A backpack for a dog? Absolutely! You might be surprised how much your dog loves to sport a nice looking doggy backpack. The doggy backpack isn't just about style, it's about function too. There are many different styles of packs, with various functions. There are also some things to consider before outfitting your dog, and some benefits and misconceptions.
There is one main function of the dog backpack—to carry stuff. It is a great thing to have along on a camping trip or a hike where you would like to take your canine companion along. With the dog backpack, you can have your 4-legged buddy carry his own food and water, which leaves you more room for your own gear. The main thing to remember is that your dog can carry about 20-25% of his weight in gear. Since carrying a backpack is certain to be a new activity for your dog, be sure to acclimate your dog to carrying the pack with light weight objects before jumping up to the full weight that you might like him to carry on a hike or camping trip. The fit is critical to the comfort of the dog. Various packs have different features and styles that will affect the fit on the dog.
There are numerous styles in dog backpacks and most of the differences are related to the materials used and the amount of support that the pack provides. A higher quality pack will have a frame-like system that is more stable and secure on the dog. They will also usually have more customisable fit options with the various straps and buckles that are on the pack. A good quality pack should securely fit over the dog's head and fit around the shoulders and then attach to the front underbelly strap. A strap under the dog's belly can provide additional stability. Some packs will have additional comfort features such as a "contoured section across the dog's back, cutaway leading pannier edge allows front legs to move naturally, and lashtabs for securing extra gear or to guide a leash from the collar across the dog's back" (from Wolfpacks.com).
There are a few things to consider before getting your dog into a backpack. The most important thing is the ability of your dog to carry weight. Working and sporting breed dogs, such as German Shepherds, Retrievers, and other larger breeds, should have no problem with carrying the pack. Smaller breeds can definitely use the dog backpack, but it is more important in these cases, to make sure the pack fits the dog very well. No matter what the size of dog, the pack should be stable and secure on the dog, and it should not pinch or rub the dog while they are walking. As I have said previously, make sure to train your dog how to wear the pack and make it a positive experience for him.
There are several practical benefits to having a dog backpack. Of course, the obvious one is that you won't have to carry the things that you put into the dog backpack. It's a great way to have the dog carry his own food and water and other dog related supplies that you might want along on your outdoor trip.
There is an additional benefit to using a dog backpack that you might not realise. it's a behavioural benefit. The dog backpack can be a training tool for a dog who has difficulty walking on the leash properly. Putting on the dog backpack for your regular walk will put your dog into "working mode". Canines have an inborn desire to work and putting a weighted object such as the backpack will help your dog focus on the task of carrying the pack, which will take his mind of being hyper or unruly on the leash. Dog behaviour expert Cesar Millan highly recommends this method for hyper dogs or any dog that the owner is having difficulty controlling the dog while on the leash.
Some people think that the use of the dog backpack is cruel and inhumane. As with any tool that we use with our pets, there is a potential for misuse and abuse, but a responsible dog owner who understands the functions of the dog backpack and the strengths and limitations of his dog should not have any problems.
The bonding that happens between dog and owner on a walk or hike is critical to the dog's overall happiness. The dog backpack will enable you to get out and walk or hike with your dog, maybe more than you would have before having one, thus strengthening the bond between you and your dog.
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