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Discussion Starter #1
I'm considering getting a backpack for my dog so that she can carry a bottle of water (or two, to stay balanced) on our walks. But, I have questions:

1) Is there a minimum size or weight the dog should be?
2) Is overheating a greater risk with the backpack? (Or could I use cold or semi-frozen water bottles to keep her cool?)
3) I've read about how to introduce the backpack, general weight limits (~25-30% dog's weight), and starting slowly. Is there anything I should know?

Thanks.
 

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1: Not really. My 25 pound Shiba wears a pack regularly and can easily carry 2 pounds (I won't load him with much more, he has knee issues). I've seen dogs as small as mini Poodles wearing them and some companies do make them pretty tiny. Just don't put too much in if the dog is under 25 pounds.

2: Yes and no. If you put cold water or semi frozen stuff in there, like you mentioned, there shouldn't be an increased risk. If not, there is less surface area for heat to escape and it gets trapped against the dog and can hasten heat exhaustion. It's something you should always pay attention to when the dog is wearing a pack since they are working harder, even if there are cool packs in it.

3: Before you even put it on, let the dog sniff it and place treats on it so they think it's a good thing from the start. Just introduce it slowly and add weight in small amounts so the dog can get used to the pack and build muscle for carrying weight. Give lots of treats and praise while the dog is wearing it.
I stick with 25% of the dog's weight once they have adapted to wearing the pack and carrying stuff.

My favorite pack brand is Ruff Wear. I've got three packs from them, and with the exception of a bit of wear on a strap, they are in great condition for what the dogs put them through. The harnesses the packs are built on are great. I have one Palisades which has water bladders and removable packs, one Approach (which I modded to have removable packs), and one Approach II which is a very old model (also modded). I've also got a small "daypack" by Outward Hound but it's not nearly as durable as the Ruff Wear packs, nor is it as comfortable.
 

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I've seen toys breeds out and about with backpacks and they each seemed to be happy campers. I don't know how small your dog is. It just might make it harder to find a well fitting backpack.

Always keep an eye out for overheating in hot weather with or without the pack. Take if off for water and swim breaks periodically.

Don't bother with the cheap Petco type packs. You might as well put your money straight into the trash can.
This is my favorite: http://www.ruffwear.com/Palisades-Pack_2?sc=2&category=13
I've also considered buying this one for day hikes: http://www.ruffwear.com/Singletrak-Pack?sc=2&category=13
 

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1) Is there a minimum size or weight the dog should be?
There is no minimum size or weight, but dogs should have finished their full development cycle (at about 2 1/2 years of age), before starting any weight training program to prevent permanent damage to bones, joints, and muscle tissue. Some breeds may not be suitable for weight training, such as the Dachshund and other long-backed breeds.

2) Is overheating a greater risk with the backpack? (Or could I use cold or semi-frozen water bottles to keep her cool?)
Overheating can be a risk in hot weather if the handler doesn't take proper precautions. Cold packs can help prevent heat exhaustion, but dogs wearing a backpack should be allowed to stop frequently for water breaks and rest in the shade. You should watch out for signs of dehydration such as panting, slowing down, laying down during a walk, or refusal to move.

3) I've read about how to introduce the backpack, general weight limits (~25-30% dog's weight), and starting slowly. Is there anything I should know?
First, you should take a trip to the vet to make sure your dog is in good physical health before starting any weight training program. Puppies, seniors, sick or otherwise unhealthy dogs, and certain breeds are not suitable for weight conditioning. Starting out, the backpack should not have any weight in it. You should only use one set of weights when starting out, and for a very short period of time (3-5 minutes). Gradually, you should increase the amount of time the dog spends wearing the weight vest, and then start to slowly increase the weight. Using too much weight too fast, or forcing the dog to wear the backpack longer than they can handle, can not only damage bones, joints, and muscle tissue, but they can also cause the dog to become weaker, rather than build muscle and strength.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks so much for the information. Sounds like it will be easier to get a small bag that I can carry for water. I've read that having a dog carry their own water can help them "have a job," but I don't want to risk her health. Even on the hottest, most humid day, I won't overheat in an hour and an 8 ounce water bottle is barely noticeable for me.
 
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