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A Guide to Backpacking with Your Dog

A Guide to Backpacking with Your Dog

by Charlene G. LaBelle

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Guide to backpacking that provides information on selecting the right pack, planning what equipment to take, determining how much weight a dog can carry, and how to handle emergency situations.


Guide to backpacking that provides information on selecting the right pack, planning what equipment to take, determining how much weight a dog can carry, and how to handle emergency situations.

Editorial Reviews

American Dog Packing Association
This book is a goldmine of valuable information about taking yourself and your dog into the wilderness, and...almost all of the information is applicable to day-hiking as well. Highly recommended.
Dave Musikoff
Colorado Libraries
There is just one experience more enjoyable than hiking or backpacking and that is to share the adventure with companions who derive similar pleasure. And if you are a dog owner-well, need we say more. ...a concise, yet comprehensive guide which covers nearly every contingency...
Off Lead
Many dog owners also tend to be lovers of outdoor activities, especially those that can be shared with pets. One such activity is backpacking. Charlene LaBelle has written a very useful book on this subject...The text is short, easy to understand, and chock full of all kinds of information related to hiking with our canine friends.

Product Details

Alpine Blue Ribbon Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.02(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.29(d)

Read an Excerpt

Choosing a Pack


A dog pack is made up of two compartments (pack, panniers, pouches or saddle bags) in which the dog can carry items. These packs are attached via a yoke or pad placed over the dog�s shoulders. The packs (containers) are most commonly made in one of three shapes: square or box shape, saddle bag or U shape, or contour. The square (box) shape is probably the most common and fits the most gear.

The most important things to remember when selecting a pack are that it must properly fit your dog and it should be suitable for the type of hiking you plan to do. Then, purchase a quality pack. Don�t compromise on quality to save money. Some companies that make great dog packs also sell marginal packs. Check with local outdoor or camping equipment stores to see if they carry dog packs. Many of the larger pet stores also carry them. If you can�t find a pack locally, you can always mail order (see appendices), but be sure to return the pack if it doesn�t fit properly. If possible, take your dog with you when you go to purchase a pack. If you have a puppy you are considering training to pack, wait until he has reached his adult size before buying a pack. That way you won�t need to purchase another, larger pack as he grows.

Most packs are sized according to a dog�s weight. They usually are available in small size (30 to 50 pounds), large (75 to 100 pounds), and extra large (for dogs over 100 pounds). The average cost is between twenty and seventy-five dollars, depending upon size and quality.

Packs are available in many shapes, colors and designs. In addition, there are one, two, and even three piece packs. Cheaper packs may have only two straps, while the better ones have three or four straps to hold the pack in place. Whatever pack you decide upon, I cannot stress too strongly the importance of selecting one made of quality materials, the proper size and fit for your dog. A poorly fitted pack can injure your dog�s back or legs. If the packs sags, it will rub the dog�s elbows until they are raw. A pack that is too narrow will sit on top of the dog�s back and wear the coat, or even cause sores on his back. Zippers can break if the pack is poorly constructed, or, still worse, the bottom of the pack can wear through, spilling the contents on the trail.


One-Piece Packs

Many of the lightweight, one-piece packs have a narrow yoke and smaller compartments. These packs fit perfectly well on small dogs with narrow backs, and they are great for day hikes. They won�t fit Malamutes or any other breed with a wide back, and the pack space is quite small. If you plan on taking extended trips, buy a heavier pack. But, if you plan to day hike and only need to carry your lunch, water and a few small items, the one-piece nylon packs will do nicely. The better ones have three straps, and many have a place at the back where you can attach your leash.

Some one-piece packs are available in heavy-duty material. These fit the same and look the same as the two-piece packs, except that the pad is part of the pack. They come with three straps and a D-ring or loop at the center of the rear edge of the back piece.

Two-Piece Packs

A large, durable two-piece pack is the appropriate choice if you plan on making backpacking with your dog a frequent and significant activity. The pad, or yoke, of the two-piece pack is held in place by three straps. The pad, which may be contoured to fit the shape of the dog�s back, is constructed from padded canvas, nylon webbing, or nylon mesh. Some are adjustable. The better ones have soft webbing protectors at all pressure points.

The yoke should reflect the size of the dog. The larger the dog, the wider the yoke. A correctly fitted yoke will allow the panniers to hag straight down to or just slightly below the dog�s belly. It will distribute the weight of the packs evenly, insuring the dog�s comfort. If the yoke is too narrow, the packs cannot be completely filled and will look as if they are riding on top of the dog�s back. They will be difficult to balance and may wear sores on the back. If the yoke is too wide, the packs will sag and bump into the dog�s legs as he walks.

Two-piece packs weigh a little more, but the pad offers extra protection and heavier material is used in their construction. Therefore, it takes the dog longer to wear out his pack. (Yes, I have had dogs wear out packs!) I have several two-piece packs with different size packs. While I fit only one pad per dog, and he always wears the same pad, I may change the packs or panniers. I prefer the two-piece packs because I can remove the weight at lunch stops, leaving only the pad on the dog. Also, I leave the pads on overnight in camp to help identify my wolf-grey Malamutes as dogs. The pads can provide warmth in cold weather, too.

Look for pouches that are easy to detach, pack and clean. Most are made of nylon because it combines light weight with durability. Panniers are fastened to the yoke with velcro strips or buckles, or both. Again, look for quality construction: double stitching, seam binding, double zippers or at least double sliders, flaps to protect the zippers. Zippers should be of self-healing nylon.

Some panniers come with straps or ties for attaching items to the outside of the pack. On top of the yoke, look for D-rings, looks, tie-ons, or daisy chains. These extras will expand the dimensions and usefulness of the pack by allowing you to lash on your tent or tarp.

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