CARRYING THEIR OWN LOAD (Musings about Doggy Backpacks)

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Of the three or four times I’ve attached a backpack to Tessi, all but one were for walks around our village in an effort to accustom her to it. I recall that she seemed nonchalant; she could still practice her love of the hunt. Other than that, an outing at the local park is the only other time I’ve bothered with the piece. It’s been several years since I had it out. At some point it ended up tucked away with other potentially useful items I forget I own. I really should dig it out.

We’ve been fortunate to hike a wealth of our country’s trails. I’m not interested in the long haul, mostly sticking to no more than two to three kilometre routes. One of the reasons I’ve never pursued serious backpacking is the necessity of carrying everything on my back essential for survival for an extended amount of time. To me, it takes away from the freedom of truly enjoying the outdoors. In buying a doggy backpack, I figured I could relieve myself of having to carry Tessi’s necessities. She could lug her own water, collapsible bowl and treats. And most of all, like other doggy parents, I hate toting the poop bag. She could carry that, too.

After I finally find her pack, she waits patiently while I attach it. I have to readjust the straps a bit because she’s gained a few pounds. It’s recommended you should be able to fit two fingers between the straps and the body of a dog Tessi’s size.

I can’t help but chuckle, however, when her quick shake doesn’t dislodge the load.

I’m so lucky she’s tolerant. I figure she’s probably thinking: “What’s Momma doing now?” I read that dogs may react with varying antics to get the intruder off, and, so we don’t make them think the behaviour is okay, we shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. I can’t help but chuckle, however, when her quick shake doesn’t dislodge the load. And an “oops” escapes my lips as one of the small cans I had included for weight catches the door frame when she tries to head out. She hesitates and then moves on, anxious to be outside.

You don’t want to start them off with anything too heavy. Gradually adding weight over a period of time can properly strengthen them for a serious hike. They will become accustomed to a certain amount and since they don’t require as many necessities, they then can take on some of our stuff too. But don’t overload them. Like us, they can only handle so much. It really depends on the breed, fitness level and age - I’ve read anywhere from less than 10, 10, 20 and even up to 30% of their body weight – with 10% being the most popular opinion. If in question, talk to your vet.

I’ve also read that this is a great exercise to keep dogs from pulling. I should have been applying the concept long ago since pulling has been our greatest struggle, though she’s improved with age. With the pack on she walks politely, trotting like a horse, but when I unleash her for a bit of a free run, she doesn’t dash off as she usually would. For us, I think what will work best is to add the pack on leashed walks; otherwise, I’ll leave it behind—I love watching her run.

I never realized that for dogs, the addition of a backpack gives them a job to do. I don’t know if I see it in Tessi. I think her job is hunting. Nevertheless, when she can’t hunt, the extra exertion of bearing the pack could potentially stimulate her brain and tire it out a little faster, which presents another advantage for me. She gets rid of a little more of her abundant energy, especially now that winter is upon us and we’re not outside as much.

Meanwhile, I look forward to our next hiking adventure. I won’t have to carry her water, collapsible bowl or treats - nor her poop.

For Further Reading

  •  REI - General hiking with dogs; includes a section on backpacks
  • That Mutt  - Benefits of backpacks

 (c) Cheryl Smyth, 2013

 

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