Backpacks: Give Your Dog a Job – How to pick the right one?

Backpacks on dogs are increasingly popular. For neighborhood walks, backpacks provide a sense of purpose, and encourage dogs to focus on the task at hand, expending more energy on their walks than they would without the backpack on.

Additionally, backpacks can have a calming effect on dogs with fear aggression. They seem to work much the same way the ThunderShirt does, by wrapping the upper body and applying the same soothing pressure to it.

For those who love to camp and bring their best friend along, backpacks allow your dog to carry his own weight.  Water, food, bowls and treats can be easily stored in the saddlebags.  Prepare your dog for long excursions by starting out on short walks with an empty pack, then gradually increase the load.

Whether you are looking for a backpack for light excursions or long treks, there are several features you will want to take into consideration, as the various dog backpacks are not built the same. We have selected 5 of the top selling and top rated dog backpacks and reviewed them with an eye toward comfort, durability and best value.

(Scroll down to the bottom of the article to see videos of these backpacks in action)

Dog Backpacks 101 – The basics

  •  A dog should never carry more than 25% of his proper body weight (don’t add more just because he is over weight)
  • All packs must be loaded with even weight distribution or they will sag to the over-weighted side
  • Adding 1 liter water bottles to the packs is great for increasing the load and your pup’s concentration.  For smaller dogs add weight by adding zip lock bags filled with dry beans or rice.

Dog owners will have different considerations to take into account depending on the primary intended use of the backpack. In either instance you will want a backpack that fits securely and does not roll with the dogs stride, ultimately causing chaffing or sores.Dog Backpack Buyers Guide

Hikers will need to consider both the in-town features as well as the long excursion features below.

Important Features for Backpacks Used for Neighborhood Walks

  • Fit and Comfort: look for fully adjustable 5 point chest and girth straps.
  • Avoid putting weight on the loin area of the dog.  The weight should be distributed with the greatest weight at the shoulders, then lessening the load on the back as the pack extends to where the rib cage stops. The back pack should not put stress beyond that point on the spine (the loin area).
  • Shorter dogs will need shallow saddlebags; they should reach no farther down than 1 inch above the elbow of the dog.
  • Your climate determines the proper backpack for your dog. For those in hot climates should look for a backpack with a mesh harness or water bladders to dissipate the heat.
  • “Y” designed chest straps help stabilize packs and reduces strain on the neck.
  • Reflective tape and bright colors improve visibility for both you and your dog for motorist on rainy days and low light conditions. “Safety Orange” is a popular color for neighborhood walks


Important Features for Extended Hiking Excursions

  • Choose a light weight pack at around one pound or less. Your dog will be carrying his supplies and will tire quickly toting a heavy pack in addition to his supplies.
  • Look for a sturdy padded handle to help lift your dog through rough terrain and over obstacles.
  • Wide, padded girth straps will assist you in comfortably lifting your dog over obstacles.
  • Choose a backpack with removable saddlebags, for crossing streams and comfortable rest stops.
  • Water resistant material helps preserve food and treats in rain and stream crossings. (Use Ziplock baggies to protect food on overnight hikes)
  • Bright color backpacks can aid in rescue should your dog accidentally get separated from you in the wilderness.
  • Look for saddlebags that taper towards the rear of the dog as they place the bulk of the weight on the shoulders rather than the spine of the dog.
  • Padded harnesses reduce wear on the dog and the possibility of sores or hot spots.
  • Select a backpack with tough nylon material or rip stop especially if you will be hiking in an area with rock faces that could tear open the pack.

Outward Hound Backpacks with Removable Saddlebags– The Number 1 Best Selling Backpack

Outward  Hound by Kyjen is renowned from making affordable and durable outdoors gear for dogs of all sizes.  Made from the same material as their life jackets, these backpacks are great for neighborhood walks, but not durable enough for the rigors of trail hiking.

For in-town use, the backpacks are ideally tapered and can easily accommodate 1 liter water bottles to add weight and to help focus to the dog. Treats can be stowed in its pockets, which make the backpack that much more pleasurable to wear.

However, backpackers complained that when heavily loaded, the removable saddlebags did just that.  The packs tended to roll to one side or another if not perfectly balanced, and in some instances slipped off of the Velcro harness attachments entirely.


  • Affordable starting at $24.95
  • Sturdy Construction
  • Tapered design keeps weight focused on the shoulders of the dog
  • Lightweight material
  • Removable Saddlebags
  • Bright colors and reflective accents improve visibility on roads.
  • Water bottle holders with elastic straps and mesh pockets for treats, ice packs and keys


  • Not Waterproof or particularly water resistant
  • Tends to shift easily if load is not perfectly balanced especially on steep inclines and rough terrain.
  • Girth Straps are narrow and handle is not padded, so not a great solution for lifting dogs over obstacles.
  • No leash attachment on the backpack harness, you will need a collar or another harness under the backpack.
  • Material is not made with rip stop.
  • Some users experienced buckles snapping in temperatures below freezing.

Recommendation:  This is a great backpack for neighborhood walks, and used in a suburban setting is should last for years.  However, we don’t recommend this for hiking the Appalachian Trail. Those wanting to navigate steep terrain with sharp rock faces will do better with one of the more expensive, heavy duty backpacks (See Reviews below).

Note: Kyjen does make another model, the Kyjen Excursion, with a padded harness and D-ring connector built into the harness.  However, it places much of the weight on the center of the spine and the saddlebags are not removable.  The Excursion is not a model we recommend.

The Kurgo Wander Dog Pack – One Size Fits All

Another popular dog backpack is the unique Kurgo Wander Dog Pack. This has a universal design; one size fits all, as long as your dog is between 30-85 pounds. It seems that is pack is better suited to dogs 35 pounds and up.

The leash ring is situated at the back of the harness nearest to the tail.  This improves control over the dog and comfort of the pack.

The relatively small harness contours to the dog to support the rather small saddlebags. Each bag will hold one 16 ounce bottle of water and another small thing or two such as keys or a cell phone. The small size of the harness provides some ventilation, making this a good warm weather pack.


  • Affordable at $26.99
  • Side pockets don’t hang too low
  • Easily Adjustable straps – Universal fit – adjusts to accommodate dogs 30 – 85 lbs
  • Lightweight
  • Rear mounted leash hook for added control
  • Unique ASB (Adjustable Saddle Bag) system achieves a customized fit for your dog
  • Saddle bag individual dimensions: 10″ long x 6″ Height x 3″ Deep
  • Water resistant


  • If there are no weights in the pockets it tends to slide to one side
  • If you need lots of room in the pockets this pack isn’t for you. Total volume: 3.75L = 230 cubic inches = 125oz
  • Straps tend to loosen 20 minutes into the walk (which is typical of many packbacks), some users remedied this by sewing the straps in the correct position and cutting off the excess strap material.
  • 15% of users have experienced splitting seems early into ownership.  All Kurgo products come with a Lifetime Warranty, so contact the manufacturer if you have an issue.

Recommendation:  This is a nice pack for short hikes and neighborhood walks. Your dog will be able to carry two water bottles on the trip. The saddlebags themselves are too small to carry any meaningful loads for long excursions. Over stuffing the saddlebags is likely to stress the seams and zippers.

Ruffwear PalisadesThe Cadillac of Dog Backpacks

The Ruffware Pallisades has all of the bells and whistles any serious hiker would like to see appointing their best friend. The saddlebags are positioned in a weight forward design and are easily detached for rests and crossing streams. This pack and the Ruffwear Approach have the best balancing design of any of the packs tested.

Designed for long hikes and camping, the pouches have enough capacity to hold 2 liters of water, food for up to 3 days and collapsible food and water bowls. Keep in mind when loading it up that a dog should not carry more than 25% of his body weight.

The strong padded handle with complementary padded girth straps make this a comfortable pack for both hiker and dog when assistance is required.

The pack comes with two collapsible plastic water bladders that are positioned to protect the dog from the gear and work as a cooling system.


  • Removable saddlebags for rest stops or water crossings
  • A modified Web Master™ Harness frame with four attachment points provides load stability and weight distribution
  • 1680 denier ballistic nylon
  • Collapsible, BPA-free water bottles, 2 included, each with a 1L capacity
  • Load compression system secures the load
  • Padded assistance handle makes it easy to help dogs up and over obstacles
  • Padded Girth Straps
  • Trail-ready details: stash pockets and external gear loops
  • Single-piece, anodized aluminum V-ring leash attachment provides a secure leash attachment point
  • Low-light visibility with reflective trim


Interesting one price fits all pricing scheme. No matter your size you will pay one price and a stiff price point at that, ranging from $129.00 – $149.00.

Recommendation: This is a great pack for any situation, neighborhoods, trails warm or cool weather.  If you are camping consider purchasing this pack or its little brother, the Ruffwear Approach reviewed below.

Ruff Wear ApproachHighest in Customer Satisfaction

Customers can’t think of anything negative to say about this pack, unless they are used to removable saddlebags.  That is the single drawback we can find with this dog pack.

The Ruffwear Approach is a slightly scaled back version of the Palisades, and if money is a consideration the Approach will amply provide the most bang for your buck. It does not come with the collapsible water bladders that the Palisades comes with, and as we mentioned the saddlebags are sewn to the harness.

Like its big brother, the Approach is made with ultra durable 1680 denier ballistic nylon with solid stitching on the seams. Well tailored, this pack fits most dogs securely. Again the packs hold a lot of goodies, so be careful not to overload your dog.  25% of his body weight is the most he should carry.


  • Attached saddlebags feature an efficient weight forward design
  • The Web Master Harness frame provides load ventilation as well as stability and weight distribution
  • Padded assistance handle and girth straps make it easy to help dogs up and over obstacles
  • Trail-ready details such as stash pockets, coated zippers and external gear loops
  • Y-breast strap and 5 different adjustments to fit your dog.
  • Soft padding in sensitive areas.
  • Great handle and sturdy leash hook.


  • Still an expensive pack starting at $79.95
  • NOT waterproof, so put things in plastic bags when hiking.
  • Saddlebags are NOT detachable

Granite Gear Alpha Dog Pack – Best Pack for Dogs with Small Torsos

The low profile bags of the Granite Gear Alpha Dog Pack make this pack ideal for dogs with a short distance from the shoulder to the elbow. Heavy duty, this backpack is appropriate for city streets as well as the Rocky Mountains!

The zippers on this pack are large and sturdy, and are easy to operate with gloves on.


  • Weight forward and ergonomically designed to fit the contours of your dog
  • Padded for comfort
  • Adjustable for a custom fit
  • Dual-side interior zipper pockets for organization, each side can hold 2 1- liter water bottles
  • Leash hook on the rear of the pack
  • Large reflective accents for visibility from all directions
  • Saddlebags hold a lot of stuff, be careful not to over load your dog:
  • Size Small Volume: 8 liters / 488 cubic inches
  • Size Medium Volume: 12 liters / 732 cubic inches
  • Size Large Volume: 16 liters / 976 cubic inches


  • Saddlebags are Not detachable
  • Handle on top is not well padded

Recommendation: This pack tends to run large, so if your dog is near the sizing break point, go down to the smaller size.  This pack is comparable in price and quality to the Ruffwear Approach pack.  Choose between them based on your personal style preference and the build of your dog.

The each of the packs reviewed is examined in the videos below. The packs are turned inside out so you can find the one that suits your needs best. Many of them look quite different fully loaded on the dog.

Original post:

Dog’s Bucket List Adventure


Woman Takes Dying Dog on Bucket List Adventure
Lauren Fern Watt and her dog Gizelle

When Lauren Fern Watt found out her dog, Gizelle, had terminal bone cancer, she decided to spend the rest of her dog’s life making memories.

Watt, a travel writer and public relations professional in New York, created a bucket list with everything she knew her 160-pound English Mastiff would want to do before she died.

“I wanted to enjoy my last months with Gizelle and really cherish our life together, instead of focusing on being sad about the fact that she had cancer,” she told BuzzFeed.

The bucket list was filled with activities fit for a canine: road trips, canoeing and unlimited cuddle sessions.

On Jan. 6, the day before Gizelle died, Watt and her beloved pup went to Maine, where they ate lobster and spent time on the snowy beach.

Watt penned an emotional essay for Yahoo Travel, where she surmised that, perhaps, Gizelle was the one who was actually taking her on the trip of a lifetime.

“I was told Gizelle wouldn’t make it until Christmas, but in January we sat by the ocean in Maine as it snowed the day before she died. Part of me wondered if this was her plan all along, to take me on an adventure, knowing we’d end up on a deserted beach alone,” she wrote.

After Gizelle died, Watt shared her the news on Instagram: “I lost my best friend yesterday. Gizelle was the most sensitive and loving creature I’d ever known and words can’t explain how much I will miss her. We had many adventures together and I’ll carry her with me on more. Heaven has gained a beautiful doggy angel. Rest in peace, Gizelle.”


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Spring Safety Tips for Your Pooch


Unless you live in a very mild or tropical zone, making the transition from spring to summer requires some adjustments for dogs and owners alike. Just as winter ice doesn’t become summer grass overnight, changeable conditions require flexibility. Here are some  things to take into consideration now that spring has sprung:

Spring Outer Wear: If your dog wears a coat in winter, unless the heat transition is very dramatic, you may want him to wear a lighter sweater or doggy tee walking in the chilly sun. Coat-donning dogs are accustomed to having their body temperatures managed, and they get chilly easily.

Paw Care: Conscious spring paw care is essential. Roadside banks of icy snow have been repeatedly inundated with salt and other snow melting chemicals. The puddles from these glaciers are toxic and harsh for the pads.

Remember to wash your dog’s feet with soap after every walk and beware of thirsty dogs who want to lap up snow melt water. As the sun warms the roads, dogs will again get thirsty on walks, so carry a water bottle and travel bowl to prevent sipping roadside sludge.

Shedding: Many dogs shed in spring. Shedding is a natural transition, but the dry, winter coat can cause mats and tangles as it falls out, especially if your dog wears a coat or a sweater outside.

Always remember to take your dog’s warm clothes off inside after every walk. Gentle, regular brushing in spring helps restore oils to the new coat, stimulates the skin and prevents the dreaded dreads of an unkempt coat. Your vet may approve canine Omega 3 oil capsules to assist this transitional period for the coat.

Exercise: Warmer weather means we all feel friskier. It is normal for dogs to store fat in winter, but a heavier dog needs to begin spring exercise gently. Just as you may want to ease back into an outdoor exercise routine, your companion dog also needs to take it slowly at first. Increase walks and runs in the park steadily, but gradually.

Allergies: Dogs get springtime allergies too. As is the case for humans, dogs can become allergic over time, so do not be surprised if your dog’s reactions to springtime allergens change from puppy to adult. Pollen from the first flowering trees, dandelions and tulips, dust, mold and even insects can cause allergic reactions.

Symptoms include itching, coughing, sneezing, flaky skin or an oily-feeling coat. Never use human allergy medicines for dogs on your own initiative. Canine allergy medicines are effective; your vet can prescribe the safest dose.

Toxic Plants and Mulch: Spring bulb plants pushing out of the ground often attract dogs. It’s not that dogs just want to ruin the landscaping. Squirrels and rodents are also attracted to spring bulbs and an inquisitive dog might be hot on the trail.

But beware. Many spring bulbs fall into the allium family, and onions (allium) are toxic to dogs. Furthermore, cocoa mulch, often used as bedding mulch for park side flower beds, is very attractive to, but highly toxic to dogs. Keep your dog out of the flower beds and nobody will get hurt.

Lawn Chemicals: In the spring, your dog will be able finally to run on grass, not frozen snow or dead thatch. Please pay attention to where you let your dog run. Spring lawn care often combines herbicide and pesticide treatments to kill insect larva, ticks, fleas, “critters,” and seed-sprouting weeds.

Nitrogen-based fertilizers, blood meal, milorganite, rose boosters and Japanese beetle inhibitors, grub killers, herbicides, insecticides (especially those with organophosphates), rodenticides, acid fertilizer for holly and azalea and slug and snail baits do not belong on dogs’ paws. While these chemical washes might produce a green lawn, they also produce a toxic lawn for dogs. So, walk your dog in the safe scrubby grass in spring and keep an eye out for the “pesticide treated” signs in the formal lawns. Pesticides, herbicides and dogs don’t go together.

By thinking ahead, dog owners can head off problems and help their dogs get the most out of getting out and about in spring.

About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics In their first book, “The Journey of the Shih Tzu,” Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.


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Go Take a Hike!

Warm weather is a natural draw for getting out and enjoying the bounties of summer before the next cold arrives in the fall. And naturally, our dogs want to get out and enjoy the warm weather, too. But a day out in the sun is only fun when everyone is comfortable. Before heading out to your favorite hiking trail, make sure you pack all the right supplies, for you and your pet, to be sure that the day ends as well as it begins.

Before You Go

Here are some important things you should first verify before heading out into the wild:

  • Is your dog up to date on her vaccinations?
  • Does she have her rabies tag on her?
  • Is your contact info on her collar up to date (this also applies if she has a microchip implant; check with the chip manufacturer)?
  • Does she have all the necessary preventatives for fleas, ticks, and heartworms?
  • Is she in good health and free of any open wounds that could be vulnerable to infection?

If Lyme disease is endemic to your area, you might consider getting vaccines before heading out. And don’t forget to do your research so that you know which potential hazards you might encounter. Ask your pet-loving friends and veterinarian for tips. You can also use the Internet to find out more about your area, download maps of the trails you’ll be taking, and even get in touch with your local hiking clubs, who can share their experiences.

The Day of Your Hike

Do not give your dog a large meal before heading out. You don’t want her to be weighed down or have an upset stomach due to vigorous activity. Take along some food and treats for snack and meal breaks, but keep the meals small. Save the full meals for when you are ready to take a long rest or when you get home.

Things to Take Along

You will need to have plenty of water, enough for you and your dog. This is a great time to mention that the best plan is to have your dog carry her own water, snacks and other supplies. Having her own backpack will not only make your dog feel useful, it will lighten your load. Dog backpacks are easy to find; check with your local pet supply or sporting goods stores.

Along with canteens or bottles of water, you will need a portable bowl, sealed bags of snacks and meals, wet wipes for cleanups, a towel, sunscreen, waste disposal bags, and a basic first aid kit with disinfectant, gauze, bandaging material, tweezers, scissors, insect repellant, cortisone, and whatever else seems reasonable, considering the environment you are in. You can find a list of items for a pet first aid kit and assemble one yourself, or you can buy one pre-assembled.

If your dog has close cropped hair, and/or a light colored nose, it is essential that you use sunscreen on her exposed skin. Light-coated dogs and dogs with light-colored noses tend to suffer from sunburn on these areas. Pay attention especially to the nose and tips of the ears, as well as other areas that are light-colored or sparsely covered. If your dog is likely to lick the sunscreen off, you will need to use a sunscreen product that is designed for pets, or that that is guaranteed not to be toxic, such as those made for infants and children.

Additional Safety Precautions

Always keep your dog on a leash for his safety, and do not allow her to drink from areas of standing water, since standing water often harbors parasites and other bacteria that can be harmful and even fatal to your dog. Always keep a keen eye for other animals, broken glass and debris, and rocky terrain. Any cuts or scrapes should be attended to right away. Some dog owners like to outfit their dogs in special hiking booties to safeguard their foot pads from injury.

Dehydration can easily occur in the warmer months, as well as heat exhaustion(conversely, hypothermia can occur in the colder months). Watch out for excessive panting and drooling, or stumbling, confusion or disorientation. If your dog has any of these symptoms, stop immediately and take a break until she has recovered. To prevent these conditions from occurring, stop for water breaks often and slow down when she appears to be breathing heavily.

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Adam Ostrow

Olive is terrific. Her approach is to teach the owner what they need to understand about how a dog sees the world to get the results they want, just as much as  to teach the dog(s). She goes after more than just dealing with problem behaviors but explains the subtle signals you tell your dog whether you intend to do so or not. By changing the signals to the dog about leadership of the pack you can go from a dog which is totally out of control  to a well behaved family member. I would strongly recommend Olive and Doggy Do’s and Don’ts to anyone introducing a new pet to their home or for improvement in existing pets.

She is prompt and reliable, courteous and fun to be around. She lets you know what the costs will be without any surprises. The whole family looks forward to training sessions and seeing the improvement they bring. She also does boarding and daycare.

Adam Ostrow

Sandra, Brent and Elise Magee

As first time dog owners it was a little overwhelming bringing an 11 week old puppy into our home. We experienced a myriad of issues such as trying to get the puppy acclimated to our home, crate training, housebreaking, and unruly behavior.

Olive began working with us right away. and she offered us training tailored specifically to our needs which has included the entire family as well as our dog. The thing we appreciate the most is Olive’s ability to listen and help us implement solutions that show immediate results.

We have been impressed with her friendliness and professionalism and most important for taking the time to answer every question we’ve had. Olive has helped Fluffy to go from puppy hood to a nicely behaved adolescent. We have no doubt that she will continue to help Fluffy and us along the way to adulthood.

Sandra, Brent and Elise Magee