Is It Safe For My Dog To Wear A Backpack While Hiking?
And how much can he carry? 🎒
There are hiking backpacks to carry your dog in — and then there are hiking backpacks dogs can wear themselves to carry food and water. But are these dog hiking backpacks safe to use?
The Dodo spoke to Michelle Stern, a canine behavior specialist, trainer and owner of consultancy company Pooch Parenting, to learn what she had to say about this gear.
“Overall, yes, it's OK if the dog has learned how to use it and if it's not overloaded and it fits them comfortably,” Stern told The Dodo.
How do you figure out the right kind of backpack for your dog? Stern said you should find a backpack suited for your dog’s body type.
“There are a variety of brands of really great dog equipment out there, and so I would just recommend doing your research and making sure that you follow their guidelines on sizing,” Stern said.
Stern also said it’s important not to overload your dog’s backpack with too much weight. If a dog’s backpack is too heavy, they are more susceptible to foot injuries, she said.
“If you're going backpacking with your dog,” she said, “they can carry their own food, maybe a little bit of water.” However, putting too much water in your dog’s bag can quickly up the weight, so pet parents might need to take responsibility for carrying this part of the load.
It’s also essential to keep your backpack-wearing dog on a leash, or at least in sight at all times.
“If they got too far out of your reach, I would be nervous about the backpack getting caught on things like branches, then the dog becoming suspended or trapped,” Stern said.
The most important thing to keep in mind when hiking with your pup is that the outing is enjoyable for both of you. So make sure your dog actually likes wearing a backpack before you hit the trail.
“It’s going to depend on the individual dog,” Stern said. “There are some dogs who love to work and get excited. In my opinion, they get happy about it because that backpack is a predictor that they get to go on an adventure.”
If your dog isn’t enthusiastic about putting on a backpack, Stern suggested getting him slowly used to it over several days or even weeks.
“What you would do first is try to make the appearance of the backpack mean that good things are going to happen,” Stern said. “Show them the backpack, give them a treat. Wiggle it around and ensure that nothing about the backpack's appearance makes them uncomfortable.”
Next, put the backpack onto the dog while it is empty and with the straps loose, she said. Then, once the dog is comfortable with that, you can fasten the straps.
Stern said that playing games and providing food while your dog wears a backpack helps him see the gear in a positive light. You should also take your dog out on shorter walks with the new backpack before attempting a longer hike, she added.
“Take it slow, and don't rush the process,” Stern said. “So, buy the backpack and get it fitted well before the outing you hope to use it on.”
Once you know your dog is comfortable and happy wearing the backpack, you can get ready to hit the trail with your pup. Happy hiking!