Wanting to put a backpack on your dog while out for walks or exploring trails? Backpacks are great for dogs!
It can help condition them to be stronger and lets them contribute to the hike by carrying a few of their own supplies.
But after putting a pack on your four legged friend you may start to wonder how much weight can your dog is safe for your dog to carry in a backpack?
The answer in short, it depends. Age, conditioning and even their breed all makes a difference.
Some breeds of dogs are great for hiking, while others not so much
Read on below to figure out how much your dog can safely carry.
How Much Weight Should You Put in Your Dogs Backpack?
In short, your dog can usually carry somewhere between 10% to 20% of their weight in their backpack.
Factors that effect how much weight they should carry depends on their age, conditioning and the hike itself.
If your dog is new to carrying a backpack, 10% is a safe starting weight. Once they are fully conditioned, your dog could carry up to, but no more than 20% of their weight.
If they are a puppy or a senior, keep to the 10% rule and don’t push the weight any further. Their bodies won’t be able to hold the weight the same way a healthy younger adult dog will.
Let’s break it down with a little example
How much weight can a 50lb Dog Carry?
An unconditioned dog not used to carrying a pack can safely carry 5lbs. This is 10% of his weight.
However, if you are avid hikers and your dog is used to carrying a backpack with some weight in it, then your dog could carry up to 10 lbs.
And since they can’t directly speak to you, always err on the side of caution and go with a lower weight.
Here is a little chart to help you figure out an appropriate weight for your dog to carry.
Dogs Weight Vs. How Much They Can Carry
|Dogs weight||Unconditioned (10 %)||Conditioned (20%)|
|10 lbs||1 lb||2 lbs|
|20 lbs||2 lbs||4 lbs|
|30 lbs||3 lbs||6 lbs|
|40 lbs||4 lbs||8 lbs|
|50 lbs||5 lbs||10 lbs|
|60 lbs||6 lbs||12 lbs|
|70 lbs||7 lbs||14 lbs|
|80 lbs||8 lbs||16 lbs|
|90 lbs||9 lbs||18 lbs|
|100 lbs||10 lbs||20 lbs|
|110 lbs||11 lbs||22 lbs|
Other Factors That Effect How Much a Dog Can Carry
While the chart above can be useful as a general guide considering the weight of your dog, there are other factors to consider.
Things like age, health issues, conditioning, how long you’ll be walking or hiking, the weather and terrain, and the backpack itself.
We already mentioned age as a determining factor. Very young and very old dogs simply can’t handle as much weight.
Generally dogs under 2 are considered puppies. While classifying dogs as “seniors” depends on their weight.
Smaller dogs are considered in their “senior years” after the age of 10-11 while larger dogs fall into the senior category at 7-8 years of age.
If your dog has any health issues, this should definitely be weighed into account. Things like arthritis, back problems or breathing issues will effect the stamina and tolerance for carrying weight.
Always check with your vet to make sure hiking and wearing a pack is safe for your dog before embarking on your adventures.
Again, we mentioned conditioning. The more your dog is active and walking with a pack, the more they will be conditioned to carry more weight.
You can start conditioning your dog to wear a backpack by taking him for walks with the pack on, secure and empty.
From there you can slowly add more weight over consecutive walks and hikes.
How Long is the Hike
The longer your dog is wearing the pack, the more he’ll start to feel drained, tired and sore.
When deciding weight your dog should carry on a particular hike, count in how long you’ll be hitting the trails.
How many miles a dog can hike depends on several factors, including how much weight he is carrying. The more weight in the pack means the shorter distance to hike for, and vice versa.
The Weather & Terrain
And finally, a big factor is weather and terrain. If the weather is hot, your dog will be come tired, drained and dehydrated a lot quicker than in mild weather.
If the terrain you’ll be trekking on is rough and uneven, added weight in your dogs pack could cause theme to be unsteady and further at risk for injury.
The Backpack Your Dog Is Wearing
It’s essential that your dogs backpack fits securely, without being too snug and that the weight is distributed well in the pack.
Most dog backpacks out there are designed well enough to distribute the weight equally on both sides of your dog. This helps distribute the pressure.
When choosing a pack, make sure to pick one that secures over a larger surface of their back.
Skinny straps that only attach in 2 places on your dog, means more pressure in those areas.
You want equally distributed pressure as much as possible.
The fit is a big deal to. A loose fitting back could throw your dogs balance off, causing them to slip or injure their back or legs.
Are Dog Backpacks Safe?
Backpacks are one of our favorite items on our hiking with dogs essential gear.
But I do urge you to not to put too much strain on your dog.
Their bodies aren’t meant for carrying a lot of weight.
Stay within the guide lines listed above to make sure you don’t injure or overburden you dogs body.
Dogs tend to be better at pulling weight rather than carrying it. For example, sled dogs.
However carrying some weight is a great way to condition and strengthen their body while getting great exercise.
Make Sure to Weigh Your Dog & The Loaded Backpack
For safety’s sake, make sure to know your dogs actual weight and how much the backpack is fully loaded.
This can be done with a simple every day scale. To easily do this, weigh yourself first, then pick up your dog and weigh both of you together.
Then subtract your weight and that should be your dogs actual weight.
Repeat the process again with their loaded pack instead of your dog.
This will give you a more accurate weight of everything in the pack along with the backpacks weight.
Watch Your Dogs Body Language
Simply watching your dog and how they are reacting will tell you a lot. If your dog is slowing down, panting more than normal, or constantly stopping, it may be time to relieve him of the extra weight.
Make sure they are getting plenty of water, rest when needed and a few high protein snacks to keep their energy levels up.
When in doubt, lower the weight in your dogs pack or take it off completely and try again another time and with less weight.
What Should I Put in My Dogs Pack
No need to go looking for extra weight to put in your dogs backpack. Load him up with his own necessities.
This could be a simple first aid kit for smaller dogs and larger dogs can carry the food and water they’ll need for that day.
You can also throw in lighter, but bulkier items if the pack is large, such as poop bags for if your dog poops on the hike, or a small towel in case things get muddy.
If we are hiking in the mountains, I’ll have Jack carry his own dog hiking shoes in case the terrain gets too rough for his paws.
It’s one of the ways you can protect your dogs paws while hiking.
I wouldn’t recommend putting important items like your wallet, phone or keys, however. If your dog gets lost, somehow damages the pack, or even finds a river to jump in, it could spell disaster.
When figuring out how much weight to put in your dogs backpack, a little common sense can go a long way.
Most important stay within the guidelines above and watch your dogs behavior and reactions. Remember, the whole point is to let you and your dog enjoy the beauty of the hike and the wonders of nature.