Training your dog to carry

Pent-up (nervous) energy can result in anxiety behaviours such as destructive chewing, barking, aggression toward animals or people, jumping or hurling themselves at doors or people, running in circles, and many other unwelcome behaviours. Such behaviours can be controlled.

Intertwined in the genes of each dog breed is a 'role' - or several 'roles': some herd; some guard; some retrieve; some pull; they all carry!

Many canine professionals are of the opinion that, used correctly, back-packs can be superb training aids, making dogs more attentive and willing to accept discipline. This improvement is often most marked in high-energy dogs.

For some dogs, the feeling of being 'enclosed' in the backpack will have an immediately calming effect and therefore don't require a period of familiarisation with the back-pack.

You, however, are probably not going to be that lucky!

To train your dog in wearing a back-pack, begin with short walks using an empty back-pack. Over time, gradually add weight to the back-pack. Ensure that the weight is evenly distributed on both sides - if the weight distribution isn't balanced, the pack will gradually slide to one side, as it does so making your dog increasingly uncomfortable - and increasingly agitated!

Make sure you're not overloading the backpack with weight - watch your dog for signs of discomfort or fatigue. If you're using the back-pack as part of a training programme for a puppy take particular care and use the lightest of weights. Puppies backs are delicate things!

For many dogs, adding weight to the back-pack creates a sense of purpose which results in improved behaviour. As Cesar Millan, one of the most high-profile canine professionals, in his Sky TV series 'The Dog Whisperer' said, having loaded the back-pack with jars of pickles: "That dog is going to take those pickles somewhere!".

After a couple of days your dog will have grown familiar with wearing the Bak-Pak - many owners report a continuing improvement in behaviour as their dogs become increasingly comfortable with their back-packs.

The majority of dogs would benefit from being walked for several hours every day. Unfortunately, modern lifestyles rarely make available that amount of time. Cesar Millan goes on to say: "If you have a high-level-energy dog, it's not going to be happy with a one- hour walk. Those types of dogs are going to require more than one hour of physical challenge in the outside world. There is a way we can intensify one hour. A dog can carry a backpack, so this way the one-hour walk becomes the equivalent of two, or even three, hours".

That's the theory; now then, the practice...

Last updated: 28 January 2010

All content of Ian Evans 2010