Backpacking with dogs

8:31 p.m. on October 6, 2011 (EDT)
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Anytips for training your dog to carry a pack?

9:42 p.m. on October 6, 2011 (EDT)
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Start young if possible, and with an empty pack. Take them on their normal walks with it, let them wear it around the house etc.

It's actually really easy to get them used to it. After they are used to the pack itself then you can slowly start to add weight to it. I would not go anymore weight than 15-20% of the dog's weight. My dog is 45lb and I try to keep her weight around 5-7lbs typically.

All she typically carries is food for the trip, her tie out, water bowl, and a blanket and pad if winter time, and if summer time sometimes a half liter of water.

6:16 p.m. on October 9, 2011 (EDT)
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Do not start too young, it depends really on the breed of the dog. Even polar dogs that are used to pulling is not recommended to start carrying backpack until the age of 1,5  Most fair sized breeds of the active kind is typical 2 years.

Some breeds have tendencies to problems like dysplacia and lung problems. Consult the vet you have and if the dog has any inheritent diseases take it very slowly. For a normal healthy dog the weight it might carry is far more than what  TheRambler suggests, at least here in Norway. My dog is around 60 pound and I have had him carry 25 pounds at a number of occasions. Of course he was trained to do this and he did not seem to avoid the pack at all. Even beeing playful with the pack on.

Tell us what kind of dog you have texas trekker and I'll let you know if I know more concerning that breed.


8:38 p.m. on October 9, 2011 (EDT)
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When thinking of your dog's pack weight, think of your pack weight. For example 20% of my weight would be 42lbs. While yes I can carry 42lbs, it isn't nearly as comfortable as when my pack is in the 30s. 25lbs on a 60lbs dog is 41% of his body weight, which IMO is unhealthy. Even we humans are not supposed to go over 30% of our body weights.

They may be able to physically move the weight fine, but carrying that much can do long term damage on their joints etc, the same as it can with us.

By starting early I meant by using just an empty pack to get them comfortable wearing it, some dogs take a long time to get used to it. Mine took to it almost right away.

I have heard and read many places that its ok to start having them carry 10% of their body weight at 8months, 15% at 1year, and 20% at 1.5yrs. I have spoken with several different vets regarding pack weight, and they say no animal including humans should carry more than 30% of their body weight, this includes pack horses and donkies etc. Pulling is 130% of their body weight.


I have to ask, what in the heck is your dog carrying to have a 25lbs pack weight!?!? lol

A 25lbs pack on my dog would be enough food to last her close to a month.

2:16 p.m. on October 10, 2011 (EDT)
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Here in Norway the thumb rule for strong dogs of typical working breeds is that the dog may carry up to 50% of their weight, and pull up to 100% of their own weight. Many years ago I was active in a club for pulling dogs. We had Siberian Huskies then, and we were often out both summer and winter. The other breeds in the club were polar breeds (greenlander, sh, malamute) and hunting dogs like german pointer, english setter and other medium to big breeds with good working capacity.

German shephards are ok to use for pulling, but their sloping back makes them less good for carrying. Some big breeds like great dane, irish wolfhound and many other like these have so many health issues that they are practically unsuited for strenous outdoor use.

TR the way I see it is that if I carry 25% on my TWO feet, the dog may carry some more on his FUOR. Of course he carrys things for me as well. Btw he got the nickname alehound on one occasion as he had 12 pints of beer in his pack then, and he got real popular with the group. But tincans of beer may easily puncture, and then you have an unbalanced pack which is a heck to administer. I have a simple fish scale to make sure the weight of each side is even.

On a week trip the food for him is 4kg and some water bowls and other stuff is about a pound. Total 10 pounds. The rest is safety stuff for me, food, a bottle of gasoline for the stove aso. All things that may get wet if he jumps into a river.

But back to the OP and how to train a dog for carrying. I would start at the age of 1,5 and start using empty water bottles just so that the pack is filled up. Some weight when the dog is over two years. The important thing is then to PRAISE generously, and also a good treat. After a few tries most dogs get the idea, but make sure you have the pack fitted correctly. Seek advice from others so it is perfect, and during the trip always check on how the pack sits.


3:26 p.m. on October 10, 2011 (EDT)
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I see we have very different views between here in the US, most of the world, and Norway. Just do a online search and you can find hundreds of vets that say to do 15-25% and no more, and that's for a well conditioned dog.

I understand that people have different opions, and even conflicting ones, and normally I wont press the issue, especially on an online forum. But, in this case it's a matter of safety and health for the animals so I felt it prudent to press this issue a little.

I am sorry but having a dog or any animal carry 50% of it's weight is bordering on abuse. It doesn't make a difference if an animal has 2 legs or 4, the weight rules are the same.

Pack Horses for example, should only carry 20% of their body weight, and can go up to a max of 30% if they are in superb condition.

Donkies can carry 25% without much conditioning, 30% max.

Pack Mules can carry 20% of their body weight, 35% max for a excellent conditioned animal.

See the trend?

Not trying to pick a fight or start an online argument, but I strongly believe based on my own personal knowledge, and scientific fact stated by hundrends of vets and thousands of other animal handlers that no animal should carry more than approximately 30% of its body weight, with the average being 15-25% depending on the condition of the animal. It is not healthy for an animal to carry more than that.

Geogrpahical location has no bearing on how much weight an animal can safely carry, so whether your in the US, Norway, Japan, Antartica, Ethiopia it doesn't matter.



10:20 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Well I am not a vet, but so is not either TR. I think this discussion is far OT but to end my part of the debate I checked around. The two norwegian producers of dogpacks BOTH claimed 50% for max with extremely well trained dogs, and 33% for normal healthy dogs. These are well renowned companies, with best in test products. I also found a dogowner-forum that ended up in an discussion with the same result.

Sure there are hundreds of vets that will say one thing, but so maybe there is a lot that would say otherwise. The only conclusion I would draw after checking the matter is that opinions are different, but here in my country the majority tends to say what the two producers claimed.

As I consider us humans to be animals also, I must say that in my younger days I could carry 50% of my weight with just a bit of unease. Now at the age of 64 I think I could still do it. It would however demand more training than before.



8:52 p.m. on October 12, 2011 (EDT)
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I have owned and trained purebred, some champion, large breed hunting and working dogs from age 8 to my current age of 65. I have largely specialized in Rottweilers from age 40 to the present and have had my dogs on Canadian Coast Guard Lightstations on remote islands, BC Forest Service fire lookouts and in many other wilderness and stressful environments.  I have also been on several long, wilderness horsepack treks for a fortnight in some of North America's most remote mountain wilderness and packed my own horse.

I used to carry loads approaching 150 lbs to 7000 ft. firelookouts in the BC Rockies and have backpacked 100+ lb. loads of meat and gear many times. I can quite easily carry 90 lbs. for hours in most terrain and this is a moderate load in much wilderness backpacking when hunting or working. I need to condition  for this as I did not used to bother when younger, but, it is not that difficult and I rather enjoy it.

Otto is right, my current male, just past four years, mighty "Trojan's Diamond in the Ruff", weighs about 125 lbs., went V-1 in his first and only show and can easily carry 75 lbs. My bitch, Canadian Champion Von Kruzenhaus's Quean Lily Lovelyface, can at a good 90 lbs, can pack 50 lbs. and still scamper along like the little scamp she is.


My dogs have ALWAYS lived far longer than those of my friends and colleagues and I constantly receive compliments and questions on them and always have. I DO NOT ABUSE ANIMALS and local breeders of purebred Rottweilers often OFFER me FREE dogs due to the quality of the home I provide and my ability to gently handle even big problem Rotts that others have mishandled...I can document this, of course.

I would NOT pack a big dog, such as a Rott, Bouvier, Pyrenees, Swiss MD or Owcharka, with more than 15% of body weight UNTIL he is past THREE and then slowly work up to what I felt that dog's maximum weight is and that does differ between apparently equal specimens of the same breed as abilities to perform physical activities does among, few can fight like Joe Louis.

It takes some actual field experience to learn what really can be done by dogs, horses and even people and a good dog can perform in tough country like no other animal, given the right breeding, care, training and AFFECTION. Mighty Cisco, WANTS to work, all good Rottweilers do just as good hunting breeds want to hunt.....just like the best people.

6:33 a.m. on October 13, 2011 (EDT)
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It really doesn't change the facts. Just because a dog can carry something doesn't mean they should. My whole point here is it is unhealthy for the dog to carry that much weight, the same as it is unhealthy for a human to carry 150lbs. I understand you 'can' carry it, I also had to hump 100-150lbs packs often when in the military.

So when I say abuse, i don't mean you are hitting your dogs , or otherwise. Your abusing their bodies internally by making them carry so much weight.

A dog can't tell you no, or can't say this hurts me or i don't feel good. They will whimper or yelp when in actual immediate sharp pain, but other than that they usually just go along because it's making their owner happy. aka in your words they 'WANT' to work.  But they are suffering permenant damage to their skeletal structure and muscles every time they do. Dog's bodies are not designed to carry weight, and so the problem gets compounded.

I agree dogs want and even like to work. And If your dog carried some 50% of its body weight every now and then for whatever reason it's probably not a huge deal, but doing so on a routine basis is abuse to their body, no matter if you see it that way or not.

I sled, pull, and pack with my dog, and have grown up training dogs to do the same. But experiences in training and in the field etc arn't the same as medical knowledge and fact.

If yall have any pictures of your dog carrying 50-75lbs i would love to see it, it's such a high number I almost find it hard to believe. That is enough weight for me and my dog combined, what on earth are yall bringing with you?

3:05 p.m. on October 13, 2011 (EDT)
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They can carry their food, bowl, a towel or two, and whatever other goodies are specifically for them.  I see no reason why they should hump anything else.  They aren't miniature pack mules.  I haven't ever seen this be a problem.  Just saying.

Just be careful you don't pack anything hard or with sharp edges, like food cans or pots, in their packs.  Their elbows and knees bounce off those packs like crazy.  No need to crack and shatter bones or create arthritis problems later in their life.

2:46 p.m. on October 14, 2011 (EDT)
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texas trekker said:

Anytips for training your dog to carry a pack?

 What about training for picking up their own poop ?

April 5, 2020
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