A great dog backpack offers many advantages. For small pups, it invites them onto long hikes, off-road adventures, and other outdoor travels they don’t have the stamina (or leg-length!) to go alone. For nervous pooches, carriers can provide an extra layer of security in crowded or unfamiliar spaces. And in airports, a good dog backpack will pull double-duty as your carry-on carrier.

Before you buy, it is extremely important to properly measure your pup: weight, chest circumference, full length (not including the tail), and shoulder height, among other possible measurements. Be sure to carefully check the requirements of each carrier.

We reviewed dozens of dog backpacks to identify the best of the best. We looked at those that will fit your little dogs and your big. We found the airline-friendly backpacks and those best for hiking. No matter what you need a dog backpack for, we have you covered.

Top Pick

Snoozer Wheel Around Travel Pet Carrier

The Snoozer Wheel Around Travel Pet Carrier can meet just about any need you have in a backpack with any dog.

Early in our research we identified the Snoozer Wheel Around Travel Pet Carrier as the clear front runner for our top pick spot and by the time we’d finished we were positively convinced it was deserving. Very few dog backpacks even have the ability to carry large dogs but this backpack will do so easily and still offer all the other features of a dog backpack you love.

The 5 Best Dog Backpacks

Editor Picks Brand Rating
Best Overall Snoozer Wheel Around Travel Pet Carrier 4.4
Runner Up PetAmi Premium Pet Carrier Backpack 4.3
Best Budget Buy Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Chico Reversible Pet Sling Carrier 4.3
Best Dog Chest Carrier COODIA Legs-Out Front Chest Backpack 4.2
Best Dog Backpack for Hiking K9 Sport Sack Knavigate 5.0

*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change

Our Top Pick: Snoozer Wheel Around Travel Pet Carrier

If you’re looking for a dog backpack for large breed dogs, you may not love your options: most carriers are designed for small pups, usually in the under-15 lbs. range. That’s because carrying 25+ pounds on your back is no easy task! Enter the Snoozer Wheel Around Travel Pet Carrier. It’s highly rated and extremely durable, offering many of the same advantages of any dog backpack, with the benefit of durable roller wheels for super-smooth transport. So you’ll be able to wheel him when you want and carry when you need.

The mesh front will unzip on the top and the bottom so your pup can jump or walk in and out. For a larger dog, we imagine the fact that you won’t have to pick him up while he struggles and squirms will only be a perk. There are multiple pockets for his treats and other necessities and a inner leash clip will contain some of his outbursts while he’s inside.

There are an impressive number of customer reviews on Amazon for this dog backpack – over 1,100 – and with an overall rating of 4.3 stars, you can be sure you’re getting a good quality product that is a cut above its competitors.

Snoozer Wheel Around Travel Pet Carrier Key Features:

  • Weight Limit: Small (up to 7 lbs.), Medium (up to 18 lbs.), Large (up to 30 lbs.)
  • Measures 23″ H x 15.5″ W x 12.25″D
  • Airline approved (check airline restrictions for specifics)

Our Runner Up Pick: PetAmi Premium Pet Carrier Backpack

Runner Up

PetAmi Premium Pet Carrier Backpack

The PetAmi Premium Pet Carrier Backpack is an excellent way to carry your dog safety from one town to the next.

The PetAmi Premium Pet Carrier Backpack is crafted from the finest materials including breathable mesh sides, to allow for a durable carrier with plenty of ventilation. Exterior pockets and removable bottom keep your dog happy, while padded straps and a waist and chest belt make your days more comfortable. We also like the ample side storage pockets, which provide carrying space for toys, treats, cleanup bags, and other necessities.

This particular dog backpack comes with a collapsible dog bowl, so while you’re on your adventure, it’ll be all the easier for you to take a pit stop and pull the bowl out, fill with water and then be back on your way. It even has a carabiner so you can keep it strapped to your back pack at all times.

With an overall rating of 4.3 stars on this dog backpack backed up by over 350 customer reviews on Amazon, there’s every reason to take confidence in this purchase. With its features and quality, it’s well worth the $25 price tag.

PetAmi Premium Pet Carrier Backpack Key Features:

  • Available in 7 colors: Black, Dark Gray, Light Gray, Royal Blue, Light Blue, Red, and Pink
  • Recommended for small to medium sized dogs, up to 8 lbs. of weight
  • Made of durable 600D high grade polyester, which keeps pets dry and comfortable

Best Budget Pick: Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Chico Reversible Pet Sling Carrier

Best for Budget

Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Chico Reversible Pet Sling Carrier

You can carry your pup around without breaking your budget with the Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Chico Reversible Pet Sling Carrier.

The Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Chico Reversible Pet Sling Carrier is a stylish pet sling that offers a new take on the dog backpack, transferring your pet’s position from your back to your slide. The sling design is similar to baby slings, offering a comfortable pouch where your favorite pet can curl up for the ride (or a long nap). We love the freedom this sling affords – your pup can drink in the sunshine and fresh air – while also assuring safety, thanks to the attached and durable security buckle.

Keep in mind this probably isn’t for a more unruly breed or personality. But if you have a dog that can chill in a sling cuddled up to you, then this is perfect. In fact, you may be hard pressed to find a better way to carry around your aging small or medium sized breed who just needs a bit more adventure in his life.

While the overall rating of 4.3 stars, earned by nearly 2,000 customer reviews on Amazon is nice to read, that isn’t quite the most tempting number you’ll read in regards to this dog backpack. It’s the fact that you pick this up for $22 that will really get you to “sold!”

Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Chico Reversible Pet Sling Carrier Key Features:

  • Weight Limit: 12 lbs.
  • Hands-free design
  • Machine wash

Best Dog Chest Carrier: COODIA Legs-Out Front Chest Backpack

Best Dog Chest Carrier

COODIA Legs-Out Front Chest Backpack

Keep your dog close to your heart – literally – with the COODIA Legs-Out Front Chest Backpack.

The COODIA Legs-Out Front Chest Backpack is a legs-out, front-pack carrier from COODIA that delivers on puppy comfort, thanks to a design that provides plenty of legroom. The easy-in, easy-out feature will save you everyday headaches, while the ultra-lightweight carrier (less than 9 ounces!) and adjustable padded straps minimize the load your shoulders bear. The built-in safety lock keeps your pets secure while preventing slippage inside the backpack.

If you have a curious dog 15 pounds or less that does very well in public when held close to you, a carrier you wear on your front may be just the thing for you both. This is a wonderful way to keep your eye on him if he’s still learning his behaviors and will still need a few reminders, or if you just want to dote on him – whatever works for you!

There are right around 700 customer reviews on Amazon for this front wearing dog carrier and with its overall rating of 4.2 stars, you can take comfort that it’s very likely to meet your needs. And for around $20 (depending on the color and pattern you pick), it’s an excellent investment.

COODIA Legs-Out Front Chest Backpack Key Features:

  • Weight Limit: Small (5.5 lbs.), Medium (5-9 lbs.), Large (9-15 lbs.) and X-Large (15-22 lbs.)
  • Built-in safety lock to protect your pets
  • 12-month warranty

Best Dog Backpack for Hiking: K9 Sport Sack Knavigate

Best Dog Backpack for Hiking

K9 Sport Sack Knavigate

The K9 Sport Sack Knavigate is a tough dog backpack that will keep your dog safe and prevent the extra wear and tear on your body after a long hike.

The K9 Sport Sack Knavigate is a veterinarian-approved dog backpack that easily adjusts to all your (and your dog’s) needs. The Knavigate took years to design and was just released this year. So it packs in all of the very best design features you could hope for in a dog backpack for hiking. It’s not only lightweight, but it’s also extremely safe and comfortable for both you and your dog. Some of its eye-catching features include dog lumbar support straps, fully ventilated sides, and a padded back side.

We also give the Knavigate huge points for the variety of sizes it comes in (from extra small to extra large), as well as its generous weight limit (all are rated to carry up to 50 lbs). This is especially helpful for those outdoorsy men and women who love to take their fur baby with them on their adventures. Your pup can just peek up the top of the bag, making it perfect for your calm and curious dog.

As it was just recently released, there aren’t many customer reviews yet on this product. That being said, customers who have used and reviewed it seem very pleased with it. Considering how well designed it is, we expect to see many more glowing reviews in the future.

K9 Sport Sack Knavigate Key Features:

  • Weight Limit: The backpacks are rated to carry up to 50 lbs
  • Available in 2 colors and 5 sizes
  • 60-day quality guarantee

Who Should Buy a Dog Backpack

So, how can you choose the best dog backpack for your needs? First, determine how you’ll use it: do you just need a carrier for long hikes, or is Fido also a frequent flier? You’ll get the most bang for your buck by choosing a backpack that provides only what you need, but if those needs are many, then you should consider a multi-function dog carrier, which converts from a backpack into a car seat, tote, shoulder carrier, stroller, and other possible functions. The biggest take away you should get from this is that if you have a dog, there’s very likely a circumstance in your life with him that will benefit from some kind of a dog backpack.

If you travel with your dog a lot, you’ll need some way to contain him that won’t hinder that travel. There are airline approved dog backpacks you can use (but we do always recommend you talk to the airline and arrive early to make sure you’re not stranded – a lot of the airline’s rules can be a bit ambiguous and you never know exactly how strictly the rules will be interpreted from employee to employee). For the adventurer within, you’ll want to consider how happy your dog would be if he got to go on those adventures with you! You can pick up a hiking backpack and head up the mountain – with him strapped to you – keeping him safe and adding a bit more of a challenge to your adventure!

Top Pick

Snoozer Wheel Around Travel Pet Carrier

The Snoozer Wheel Around Travel Pet Carrier can meet just about any need you have in a backpack with any dog.

Important Features to Consider

A dog backpack should have a few important features. Here’s what to consider when selecting a backpack for your dog:

  • Airline approved. A manufacturer or seller will be eager to advertise anything as “airline approved” or “TSA certified” but you’ll want to be careful and take note of any fine print. It may be [some] airline approved. And while it’s a good idea to find an airline approved dog travel crate (it’s actually a must if you plan on traveling with your dog), you’ll still want to call the airline or check some online regulations before you purchase. And certainly make sure to check into your flight early enough to mitigate any complications. You never know what kind of stickler you’ll get at the gate.
  • Chest carrier. You’ll be better able to see what your dog is doing if he’s on your chest and that definitely comes with its benefits. You’ll be able to see if he needs redirected or if he needs calming kisses, and if he gets agitated, you’ll be able to squeeze him tight to help him adjust. The down side is that he’ll always be in your business. You won’t have your regular range of motion, your balance may be compromised, and if you thought you were going to be able to eat with your dog strapped to your chest, think again. No matter how badly your dog begs and pouts when you eat at the table, it’s that much worse when you have to wave the food in front of his nose just to get it to your face. So weigh these pros and cons carefully before you make your choice.
  • Pockets. Some dog backpacks are designed so in tune with your dog’s comfort, the manufacturer forgets to bear in mind who’s carrying the pup. If you have a dog backpack, you likely won’t also be carrying a regular backpack or purse for your possessions. Even your dog will need a collapsible water dish and a bottle of water on a long walk and without any pockets on the backpack, you’ll be hard pressed to get him all he needs. Besides, you will have to carry a phone and wallet of some kind – even on a proper hike.
  • Breathable. It goes without saying that no matter what type of carrier you’re getting, you need to make sure your dog is getting plenty of air. But it won’t only need to be breathable for your dog, but for you, too. If you’re wearing your dog, your comfort still matters and the carrier will need to give your body proper ventilation, too. After all, attaching your dog to your can often feel like you’re carrying around your own personal heater. A good padded mesh or breathable cotton will go a long way in allowing you to wear your pup for longer periods of time. The back panel of the backpack is the biggest culprit for overheating you but don’t forget that those straps are likely to make you sweat, too. Keep in mind that when you opt for durable, sometimes you may give up the air circulation.
  • Ergonomic. If you plan on wearing your dog for extended periods, you’re going to want to find a backpack that is designed to go easy on your body. An ergonomic design can help you (and possibly your dog) maintain your position for longer. You’ll want straps that curve in so that they’ll go with your body’s angles- and while you’re at it, make sure those straps are well-padded. You may also benefit from a properly balanced backpack – meaning one that will keep your dog in a position that won’t throw off your balance or over-pressure certain muscles of your body. You won’t wear the backpack often if every time you wear it, it throws out your back.
  • Sling. If you have a mild mannered, light weight dog, a durable dog sling is just about the easiest way there is to carry your dog. You sling it over your shoulder and across your chest, pick your dog up and plop him in the sling. There are sometimes safety harnesses inside the sling, but not always and if your dog is super chill, just down for the adventure, you may not even feel like you need one, anyways. (Always start with one though, at least. You never know the limits to your dog’s curiosity until you test them.)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a dog backpack and how does it work?

A dog backpack is a carrier for your dog that you can wear. They will most often just look like a standard backpack, but will have features specifically designed to accommodate a dog. For example, it will be made with a very well ventilated fabric or shell. Even the backpacks with a hard shell will still have some method for air to circulate. They’ll have mesh panels, most frequently, but others have an open top that your well-trained and calmer breeds can pop up through to get maximum air. Others will be more of what you may think of a traditionally “baby carrier” style – like a front backpack, where the dog’s legs will all be fit through holes and he’ll hang from your chest. There are also slings that you’ll be able to wear across your chest or back that your especially calm dog will be able to just lay cradled in while you go about your business. The hard shelled backpacks will keep your dog supported and contained in a way that is probably the most efficient and if you have a particularly unruly or jumpy dog this may be the best bet. They’ll have a large hole cut out that will either be covered with clear plastic in a bubble shape with holes for breathing or the hole will be covered in mesh for the same reason.

How do you carry your dog?

There is some variety in how you pick up a dog based on what size he is. For your larger dogs, you’ll want to put your dominant arm behind his back legs and wrap the other in front of his chest, pulling him tightly to your chest. For a small dog, your dominant hand goes on his chest and other goes around and under him on his belly. Then if you hold him for a longer period, you’ll hold his chest with your dominant hand, allowing your other hand to hold the weight of him on his bottom.

It may not feel natural to your dog to be picked up and he may struggle. Be patient with him and try to make sure you’re still adhering to these methods, even when your big and beefy dog is squirming like crazy to get away. And be careful to not let him hurt you in the struggle! For a video on how to pick up your dog with several examples, you can check YouTube.

Is it bad to pick up your dog?

If you do it properly, picking up your dog will not hurt him. In his later years you may actually need to do this more often as he struggles to get up stairs and in and out of the car. In fact, even younger dogs can still need help getting in and out of bigger SUVs and trucks, so you should probably brush up on the above proper methods for doing it.

It is bad for your dog if you pick him up improperly. Do not pick your dog up by the scruff of the neck. Just because you see mama doggies do it, doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to do so. They are only picked up like this by mama when they are still very, very young. If you do it to a puppy that’s been weaned (or worse, a full sized dog) it will undoubtedly be uncomfortable for your dog and may even cause him pain.

Does a dog carrier count as a carry on?

Yes and no. As a general rule, a dog carrier will take the place of one of your two allowed items, it will not be an additional allowance. So you can have a dog carrier and a carry on or a dog carrier and a personal item (purse or laptop bag). You can not have a dog carrier, a carry on, and a personal item. The carrier will still need to meet the airline’s measurements standards and be stowed under the seat in front of you and it will need to be secured all through the flight. It will also need to be rigid – that will exclude several dog backpacks, but if you’re wondering you can call the airline. In fact, because several airlines have become more strict on their carry on types and allowances, you’ll probably want to call anyway, to let the airline know what you have so that they can make accommodations for your dog if they’re needed. Some airlines will even charge you a in-cabin service fee; but the silver lining to that is you will still get your carry on and personal item.