This adorable and well-constructed backpack is a fun way to carry your cute puppy around.
Advantages: There’s a dog on my back. Well-constructed with durable materials. Comfortable to wear, and my dog wants to get inside it.
Disadvantages: Takes time to put your dog in the bag. Hard to tighten the backpack’s primary straps. One of the buckle’s straps has started to fray.
YOU’LL FIRST NOTICE it out of the corner of your eye: the woman in shades, awkwardly pointing her smartphone camera in your direction. She thinks she’s sneaky—she’s not. Then you’ll catch the gentle awws as you walk down the street, until it starts to get more intense. Soon, people stop you with questions or to ask for a picture.
This is life with a dog on your back in a little backpack. It’s … amazing. Even as an introvert who doesn’t really like striking up conversations with strangers, I’m always happy when other people acknowledge my freakin’ adorable dog, Tobu.
I’ve been using Little Chonk’s the Maxine One ($120) dog backpack since late January to carry my pup around New York City (and even in Atlanta, Georgia). Why do I need to put my dog in a bag? Well, in most major cities, dogs need to be in one when you use public transportation systems. I’ve previously used a tote bag made for dogs, and while I think there’s still room for such a thing, there are good reasons to strap your dog on your back instead.
The Maxine One comes in two sizes; I use the One S (small) with Tobu. You can find the measurements on Little Chonk’s website, which also suggests which breeds fit in each bag. If it helps, Tobu is 17 pounds and the One S fits him pretty well with some room to fill. Maxine, the Instagram-famous corgi the bag was designed around, is roughly 25 pounds and sits in the standard Maxine One. (Little Chonk says it’s working on designs for dogs under 15 pounds and dogs over 40 pounds.)
Bryan Reisberg has been carrying Maxine in various backpacks for six years. His hilarious videos, showing his fluffy corgi dozing off behind him or sniffing anyone nearby, helped catapult Maxine to fame. (I got a chance to meet Maxine, and she is even cuter IRL.) But Reisberg says he was never really satisfied with any of the bags he used, so he built his own. He created a team—with a veterinary medical board and all—to make sure dogs would be well supported and comfortable in the Maxine One.
There are a few things to know before you buy one. If your dog has a preexisting medical condition, you should consult your vet before using this backpack—you’re putting them in a vertical position for a small amount of time, after all. Speaking of which, Little Chonk doesn’t recommend keeping your dog in the bag for more than 50 minutes at a time; it’s really geared toward short train commutes and the brief walks in between. You should also take into account your own health and ability—carrying a 35-pound dog on your back for stretches of time isn’t easy.
As with anything you introduce to your dog, you’ll need to train ’em up to be comfortable sitting in the Maxine One. Reisberg suggested using treats to get Tobu to come toward the bag and sit on it. This worked well enough that Tobu now comes over toward the bag, but he doesn’t stand right on top of it. We lift him up and put him on top of it. He does calmly sit in place as we zip up the bag and buckle him in, but you may need to train your dog to sit still. Do this process a few times and take your dog out for short walks. Keep an eye out in case they show signs of discomfort, and (obviously) shower them with praise and treats.
The bag itself is constructed fairly well. It uses a high-density and water-resistant exterior with a soft and mesh-like rip-stop weave on the inside. The sides have mesh ventilation so your dog doesn’t get too hot, and this section is held up by zippers and multiple bright orange buckles to make sure they stay put. These zippers have never come undone, and I never got the feeling that my dog would tumble out. There’s a collar clip for some additional security. I especially like the reflective details around the bag with Little Chonk’s logo (a corgi-butt-shaped peach, of course) to boost visibility at night.
Carrying my dog around in the Maxine One is pretty comfortable, though he is a mere 17 pounds. The straps don’t dig in, and the magnetic chest strap makes the whole thing feel snug around my body. It’s tough to see him when he’s on my back, but I just use the selfie camera on my phone or ask my partner if she’s with me. Tobu seems happy in it too! It took a few trips, but he is now comfortable enough to fall asleep while on my back, which is impossibly cute, and he wants to get in the bag when we’re waiting for a train.
The four grab handles around the bag give you options when you take the bag on and off, but I still struggle here. I have broad shoulders and long arms, so I try to be very careful to avoid wildly swinging the bag around. My partner has to sometimes help me with the second strap when I put the backpack on.
Dog backpacks are cuter than totes. I don’t know why. Is it because he looks more like a little baby? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s just harder to see my dog’s head sticking out of a tote. Anyway, backpacks are cuter.
The main reason I love using the Maxine One is that it frees up my hands. I can carry groceries a bit easier, or, who am I kidding, a box of donuts from Fan-Fan. With a tote (I use this from Roverlund), I always have one arm holding the strap on my shoulder to make sure the whole thing doesn’t slide off. Totes also tend to strain my shoulder much more quickly than a backpack does.
That said, putting your dog in a tote bag is much faster than getting them into the Maxine One. Literally, I just plop them in there. If I’m heading to the subway station, I walk my dog to it, then put him in the tote while we’re waiting for the train and take him out when we arrive.
This approach doesn’t quite work with the Maxine One because it still takes us about a minute and a half to put him in, not great if the train is fast approaching. So for now, we either wait for the next train to arrive or put him in the bag as we’re about to leave home.
Room for Improvement
There are a few things I’d like to see improve in the Maxine One. First, the tail port at the bottom of the bag is a bit too small, and it’s hard to keep open when we try to rope the tail through. We rarely use it, though we make sure Tobu’s fluffy tail isn’t squished before we set out.
You need to regularly readjust the straps around the backpack because you’re constantly taking your dog in and out, which is fine. But for me, the backpack arm straps are really hard to adjust. You need to keep them snug, yet every time I try to tighten them with the backpack on, I need to pull them down with a lot of force (even with my partner simultaneously lifting the backpack up). Lastly, one of the buckle’s straps has started to fray, which has me worried even if most of the bag looks and feels brand-new even after about two months of use.
Thankfully, Reisberg says the “straps and the tail port are already in the process of being updated,” along with a few other tweaks the company is going to implement later this year. It might be a good idea to wait for those changes to take effect, as Little Chonk is constantly refining its bag’s design. Or you can try the backpack in its current state and return it within the 30-day window if those issues are dealbreakers for you.
Ultimately, though, the team behind Maxine One understandably put a lot of care and attention into its design. Sure, it’s not as easy to use as a tote, but I’m willing to make a few sacrifices if it means I can watch people smile when they see my dog.
COST OF THE MAXINE ONE™ BAG: $120 AT LITTLE CHUNK