Whether you’re going on a day hike or a multi-day camping trip, you may be wondering if your dog can handle your weight.
Walking your dog is a fun activity, but it sure would be nice to share the load with your furry companion.
In this article, we’ll explore how much weight a dog can carry, but also whether or not it makes sense for all dogs (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).
Not all dogs of all breeds, ages, and health states need to carry a pack, I’ll go into more detail on that below.
Before planning any trips with your backpack-wearing canine, make sure your dog is used to the feel of the bags and the ultimate load.
We don’t want surprises along the way.
Here’s a little checklist of things to keep in mind when hanging that backpack on your dog.
- Your dog is fit and able to carry his backpack.
- The dog’s backpack fits him well
- The weight is distributed evenly.
- The dog will carry something that is really useful or has fun doing it.
- Established emergency plan (eg, rescue sling)
Let’s take a look at how much weight your dog can carry.
How much weight can a dog carry?
Beginning adult dogs can start carrying 10% of their body weight and gradually increase to a maximum of 20-25%. Older people, puppies and sick dogs should not carry a significant load.
The absolute maximum is 25% for certain breeds as healthy adults, ideally between 2-6 years of age and trained.
Sure, some dogs can carry a bit more, but the risks just aren’t worth it in my opinion.
Consider yourself and how much you can carry.
Outdoor gear giant REI recommends up to 20% of your body weight for a loaded backpacking pack and 10% for a day hiking pack.
A fit 150lb is certainly in no rush to climb mountains with 30lb gear.
According to NPR, there may be Sherpas that can climb Mount Everest with “nearly 90 percent of their body weight.”
But that article also mentions that a physically fit American will tire at 20-25% of their body weight after a day or two of walking.
So don’t go out there and assume your pup has super canine strength. Small to medium dogs just can’t carry much.
Consider this: The Deuter Futura 32L pack I own weighs 1440g (3.2lbs) on its own. So a 15kg (approximately 33lbs) dog would already have 10% of his body weight with just this human pack.
To keep it simple, I’ve created this little chart so you know exactly how much your dog can carry, depending on his body weight and experience.
|dog weight||10% (beginner)||fifteen%||25% (expert)|
|10 pounds||1 pound||1.5||2.5|
|20 pounds||2 pounds||3||5|
|30 pounds||3 pounds||4.5||7.5|
|40 pounds||4 lbs||6||10|
|50 pounds||5 pounds||7.5||12.5|
|60 pounds||6 pounds||9||fifteen|
|70 pounds||7 pounds||10.5||17.5|
|80 pounds||8 pounds||12||twenty|
|90 pounds||9 pounds||13.5||22.5|
|100 pounds||10 pounds||fifteen||25|
|120 pounds||12 pounds||18||30|
|140 pounds||14 pounds||twenty-one||35|
Tip: Consider the weight of the dog harness and bags, especially if you have a small dog.
Depending on size, I’ve found sturdy dog harnesses with bags that weigh anywhere from 1.74 to 2.97 lbs.
Lighter harnesses, like the one made by Ruffwear, still weigh about 0.8 lbs – 1.3 lbs (360g – 590g), depending on the model.
Other than that, you need to make sure that the backpack fits you well.
Make sure the belly the straps do not limit the movement of the shoulders and that the chest strap is above the shoulders.
The bags that your dog will carry should not hang too much or be too tight and the weight should be evenly distributed between the two sides.
Ask yourself if your dog will really have fun carrying that backpack.
Some breeds are designed for this, others just aren’t.
Whether you want to do this simply to split the load or to provide your dog with a job, it should always be fun and not too strenuous for your dog.
Last but not least, have a backup plan if your dog is injured and can no longer carry the backpack.
Can you carry the backpack and your dog in a rescue sling if the time comes?
Introduces hiking with the pack!
To make sure your dog accepts the hiking package, please follow these steps:
- Hike for 2-3 hours without a backpack for a couple of weeks
- Little by little introduce the pack at home without any charge, reward
- Bring the empty package on a short trip
- Plan a couple of trips with a slightly loaded backpack
Small dogs will be significantly more affected by discharged bags and may not have as much fun as breeds bred for similar purposes.
While a 100-pound canine weighs 5 times as much as a 20-pound dog, your empty backpack only weighs twice as much.
And small dogs are generally not bred to pull weight in any shape or form.
Many small breeds are simply bred as companions (affectionately called a lap warmer or hand warmer in the past).
Even if the small breeds did do a job, it usually involved hunting, hounds and sighthounds, or specifically rat catching.
Small dogs simply aren’t built to carry a significant load, and therefore won’t benefit you much when camping in terms of load sharing.
That doesn’t mean your own small dog won’t benefit from a job to do.
If your dog is fit, having fun, and can cope with the fact that his group contribution will still be measly, you may still choose to give him something to take away.
Just be sure to discuss any issues with your vet before picking up your little dog.
Puppies and Seniors
It is generally recommended that puppies and seniors carry no more than 10% of their body weight, but personally, I would recommend not letting a puppy or senior carry any additional weight.
Puppies are growing and certain exercises should be postponed or limited until bone growth has finished around 18 months, depending on the breed.
These exercise limitations include jogging, chasing toys like a flirt stick, or other high-impact exercises.
So it’s only natural not to load your little pup with extra weight.
Also, puppies need much more socialization and exploration than they could possibly get from carrying things.
Healthy older people accustomed to carrying weights could still do so.
Personally, I would let my dog have fun enjoying his golden years, but if you think your dog enjoys it, talk to your vet to be sure.
The 10 best breeds of dogs to carry weight
Dog breeds suitable for weight carrying include the following:
- great swiss mountain dog
- bernese mountain dog
- Saint Bernard
- Cane Corso
- Argentine Dogo
- great dane
Keep in mind that your individual dog may hate carrying any type of load, breed is just an indicator, not the final factor.
Personally, I have a Rottweiler and I could definitely imagine starting to give him things to take on longer hiking trips, but I haven’t found it necessary yet.
Most of these breeds are stocky and strong enough to carry weight if properly exercised.
However, some breeds were bred for other purposes, such as hunting or guarding, and may not be interested in splitting the pack.
Breeds that are not really fit to carry weight:
- yorkshire terrier
- cavalier king charles spaniel
- french bulldog
- English bulldog
- caucasian shepherd
Smaller dogs generally won’t be able to help much with carrying the weight, while some breeds have additional respiratory issues (Cavalier Spaniel or French Bulldog).
Similarly, English Bulldogs or Dachshunds do not have a proper body structure.
You might be surprised to find large breeds like the Caucasian Shepherd on that list, but in general, herding dogs can be quite independent and stubborn, making training difficult.
If you’re a hiker and haven’t brought home a pup yet, be sure to take into account race and work abilities.
For casual hikers like me, it’s fine to bring the extra gear for my Rottweiler, but I imagine when taking longer camping trips, it might help to have a little help.
Whatever you do, prepare ahead of time and never neglect safety.
Hiking should be fun and your dog needs to slowly get used to that strange pack, especially when carrying a significant load.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for veterinary care and is not intended to be. I am not a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any signs of illness, call your vet.
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