Want to take your small dog on an urban hike or a nature trek? A dog backpack carrier might be the perfect accessory. It is ideal for carrying your small, disabled, injured or senior dog in extreme weather. Just to note: a dog backpack is one a human wears to carry dogs, typically of small weight, and should not be confused with a backpack made for dogs to carry (for example, this DayPak Saddleback Dog Backpack from Outward Hound or this Front Range Day Pack from Ruffwear) or an emergency sling to carry injured dogs back to the car when out hiking (like this Airlift Emergency Dog Rescue Sling).
Uses for dog backpack carriers
Dogs should use their legs if possible, says Paula Stewart, director at The Animal Talent. Many dogs hate having their movement restricted by a backpack carrier. It changes how they use their senses. This mental shift of being carried in a backpack rather than using their own legs can have a big impact on their minds. But, there are times when dog carrier backpacks are essential. They include:
- When the pavement is in direct sunlight, it can reach 125°F, even if it is only 77°F. Your pup’s paws can burn in 35 seconds. If you can’t touch the asphalt for seven seconds, grab a backpack carrier.
- Is the temperature below 32°F? Use a backpack carrier to prevent frostbite.
- If your aging or injured small dog can’t go on long walks, a backpack carrier will keep him mentally spry. It is also helpful for climbing flights of steps or steep hills.
- Most toy dog breeds can hike up to 10 miles. Planning a multi-day hiking trip? Backpack carriers can help dogs get over areas with logs, stumps and rocks.
What to look for in a dog backpack carrier
Paula says that a high-quality backpack carrier should work for all activities. Here are a few types to choose from:
- Hard-sided backpack carriers are waterproof and easier to clean.
- Soft-sided backpack carriers are more comfortable but not as roomy.
- Front carriers can also help dogs feel more secure. It is natural for them to face forward when moving.
Before getting your dog a backpack carrier, examine its size and what it is made from. Here are some things Paula says you should look for:
- The backpack should be large enough that your dog should be able to comfortably turn around.
- Pick one that is within your dog’s size or weight range. Most dog backpacks have size or weight recommendations. There are dog backpacks made specifically for small dogs and for large dogs.
- Look for lightweight fabrics, as they are easier to carry.
- You’ll want durable zippers and mesh windows.
- Cushioning is key as it can also absorb shock and stop your dog’s skin from rubbing.
- Get one with extra pockets for poop bags, water bowls and bottles. But these features shouldn’t make it hard for your pup to move.
- Backpack carriers should also be waterproof because wet dogs that can’t shake dry will not be happy.
Dog backpack carrier safety
Dog backpacks aren’t just as simple as putting your dog in the pack and putting it on your shoulders. There some basic safety rules to follow:
- Backpack carriers are safe when you follow the weight limit that the manufacturer recommends. Don’t put a 30-pound dog in a backpack rated for 20-pound dogs.
- Always fasten your dog’s leash to the D-ring inside his backpack. Ensure the leash is long enough for his feet to touch the ground if he manages to jump out.
- Dogs should only ride in backpack carriers for 30 minutes. Let them stretch their legs on terra firma, Paula says. Couple this with common sense. While a backpack carrier can accommodate your 25-pound dog, you might not be able to carry him for 10 miles.
- Flat-faced breeds (brachycephalic) may have trouble breathing in a seated position. When they are in a backpack carrier, they may need to lie face-down to cool off.
- Dogs with skin conditions may struggle in soft backpacks if the fabric chafes their bodies.
- Have a dog with a medical condition or a behavioral problem like confinement anxiety? Talk to your vet.
Interested in getting a dog backpack? Here are some examples of small dog backpacks, large dog backpacks and dog backpacks for hiking:
- Poochpouch Backpack Dog Carrier; outwardhound.com — for dogs under 20 pounds
- K9 Rucksack; kurgo.com — for dogs under 25 pounds
- Kolossus Big Dog Carrier & Backpacking Pack; k9sportsack.com — for dogs between 20 and 80 pounds
- Dog Perch Backpack; toughtraveler.com — a hiking-quality backpack that is for dogs up to 35 pounds.