Best tips for backpacking with a dog
Backpacking is a way of transportation where the load can be distributed on both sides of the animal. Non-stop dogwear has developed a backpack for dogs, the Amundsen pack. This backpack can be used for hiking, expeditions and strength training.
If you don’t want to use the backpack as a way of transport, it can be used to build strength on your dog. By walking slowly in rough terrain, you can strengthen your dogs’ stabilizing musculature and the front of the dog. Good strength in front is important when your dog is running fast, for example in biking, or to prevent medial shoulder instability that especially agility dogs may be exposed to.
How old can the dog be to carry a backpack?
When your dog is two years old and the body if fully grown you can start to get your dog used to the backpack. Bigger breeds may have to wait a little longer. Start with an empty backpack and let your dog get to know it. Then you can gradually increase the weight.
It is important that your dog has a good basic shape before going on longer hikes. When your dog got more used to the backpack and the weight have gradually increased, you can start to use a heavier weight on shorter hikes. Then afterwards you can start to increase the length.
While your dog is getting used to the backpack it is nice to spend time on finding the right adjustment for it.
How to find the right size and how to adjust the backpack?
To find the right size we recommend looking at the size chart. The measurements on the Amundsen Pack goes from elbow to elbow, over the dogs’ back.
All adjustments and tightening straps are on top of the backpack. The strap in front should be tight, to avoid movement in the backpack. The strap in the back should be adjusted in a way, that you are able to fit two fingers between the board and the dogs’ chest. This is to make sure that the dogs’ chest can expand. If you are going downhill for a long time you can tighten the strap in the back so the backpack will not move forward.
If you have the right adjustments around the neck you should be able to fit two fingers between the neck and the backpack. The backpack should stop by the dogs’ elbow or 2 centimeters above.
How much weight can my dog carry?
How much a dog can carry depends on the breed, size and shape. When you have gradually increased the weight, you will eventually reach the realistic hiking-weight. A strong and well-trained dog can carry 30-50 % of its own body weight. This will vary from the dogs’ shape, and what breed your dog is. In addition, the weight of the backpack will depend on the terrain and the length of the hike.
Plan your hike
If you are going on a longer hike during the summer and want to use a backpack on your dog, we recommend getting your dog used to it a few months in advance.
Think through which area you want to go to. There are initially not many limitations, but some areas have higher requirements than others. If you are going on a hike where there are lots of rocks your dog might get tired faster than usual, and the paws might get worn. We recommend bringing booties to protect the paws. Stop and check the paws often. It is better to put on booties too early, than too late. A dog with sore paws may cause you to end your hike earlier than planned.
It is also important to think about the temperature too. Remember that your dog will use more energy and will get faster tired when carrying a backpack. Pay attention to your dog on warmer summer days, and check if there is water near where you are going. If you are unsure, bring an extra bottle of water for your dog.
Just like us, our dogs need nutrition when hiking. If you are doing on a day trip or will be out for several days remember to bring enough food for your dog. It will need more food than on a calm day at home. We can recommend our Energy Pate which will give your dog nutrition, is long-lasting, easy to open and is environment friendly. If you are going on a longer expedition, we recommend the Freeze-dried tripe, which last long and is light to carry.
How to pack the backpack?
First, you should make sure that the backpack has an equal weight on both sides. A tip is to put your leg on a chair and put the backpack on your thigh (use your arm if you have a smaller size). Then you will be able to feel if the sides are equal. Use the first minutes on the hike to see how the backpack is moving. Maybe you have to adjust it. If you see that the backpack is leaning to one side, you can put small rocks in one of the top pockets to adjust the weight.
Packing a backpack for dogs has many similarities to how you pack your own backpack. You want the heavier equipment lowest, towards the body. The dog is stronger in front than on the back. Therefore you want heavier equipment in the front to avoid your dog getting a heavy load on their back. Make sure to have hard and pointed objects away from the dogs’ body. The equipment you want to keep dry, we recommend to put in bags. If your dog gets warm it can suddenly lay down in water to cool down. The dog can carry its own food. If you bring dry food or Freeze-dried tripe you can make bags with portions. This will make it easier when packing the backpack, to distribute the weight. You should carry objects you are scared to lose or break in your own backpack.
When the backpack is packed and adjusted, you want to tighten the two straps on top. These two straps will lift the two bags up on the backpack, to avoid rubbing on your dogs’ elbow and upper arm.
In addition to the backpack, it is smart to have a collar. Then you can change between letting your dog be in front pulling uphill and have your dog attach to the collar and walk behind you downhill. If you have a dog that is pulling a lot, you will get a big strain on your body when walking downhill. Therefore it is nice to teach your dog to walk behind you on the downhills.
To reduce strain, it is nice to use an elastic leash. We recommend the Touring Bungee for hiking. To be able to walk with your hands-free, it is nice to wear a belt. We recommend the Ferd Belt. If you are hiking with a big backpack you might want to attach the leash to your backpack.
We also recommend bringing booties and Paw care to take care of your dogs’ paws. We have Long distance booties and Solid socks. Both booties are suitable for hiking. Pick the bootie that fits your dog.
When you want your dog to rest, we recommend the Ly Sleeping bag. The sleeping bag will keep your dog warm and comfortable, so it does not need to use unnecessary energy on staying warm. A well-rested dog will be faster ready for your next leg. The sleeping bag is light and easy to carry. If you have a breed with less fur you can also bring a Blest Jacket. The Blest Jacket is made with Primaloft, and therefore it is light, easy to carry and keeps your dog warm. If the weather forecast is predicting a lot of rain, you might want to pack a raincoat for your dog. Beta Pro Raincoat will keep your dog dry during the breaks.