Humans and dogs may be more alike than you think. For example, the fitness level of a human often determines the fitness of their canine counterpart. A dog’s health depends on quality food and exercise much like us, and with the expanding market of dog products, they are often geared up similar to humans, too. They have one more striking similarity to humans that you may not know—they require conditioning before a packing trip just like humans.
You wouldn’t strap on 25 percent of your body weight into a brand new pack and head to the mountains, and neither should your dog. Here’s the correct way to condition your dog and break in their pack.
Most dogs are up to the task and eager to carry a load, but some may show reluctance when placed in a pack. Make sure the pack is properly fitted and empty, then immediately engage the dog in a fun activity (such as walk), so the dog associates the pack with something they enjoy.
Use of a dog pack and dog boots require conditioning and a “break-in” period just like human gear. Take your dog on mini-adventures around the block before taking them on a long hike, gradually increasing the walk’s intensity, duration, and incline. Once the dog shows signs of increased endurance and comfort with the pack, add small, light loads to the pack until they work their way up to 25-30 percent of their body weight.
Matching a pack to the dog’s size is key. A properly fitted pack will not shift or rotate, and the saddlebags should not drag on the ground. The pack should be tightened, but allow two fingers between the dog and the body of the pack.
Be sure to choose a trail that meets the fitness level of you and your dog. This means being aware of how much you are packing up–up to 25-30% of your dog’s weight, depending on their health and fitness level. Keep the adventure enjoyable by checking for signs skin irritation , heat stroke, or exhaustion (panting, red gums, vomiting, or confusion).