now on loose-leash walking with Ace. He has come a long way. Still, he will pull if he is wearing a flat collar and we are in an “exciting” area. If he wears his backpack, he is 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.”

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 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 run 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.

The pack is very durable, and I expect it to last Ace’s lifetime.

03/10/09 edit: Ace’s pack ripped when he crashed between two trees. Apparently he didn’t comprehend how his body was wider while wearing a full pack. He ran between two trees at full speed and ruined his pack. That being said, his pack did withstand a lot of abuse from Ace before the tree incident. Ace wore it out in the snow, and he ran through the woods and fields with his pack on, often scraping against brush and branches. I plan to purchase the same pack for Ace and expect it to last 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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  1. Barbara Rivers on September 10, 2014

    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 :-)

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on September 11, 2014

      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.

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