Make Your Own Dog Pack!

This is not a four-month-long-AT-thru-hike dog pack. It’s a 300 cubic inch 1-2 day pack. It’s a great pack for puppies to learn in, or just to have around for short jaunts when you don’t want to haul out the expedition packs. It would also be a great pack for a service dog.

It’s cheaper than a professional pack, in case you have a limited gear budget or aren’t sure you want to try this whole dog packing thing. It can be made in about two hours, (technically it’s a conversion, so that makes a difference) but is actually assembled more easily by hand sewing than with a machine. This from someone who likes to be lazy when making gear.

The pack you have to buy to make this is good in that it’s made to stand up to some use plus it comes in a variety of colors! At TSC it comes in black, burgundy, hunter green and navy. I’ve seen (at other stores) bright red, hunter green and royal blue. Makes for stylin’ pooches. The paniers close via velcroed flaps for easy access of gear (warning: stuff can fall out easily if over loaded). The packs also have tiny D-rings on the underside for securing items such as water bottles when on your horse. I used to keep them on for the belly strap, but have since revised the pattern to removing the rings entirely. You can leave them on, if you like, for whatever reason. It’s your pack.

I have used 1.5″ webbing in the past and, typically, prefer it. I couldn’t find any locally when I made this pack so I went with just 1″ because I didn’t want to order any materials at the time. Your preference.

If you have a small dog, go check out what this pack looks like. Go to any fabric store and buy some cheap pack cloth (sometimes $1/yd!). Make tiny packs out of that (might try making a mock up out of cotton or something else first to make sure the pack will be the correct size)and follow the rest of the instructions, scaling down where necessary. The same would probably also be true for very large dogs. Lucy is 19.5″ high and Beau is 24″. It fits both of them, but I think they are both the extremes of comfort level. There are larger and smaller premade saddle bags available, but you’ll probably need to look at a tack shop to find them.

Lucy and Beau learned to carry a load in a pack very much like this one.


  • Cordura saddle horn bag (available in the horse section at Tractor Supply Company for $19. Quality also carries them from time to time at various prices)
  • Any width nylon webbing from 1″ to 2″. Get about 5′ of it. Be sure that any cut that is made is heat sealed.
  • Side release buckles the same width as your webbing (2)
  • Triglide sliders the same width as your webbing (2)
  • Polyester thread
  • needle (one that will work on denim is your best bet here. This stuff is tougher than it looks!)
  • safety pins (you’ll want to pin all the webbing in place to make good and sure that’s where you want them to be permanently)
  • polar fleece for padding buckles (optional)


Remove the 3/4″ D-rings on the bottom of the pack. (optional).

Cut about 2′ of the webbing and weave it through the slider and male end of the buckle as shown. It’s a little different from what the other patterns show, but it makes for better adjustments under loads (or putting on other dogs) in the future.

Sew the ‘bottom’ piece of the webbing (that is, the part on the bottom in the above picture) to the pack as shown, aligned with the panier flap seam on the front of the pack. (the front is the side where the cut is around the hole. It’s slightly more curved and fits the dog’s neck better). It should be 2-3″ of webbing attached to the pack. If you are using a sewing machine be careful to sew only the one layer of cordura. You want the strap to be at your dog’s sternum or slightly above. Too low and the pack won’t stay on; too high and it will hit the dog’s windpipe.

Basically, the female end is the same as the male end, only on the other side. This will be a permanent part, no adjusting. Run a piece of web, about 4-6″ through the eye of the female end and fold it over. Sew both pieces along the seam, as shown.

For the belly band you’ll have to cut a piece of web and sew it on to the pack as far back on the pack as possible. It’s exactly like the female end of the chest strap. fold the pack in half and line up the edges so you can put the male end of the strap on evenly. The male end of the belly band is just like that for the chest strap (see! I told you this was easy!). It does need to be shorter, however. I started with 20″ long and trimmed down from there to fit both Lucy and Beau. I think 10″ would be about right for most dogs, but be sure it fits properly before cutting the web. It’s better to cut down than to need to add more. Again, if you are using a sewing machine, be careful to not sew the panier closed. Some dogs may not even need this part to be adjustable. Each dog is different so you’ll need to play around with that to be certain.

This is what the bottom of the pack should look like, just so you get an idea of where everything is, in relation to each other. You can pad the buckles with polar fleece. I didn’t want to as the pack shouldn’t be holding so much as to make it necessary. I also didn’t want to put the time into it. It would be good for short-haired dogs or those who chafe easily. It’s your pack, do what you want with yours.

Other options might be lash patches on the outside of the pack, decorative or title patches on the pack, D-Rings to attach gear or any number of things your imagination might come up with.

Questions? Comments? e-mail me!

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Text and images copyright 2001, Amanda Tikkanen