Doggy Backpacks. 5 Important Things to Keep Your Dog Safe in a Pack.

 
Charlie enjoying a hike along the coast in his doggy backpack.

Charlie enjoying a hike along the coast in his doggy backpack.

Doggy backpacks are all the rage right now. It’s not surprising since they let us take our kiddos with us to places they might not otherwise have access to. However, there are some safety tips to be aware of in order keep your pup in a pack safe. Whether you’re exploring the urban jungle or a wooded trail, know before you go.


5 things to know to keep your dog safe in a doggy backpack

  1. Ventilation

    By far the most important factor to consider is keeping your dog cool. Even if the pack you’re using has side ventilation built in, don’t forget that your dog hangs out in a fur coat 24/7. On a warm day, that ventilation on the sides of the pack might not be enough to allow airflow to circulate. In addition, YOUR body temperature can effect your dog too! Your pup is having a blast looking over your shoulder while you carry them around but, as your body temperature elevates from all the leg work, so can theirs! They’re pressed right up against you and stuck in a bag with a fur coat on! That heat transfer can be dangerous if you’re not paying attention. Couple that with any direct sunlight and you could have a very hot dog in a short period of time. To avoid this, try to hike in the cooler parts of the day like early morning or evening. If you have to hike in the warmer parts of the day for some reason, make it short or allow frequent breaks for your dog to get out of the bag and watch for signs of them being too hot (detailed in Tip #4).

  2. Hydration…in the begging position?

    Water is critical for helping your dog stay cool. However, drinking from the “begging position” that doggy backpacks require your dog to be in, might not be comfortable for them.  You should offer your pup water often but if they’re not drinking while you’re carrying them, take them out of the pack and offer them water while they’re on all fours…the same way they drink water at home. Just because they reject your offers of water while they’re in the pack doesn’t mean they don’t need or want it. Give them the opportunity to drink in their natural position and make sure you pack plenty of water for both of you!

  3. Medical Conditions. Paralysis. Short nosed breeds.

    If you follow little Charlie on his adventures, you know that he has congestive heart failure. This means that any excess heat that he has to manage by panting can put extra strain on his little heart. If your pup has CHF or any other medical condition of the heart, you should pay extra close attention to making sure they stay cool while in their doggy backpack. Pet parents of short nosed nosed pups that often already have breathing issues, (such as a Pug, Frenchy, Shih-tzu, etc.) should also be a bit more mindful of this. These little muppets already struggle to manage their airways. Keeping them cool is one way you can make life much easier and safer for them. Also, be mindful of any hip or spine issues your dog might have. That begging position is cute and all but staying in it for long periods of time in a bag might not be comfortable for pups with arthritis or other orthopedic issues. If your dog is paralyzed like my Charlie, don’t forget that they typically can’t untwist their little legs or un-kink their tail on their own. Pay close attention to how their legs and tail are positioned before you zip up their pack and when you stop for a break, make sure their little body is still in alignment. This goes for able bodied dogs as well! Make sure they have enough room in the bag to readjust their body if they need to.

  4. Know the Signs of Overheating

    It’s 100% your responsibility to keep your dog safe. Preventing them from overheating is critical but being able to recognize the signs and symptoms is equally as important so you can help them should it happen. If your dog is presenting with ANY of the following, they’re in trouble::

         * Excessive Panting/hyperventilation

         * Dry bright red toungue and gums that then become pale

         * Excessive drooling

         * Confusion

         * Weakness

         * Vomiting

         * Diarrhea

Any of these things points to a dog that’s in distress and needs to be treated like an emergency.


To learn what to do if your dog is overheating

read this blog post I wrote.


5. Keep it Brief

Start off with short distances on terrain you’re familiar with such as your neighborhood park or local trail. It’s important for both you and your pup to get used to the bag before venturing on a bigger adventure. Making any necessary adjustments while you’re close to home is far better than realizing something’s wrong while you’re out on a trail somewhere.


To be safe, hike with your dog in the cooler parts of the day if possible and take frequent breaks to let them out to stretch their legs and cool off.


If you’re using a “regular” backpack (not specifically designed for dogs), your pooch could be even more at risk for overheating. Even if it’s a light-weigh pack with thin material, remember THEY’RE WEARING A FUR COAT and YOUR body heat can impact theirs. Seek the expertise of a backpack repair expert at your local outdoor gear shop. Have some mesh ventilation panels sewn in or find a commercial seamstress in your area with the right kind of equipment and experience to make sure it’s done correctly.


Hiking with your dog in their very own pack can be a blast if you’re smart about it and take the right precautions.


Your dogs rely on you to keep them safe so, make sure you’re prepared to do that by following some basic safety guidelines. Happy trails and safe hiking! Let Charlie and I know what you’re up to out there!