ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Choose a Dog Pack

Updated on January 13, 2012

What is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of working dogs vs dogs that just provide some laughs, company, and a larger dent in the wallet? Their equipment! You always know a dog earns its keep when you see it with a vest, a harness, or a pack. Whether it is trained to provide a service, protect and serve the public, or haul a load; a working dog has gear just like their owner.

A dog pack is a very important, and very practical piece of gear. Dog packs allow a dog to aid in carrying just about anything. They can carry: water, food, first aid kits, extra leash/collar, school books, emergency medical supplies for diabetics or people with severe allergies. They also provide an excellent way to exercise a dog. A dog that walks a mile with a weighted pack is working harder and getting more exercise than a dog with no weight who also walks a mile.

I will include several pictures of various pack designs but please understand there are lots and lots of options out there. Instead of trying to compare a few of the lead designs I decided it would be better to help inform you of the proper questions to ask when searching through the choices yourself. Choosing the proper pack for your dog is an important decision. The wrong pack can lead to discomfort for your furry friend as well as potentially injuring them. Understanding the important factors behind how a pack functions will give you the knowledge to find a pack that fits your dog, the activity, and your wallet perfectly while ensuring its done safely.



Why would you want a dog pack for your dog?

See results

Purpose

The first thing you need to ask yourself when choosing a pack is: how the pack will be used by the dog? Will it be in a forest often and subjected to abuse from brush and thorns? Will the dog be primarily in an urban environment when wearing the pack? How much volume do I need out of a pack (volume is the amount of "space" a pack provides for carrying things)? Packs are made to withstand different uses and abuses so its important to understand what your planning to use it for. You also don't want to buy more pack than you would ever use, save yourself the money for more treats!

Generally packs can be found from 3 different areas and they are made to fit those genres of activity. You can find them in outdoors stores, sports dog supplies, and general/niche pet supplies. The general pet supplies tend to have lots of convenience features built into them while the outdoor and sports packs tend to be a little heavier duty and have a little more volume.



Design

Another very important aspect of a pack is the design. A design will be what makes or breaks a pack. Dogs have a very different physiology than us. It is important to keep this in mind when looking at how a pack is designed. Probably the most important aspect of a pack is how the weight is distributed and where the load is placed on a dog. The dog's spine is not capable of handling loads of weight. A pack that is placing the bulk of the load on a dog's spine is incredibly dangerous to the dog. The bulk of the weight needs to be on the shoulders of the dog. These are the only area capable of handling loads of weight safely.

There should be no strapping or bags that restricts a dogs' leg movement. This will create chaffing, make it difficult for the dog to walk/run (especially in tight quarters or dense forest), as well as make the dog uncomfortable. The dog's elbows should not hit the bag, nor should the bag be so low to the ground that the dog can't lay down. Typically you need to be more careful with straps that go straight across the chest, and with bags that have a very low vertical profile or are "boxy". There is a strap design that has a V design across the chest. These are great because they generally allow more unrestricted movement while still providing proper load security.

Figuring out if a pack is designed and being used properly is a two part process. First of all read reviews. Do your homework and see what people are saying about specific packs. If there is any question about whether they distribute the weight properly or restrict movement have nothing to do with them. There are plenty of well designed and affordable packs out there. After you've done your research and chosen a pack there is another aspect of design that is often overlooked. That is application. It is very important you understand how to use a pack and adjust it properly to fit your dog. The best designed pack in the world won't do a lick of good if it is not fitted properly. The straps need to be fitted to your dog to ensure the load is secure and distributed properly. The best way to ensure this is done properly is to fit your dog with the pack and take it to the vet. Ask them to examine your handiwork and help you adjust the pack so it fits properly and comfortably.

The fabric is also an important aspect of the pack. The material needs to allow enough padding that the pack is comfortable for the dog, this is especially true for short haired dogs. Packs with little padding will chafe faster than packs with adequate padding, especially on longer hikes. You will see some packs that have mesh and some that have a solid material on the top of the pack. Both are an acceptable fabric material but have different strengths and weaknesses. The mesh will usually provide more cooling in hot environments but be less durable. The solid design is going to provide better load distribution and be more durable. Dogs don't lose a lot of heat through their backs so my preference is for a solid material. The actual saddle bags should be made of a durable and weatherproof material. The pack should also have some reflective qualities to it for extra safety at night.

Sizing

So you have figured out what pack you want, congratulations!! However, your not done yet ;) Once you have figured out what pack you want you have to pick the proper size. A pack size for a St. Bernard is not going to fit a beagle. The typical small, medium, large, entails a lot more for a dog than for a person. To make matters even worse each company has different measurements for their "Small, Medium, Large" categories. I'll explain some of the common measurement terminology and hopefully you can figure it out from there based on their sizing charts. You're probably going to have to measure your dog. Please don't hesitate to ask any question in the comments below and I will do my best to help you figure out the answer! Dog packs can be a tricky business and there are so many options and so little uniformity that no two will ever be alike.

Girth: Measure around the widest part of rib cage

Torso length: Measure from the back of their neck to the base of their tail

Weight

How much can a dog carry? This question is always brought up when talking about dog packs. Though it will differ slightly from breed to breed. The standard rule when figuring out this answer is 25-30% is the absolute max. So a 100 lb dog should never carry more than 25 lbs, a 60 lb dog should never carry more than 15 lbs. I've seen some people say 15% is the max. Now does that mean you can go buy a pack and put 15 lbs on your 60 lb dog that has had a few to many treats and a few less walks? Absolutely not! Dogs like people need to build up their strength and endurance. A very easy way to see how much a pack weighs is to get on a normal bathroom scale, weigh yourself. Now pick up the pack, hugging it, and weigh yourself again. Subtract you with the pack from you alone. You now have your pack weight!

[you with pack]175 - [you alone]160 = [Pack weight]15

Once you get a pack you need to take your dog on several walks just wearing the pack with nothing in it at all. I heard the great recommendation that during this period of training you should stuff it with something super light but puffy material, like newspaper, so that the dog gets used to the "puffiness" or width that the pack adds to the dog when its loaded. After your dog has grown accustomed to the pack you can begin to add weight slowly. You should also never put weight on puppies 1 year or younger. You can damage their growth by adding weight while their bones have not yet fully formed and hardened. You shouldn't be giving a full load to a dog younger than 2, they are still growing. However, some moderate conditioning probably won't hurt between 1-2 years old. I actually have to be even more careful with my malamute as they don't mature as quickly and so they have a longer "growth" phase. I'm no expert though so always consult your vet for the final say so when it comes to proper exercise and weight info. I'm always open to being corrected as long as it is constructively :)


Conclusion

Remember to buy a pack that fits with the overall goal of the work that you expect your dog to do. Don't buy a huge pack if your only going to be walking on the paved sidewalk 1.5 miles around your local park. A small compact pack will more than suffice. If you are going to be hiking for days and miles on end in a wilderness make sure you buy a pack that won't fall apart the 1st or 2nd time your dog charges through a pile of briars or sticks. I sure wouldn't want to carry those extra pounds! The determining factor of any pack being a good or bad pack is where it puts the weight. It needs to be on the shoulders! Imagine a kid climbing on your back and bouncing up and down. That's what you're doing to that dog if you put the weight on the spine. Double check your sizing, make sure you aren't getting a small when you need a large. Lastly, weigh the pack before you put it on your dog. Water weight adds up quickly! Make sure you aren't putting on to much, 25% no more!

That's it! Go out and buy a pack! Make those dogs earn their keep!! No but really, I hope that I haven't scared you away from buying one with all this information. There was quite a bit of information and I apologize if I didn't make it easy to follow. I found that when I was researching these myself the information was varied, scattered, and generally hard to find consistent information. The information I've compiled here is my attempt at making it easier to have a good amount of information in one place without having to click 50 times to find it. Please feel free to ask any dogpack specific questions in the comments below. I will be doing a pack review of the Ruffwear Palisades pack in the near future. That is the one I bought and have used with Zoe over the last 6 months.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • TheEpicJourney profile imageAUTHOR

      TheEpicJourney 

      6 years ago from Fairfield, Ohio

      Suhail great question! A loaded backpack will indeed add to the strain put on a dog in hot weather. If they are already struggling it may not be a good idea to give them a load to carry as well. An empty backpack won't add to much extra strain however. The main thing to do is hydrate hydrate hydrate! :)

      A little inside tip for you and your fellow winter dog. Put ice packs inside the pack during the summer. Then your kuvasz boy is carrying his own air conditioner if he's out walking with you during the summer. It's not a fix all for the unbearable summer but it does help him.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      6 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      This is certainly very helpful. You have put lot of details here. I have a question. Would a backpack add to a dogs misery of hiking in hot weather? I normally hike with my dog in late fall, winter and early spring, but how about summer?

    • TheEpicJourney profile imageAUTHOR

      TheEpicJourney 

      6 years ago from Fairfield, Ohio

      Lol, a cat with a pack would be a sight to see! I've seen some big cats though...it's probably feasable! Thanks for the comment Dan, I would be honored if they read the hub! My hat's off to you and all those guys (and dogs) that is not an easy, or safe job. I was just on Ruffwear's facebook and found out they are a big sponsor of many SAR teams (which makes them even cooler!). Your guys may use their stuff already!

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 

      6 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      I wish they made these for cats! Great overview, I look forward to your review on the Ruffwear pack. I'll share this with my search and rescue dog-team people.

    • TheEpicJourney profile imageAUTHOR

      TheEpicJourney 

      6 years ago from Fairfield, Ohio

      I'm glad you found it useful AliciaC! I would obviously highly recommend getting one. It is a great amount of fun :) If you end up buying one let me know what you get! Don't hesitate to ask if you come up with any questions either!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for all the useful information! My dog doesn't yet carry a pack, but I've been thinking about getting him one to carry on hikes. It's great to have such good advice in one article, especially the information about how to keep a dog safe and comfortable while carrying a pack.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)