Every dog needs to get in regular daily activity. Most owners think of heading out for a walk or a run when it comes to something fun to do with their dogs. But dogs are well-suited to a number of different activities besides the more traditional ambulatory ones. Many dogs love to swim. Since swimming is an activity that is easy on canine joints, it is an excellent choice for dogs with mobility issues or who are suffering with stiffness or pain. But did you know that you can take your dog on a bike ride? Whether your dog prefers to trot alongside your bike or enjoy the view from a basket in the front, taking your dog for a bike ride is a fun thing to do!
Training Your Dog to Enjoy Bike Rides
If you plan to take your dog along on a bike ride, there will be some training involved; particularly if you hope to have Fido run alongside your bike. Always bear in mind that dogs can be unpredictable. A sudden move towards your bike’s wheels or pedals could send both of you flying leading to injury or worse.
Many people who want to start biking with their dogs prefer to consider having their dog run alongside them off lead. This certainly makes the process far less complicated since there are no leashes which could get tangled in bicycle wheels, pedals, or spokes. However, not all dogs possess the ability to remain close to their owners when off-lead, potentially putting them at great risk. While this may be a good option for owners who have trustworthy pooches, it is not a great idea for most in general.
For most people, the best solution is making use of a harness which can be tethered to the bike. Most of the leashes intended for this purpose attach to your bike in one of two ways: around the seat post or on the rear axle.
What makes these two spots the best choice?
Both the seat and rear axle possess springs which absorb shocks from any pulling your dog might do. This prevents unnecessary jostling and helps to keep your dog in line with the pace you set. After all, it’s supposed to be a bike ride not a dog sled race!
Several companies offer reliable harnesses and leashes suitable for biking with your dog. One of the most popular harnesses and leashes for biking includes the Walky Dog set. This kit comes equipped with everything you need to get started on your biking adventures with your pooch. One of the most critical elements found in this set is a harness which is padded. This will help to prevent rubbing against your dog’s skin which could lead to chafing or painful lesions. Urban Trail and Ruffwear also offer padded harnesses which are suitable for this purpose. As with all harnesses, you will need to be certain you purchase the correct size and that the harness is properly fitted to your dog.
Another precaution includes the length of leash. You don’t want one so long that the dog can race far ahead of you nor one so short that it allows little room for movement. One of the most popular leads for biking with dogs is the Bike Tow Leash. Safe, effective, and easy to use, it is not difficult to see why this product is the top choice for many dog and bike riding combos.
To begin the training process, you will want to start very slowly by getting your dog used to standing beside a bike. For many dogs, a bike can feel intimidating, so begin in a stationary position to get your pooch used to the fact that your bike is not so scary. Once your dog is quite comfortable standing next to your bike, you can then walk your bike with your dog walking alongside you. Be sure to do this in a safe, fenced space in case your dog loses interest and decides to do his own thing.
When your dog will walk calmly beside your bike, you are ready to advance to the next step of training: attaching the harness and leash and repeating the walking process but with Fido now tethered to your bike. When your dog is calmly walking beside your bike, give him lots of treats and praise to encourage him.
The final step is attempting an actual bike ride. Keep your first biking journeys together short and very positive. Reinforce the behavior you want to see by giving frequent treats and lots of praise. Before you know it, you’ll both be road ready!
During this process, always allow your dog to set the pace for learning. Some dogs are not suited to biking with their owners, and this should be respected. Others need more time to adjust to their new skill while still others adapt to it like a duck to water. The main thing is to give your dog the space he needs to learn and always be prepared to abandon your plans for biking with your dog if it is apparent that he is truly very uncomfortable.
What Dogs are Best Suited to Biking
Since biking is a strenuous activity and harnesses can place stress upon the anatomy of a dog, it is recommended that biking be reserved for pooches that are 20 lbs or more in weight. However, this doesn’t mean that smaller pooches can’t come along for the fun. If you have a dog that is of the smaller sort, a dog basket is the way to go! As with dogs who run alongside their owners, some training is required to get your dog accustomed to his new activity. A small pooch who decides to jump from the basket to check out his new surroundings could fall to his doom, cause an accident, or worse.
There are several different types of baskets that you can choose from. The key elements you are looking for are safety and durability. Many people like to purchase a basket which is equipped with a harness hookup. This type of basket gives the owner the option of tethering their dog into the basket via a harness and short lead to prevent the dog from jumping out. The Solvit Tag Along Pet Bike Basket is one of many biking enthusiasts’ favorites. It is lined with sheepskin to keep your dog warm and comfortable when out on a ride with his fave person. Though not as stylish but of greater durability, the Pet Pilot is another affordable and safe bike basket many owners like to use for their dogs.
An alternative to this style is a basket with a mesh enclosure which allows the dog to see out but not have access to removing himself from the enclosed space. The one main issue with this style is some dog breeds are master escape artists and quickly learn how to unzip the mesh attachment to give themselves the access they desire.
Another option available to dog owners is a pet trailer. If you have a dog who is too heavy (or big) to fit comfortably in a basket but is too old or frail to run alongside you, a pet trailer is the perfect solution. Pet trailers attach to the back of your bike and provide a comfortable spot for your pooch to take a seat or even lie down while you bike through your favorite neighborhood together.
As with getting your dog accustomed to a harness and tether, care must be taken to get your dog familiarized with a basket or trailer prior to hitting the open road. The easiest way to do this is to place your dog inside the basket or trailer when it is not attached to the bike. Praise your dog when he willingly sits there and give him lots of treats. Leave the item around your house for your dog to explore on his own. When Fido voluntarily approaches the basket or trailer, give him a treat and throw a praise party. Over time, your dog will come to learn that good things happen when he is in the basket or trailer. Once your dog is comfortable being inside the trailer or basket, you can then progress to having your dog sit in the item when it is attached to your bike, and finally, when moving.
Other Items to Consider
As with all sports, there is equipment you should purchase for your dog if you plan to include him in your biking adventures. One of the most essential elements you should always have on hand is lots of water, especially on hot days. Your pooch will work up quite a thirst, and water is key to keeping him from overheating and becoming ill.
Paw protection is another important element to consider. Your pup’s paws will take a pounding from running alongside your bike. Though over time your dog’s paws will become accustomed to road conditions; initially, you will want to keep your bike rides short and to pre-treat your dog’s paws with a conditioning balm to protect the paw pads against injury. One of the most highly recommended is a product known as Musher’s Secret which can be found at most high-quality pet retailers.
Lastly, consider a cooling vest if you plan to bike in hot weather. These types of jackets are wet then placed in the freezer to help keep your dog nice and cool during activity in hot temperatures.
Thinking of taking up biking with your pooch?
It’s a great way to burn off some extra calories and have a ball. Get yourself a proper harness and leash and start training Fido for his next great adventure today!