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Kiva, an Alaskan Malamute, put Granite Gear's Alpha Pack to the test this Spring in Southwest Colorado. Weighing in around 90-lbs, Malamutes are a "working breed", and a perfect candidate to carry their food and supplies.
The Alpha Pack was tested on locally on a few of Kiva's favorite trails here in Durango, and were overjoyed to discover that it not only lessened the amount of weight in our packs, but it also helped curb any rambunctious behavior on the trail.
Unlike other backpacks for dogs, the Alpha Pack by Granite Gear is specifically shaped to put the weight of the pack on Kiva's shoulders and not the lower spine. Keeping the weight equal is crucial to a good fit. Also, watch the shape and type of things you pack, nothing too sharp or awkward should be used.
To determine proper sizing, measure the dog's chest girth (widest point), or visit your local specialty retailer with your best friend for a fitting if unsure. Secure the chest strap just above the dog's front legs, and ensure the weight and spacing is even between the two saddlebags. This can vary depending on the weight and bulk of the load, but once the pack is fitted properly, it won't break your dog's stride or cause undue stress on her joints.
Kiva was a little reluctant to wear the pack at first, so it's important to familiarize your dog with carrying weight before setting out on a week-long backpacking trip. We started on short approach hikes with minimal weight, gradually adding more weight and longer distances. Through praise, treats and positive reinforcement, she now associates the pack with one of her favorite activities.
It's recommended to use the leash tie-in point on the pack instead of the dog's collar. This helps keep the pack's weight off her shoulders, and prevents the load from shifting. Always let her rest when you're resting by easily removing the pack and switching the leash over to the collar. It is not advised to let your dog out of your sight or off-leash while wearing the pack, as they could get tangled in something or lose the pack entirely.
If it's necessary to carry water, use two equally sized water bladders, one on each side, to help equalize the pack. Conditioning your dog is key, so be sure to evaluate your dog's fitness abilities before weighing her down with a fully loaded pack. Continually monitor your dog's progress by checking the straps and buckles for any signs of discomfort, and make any necessary adjustments.
According to the Dog Whisperer, a dog with a job behaves better on the trail because they have a task to do. So it only seems fair to everyone that dogs be given a chance to carry their own gear and supplies, too. (MSRP $62.95-$72.95)
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