Teach Your Dog To Wear A Backpack

If you saw my last post, you can tell I love to hike, and so does Xander! It’s kinda hard to tell by looking at him, but he is half Great Pyrenees. He loves to go on long hikes, and here in the Pacific Northwest we have lots of trails to explore. Getting out into the mountains is one of our favorite activities.


We have not, however, been very good about prepping for our hikes. We usually carry far less water than we should. I can’t carry a backpack due to a shoulder injury, and my waist pack only carries a couple small bottles.

Xander to the rescue! He is a strong, healthy 2 year old boy, and he weighs about 100 pounds. He could easily carry our supplies. So I purchased a backpack for him, and it just arrived. Naturally we had to try it out right away.

Finding dog backpacks is easy. Large online retailers like Amazon have many to choose from – it’s choosing just one that’s hard! Color, style, size, you can pretty much get anything you want.


I got a nylon, saddlebag-style by Legendog. At $18.99 it makes a nice starter pack. I don’t want to invest $50 or more until I have Xander totally comfortable with packing.

This is a nice pack. Good sized main bags on each side with multiple smaller pockets. It even comes with a folded up travel bowl in it’s own pocket. It’s lightweight nylon, but I am wondering about it’s overall durability at the seams. That’s something only time and use will tell though. I like the bright color – it makes Xander a whole lot more visible, and less likely to be mistaken for some wild animal when we’re out on the trail.

Xander is very used to me draping things on him, so he didn’t flinch when I slipped the pack over his head and draped on on his back. But not every dog will react as calmly. If you want to teach your dog to wear a pack, introduce it to him slowly. Move in stages.

  • Let your dog sniff and investigate the new pack before you attempt to put it on.
  • Gently touch the pack to your dog’s back, shoulder’s and chest. Build to light, brushing strokes with the pack.
  • Drape the pack on your dog’s back.
  • Fasten the straps and adjust.

At each stage, observe your dog closely. Praise your dog! If she stays calm, encourage her with phrases like “Good dog!” and use treats to really reinforce that wearing the pack is a good, positive event.

Look for signs of stress or discomfort, like yawning, avoiding eye contact, or laying ears flat. If you see these, stop, and back up to the last stage your dog was comfortable at.

Lastly, add weight gradually! And be sure to keep it balanced. Today, Xander is carrying my phone in a wallet-type case on one side, and a change purse with a couple dollars in it on the other. Slowly increasing weight gives your dog time to adjust to the feel and motion of the pack on her body, and build strength.

The most important step – have fun! Be sure you and your dog are relaxed and happy, or teaching her to wear a backpack will never succeed. Go as slow as you need to. Just because Xander here picked it up quickly doesn’t mean every dog will. Go at YOUR dog’s pace! Observe her responses to the pack, to the weight.

For more more information about how to train, check out my book Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. I cover what you need to know about how to observe, understand and communicate with your dog so your training lasts a lifetime. Plus how to do more, like hiking! Follow the link above to my publisher, and use this coupon code “dct-ftg” at checkout for an additional 15% off!

Pokémon Go With Your Dog – Five Essential Gaming Tips

Xander, snuggling with new buddy, Goldeen.
Xander, snuggling with new buddy, Goldeen.

OMG it’s everywhere! Herds roam parks and streets hunting the elusive Vaporeon, snapping up common Pidgeys and Wheedles, hoping for a Pikachu. These Poke-Zombies stare at their phones and bump into strangers as they stagger about.

It doesn’t have to be like that! If you’ve been living under a rock you haven’t heard, Pokémon Go is a free game app that is played by getting out and walking around. A refreshing change from huddling in dark basements chewing Cheetos, gamers now have to get some fresh air and exercise to play this game.

Your objective is to catch as many Pokémon as possible. As you walk around in the real world, Pokémon – little critters that like to fight – pop up on the game’s map, generated using GPS and your phone’s camera. Aim your camera and the game superimposes an image of the little monster in the display. You catch it by throwing a Pokeball at it, swiping the ball on the screen with your finger at the animated creature bouncing at you.

I am not a video gamer, but this app has me hooked. It’s easy and fun. I walk twice as far now when I’m out and about because I’m hunting Pokémon. Because I walk with my dog, this means we’re both getting more exercise. Yay! Right?

If you need just a little more incentive to get you and your dog outside and exercising, give Pokémon Go a try. But please, for everyone’s sake, be careful! People have walked off cliffs for crying out loud! If it’s you and your dog, you’ll have to be doubly aware, for both your sakes.

No! Tentacool shall not have my Xander!
Tentacool! Get away from Xander!

Keep these five tips in mind when you and your furry BFF are out on the Poke-hunt.

Safety. Safety. Safety. Always stay aware of where you are, and who is around you. Be aware of where your dog is and what he’s doing, as well as what people are doing to your dog. I’ve had people swat at, and startle, my dog when they thought I wasn’t looking. Then they found out my bark was worse than my dog’s.

Pay attention to your dog, not just your phone. These are public, sometimes busy places. Is your dog okay with this? Make sure it’s fun for him too, not an exercise in anxiety. If your dog isn’t used to being in crowds, start by taking him to less busy places first and gradually build to longer times and more crowded spaces.

How’s the weather? A beautiful sunny day is a great day for a walk, but Pokémon flourish in well-populated places that are often paved. Sunny days mean hot walkways, which can be uncomfortable or dangerous for your dog. Provide lots of breaks in the shade and water on hot days.

Can your dog walk that far? Confession time – more than once I’ve spent 2-3 hours out playing Pokémon Go with my dog. Xander is a young, healthy Great Pyrenees mix that regularly goes on long, strenuous hikes with me. A slow amble along the waterfront is a pleasant day out with Mom. This exact same activity would be torture for my 9-year-old Lab, Golly who has hip dysplasia. Be mindful of how much activity your dog can do. Golly loves short walks on even ground, exactly what my local shopping center – a Pokémon rich environment – can provide. This helps keep her in shape while not putting too much stress on her body. Plan your Pokémon Go sessions with your dog around their physical abilities, not yours.

Keep it clean. Encourage your dog to eliminate away from the most heavily traveled areas by taking them to grassy areas or curb strips frequently. Try to avoid letting your dog urinate where people would sit or linger like benches or low walls. Pick up solid waste and dispose of in trashcans. You could face a fine if you don’t pick up after your dog.

Want to double the fun? Make it a game for your dog and training time too! This extra time with your dog provides ample opportunity to train. Don’t be a Poke-Zombie; give your dog a fair division of your attention too. Wondering what to do besides hunt Pokémon?

  • Practice behaviors like Sit, Down and Stay by posing your dog, like I did with Xander. Then take pictures of your dog and the Pokemon together to brag about on Facebook.
  • Teach her something new.
  • Practice with distractions to teach her to focus and pay attention to you.

It’s no fun for her if you just drag her along at the end of the leash while you play on your phone. Make sure you’re paying at least as much attention to your dog as your game to help build the bond between you.

Want to learn more about how to train your dog? Check out my book Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. I teach you how to understand and communicate with your dog, so you really can be best friends forever. Follow this link and use the coupon code dct-ftg at checkout for 15% off!