You want to go on an adventure, alone or with friends, but one thing is certain, your dog will be there and you may want him to carry stuff! But the question is how much weight can a dog carry?
Naturally, when you go camping, the weight of the backpack gets heavier very quickly. Once the tent, the water and the food are put away there is not much more you can carry and you have to limit yourself as much as possible because you already feel the weight on your back! So it’s natural to think of your canine friend, what if we made him bear his part, at the least its food and toys?
Is it a good or bad idea? Let’s try to take stock together, between the precautions to be taken into account, and the big mistakes to be avoided.
Conditions for choosing a good backpack for a dog
the first thing to consider is the bag! One might be tempted to spend as little money as possible and hope the bag will do the job, but I think we’ve all, at least once, traveled or hiked with a heavy bag shearing our shoulders.
Now imagine if your dog is not able to correct its position if the bag is leaning too far off on one side. This may put undue stress on its back and cause pain and discomfort. For the health of our dogs, we must be conscientious in choosing equipment that could have serious consequences.
How much weight can a dog carry? Important backpack features to look for
According to experts, the backpack must be adjusted to the dog’s body shape, so that it does not swing when walking or worse, does not turn on one side. Most of the weight should be distributed over the forearm, shoulders and rib cage, not the spine.
It is essential that the contents of the two bags have an equivalent weight so as not to create muscular imbalance (one shoulder more stressed than the other). Ideally, heavy objects should not be all the way down, at the bottom, which could create a swaying effect, but rather as high as possible against the zipper and held securely in place.
Not all dogs are created equal when it comes to carrying a weighted backpack! To say that only properly muscled and generally “fit” dogs can wear a weighted backpack is to open the door to all abuses. After all, our dog is bound to be an athlete, whether he is a Great Dane or a Chihuahua, right?
Several criteria should be taken into account. Dogs that are too young (under two years old) or too old (over eight years old) should not carry a bag. The dog’s morphology is so important and the use of the backpack on thinner and leggy dogs should be carefully considered.
Dogs that are overweight should not carry weight and dogs that are too thin, are arthritic or have health problems should never carry a pack of any type whatsoever. We stand the risk to damage the paraspinal muscles, abdominal muscles, and those surrounding the thoracic limbs of the dogs if we are not careful.
Before assessing how much weight can a dog carry, a bone health check-up is recommended, and if you’re afraid of making the wrong decision, and need an objective opinion on your dog’s physical condition, you can always take your dog to the vet for a physical examination. A veterinarian can tell you precisely the weak points of your dog and recommend strength training exercises to improve on them.
Hiking precautions (long duration)
It’s one thing to have a fit dog and an ideal backpack, it’s another evaluate dog fatigue and harness irritation. For short walks, there is no need to worry but for hikes of several hours, or even several days, it is essential that the dog can take a break every hour without equipment on his back. The break can be a quiet time, or a game, each dog will have their preferences. Many bags allow you to detach the saddlebags and leave a harness, but it is also possible to remove the harness to give your brave canine companion complete freedom of movement and full relaxation.
Do not make the mistake of evaluating the fatigue of your dog according to your own energy level. It is quite very easy to stretch your walking time more and more with weighted saddlebags, but the following days are often very painful. Between aches and pains, blisters and stiffness, the resistance of your dog will be damn low and the rest of the day may be less pleasant.
In order to prevent irritation and blisters as much as possible, some experienced hikers put a T-shirt under the harness – everyone should experiment to see what will work best for your dog.
How much weight can a dog carry with its backpack?
Let’s tackle together the most important point of this article, the recommended ballast in the bag! It is difficult to find concrete information because no study has been conducted on the subject. These are therefore recommendations from professionals in the field (veterinarians, physiotherapist, osteopaths, etc.).
The maximum recommended weight in the saddlebags is calculated based on the dog’s weight. Usually, estimates are roughly 10% to 30% (including backpack weight). For a 20kg dog, this would equate to a weight range of 2 to 6kg. One might be tempted to go for the high range of the estimate, because “my dog is muscular”. After all, wouldn’t it be great to give him 5-6 kg and have that less in your own bag?
The best criteria to follow is the way your dog is behaving when carrying a certain weight. Of course, don’t go to the point where you are asking yourself “Why is my dog panting and restless?”. Obviously, in that case, you have asked too much of your dog.
What can we conclude on the weighted backpack?
With field evidence we understand how much aiming at a 30% load, even for a very large dog, seems disproportionate. Most animals, such as horses, are much better equipped to pull loads than to carry them, it is therefore necessary to use moderation so as not to ruin the backs of our dear companions. 10% load seems ideal to maintain, and if your dog is really rather massive and athletic (Rottweiler, Malinois …) you can possibly increase to 15-20% load over short distances.
How to get the dog used to the backpack?
The advantage of well-thought-out backpacks is that they are divided into two parts: an independent harness, and saddlebags that can be hung using clips and straps. The ideal way to get your dog accustomed is therefore to start with the harness alone, which often differs from the “Y” harnesses that your dog may wear on a daily basis. Let him get used to the equipment for a few walks. After a week or two, you can add the empty saddlebag and keep “practising”.
Gradually, we will add weight in the bags, making sure it si appropriately balanced. The most practical approach is to use croquettes or rice, which you can weigh and then divide into small bags that you will fill as you go. Don’t be impatient to add more weight, it should be done over a month or two to allow the shoulders and back of your dog to build up properly.