The use of a dog backpack is an awesome little tool for providing a harder workout in a much shorter amount of time. Plus, it gives your pup a job to do and they love that!
Using the Backpack for Workout Purposes
For high-energy dogs that come into our care for daycare or boarding, we increase their workouts by having them sport a backpack, if we’re taking them on a normal leash walk and provided they meet the health and physical requirements. The backpack is typically filled with either a) nothing, or b) items such as smaller water bottles. Just walking for 20 minutes with a backpack filled with two, small water bottles (one on each side), the dogs are very tired after the walk is over!
If you’re not sure how to get started for your pup, start by making sure that your pup is healthy enough to have increased workouts of this magnitude and doesn’t sport any injuries by seeking your veterinarian’s advice.
Assuming your pup is healthy and able to wear the backpack, start first by getting him/her accustomed to it. You can do this by just having him/her wear an empty backpack around the house J When your pup is comfortable with it on, go for a short walk with your pup (just keep the backpack empty for your first walk). Depending on how well he/she does, you can increase or decrease the time, leave the backpack empty or add weight to it (again, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian on the limitations or restrictions that you need to be aware of for your pup if you’re unsure)!
Giving Your Pup a J-O-B!
Dogs love to have purpose! In fact, in a dog pack, everyone has a role to play—a purpose—so giving them a job is really something they would appreciate.
A job can consist of your pup carrying items around for you and bringing them to you command or simply having them wait or stay next to you until a project you’re working on is complete. Below are a couple of simple examples.
A. Let’s say you are in need of fixing a garden hose that has sprung a leak outside. Place a roll of duct tape in a pocket on one side of your dog’s backpack and a water bottle on the other side (you never know, you may get really thirsty for some reason). Have your pup follow you outside (always practice leadership) to where the infamous hose is, place your pup in a down/stay until you have fixed the evil leak. Just simply giving your pup a job to do even though it isn’t physically exhausting will drain a lot of their mental energy because quite a few skills are being used just in this one simple exercise J
B. For this second example, let’s say that you have a lot of gardening to do (I guess I have gardening on the mind, which is funny because the “green thumb” gene bypassed me!) and too many items to carry. While you’re carrying the garden tools (this goes without saying but sharp items should NOT be placed in your dog’s backpack for safety reasons), your pup could be carrying items such as gloves, water, collapsible dog bowl (so that your pup can be hydrated, too), seed packets, bags and things of this nature. As you work at weeding the garden and walking in between the garden rows, your pup will be following you. Or you can simply put your pup in a down/stay in a particular spot, and call your pup to you to bring you something when you need it. After he/she has completed the task, give them the command to go back to their spot and lay down/stay until the next time you call them. Hopefully, their spot will be a shady spot because wearing backpacks makes one hot. If you don’t have a shady spot in your garden, or if you’re wanting your pup to follow you walking through the rows, then just make sure you’re only performing the activity for no more than 30 minutes (quite possibly even less than 30 minutes depending on the needs of your pup, weather, etc.). You can see the obvious skills that you will be using here in this exercise.
Both examples also strengthen you and your pup’s bond—a beautiful thing!
Another way the backpack can come in handy is if you’re busy working with your pup on breed exercises or other types of training such as SAR (Search and Rescue). If it’s raining outside and you need something constructive to do with your pup indoors to help deplete his/her energy, you can put some items in the backpack and have your pup bring them to you. This not only puts weight on him/her while moving but also gives a nice refresher on skills training using the commands such as “come”, “wait” or “stay”, “down” and whatever other commands you have taught or are teaching your pup. Again, it also enhances your bond with your pup.