Nekoda loves hiking and carrying his back pack through the Oregon wilderness with his owner Sally Freeman of Warrenton, OR. The 11-year-old mixed-breed dog is a member of the AKC Canine Partners program with the AKC formal name of Nekoda Pepper Freeman-Forster.
If you would like to start hiking with your dogs and want them to carry their own supplies, here are some tips for getting started. Dogs of any size and breed can enjoy this activity as long as you approach it safely and keep the distance/difficulty in proper perspective for your dog’s age and physical ability.
Health Check: Before starting any new physical activity, check with your veterinarian and get their OK and advice.
Weight of pack: In general, young and healthy dogs can carry up to 25% of their weight. Some breeds can carry 10% to 15% more, while other breeds aren’t cut out to carry much at all. This is a good topic to discuss with your vet.
Fitting the pack: Measure the circumference of your dog’s chest. Most packs have a specific size so you can find the corresponding measurement. Then place the middle of the pack on your dog’s back. Straps usually fasten around the waist, chest and/or around the neck. Adjust all straps to tighten the pack to fit your dog’s body. Don’t pull too tight, but also be aware that a too-loose pack can slip off.
Supplies for the pack: Good items for your dog to carry include a collapsible water bowl, high-protein snacks (doggy power bars), and dog waste bags. (Don’t forget to clean up after your dog on the trail.) On a hot day, you might want to insert a cool pack into their backpack.
Check Park Regulations: Always research the parks and wilderness areas that you plan to hike and review the dog regulations. Make sure dogs are allowed and in what areas of the park. Be a responsible dog owner and keep your dog on leash.
Several AKC Breed National Clubs offer Working Dog or Pack Dog programs that allow dogs to earn titles for hiking specific distances while carrying packs of various weights. Some clubs open some of these events to all dogs, not just dogs of their breed club.