On the Trail. Packing your dog's pack for a happy and healthy hike.
How much weight can a dog carry in a pack?
Typically we recommend that a dog carry 25%-30% of their own weight; but this is recommended for well-conditioned dogs. Consider throwing 30% of your weight on your back and that will give you a quick reality check. Start with lighter loads and work into the 25%-30% range. We work with a few sled dog teams in Alaska who can carry up to 50% of their weight in backpacks but keep in mind that these are extremely fit four legged athletes.
How do I carry water for my dog?
By not carrying any at all! Allow the dogs to carry their own water in a water bladder within their pack. There are many choices of flexible plastic bladders that can carry and dispense a quantity of water without the bulk and discomfort produced by hard bottles or canteens stuffed in packs. Check out the Ruff Wear Palisades Pack! II for an all-inclusive pack and hydration system.
How far can a dog walk with a loaded pack?
This will depend on the conditioning of your dog, the terrain and the environmental conditions. Typically if you are carrying 25%-30% of your body weight and your dog is carrying 25%-30% of their body weight, the dog will outlast you, paws down.
Besides food and water what else should my dog carry?
Energy snacks, bedding, leashes, collapsible bowls, first aid kit, booties, K-9 Overcoat (for colder climates). Think about bringing dog toys such as a Hovercraft or Stuffed Wear. Just as you might bring along a book to occupy your free time, you may want something for your pup's free time. Plan on providing shelter for your dog.
How do I pack food to keep it from getting wet?
Use two zip lock re-closeable bags. By doubling up on the bags it is less likely that food will become spoiled due to unplanned water crossings.
How can I keep critters from getting into the pack at night?
Just as you would hang and secure your food, you will want to consider this for your dog's food.
Can dogs overheat in warm weather while wearing a backpack?
Yes, exertion in hot or cold climates can overheat dogs. To safeguard against this condition the dog to carrying loads, make sure your pack uses a mesh back panel for ventilation and allow the dog access to plenty of water. Check Ruff Wear's Quick Guide to Animal Emergencies that is included with our first aid kit for more information on heatstroke.
How do you get a dog used to wearing a backpack and training for long trips?
Start with an empty pack and fit your dog. Immediately engage in a fun activity that distracts your dog's attention away from this new thing on their back. By engaging in fun and positive experiences while wearing the pack, the dog will quickly make the connection that the pack is an indication of fun times to be had. Increase the load a little at a time to condition the dog. Like humans, some dogs take a little time to get comfortable with a pack, but most are eager to carry the load and step up to the task quickly. Most modern dogs have been bred to perform a task for humans. Pointers, retrievers, heelers, drovers, they all want to do something, by providing them with a pack you give them a task that they are eager to fulfill.