I read a lot of survivalist/prepper
blogs. Any mention I've seen about dogs either refers to them as a
tool for protection or a mouth to feed (or both). Dogs can be so much
more than that.
Any sized dog can carry a backpack. A pack lets them carry at least their own food and water. Stronger dogs
can carry a third or more of their weight. So, for a 100lb dog, that
is 33lbs of gear. Dogs shouldn't carry anything combustible, sharp,
valuable, breakable or easily damaged by water in case they brush the
pack on a tree or go for a swim. Certainly don't put weapons in the
Items they could carry:
extra food and water for the human
bio-degradeable poop bags
first aid kit
extra clothing in a waterproof
toilet paper in baggies
towels, blankets, tarps, even
their toys. What can be more
grounding in a stressful situation than throwing a ball for your
Train your dog now so they are used to the pack. Get them accustomed to wearing it and conditioned to carry the extra weight. Start by showing them the pack and reward them for showing interest. Rewarding them can be anything from food rewards to play to happy noises. Whatever your dog responds to is fine for a reward. Lay the pack on their back a few times and reward them. Put the pack on them and buckle it up then reward them and take the pack back off. Put the pack on them and immediately go for a walk with them. The walk is a reward and it gives them some time to adjust to having this thing on their back without allowing them to focus on it. Once they accept the pack on their back, put some light things in it. A can of pop on each side, or a couple toys will do. Do this for their daily walk a few times a week. Always be positive and happy about the backpack. Then work up to heavier loads.
Our first dog loved his packs. His whole demeanor changed when he wore them. He held his head higher. He walked more upright. He was proud and responsible and he loved it. Even if it he was just helping to get the mail.
So what about the backpack itself? They come in a simple form which is basically two bags that strap to the dog. Most of them have a few different pouches. For longer hikes, I'd look for a bag that detaches from the harness portion so you can take the load off the dog during breaks without having to undo all the buckles. Some packs have a poop bag dispenser which is handy. If your dog is not trustworthy off lead (and they insist on walking ahead of you, like mine), you may consider finding a pack with a rear leash attachment. Some have place where you can strap a blanket or rolled up tarp on top.
So how does dog backpacking help in a SHTF situation? Well, if you need to hike to a bug out location, the dog can carry some supplies for you. If you are bugging in, you can gather resources from close by without burning fossil fuels. They could help harvest crops. And hey.. they might just protect the contents of their pack.
As for everyday - Go hiking with them. Let them carry the mail. Have them help bring home the bounty from the market or corner store. They can carry their own toys and bowls for an over night visit. You have less things to carry. They get to contribute to the family.