Which dogs can benefit from dog backpacks?

Dog backpacks for different dogs

Nearly all healthy dogs will benefit from occasionally wearing a dog backpack during a walk. The following are some examples of different types of dogs that could benefit from wearing a pack. You’ll soon notice that pretty much any dog could benefit!

Does your dog wear a backpack? I’d love to hear about it! Email a photo to Lindsay@ThatMutt.com and I’ll include it at the end of this post.

Dog backpacks for high-energy dogs

Those of you with high-energy dogs are probably the most likely to consider dog backpacks. Anything to tire out the dog, right? A walk just doesn’t always cut it. I’m sure you’ve also tried running with your dog and visiting the dog park. A dog backpack is just another option to help your dog burn up some physical energy. When you have a high-energy dog, you can never run out of options!

My dog Ace was full of energy when I first adopted him. About a week later, he was already sportin’ a dog backpack on our walks. I worked 10-hour shifts at the time, and I needed multiple ways to make sure he was getting enough exercise in the mornings. I highly, highly recommend a dog backpack for active dogs.

Which dogs can benefit from dog backpacks

Anxious dogs should wear dog backpacks

My dog has always been a little more anxious than most. I’ve worked to keep him calm through lots of training and dog walking over the years, but he does tend to get very excited in new places. My dog cries and seems to feel anxious if he’s separated from me or whoever he thinks is “his” pack at the moment. God forbid we stop at a gas station and my husband goes in without us, for example! This makes Ace a bit concerned.

Order a dog backpack here.

Ruffwear dog backpack

Dogs with lots of emotional energy can benefit from a dog backpack just as much as the physically high-energy dogs. For example, my parents had two dogs that were very different as far as energy. Their springer spaniel prefers to run all day whenever possible (no surprise there). Their golden retriever, however, would rather lounge around by the people.

While Elsie the golden did not have a lot of physical energy, she had lots of emotional energy! If someone she knew visited the house, there was a lot of crying and shaking and overall excitement from her. Elsie is also a dog that is scared of fireworks and thunder, so during the summer she felt extra anxious. She was just an anxious, emotional girl!

A dog backpack can be a very valuable tool for draining some of the mental and emotional energy from an anxious dog. It gives the dog a job to do. It gives her brain something to focus on other than her source of anxiety, and it gives her a purpose.

Above, you’ll see my black Lab mix Ace wearing his red backpack when he was just a year old. He wore a Ruffwear dog backpack.

Dog backpacks for aggressive dogs

Aggression in dogs is sometimes a symptom of pent-up physical or mental energy. The dog doesn’t get enough exercise, so he’s frustrated he can’t get to that other dog you pass on the walk. He wants to play, but he can’t. This might cause him to lunge and bark on the leash. Other dogs act aggressively because they might be scared or they could be protecting what they believe is “theirs.”

Regardless of what is causing the aggression, a dog backpack will often help the situation. It’s not going to be a quick fix, but it will certainly help. The dog backpack will help the dog focus on something other than the source of his aggression. Ideally, he will focus on the task at hand – carrying his pack. You can help set him up for success by keeping some distance from other dogs at first and rewarding him with praise or treats for calm behavior.

Ruffwear dog backpack

Order here.

Dogs that have trouble focusing

If you have a dog that is easily distracted by every little thing on walks, a dog backpack could help him stay focused.

“Oh my gosh, grass! Oh look, a bird! Wow, this smells wonderful! Oh wow, another dog! And what’s that? A used napkin? Oh my gosh!”

If that sounds like your pup, a dog backpack, could really help him get into a working mode on walks.

Ruffwear dog backpack

Dogs that pull can benefit from a backpack

The dog backpack is one of the most underrated tools for teaching a dog to heel. My dog didn’t know how to walk nicely on a leash when I first adopted him. We spent hours and hours working on the basics – sit, down, stay, heel. I used lots of different training collars, and they were all helpful in their own ways. But the backpack was also a great tool, because it slowed my dog down. This made the ever-so-difficult concept of “heel” much easier for my young dog to grasp.

Do you have a dog that was bred for pulling, flushing, tracking or running ahead of people in any way? I highly recommend a dog backpack to help keep him “reeled in.”

Small dogs!

We all know a few small dogs with tons and tons of energy, right? They often have more energy than the bigger guys. Yet, it seems like small dogs are less likely to be included in activities such as hiking, running, backpacking, rollerblading and so on. This is a shame, because many small dogs need more exercise than they’re getting. I have fostered a few smaller dogs, and one little Pomeranian dog ran next to my bike for about 2 miles each day. She loved it!

Best small dog backpack

A dog backpack can be the ideal tool for a small dog. This is actually one of the most common questions readers ask me. “Are backpacks OK for small dogs?” Of course! You’ll obviously want to find one that fits your small dog, and you may not even need to add any weight to the pack. But dog backpacks are definitely a great option for the little guys.

Nearly all dogs!

You probably get my point by now. Pretty much any healthy dog can benefit from a dog backpack. If you’re not sure whether a pack is right for your dog, this is always a question you can bring up with a vet. Don’t feel like you have to add much weight to the pack. Just wearing the empty pack itself is enough for some dogs to feel like they have a job. If you want to add some weight, start out with a small plastic bag of dry dog food on each side. Or, perhaps a lightweight book.

Does your dog wear a dog backpack?

Please share this post if you think it will help someone who has a high-energy or anxious dog in need of a job.

Which dogs should wear a dog backpack? (Almost all dogs)

12 thoughts on “Which dogs can benefit from dog backpacks?”

  1. Hi!

    I have just purchased a backpack for my dog! I have been wanting to for ages, but looking at the price I was a little cautious of buying one from the internet and not liking it or getting the wrong size so I have put it off!

    I have read/heard that the backpack gives a nervous or high energy dog some more focus, and will wear them out a little more. Our dog is a nervous out on his walks, and reactive, so I am hoping that when the backpack arrives it will help with the reactivity, but also give him a bit more of a workout on walks. He gets 3 walks a day, and we do try to get out for long walks at the weekends – we both work full-time, and sometimes come home to an excitable dog…….so fingers-crossed it will give him a work out too! I will post a picture and let you know the results! 🙂

    Thanks 🙂

  2. I like dog backpacks, but I’ll admit that for me, the dog backpacks only come out when the people backpacks also come out – hiking, camping, etc.

    Here is why I don’t tend use backpacks for walks:

    1. It can interfere with other body harnesses, such as the freedom no-pull harness, which are some of my favorite tools for walks. [For dogs working on a flat collar or a no-pull head collar, it doesn’t matter as much.]

    2. If you need your dog to use the bathroom on your walk (you don’t live in a house with a yard), the backpack may prevent the dog from trying to go and is not something easy to take on and off. So you have to separate “getting the dog to go” walking from the exercise/exploring walks.

    3. Some dogs get used to the backpack and basically forget it is there, which is fine, except when you get banged in the legs repeatedly by a dog who isn’t counting the width of the backpack when navigating space. With those dogs (of which I have one), you also don’t gain any change in demeanor or idea that backpack = a job. I can’t predict which dogs will be like this, but I think it is a mix of breed, energy level, individual dog’s temperament/personality and how you use the backpacks (more varied use means it loses a specific meaning).

    That said, it does help for some dogs and change their demeanor which is useful in a way that is different – and more available for a lot of people – than simply getting the dog to move faster by running or biking.

  3. My dog fits the “has trouble focusing” description perfectly. Recently he’s started to get a little more anxious too. Is there any particular technique you use with the backpack to help him realize that now is “work time?”

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      For my dog, it sort of automatically put him in a working mode, but I guess it helped that I was always fairly serious with heeling work while he wore the pack. We also didn’t do any playing with the pack on. We focused on obedience, good leash manners, focus, etc. I used treats to get him to look at me.

  4. Romeo has a backpack. I don’t know if he loves it, but he certainly doesn’t mind it and I think he knows that when we put it on, it means we’re going for a really fun walk. It makes a huge difference with his pulling, too. I don’t know if it’s because it slows him down, or gives him something to focus on, but he’s much less all-over-the-place when he’s wearing it.

  5. Oh wow….I think Chip is all of the above! haha! Well we have been using a backback for about a year or more now and we love it! I dont take it out on every walk but I use it a lot more nowadays as its so dark when I get off work, I cant let her off for a good run so the backpack comes out instead. It really made a difference to her pulling and her energy levels. I find she is still quite anxious when it comes to passing other dogs but it has made my walks a lot more enjoyable!

    I have sent you a picture to show you even small dogs can wear backpacks!

  6. I have a senior Lab, Polly who is 11 yrs old. She still wants to go on walks so when I take her on trails I use the pack to help pull her up rocks and things I think might be too much for her. They usually have a handle (at least both the ones I own do) so it’s great to grab if she looks like she’s having a hard time. It makes her feel important and safe. I have a 6 month old cattle dog too. As soon as it fits he’ll get one too.

  7. I will get one for my neice the spoodle and I will put her water bottle and a treat in there. It would definitely slow her down because she pulls a lot. I think it would calm her down and definitely convince her that the walk will happen and go for a decent length. Her parents don’t seem to walk her because she pulls and they are scared she will run away.

  8. My Aussie wears one with 5 pound weight on each side but it still doesn’t affect her energy . She even jumps up and down on snow banks with it on.

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