How to Train Your Dog to Carry a Backpack

Easy
2-4 Weeks
Chores

Introduction

There is nothing better for you and your dog than going for regular walks. It's a great time for the two of you to get plenty of exercise and to create an unbreakable bond. But, when the weather gets hot and you have to carry water and a bowl for your dog, the fun tends to diminish a little. What if you could train your dog to carry a backpack? Better yet, what if you could teach him to carry a backpack that contains water for him and a collapsible bowl? Imagine the places the two of you could go and the hikes you could go on.

One of the biggest reasons many people give for not doing this is they just don't want to be loaded down with their own backpack as well as everything their dog needs for the trip. By training your dog to carry a backpack with some of his own needs in it, you not only make the walks more pleasant but at the same time, you are giving your dog a job to do. This is something most dogs are more than happy to do.

Defining Tasks

Man has been asking his canine friends to carry things for them for millennia. From carrying packs to pulling carts and sleds, most dogs love to have a job and to help out their human companions. Teaching your dog to carry a pack can help put an end to overexcitement during walks and keep him focused on the task at hand.

There are many things you can teach your pup to carry in his backpack, like water, a bowl, food, a frisbee, a few small items you might need, poop bags, even a spare pair of shoes for you. How much your furry friend can carry will depend on the breed. Smaller dogs obviously have a lower carrying capacity than larger breeds.

For most breeds, learning to carry a backpack should only take a couple of weeks, the rest of the time will be spent working up to his maximum load. One important thing to remember is that the weight of the backpack and anything in it should never exceed 25 percent of your dog's body weight.  In fact, ideally, your dog's pack should not weigh more than 10 to 12 percent of his body weight, but you can adjust this amount as your dog becomes more comfortable with the pack.

Getting Started

To train your dog to carry a backpack, you will need a few things, including:

  • Treats: To reward him when he gets things right.

  • A dog backpack: Be sure you buy a doggy backpack that is designed to fit your specific size of dog.

  • A load: Select a few items you can use to slowly build up the load your pup will be carrying so that he can build up his load carrying ability.

  • Patience: While it won't take long for your dog to get used to carrying a backpack, you do need to be patient while he is getting used to it.

A quiet place to train: While you may be going for walks on busy streets or trails, starting out in a quiet area is always best as it allows your dog to focus on the task at hand.

The Getting Used to It Method

Effective
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Getting Used to It Method
Step
1
Introduce the pack
Before you start strapping on your pup's new backpack, be sure to give him time to smell it, look at it, and get used to it. Then lay it on his back without attaching the buckles and use treats to encourage him to leave it in place.
Step
2
Fasten the pack
Close the buckles and praise him along with a treat, remove the pack, more treats, repeat until he no longer seems interested in the fact he is wearing a backpack.
Step
3
Walk with empty pack
Give him time to walk around the house with the pack on without any weight in it so that he can get used to the fact it is there. More treats are always good.
Step
4
Move outside
Now take him for a walk outside with an empty pack and give him time to get used to it.
Step
5
Add items
Start slowly adding weight to the pack and extending your walks. Remember to give your dog lots of praise and plenty of treats until he looks forward to strapping on his pack and going for a hike with you.
Recommend training method?

The Starting Off Right Method

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Starting Off Right Method
Step
1
Choose wisely
Start by taking your dog to the pet store and working with the assistants there to find the right backpack. Base your choice on the type of walking or hiking you plan to do, smaller backpacks for short walks, larger packs for hiking.
Step
2
Get familiar
Introduce your dog to the pack and let him smell it, look at it, paw it, and then strap it on and give him treats that let him know he is doing a good job by standing there and not fussing about the pack.
Step
3
Carry empty pack
Give him time to get used to the empty backpack, it will affect his sense of balance and space. He is likely to bump into a few things until he gets used to its presence. Reward him each time he is finished with his training session.
Step
4
Walk with empty pack
Take him for a few walks with an empty backpack and be sure to cover varying terrains such as hills, steps, and anything else you are likely to encounter on your regular walks and hikes. Reward him and give him plenty of praise.
Step
5
Increase difficulty
Slowly start building up the load in his backpack until he is perfectly comfortable and starts looking for his backpack when it's time to go for a walk. Remember to shower him with praise and use lots of treats for training.
Recommend training method?

The Around the house Method

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Around the house Method
Step
1
Introduce the pack
Introduce your dog to the backpack and give him plenty of time to get used to it.
Step
2
Fasten the pack
Once he seems okay around it, go ahead and put it on him and fasten it snugly in place. Give him treats when he calms down and gets used to it.
Step
3
Wear around the house
Allow your pup to walk around the house for several hours until he is used to wearing it and seems comfortable with it. More praise and treats always help.
Step
4
Try in the yard
Let him go outside in the backyard with it several times and then take him for a walk with an empty backpack. Be sure to reward him handsomely when you get home.
Step
5
Add items and hit the road
At this point, you can start adding a load to your pup a little at a time and going for walks. Be sure to add the load evenly on both sides. In time your pup will look forward to his new "job" each time you go for a walk.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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