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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 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.

See our article: 10 reasons to get a dog backpack

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

Anxious dogs should wear dog backpacks

My dog Ace had always been a little more anxious than most. I worked to keep him calm through lots of training and dog walking over the years, but he did tend to get very excited in new places.

My dog cried and seemed to feel anxious if he was separated from me or whoever he thought was “his” pack at the moment. God forbid we stop at a gas station and my husband goes in without us, for example! This made Ace a bit concerned!

Order a dog backpack here.

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 preferred 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 was also a dog that was 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.

My black Lab mix Ace wore a Ruffwear dog backpack on his walks and now my weimaraner Remy also has a Ruffwear pack.

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.

Dog backpack

Order here.

Dogs that have trouble focusing could wear a backpack

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 Ace 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 can wear dog backpacks!

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 can benefit from a dog backpack!

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.

Which dogs can benefit from dog backpacks

Does your dog wear a dog backpack?

Let me know in the comments!

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


Thursday 17th of June 2021

I am just working on training my Sophie (a high anxiety rescue of saluki/Shepherd mix) to wear a pack. My partner and I are big into backcountry camping and are looking forward to her joining us. She has taken well to it and it has definitely helped her anxiety levels in ways I never realized. However here is my challenge if anyone can help please. She won't use the bathroom on our walks when wearing it. Does anyone else have this problem and how do I help her with this? Thank you.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 17th of June 2021

Oh that is interesting and I am not surprised, though I haven't heard of any other dogs with that issue. Maybe try walking her in the yard where she normally goes potty and have the backpack empty. If she happens to go, reward her with a high-value treat. I think it might be a matter of just putting it on many times throughout the day when you know she has to "go" and reward. It might take lots of tries but I'm thinking eventually she will catch on.


Monday 14th of June 2021

These comments are fairly old but, as the article just appeared in your newsletter, maybe people will see this. As someone who is certified in canine massage, I have to say that you really need to be careful how much you put in those backpacks. remember, unlike humans who wear backpacks, A dog spine is horizontal. The rest of his body hangs off that’s fine. even a few pounds of extra weight can be harmful, if that dog has any kind of spinal issue. and, the thing is, you never know. some dogs can go for years before showing discomfort. So, just be careful.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 14th of June 2021

Thank you, Vicky. Agreed, you don't need to add much weight at all for the purpose of giving the dog a job. Even just a light paperback book on each side can do.

Jenn Bird

Monday 14th of June 2021

I got a backpack for my anxious girl. If we’re not running, she often doesn’t get enough energy out (but sometimes it’s too hot, my legs are sore from yesterday, etc.). I’ve only used it twice so far but she seems fine with it. I’m gradually adding weight, so maybe when it’s a bit heavier she’ll be more in “work” mode.


Friday 10th of March 2017

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.


Sunday 21st of August 2016

Do y'all put weight in the dog backpack?

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 21st of August 2016

Yes, just a bit. Like paperback books.