This is my first post in a while, mostly because I have been crazy busy lately with work (at two jobs), enjoying this beautiful Wisconsin spring (finally!), and, of course, training Sasha. We have been doing trick training, which she always loves, and have continued to work on counterconditioning for her dog reactivity. As a part of this training, we have implemented a new tool: a doggy backpack.
Backpacks for dogs serve multiple purposes. First off, they are practical, especially for this time of year: while walking or hiking, your dog can carry water for themselves, or carry their own lunch on longer trips. Many dogs enjoy having a job to do, and it can help to tire them out so you don’t need to walk for as long.
However, backpacks can also help anxious dogs: the added weight and pressure can have a calming effect, in the same way that a Thundershirt or body wrap does. Many people have observed a decrease in anxiety and/or reactivity because of this.
I have used a backpack with Sasha several times, with success. She doesn’t mind the weight on her back, and it helps so that I don’t have to walk her as long. Her reactivity continues to improve as well, although this is definitely due to many factors (continued training, anti-anxiety medication, etc.) Like anything else, a backpack is simply a tool to add to your arsenal of training methods. However, if you have a pup who is especially anxious on walks, I would encourage you to try out a backpack for your dog. At the very least, they may enjoy feeling like they have a job to do (i.e., carrying water)…and did I mention that it is darn cute? 🙂
Note: just like a new harness, your dog may need slow training, with plenty of treats, to become accustomed to the backpack. I was lucky and Sasha seemed to like it right away, although the first time she wore it I didn’t put anything in it. Also, be sure not to overload the backpack with too much weight: no more than 10% of your dog’s body weight is a good rule of thumb.