The Ultimate Guide To Choosing A Dog Backpack

Dog Backpack

If you’re taking your dog on a hike or somewhere else where you’d like them to carry some of their own gear (in addition to possibly some of your own), a dog backpack can be a great idea. Here are some factors to think about when deciding which pack would be best for your dog, as well as crucial factors to make sure your dog is secure and at ease while wearing a pack.

Is it safe for your dog to wear a backpack?

The best person to ask about your dog’s particular needs is your veterinarian. The majority of healthy, able-bodied dogs can wear a pack comfortably. In general, puppies and dogs with specific medical conditions should avoid wearing these packs. You might need to wait until your dog is at least 12 months old (or even 18 months old for some larger breeds) to make your dog wear a backpack. Puppies have developing bodies and expecting them to carry additional weight can harm them. Your veterinarian can provide advice on what weight is appropriate for able-bodied dogs to carry.

According to commonly-given advice, which is similar to the advice given to people, dogs should not carry more than 25% of their body weight. The safest bet is to keep the overall pack weight to less than 10%. This may be particularly true if you are hiking for an extended period of time and your dog does not come from a working or herding breed line with the necessary physical fitness and training.

In addition to the effect on their backs, it’s important to keep in mind that carrying extra weight while hiking makes the activity more physically demanding from a cardio standpoint. Similar to how you would feel the impact of hiking with a backpack on as opposed to not wearing one, the pack weight will also have an additional negative impact on other parts of their bodies, such as their hips, knees, and paws, as well as their balance.

How to get the right size dog pack

The most crucial measurement for the majority of packs is their girth or chest circumference behind the front legs. This is particularly important if you have a larger dog because the ‘Large’ size of some brands may be too small for them. If you’re buying it online, it’s best to find out before you order the pack. When measuring our dog for new gear, we use a soft sewing tape measure to measure his chest (and any other dimensions as necessary). You can also use a leash or piece of string to take the measurement; compare it to the tape measure when it is laid out flat.

If your dog’s size will fit two sizes, then take into account whether the volume of the pack’s saddle bags increases with the larger sizes and how much stuff you intend for your dog to carry with them. This might affect your decision to go with the larger size.

When sizing your dog’s pack, be mindful of where the padding, straps, and fasteners are placed. In particular, pay attention to where the clips rest on your dog’s body. Check to see if any straps touch or rub your dog’s armpits or neck when they move, as this could lead to rubbing and discomfort. This might be more of a problem for dogs with short hair, but if your dog has longer hair, it still pays to be cautious to make sure the fasteners don’t catch it when you secure them.

Features to look for when choosing the best backpack for your dog

When deciding which pack is best for your dog, keep the following characteristics in mind:

  • Adjustability and fit options are crucial, especially if you have trouble finding clothing and gear that fits your dog’s body type.
  • Most packs use plastic pinch-clips as fasteners, which rest on top of padded foam material to prevent rubbing against your dog’s body as it moves.
  • Sleeker, more minimal packs typically have lower volumes but still have enough room for the basic needs. Larger, saddle bag-style packs are better suited for longer trips  because they have a larger carrying capacity.
  • The majority of dog packs, like human backpacks, are constructed from strong, water-resistant ripstop nylon (man-made), along with additional padding and mesh for fit, comfort, and ventilation.
  • If you want to use your dog’s backpack as their leash rather than their collar, look for places on the pack where you can attach it. Some packs include back clip locations in addition to front chest attachment points.

Tips for training your dog to wear a backpack

If your dog has never worn a pack or any other type of clothing, it might take some time to condition them to feel at ease and content in their new gear. It is frequently sufficient to give them food and some playtime while they are wearing an empty pack for them to forget they are wearing it (or even come to prefer it because the pack equals fun).

It can be beneficial to leave the saddle bags empty for the first few times. Alternatively, if you have bubble wrap or air-filled packaging, you can use these to fill the panniers of the pack so they take on a more recognizable shape as opposed to being completely empty. Using play, food, and/or toys can assist them in developing a positive association with the backpack, allowing them to eventually enjoy wearing it for walks and around the house.

After undergoing some of this conditioning, our trail dog adores his hiking pack because it signals the beginning of an adventure! The fact that he quickly forgets he has the pack on actually helps him be calmer and more focused when out on the trails and around other dogs.

Make sure to evenly distribute the weight on both sides of your dog’s backpack when packing it. The key to making the pack as comfortable as possible for your dog to wear is finding a balance between the sides. This will also help to reduce the likelihood that the pack will shift or slide when your dog moves, which could cause rubbing or discomfort.

Some common items to pack in your dog’s hiking pack are poo bags (both empty and full), toys, first aid kit for dogs, water and a foldable water bowl for hydration, snacks, a warm layer and pet balm.

If you are taking your dog on extended hikes or even overnight excursions, ;arger dog backpacks can also be used to carry extra gear, such as some of their food, more water, a portable sleeping pad, and a dog sleeping bag.

A pro tip is to bring two water bottles and alternate between them since water is frequently heavy at first but becomes lighter as your dog drinks it during a long hike. This way, when you’re low on water toward the end of the hike, neither side of the pack will be significantly heavier than the other.

FAQs About Dog Backpacks

Are dog backpacks worth it?

When you go walking, hiking, camping, backpacking, traveling, and more, dog backpacks make it simple to carry items you or your dog may need. Giving your dog a job or a sense of purpose can also improve their mood.

Are dog backpacks safe for dogs?

Most dog backpacks come with features that can improve security. Reflective strips can make it easier to see them while out at night, and a strong top handle can be used to quickly grab or direct your dog in an emergency.

How much can a dog carry in a backpack?

According to the guidelines, dogs should not carry more than 25% of their body weight in a backpack. Weight distribution between the compartments is necessary to prevent the backpack from shifting.


In addition to considering your dog’s size, age, and endurance, you should also think about external aspects like the trail’s terrain, the weather, potential trailside wildlife, etc. Before taking Rex on the trail with you, consider the advice from American Hiking Society and Backpacker.


The only definitive response to this is to consult your veterinarian. On our first hike, our dog and I pushed it too far, and he literally laid down on the trail to tell me. Nowadays, he walks close to my heels rather than sprinting ahead to let me know it’s time to turn around. It’s not worth pushing your dog unless you have a backup pet carrier backpack that you can use to carry it yourself.


Pack it in, pack it out, as stated by Leave No Trace. The majority of the time, I keep my dogs daily waste in an outer backpack pocket (on my pack), but I’ve also made him carry a waste bag in a pocket in his own pack.