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There are a lot of reasons you might want to carry your dog with you on the go, and dog backpack carriers can help get the job done. They’re popular for pups with mobility issues, commuting with your dog, and hitting the trails. But can they help a puppy get used to the outdoor world? That’s the project my husband and I undertook with our new Mini Aussie, Betty. Our tool of choice was the K9 Sport Sack—and with Betty’s help, we put its through its paces.
As hiking and camping enthusiasts, we were, in part, excited to get a dog as an outdoor adventure companion. But since Betty is a 14-week-old puppy, there’s only so much she can do right now. We’re always looking for ways to keep her protected (she’s midway through her puppy shots) and comfortable while also safely introducing her to favorite spots, meeting people outside our home, and getting used to new sights and sounds.
Betty is a brave pup who always wants to try new things, but she’s also a wiggle monster. The following is what we found out when we attempted to put a puppy in a backpack carrier.
Reviewing the K9 Sport Sack Plus 2
There are quite a few different types of dog backpack carriers on the market. One of the main distinctions between these products is how the dog is carried.
Some backpacks are front-facing, with your dog tucked in and looking over your shoulder at where you’re going. Others position your dog so they’re looking backward, facing where you’ve been. Some can be worn on the front of the body like a baby carrier, and some are more like soft crates that let the dog travel completely enclosed—with ventilation and windows, of course.
For our purposes, we wanted a more traditional backpack style that could support the weight of a growing, medium-breed dog. We went with the K9 Sport Sack because it lets a dog face towards their person—a feature we thought Betty might find helpful as a puppy who’s still learning independence and likes to be able to see us.
First, we measured Betty from collar to wiggle butt to find the right size for her, keeping in mind a margin of error for growth. Going by the size guide, we picked the Plus 2 model in medium, as it’s designed for small-to-medium dogs and has an attachable storage component for things like treats and keys, plus water bottle holders on the side—perfect for our outdoor adventure needs.
Thicker shoulder straps and adjustable chest straps that slide to different placements were also a bonus for lending our backs extra support and adjusting to our different sizes (my husband is over a foot taller than me).
Note: Before purchasing a dog backpack carrier, it’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian and make sure your dog’s body and health are right for a dog backpack.
Testing Out the K9 Sport Sack Plus 2
For our trek, we picked our favorite park with woods, beach, and different trail terrain. It was a typical Juneuary day (a term in the Pacific Northwest for when June feels like January). We agreed my husband would carry Betty and I’d observe and take notes.
One of the first things my husband noticed was how warm her body was against his back. Luckily it was a cool morning, but it’s worth keeping in mind for treks on hot days.
Since we had practiced getting her in at home, it was not as big a struggle once we arrived. With our lie-down method, we were able to get her in fairly quick, wiggles and all. She was calm once on my husband’s back, and I attached the optional storage bag before we hit the trails.
The attachable storage pack has two zippered compartments. In the large one, we were able to fit Betty’s leash, treats, travel bowl, and poop-bag holder. In the smaller top compartment, there was room for phones and keys.
We also placed a water bottle in one of the side pockets. But we noticed that with her movement, our water bottle kept creeping up out of the pocket as we walked. In future, we might try a smaller bottle, though a taller pocket might also have been helpful.
Initially, Betty seemed to really enjoy the backpack. It gave her a better view than she would have had on the ground, and as a dog who can’t pass up a plant to save her life, she loved snapping away at trees and bushes (she didn’t get any in her mouth; she just liked being up a lot closer to all the greenery!).
As for us, after weeks of walking slowed down by a constant need to sniff every single thing (teaching a puppy to walk on a leash is hard, y’all!), it was nice to enjoy a quicker, uninterrupted pace.
Everything was going smoothly, and I fed her a treat now and then to keep her happy and reassured. But all that is good cannot last. About midway through our planned excursion, we encountered an issue we hadn’t considered: other dogs.
As a puppy, Betty can’t yet resist saying hello to a fellow canine. When passing a dog, she struggled mightily to free herself from the backpack. Though she was secure with the carabiner, she did succeed in slipping her front paws out of the leg slots, and we did have to stop immediately and readjust her to avoid an escape attempt.
Another factor we didn’t see coming? She was super darn cute in the backpack. So cute, in fact, that people came up and approached her without asking us, which also caused her to get excitable and struggle in the pack. After a few of these incidents, we decided it was best to stop and let her walk on the leash for a bit.
Verdict: Should You Buy a K9 Sport Sack for Your Dog?
The K9 Sport Sack Plus 2 is a high-quality dog backpack carrier that supported our dog well and had features we appreciated, such as several adjustable straps, secure buckles and zippers, plus extra storage for our and Betty’s necessities. However, our energetic puppy still managed to find a way to partially free herself from the pack when particularly excitable events presented themselves.
- Good support for us with padded straps, adjustable chest strap, and good stability on our backs
- Soft but sturdy padding in the bottom to support a dog’s back half
- Optional storage attachment that easily fit Betty’s necessary items, plus the things we needed to carry, such as keys and phones
- Carabiner for clipping Betty in securely—and it did prevent her from being able to fully fly the coop
- More freedom of movement for us than walking her on a leash
- Gave her the opportunity to see new things while protected off the ground
- Quality material and hardware that seemed like it would last and hold up against many uses
- Different color options
- Water bottle kept slipping out of the pocket
- May need to consider whether you can carry the extra weight and heat of a dog against your body on a hot day
- The backpack was definitely a two-person job, both with helping Betty in and making sure all the elements were secure once on; I personally don’t know how I would pull it off alone with a puppy
- At this stage, with how much energy Betty has—even though the security measures seemed like good ones that would ultimately work had it gotten to that point—her struggles to get out still didn’t make us feel 100% secure
In short, the K9 Sport Sack Plus 2 is a promising backpack that did its job in terms of both comfort and security. But young, high-energy puppies may not be the best fit for dog backpacks generally.
Betty moves around a lot, she gets overly excited by people and dogs, and she’s still working on crate training, let alone the confinement of a pack. We thought she did pretty well, all things considered, but she just wasn’t quite ready yet.
We think the pack will be a good fit, however, once she’s more socialized and her energy levels out, and it looks like a good choice for adult dogs. We plan to try the pack with her again and get her comfortable until she’s full grown and can keep up with us on our hikes.
The K9 Sport Sack Plus 2Find on Amazon Find on Chewy Find on Petco
Bonus: How to Get a Puppy in a Backpack Carrier
If you think getting a puppy into a backpack sounds hard, then congratulations—you are correct! We’ve documented the process below for pet parents looking to accustom an inexperienced pup to a backpack.
The keys to getting a puppy into a backpack are patience and rewards.
Do trial runs at home first. Since Betty is a wiggle monster, I knew getting her into the pack would be our biggest challenge. Before heading out to the trail, we let her sniff and inspect the pack at home first, then carried her around the house to make sure she fit and was secure.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. The first few times we tried to get Betty in the pack were complete flops. Every dog is different, so don’t give up if the first few attempts are a no-go. We followed the pack’s instructions but had to modify slightly based on Betty’s constant movement.
Ultimately, we got Betty in the pack by laying it flat and unzipped, having her lie down in it, and then quickly inserting her front paws in the leg openings, zipping up, and attaching the carabiner to the front attachment of her Ruffwear Front Range harness. The instructions say to attach to the collar, but due to Betty’s wiggles and mixed feelings on confinement, we felt the harness was a better choice for her.
Treats help. Getting Betty to lie down, get paws through, and keep her cool in the harness was all made easier with the help of high-value treats that kept her distracted and happy while we got things figured out.
Check and double check. Before heading out, double check that all components are a go. This meant making sure the zipper was all the way up, that the top buckle and carabiner were secure, that side straps were tight—but not so much so that she was uncomfortable.
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