Dog packing: How to choose and pack your dog’s pack

Aaron Bible
Summit Daily News
Special to the DailyHaving the right gear for hiking is just as important for humans as it is for your pup.

Whether heading into the backcountry for days or out for a day hike, the right gear can make all the difference. And of course this is true for humans as well as for dogs. Advances in performance dog gear make bringing your four-legged friend along for the adventure easier, safer and more fun than ever before.

Benefits to utilizing the latest dog gear before heading out on the trail include better comfort and visibility for your pooch, easier handling on mixed terrain, and helping them go longer more comfortably by protecting paws and bringing plenty of food, treats and water.

Popular dog gear for warmer months includes: booties to protect paws, harnesses to ensure dog safety when crossing streams and rocks, and packs so your dog can help carry the load and make sure everyone has plenty of food and water. Packing and planning for a multi-day backpacking trip, one that is also easy on the paws, challenges us as always to consider exactly what we choose to pack in – and pack out.

>Packs are designed to fit based on your dog’s girth measurement, the widest point of your dog’s chest and rib cage area. All dogs are unique and finding the right sized pack for your canine companion is important. If it doesn’t fit, your dog won’t enjoy wearing it and it could cause rubbing and shifting. If your pup is in-between sizes, sizing down is recommended to ensure a snug fit.

>Adjust the dog pack to fit comfortably over the shoulders. Look for a pack designed to position the majority of the weight forward, rather than in the middle of the dog’s back. This allows the strong parts of your canine’s frame to support the weight.

>It’s important not to overload the saddlebags with more weight than your dog can comfortably or safely carry. The total weight of your canine’s pack should not exceed 25 percent of their body weight.

>Look for a pack with an integrated harness that supports the dog in the chest, shoulders and under the rib cage. Oftentimes thes packs are actually removable, leaving you with a sturdy harness to use any time you hike with your dog to help them up and over boulders, out of steep creek embankments and other places your dog may find him or her self.

>Be sure to load both sides of the dog pack’s saddlebags equally. Keeping the saddlebag load balanced will minimize on-trail adjustments and provide a more stable and comfortable load for your dog to carry.

>It’s a good idea to attach a bell and, if the pack doesn’t have reflective striping, some kind of blinking light or reflector to the harness for added safety.

Take a look at a few outdoor- and dog pack-manufacturer websites for more resources when preparing for an extended hike with your dog. Research your route carefully to ensure dogs are allowed on all trails – you don’t want to show up at the trail head only to find out dogs aren’t allowed and be turned back, or get halfway through your hike and find a section of trail that is unsafe or impossible for your dog to cross. And, always pick up and pack out your dog’s waste.

Plan and pack properly to ensure a safe and enjoyable time for both humans and canines. You got a dog to be your constant companion, so don’t leave him or her behind when planning your next day hike or multi-day excursion.

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