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Dogs Can Help Themselves, Too
© 2006

A reader wrote to me about my article on bugging out where I said that animals can’t carry their own food. When I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I had forgotten about all the working dogs (and dogs better trained than mine are). Many companies now sell top of the line back packs for dogs of all sizes. Below you see some examples pulled off the internet to show you what I mean. These are COOL.

Thanks for pointing out the error of my ways. I’m now faced with the problem of fitting one for my bull mastiff/pit bull mix dog that is overweight at 115 pounds. A big dog with an attitude.

Outward Hound Quick Release Dog Backpack (Large)

This new dog backpack will give your dog maximum comfort and convenience when hiking with you. The backpack is designed with a removable pack, so you can easily take the weight off his or her back during rest stops.

Large storage pockets hold food, water and other gear. Made with extra-strong nylon for durability. Bonus feature: the "quick release" leash holder for use when approaching other hikers, dogs, wildlife or park rangers.

Large for dogs 50 to 79 lbs.
Girth 30-40"
Backpack length 13"
Assorted colors
Price: $38.99 Weight 4.10 lbs. from ePetPals

Outward Hound Quick Release Dog Backpack Medium

This new dog backpack will give your dog maximum comfort and convenience when hiking with you. The backpack is designed with a removable pack, so you can easily take the weight off his or her back during rest stops. Large storage pockets hold food, water and other gear. Made with extra-strong nylon for durability. Bonus feature: the "quick release" leash holder for use when approaching other hikers, dogs, wildlife or park rangers

Medium for dogs 18 to 50 lbs.
Girth 26-32"
Backpack length 11"
Assorted Colors
Price: $34.99 Weight 3.00 lbs.
Category: Dog Backpacks For dogs 18 - 50 pounds.
Girth 26"-32"
Backpack length is 11"

In-Store Price: $ 33.69
Online Price: $ 26.62

From Arcata Pet Supplies

Outward Hound Quick Release Dog Backpack Small

Category: Dog Backpacks For dogs up to 18 pounds.
Girth up to 25"
Backpack length is 9.5"

In-Store Price: $ 28.99
Online Price: $ 22.90

From Arcata Pet Supplies

Sizing to Fit








36” TO 48”




50 – 79 POUNDS

30” TO 40”




18 – 50 POUNDS

26” TO 32”





UP TO 25”



This size chart is only a guide. Each dog should be fitted individually to insure proper sizing. Girth measurement reflects the area around the widest part of the dog's rib cage. This company recommends (and I agree) that each dog should be fitted individually for a back pack. Like pack horses, if the pack doesn't fit right it will rub sores on the dogs back, and you'll have a real challenge getting it back on his injured back.

Let's Take It a Bit Farther - Dog Carts

For centuries, working dogs have pulled not only their own weight, but some of their owners' weight also. While primarily set up for roads and trails, the dog cart could be used by people on the move. The lightweight aluminum shafts and sturdy construction of this small cart would give you a hand hauling "stuff" around. Harnesses can be of leather or nylon. See in these photos from Dog Works, Inc, these carts have style, class, and what appears to be enough strength to really perform daily work.

Lilawasta Carts has this cart on the market.
Smart, Rugged Construction
Lilawasta Cart Works has designed a hardwood cart that is both beautiful and long lasting. The four square foot cart bed is made from a combination of marine grade maple laminates and the side rails are constructed of solid oak. This rugged unit is mounted on a wide track wheel assembly, utilizing a 3/4 inch solid steel axle and dual ball bearing hubs, to provide a smooth, quiet ride for years.

Extending forward from the cart body is a pair of curved, 40 inch maple laminated harness shafts. Their fully adjustable 6 point attachment to the harness allows for easy maneuverability and minimizes the weight transference to your pet's shoulders. This non-restrictive, self adjusting designs allows the dog freedom to sit or lie down in comfort at any time.

The colors are:
* Forest Green
* Marine Blue
* Wagon Red
Complete Lilawasta Dog Cart........$399.00
Complete Double Dog Cart........$699.00

Harness Sizes:
Three harness sizes are available:
* Medium - for 45-60 lb. dogs
* Large - for 60-100 lb. dogs
* X-Large - for dogs over 100 lbs

I wonder if Budweiser has a cart for dogs? What about the beer barrel under the chin?

Neither company lists the actual weight that the carts can carry, or what their recommended weight loads that the dogs can pull. I suspect that would entirely depend on the breed of dog, size, strength, and condition of health. You will have to work that out yourselves.

The only drawback I can see from the dog cart is that you may have to load it ALSO while packing up your car for a bug out. They don't seem to be very heavy, just bulky. It's possible to "bulk out" your load, before you "gross out" your load. But, if you're equipped to handle one or more large dog, then you probably have a large vehicle anyway. So it may just work out OK.

The average dog will learn to pull the cart in as little as three one hour sessions. I did not find any packs or carts for cats.

In addition to the packs and carts above, you should probably look into other equipment for working dogs, such as boots. It's one thing for a dog to carry his own weight in the woods, and another thing entirely when the dog is carrying (or pulling) a heavy load. Gravel roads, snow and ice, and other terrain can ruin a dogs feet fast, making him or her a real liability.


No article on working dogs is complete without mentioning the dog sled. Used extensively in northern countries, the dog sled has been a working survival tool from the dawn of civilization.
Prior to the introduction of the horse, many Native Americans used dogs to help them transport their belongings. Domesticated horses first arrived in North America with the Spanish in the 1500s. Horses became widespread among Native Americans by the mid-1700s.

Affordable Dog Sleds still sells dog sleds. Seen on the left is the Namekagon North Star model. The list price is $349.00 which I think is probably a pretty good price when you look at all the bent-wood work that is included in this sled. I doubt very seriously if I could make anything comparable for twice that amount.

The Namekagon North Star is a great Mid-Distance and Touring Sled. It can handle 400 pounds of Driver and Basket weight and is good for teams of 3-10 dogs. This is only one of three models available.

The bolted design allows for greater flexibility and maneuverability. Push on the handle in either direction and skis tilt for a turn or to hold the side of a hill. The bolted design also allows for easier modification or replacement of parts.

These sleds are durable and proven over 10 years of use by mushers of all ages and ability levels and they are built so you can easily add all the accessories you want.


Length = 8' Brush Bow to Ski Tails
Width = 20" Outside of Skis.
Height = 36" Ground to Handle Bar
Weight = 29 lbs. fully assembled.
Skis = 1-1/2" Wide
Foot Treads = 1-1/2" Wide 18" Long Seat = 40" Long 17" Wide
Wood = White Ash
Plastic = 1/2" by 1-1/2" UHMW-PE runners; HDPE Brush Bow and Handle Bar
Brake = Standard Claw Brake
Hitch Bolt = 1/2" X 4" Eye Bolt.

I have to admit that I have never used or ridden on a dog sled. I was in Alaska when the Iditarod races were run one year, and it was a fascinating event to watch on TV. These things really fly when the terrain lets them.
My hat's off to the people who drive these amazing sleds.

This is not the end of the costs, however. You will still need all the equipment and harnesses for the dogs that will make this sled work. Harnesses for each individual dog; gang lines to hook them to the sled; Sled bags, snow hooks, dog booties, and other accessories could drive up the cost of the dog sled considerably. However, if you are in a severe winter snow condition for your bug out, you may need all this equipment, and more.

This article is the direct result of a reader's interest in this web site. If you find anything in my site that you disagree with, or could improve on, please let me know. I'm not the "be-all and end-all" of survival information. I try to learn as much as I can, and try not to forget too much, either. I knew about the dog packs – I just forgot to include it in the article.

For those of you who are mechanically inclined, the dog carts I saw on the net seemed fairly straight forward construction. For the tinkerer, it would make an interesting home project. I may try to get my fat, lazy (but large) dog off his duff and put him to work. Who knows?