If you want a backpack for your small dog – which is generally accepted to be dogs 25 lbs or under – but are having a hard time finding one that fits, you’ve come to the right place.
Looking for Backpacks to Carry Your Small Dog in? Check Out This Article.
I’ve been hiking with my small dogs for over 15 years. I also worked at a large outdoor retailer for 6 years.
I’m not only familiar with what is available but a good judge of quality gear (my standards are even a little higher than most I think).
While my little dogs don’t wear a backpack to carry their own stuff – mostly because the ones available are too small to be of any use to me – I have been on the lookout for what would fit.
Below are my recommendations for backpacks that will fit small and very small dogs.
How Much Weight Can a Small Dog Carry in a Backpack?
The first thing you should think about is whether your small dog can carry enough weight to make investing in a dog backpack worth it to you.
The amount of stuff your small dog can carry in a dog backpack is primarily determined by their weight.
I suggest not exceeding 8-10% of body weight.
Don’t just guess. Weight your dog’s backpack on a scale before heading out on your hike.
A more common suggestion is no more than 10-12% of your dog’s body weight but remember this weight includes the weight of the pack.
Subtracting 2% to compensate for the weight of the backpack itself gives you a more realistic maximum weight your dog should carry on a hike.
|Dog Weight||8% of body Weight||10% of body weight|
|5 lbs/2.27 kg||0.4 lb/6.4 oz/0.18 kg||0.5 lb/8 oz/0.23 kg|
|10 lb/4.54 kg||0.8 lb/12.8 oz/0.36 kg||1 lb/16 oz/0.45 kg|
|15 lb/6.80 kg||1.2 lbs/19.2 oz/0.54||1.5 lb/24 oz/0.68 kg|
|20 lb/9.07 kg||1.6 lbs/25.6 oz/0.73 kg||2.0 lb/32 oz/0.91 kg|
|25 lb/11.34 kg||2 lbs/32 oz/0.91 kg||2.5 lb/40 oz/1.13 kg|
In most cases, you will be limited by capacity. Likely to run out of space before the back gets too heavy.
For example, I have an XXS Doggles pack for my Dachshund and I can fit a small amount of treats, a small ball, and roll of poop bags. With the pack, that weighted 8 oz or half a pound.
Also keep in mind that the weights above are the typical maximum.
Your dog will need to start with ¼ to ½ of the suggested maximum, gain strength and confidence, and then work their way up to carrying the full weight.
However, your dog may be able to carry closer to 20% of their body weight after a lot of practice and conditioning. It’s typically not recommended though unless your dog is an athlete.
How to Choose the Correct Size Backpack for Your Dog
There are a lot of articles out there on properly fitting your dog for a backpack.
There is no need for me to rehash the details but here are the basics:
The most important measurements you will need to know when selecting a pack for your small dog are:
- Neck circumference at the base
- Girth around the widest part of the rib cage
- Length (optional – some packs don’t list this measurement in their size chart)
Compare these measurements against the size chart for the pack you want to purchase (size charts will vary among brands) to make your selection.
A snug fit is very important so it doesn’t shift around or the load doesn’t slip to one side when weighted.
A snug fit is very important so your dog’s backpack doesn’t shift around, or the load doesn’t slip to one side, with weight in it.
Now, here is where my personal experience with outdoor gear and hiking with dogs comes in.
Most articles you find about choosing a pack for small dogs does not include information about small dogs under 30 lbs. So here is my advice.
While it’s important that you don’t end up with a pack that is too small for your dog, choose the smallest size that will fit.
Straps can stretch when they get wet and with wear. The chances are, you will have to tighten the straps on your dog’s backpack at some point to keep it from sliding around.
Because of this, you’ll need leeway to shorten the pack straps.
For a small dog with a deep chest and small waist like Dachshunds, when selecting a harness with a chest strap and also one further back (like the ones from Ruffwear), you will want to find a pack that is a shorter length along the back.
Ideally, the whole back to fit the widest part of them (the rib cage).
Dog backpacks are not designed to fit such a wide size range (ie. it’s expected that the circumference of the dog is similar throughout their length.
For dogs with a more prominent breast bone, a harness with a strap that is designed to run down the middle of the chest will likely slip to one side.
This will shift the weight of the pack and cause the pack to chafe your dog.
If your dog has a prominent chest bone, it’s ideal to choose a dog backpack without a strap that runs down the middle of the chest.
Note: unfortunately, those are less common but can be found.
Keep in mind when you get an extra small dog backpack for a tiny dog you may lose functionality to the level that there is no point. Maybe just for the cute factor or novelty.
The two main issues are the volume of the pack is too small to carry anything useful. Also, when a design is shrunk down small, the zippers may become difficult to operate.
Also remember that, although most dog backpacks are integrated with some kind of harness, they may not or that harness may not be good enough for you to forgo your dog’s regular harness for it.
If you plan to put a dog backpack over your dog’s regular harness, be aware it could increase the risk of chafing (personally, I don’t recommend it for this reason).
Also, you may want to size up if your dog is in between in order to make room for another harness underneath.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links (Amazon Associate or other programs we participate in). As an affiliate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
Backpacks for Tiny and Extra Small Dogs That Hike
Tiny and extra small dogs typically fall into the 5-15 lb range or smaller.
Examples would be Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and Miniature Dachshunds.
It can be near impossible to find dog backpacks for dogs that small because companies don’t make them (I guess they haven’t caught up to the fact that there are a lot of very small dogs hiking trails with the big dogs).
Also, I’ve found the companies that do make dog backpacks to fit the smallest hiking dogs, don’t keep a lot of them in stock.
Because of this, they may “exist” but be out of stock and hard to track down.
Because most of the top brands that make dog hiking backpacks don’t make them small enough, you may need to look at some lesser known brands.
Be careful of quality with these “off brands”. It is possible they won’t be as durable as the made from the top manufacturers of outdoor dog gear.
The upside though is that several of them are dups (knockoffs) of the more popular dog backpacks but significantly cheaper.
Since I own and hike with Dachshunds, I’m going to start of my list of suggestions with the best dog backpack for Dachshunds. This one will work for other tiny dogs too though.
Doggles Extreme Backpack
The Doggles Extreme Backpack is one of the smallest dog backpacks I’ve found and the best one for Dachshunds in my opinion.
It’s one of the only ones that doesn’t have a strap that runs down the middle of the chest. Since Dachshunds have a prominent breast bone, this is important (see the fitting section above for why).
Furthermore, it has a short back length so it’s most likely to fall entirely above your dog’s ribcage (so a significantly skinnier waist is not an issue).
According to the size chart, the XXS size fits dogs with a 12-19in/30-48cm girth and holds a volume approximately equal to one cup (half cup on each side). This size will fit most miniature Dachshunds, Yorkies, and Chihuahuas..
The XS size fits a dog with a 17-25in/43-63cm girth and holds a volume approximately equal to five cups (2.5 cups on each side). This size will fit small dogs on the larger end of the spectrum like Westies, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Jack Russell Terriers.
You can also find a knockoff of the Doggles Extreme Backpack on Amazon.
It’s significantly cheaper but the size chart is different. Specifically, the XS small size seems to fall within the range of the Doggles XXS above but covers a smaller range.
If you want to try this knockoff instead, be sure to double check against your dog’s measurements.
Some fitting notes from personal experience with my Dachshunds:
The XS is just big enough to fit my 10.5 lb Miniature Dachshund even though, according to the Doggles size chart, she should be in the middle of the range for the XXS size.
The size chart says the XXS fits a dog with a chest circumference of 12-19in and her chest measures about 15.5 inches. However, I have to extend the chest strap almost as long as it will go to fit her.
The neck strap fits her, although I have to adjust it down to almost as small as it will go. For reference, the base of her neck measures 12 inches and the front of her chest (width) measures approximately 6 inches across.
My other girl is 11 lbs with the same neck measurement but a chest circumference of 16.5 inches. The XXS would be too little for her so I would need to size up to the XS.
Unfortunately, size charts are not always precise. It may take some trial and error to find a dog backpack that fits your very small dog correctly.
Outward Hound DayPack
Another pack that comes in a small size is the Outward Hound DayPak.
The small size fits dogs that are at least 10.5 inches in length, with a neck circumference of 8-10 inches and a girth of 16-20 inches.
While the length and neck of this dog backpack is very small, the chest circumference seems disproportionately large in comparison.
I imagine this may only fit a specific breed of dog with a barrel chest like a Puggle.
Like I said, some of these smaller size dog backpacks are difficult to find. I only found the lime green and teal Outward Hound DayPack in small on Amazon.
Alcott Explorer Dog Backpack
The Alcott Dog Explorer dog backpack size small fits a dog with a 12″ – 16″ chest circumference, which is a typical range of a very small dog.
The size chart also lists a waist circumference (14 – 20 inches) but the pack doesn’t look that long so I am unsure whether the back strap would sit far enough back to hit a small dog’s waist (ie. it will probably sit on the portion of the rib cage furthest to the back).
However, this pack does appear to be a little longer than some so maybe this would not be the best choice if your dog’s waist measurement is significantly smaller than their chest circumference.
Purchase the Alcott Explorer Dog Backpack HERE.
Wolf Republic Ranger Napsack
I’m presenting the Wolf Republic Dog Napsack as another option because the size range goes small enough to fit little dogs. The size small will fit a dog with a 11-20 inch girth.
Also, it’s made of canvas (vs. the typical ripstop nylon) and has a cool, retro look.
However, it’s very expensive compared to the dog backpacks listed above.
You can find it HERE.
Backpacks for Small Dogs That Like to Hike
A little easier to find packs if your dog is just small (typically 16-25 lbs), not very small, tiny, or teacup size.
All of the above dog backpacks will work for small dogs as they come in larger sizes.
When looking for a backpack for a small dog above 15 lbs, your choices will include all of the ones I mentioned above plus maybe the options below.
The size of small dogs on the larger end of the spectrum opens your options a bit though. Many of the more mainstream outdoor dog gear brands make backpacks to fit them.
Some of the most popular dog backpacks that may fit are:
Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack
Ruffwear is one of the best manufacturers of dog gear in my opinion. I frequently refer to them as the “North Face of dog gear”.
The approach dog backpack is their medium volume pack designed to be worn on an all-day hike.
A lot of thought went into this pack, including weight distribution and range of motion, and it can withstand a lot of wear and tear.
The XS size fits dogs with a chest circumference is 17-22 inches and the small fits dogs from 22-27 inches. There are larger sizes available beyond that too.
Check the price on Amazon HERE.
If you want to take your dog on multi-day backpacking trips and need more room, although I don’t suggest adding more room with a small dog, and it doesn’t come in an XS, check out the Ruffwear Palisades pack.
The cool thing with this one is the panniers can be removed so you can use just the harness.
Hurtta Trail Pack
Hurtta is a brand that originated in Finland and I think the quality of their products is comparable to Ruffwear.
Hurtta also pays attention to load distribution and the pack can be removed so you can use just the harness on it’s own (same as the Ruffwear Palisades pack above).
The Trail Pack comes in a small size designed to fit dogs from 20-40 lbs. It will fit a dog with a neck circumference (at the base) of 17-24 inches and a chest circumference of 22-30 inches.
You can purchase it HERE.
How to Train Your Dog to Wear a Backpack
Since my small dogs don’t wear a backpack, I am not the best one to give advice on this.
Training your small dog to wear a backpack may take some additional research.
I’m also not the best person to help you with training your small dog to wear a backpack because my dogs are pretty used to me putting random things on them and heading out.
Here are a couple articles that can help you though:
- Introducing your dog to wearing a pack, getting your dog used to balancing and space awareness, and increasing the weight and improving fitness – Trehugger
- 3 methods for getting your dog used to wearing a dog backpack – Wag Dog Walking
What Can You Put in a Very Small Dog Backpack?
You aren’t going to be able to fit much of what you regularly bring on hiking adventures in a very small dog backpack.
You’ll have some more leeway if your dog is small and not extra small, but you will still be limited.
Here are the things I typically bring and my thoughts about putting them in a very small dog backpack, based on experience.
Besides the obvious leash and collar or harness:
- Dog jacket – Your dog’s jacket may fit in a backpack for small dogs but definitely not for tiny dogs.
- Dog boots – Some small dogs don’t need to wear dog boots (including mine) but, if your dog wears them, they would likely fit even in the smallest pack.
- Unused dog poop bags – I would rather have them on me so they are super handy. Putting them in your dog’s back could prevent you from having to take yours off to get to them though.
- Full dog poop bags – my dog’s poop is very small so I could fit at least two of these in our very small dog backpack.
- Water bowl – A very small collapsible plastic one may fit inside a pack but a small collapsible silicone dog bowl like I use will only fit in the larger-size packs.
- Extra leash – If you bring an extra dog leash in case yours breaks, gets lost, or you find a stray dog, the chances it will fit inside your small dog’s backpack is slim.
- Alternate harness – I always bring an alternate harness in case the one my dogs are wearing starts to chafe. This likely won’t fit in tiny dog backpacks but might in a larger one.
- Treats, food, and water – You may be able to fit some of this in a small dog backpack but it will be such a small amount that there might not be any benefit to putting it in there.
- Ball – I occasionally bring a small dog ball to toss around during our lunch break. One of these should fit in even the smallest dog backpack.
No matter what you decide to put in there, it’s important to make sure the load is balanced – that both the right and left panniers have approximately the same weight in them – or the pack can shift and rub.
To me, the amount of stuff I could fit inside a very small dog backpack is so negligible that I don’t bother.
Especially when the risk of chafing is increased for my dogs with one on.
They sure look cute though and would elicit a lot of laughs and comments on the trail.
Whether you want your small dog to carry a backpack when hiking is up to you. You may find it to be advantageous.