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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.

Reasons for dogs to wear 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.

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.

Ace with his dog backpack


Monday 22nd of November 2021

Love this idea but our 11 mth old golden retriever would just eat it and keep trying to get it off his back. Like the jumper/ hoodies and rain jacket he has!!!


Tuesday 31st of May 2016

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?

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 31st of May 2016

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.

Joleen Y

Sunday 14th of February 2016

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!

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 15th of February 2016

I'm so glad a backpack has been helpful for your dog!

Barbara Rivers

Wednesday 10th of September 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

Thursday 11th of September 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.

Jana Rade

Friday 25th of April 2014

Aah, I've bee thinking about getting one.

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 26th of April 2014

You should!