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Hiking Hounds: Why Hiking Backpacks for Dogs Help Lighten the Load

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While history shows our pooches were wild, instinctive creatures that travelled  and hunted in packs, today’s canine has not only expanded his tribe membership to include humans and the family cat, but has also willingly accepted a new chore as the pack leader… or should I say the back-pack leader. Yes, it seems back-packing pooches are a growing trend and while Rover’s newfound love of toting supplies is a handy service to we humans apparently it also does our little guys the world of good.

Firstly, the fitted backpack can have a calming effect on dogs that are skittish. Similar to the Thundershirt used on pups who suffer meltdowns during particularly loud storms, the pack can hug the dog’s torso and provide a measure of pressure that is considered soothing by the wearer.

Related: Why Your Dog Needs a Life Jacket

They also give your pet a purpose or task that he can focus on during walks or hikes. Whether it’s carrying his water bowl and treats, small grocery items, or even camping equipment, a pack dog can actually carry up to 25 percent of his weight when properly distributed in saddlebags.

But before you toss the bundle-buggy and load Rover up like a pack mule, remember that like humans, dogs need to build up stamina before taking on a long hike with a heavy payload. Get him started slowly, with shorter walks and an empty back pack. Gradually build up the weight in the pack and the length of the journey.

Related: How To Outfit Your Pooch With The Right Dog Backpack

Tips for purchasing a pack for local/short walks:

  • Packs should be fully adjustable and have a minimum of five chest and girth straps to ensure a proper fit and the comfort of your dog.
  • Weight should be distributed with the greatest weight at the shoulders then lessen on the back as the pack extends to where the rib cage stops. Some pack designs offer a padded spine support to prevent injury and “Y” designed chest straps help stabilize packs and reduces strain on the neck.
  • In warmer climates or during summer excursions look for a lightweight fabric with a mesh harness or water bladders to avoid your pet over-heating.
  • Visibility is always key so choose a pack with reflective trim and bright colors to safeguard your pet at night or on rainy days.

Tips for purchasing a pack for mountain hikes or longer excursions:

  • Packs should be lightweight – 1 pound or less to avoid over-tiring your pooch.
  • They should have a sturdy padded handle and padded girth straps for when you need to lift Rover up and over obstacles or rough terrain.
  • Choose a backpack made from waterproof materials and with removable saddlebags, for crossing streams and comfortable rest stops.
  • Always opt for bright, reflective colors which can aid in rescue should your pooch wander off or become separated from you in the wilderness.

If you’re wondering where to begin, here’s a shortlist of some of the top five back-packs on the market:

Outward Hound Kyjen Quick Release Saddlebag Backpacks

Outward Hound Kyjen Quick Release Saddlebag BackpacksIdeal for shorter, local walks these backpacks are designed for dogs of all sizes and are affordably priced. Along with quick release saddlebags, lightweight materials and reflective accents, these packs include water bottle holders and mesh pockets for sundries such as keys, cash and of course, treats.

Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack

Kurgo Baxter Dog BackpackGreat for neighborhood jaunts, this affordable backpack is designed for medium dogs (30-85 pounds) with the Big Baxter version for dogs up to 110 pounds. Both offer sturdy handles for lifting Rover over rough terrain, an ergonomic spine support to protect his back, waterproof fabrication and a smaller harness which ensures better ventilation in warm weather climates.

Ruffwear Palisades

Ruffwear PalisadesA bit pricey, this pack was created for the serious hiker and his dog that enjoy longer excursions with a heavier payload. The weight-forward packs are well balanced and won’t stress your dog’s neck or back. Padded handles and girth straps make it comfortable while two collapsible water bladders work as both a cooling system and extra padding.

Ruffwear Approach

Ruffwear ApproachA scaled down version of the Palisades, this backpack is made with ultra-durable 1680 denier nylon and offers an efficient weight forward pack. Padded girth straps and a Y-breast strap ensure a snug, comfortable fit for your pooch. While sturdy enough for trails, the packs units are not detachable which can prove problematic in heavily forested areas or when crossing rivers or creeks.

Granite Gear Alpha Dog Pack

Granite Gear Alpha Dog PackGreat for neighborhood jaunts, this affordable backpack is designed for medium dogs (30-85 pounds) with the Big Baxter version for dogs up to 110 pounds. Both offer sturdy handles for lifting Rover over rough terrain, an ergonomic spine support to protect his back, waterproof fabrication and a smaller harness which ensures better ventilation in warm weather climates.

Mary SimpsonMary Simpson is an animal-loving writer and communications professional. A soft touch for anything stray, she shares her century home with an eclectic collection of rescues that include orange tabby Chico, tuxedo Simon, and jet black Owen. She enjoys running, politics, exploring local wine regions and is an avid supporter of the “shop local” movement.


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