Bicycling with Your Dog – A Guide for Active Dog Owners
What Should I Do Before Bicycling with My Dog?
Bicycling offers that wind in your face experience that dogs love, why not experience it together?
Is it Safe to Bicycle with My Pooch?
Yes, cycling can be a safe activity for you to do with your dog when the right training and equipment are used to ensure proper safety for you and your dog.
Since you are riding on wheels this can change your reaction time and how you handle a variety of situations that can come up around you. From other bicyclists to people walking and unforeseen terrain issues bicycling with your dog takes extra skill.
Below you will find what you need to know to prepare you and your dog for this exciting adventure.
Dogs and Bicycling
While every dog has different characteristics and traits, certain breeds are better suited for specific activities. When you look at your dog it is always best to take into consideration not only their breed but also their personality, temperament, age, physical build and current health condition.
It is recommended that puppies do not go on bike rides unless they are a passenger. This high impact and energetic activity may seem like a good choice, but it can affect their overall bone development and growth.
Older dogs and those with health issues are generally discouraged from bicycling adventures unless you decide to let them be a passenger. As dogs age arthritis can set in, this can create a less than pleasant experience while on the trail as well as hours later.
While just about any type of healthy and energetic dog can be trained to perform this activity, dogs who are large, sturdy and have longer legs are better suited to this activity. Those who have a shorter nose, such as the Pug can have breathing issues and should be a passenger as well.
Dogs Best Suited for Bicycling Adventures
From sandy beach to forested trail and even to the café in town, these dogs are great for this activity.
- Golden and Labrador Retrievers
- Border Collies
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- German Shorthaired Pointers
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Siberian Husky
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Australian Shepherd
- Portuguese Water Dog
- German Shephard
Dogs Need to Learn Cycling Skills
Just as you learned to ride a bicycle, your dog must learn to master the skills of good behavior and proper training to run beside you.
If your dog has never been around a bicycle you should let them explore it first. Like anyone, they can have apprehensions about certain objects so allowing them to become familiar with a bike will give them a level of comfort that is needed to have fun and be safe.
Once they have explored it thoroughly you can start by walking your bike for a short period of time with them beside you on a leash, up and down the driveway or other safe spot. During this time, you should offer treats and praise for your dog’s good behavior. Once they are comfortable it is time for the next step.
Learning bicycling cues takes time and much patience on the owner’s part so don’t rush this step.
Signals for turning, stopping and slowing down are important for your dog to learn. It is also highly important that they learn to focus on you when necessary.
You will want to begin by teaching these cues on regular walks. If perhaps you will be making a turn you can say this way in a commanding, but happy voice followed by blowing a whistle or finger snapping and then making the turn. Offer treats for comprehension and repeat this until your dog learns and understands each command properly.
It is also important that your dog pays attention to you when necessary, leaving all distractions behind. When you need them to focus on you while bicycling you can use the words watch or watch me. Say the chosen words in a firm but happy manner, wait for them to look at you and when they do give them a treat. Repeat this as many times as necessary until they understand that when you say this, they are to look at you. This may take a lot of practice, letting go of distractions can be hard for some dogs. Eventually they will come to anticipate what your actions are going to be.
After much practice and repetition, once your dog has accepted these new cues you can begin to practice them on the bicycle.
Short and simple bicycle rides with your dog walking beside you are perfect for practicing the above cues. The first rides should be no more than 10-15 minutes and preferably in a place that is relatively safe such as a grassy park.
Depending on how your fury best friend progresses with this activity you will want to give them ample time to get the hang of running beside a bicycle, following cues and increasing their endurance. Over the course of days or weeks you will want to slowly increase the length of the ride or change the terrain. You shouldn’t rush them during this training period, at some point they will master it. Be sure to keep each ride positive before, during and after with praise and treats.
Eventually the goal is for them to be trotting beside your bicycle while your ride, but they should always be able to keep us with ease and be comfortable and happy doing so.
Items to Bring When Bicycling with my Dog
- A Special Bicycle Dog Leash (they absorb some of the pulling motion that a dog may do)
- A Fitted Dog Harness with Reflectors
- A Light Up Collar (or light to attach to the collar)
- A Regular Dog Leash
- Water for You and Your Dog
- A Dog First Aid Kit
- Poop Bags
- Dog Booties
- Cold Weather Gear or hot weather gear and possibly rain gear
- Comb or Brush
Necessary Precautions for Keeping my Dog Safe
- Always keep your dog in your sights whether on a leash or off.
- Obey rules of where you are riding, making sure your dog has good behavior.
- Watch for signs of over exertion and fatigue. Fast heart rate, heavy breathing are all signs it is time to stop and take a much-needed break and reassess their health.
- Keep your eyes focused for distractions, obstacles, debris or other situations that might cause injury or issues to you and your dog.
- Observe them often for running issues, if they appear to be limping or having trouble stop and check them for strains, sprains or other injuries.
Prep for the Bike Ride with My Dog
- Check local regulations and laws prior to embarking on this journey, not all areas allow dogs to run beside a bicycle.
- Check with your dog’s veterinarian to make sure that this activity is something they can handle physically
- Know where you will be riding. What type of situations might you and your dog may run into? Being prepared can minimize potential problems for you and your dog.
- Refresh training, cue commands, and the rules of where you will be riding.
- Know the location of the nearest animal hospital or care facility.
- Create and refer to your emergency plan should something happen, and cell phone service is not working. Again, be prepared.
- Ensure that all equipment you will be using with them is in working order.
- Make sure they have plenty of rest, are well hydrated and free of injuries or health issues.
During the Bike Ride with My Dog
- Take frequent breaks for rest, hydration and to access their overall physical health.
- Watch your dog closely for lack of focus which can cause injury to you both. Stop when necessary to regain their focus.
- Be on the look-out for anything that could obstruct or distract your dog that could cause a problem. Some common examples are listed below:
- Respect others always and follow the rules of where you and your dog are (from people in the park to hikers on trails, wildlife, and so forth)
- If for some reason you do stop, never leave your dog attached to the bike and step away. Incidents can arise which can harm your dog and create trauma.
After the Bike Ride with My Dog
- Provide a much-needed rest and cool down with water, praise and some treats.
- Comb or brush, checking for ticks or injuries.
- Remove and inspect paws for soreness, redness or injuries.
A Word About Biking without a Leash
While it is important to check the area, you will be bicycling for leash rules, if there aren’t any, you must consider the pros and cons of doing so first.
If you decide to ride with your dog off leash, they and you will benefit from not being tethered together. This can lessen injuries and incidents from happening to you both. It can also create a better experience for your dog as they can explore at their own pace.
This does have the potential to cause issues, their behavior, training and skills must be taken into consideration first.
Possible questions to ask yourself before you decide to bicycle with your dog off the leash are:
- Is my dog trained properly for this type of adventure?
- How will they handle distractions while being off the leash?
- Will they possibly run off on me while I am riding my bicycle?
- Are there any safety issues where I will be riding my bicycle? Such as cars, wild animals, cliffs or ATV riders
- Will I be more distracted by having my dog off the leash?
- Can having them off the leash make the trip a less enjoyable experience for us both?
A Word About Doggie's Endurance
The dogs listed above have certain physical attributes that make them good candidates for going on a bicycle ride with you. This however does not mean that just because you have a golden retriever it will automatically excel at this skill.
As with humans, dogs have different personalities, behaviors and physical abilities which can have nothing to do with breeding and everything to do with the dog. Lifestyle factors, such as diet, sleep and exercise can allow a dog to reach their genetic potential or do just the opposite. A coach potato dog that eats way too many snacks is going to need to start with walks work slowly towards more physically strenuous type of exercise.
If at any time during the training period, you find that your pooch isn’t responding well, or they just simply aren’t interested you should stop. Considerations must be made for the dog and how they feel.
Riding with your dog is a shared adventure, if they aren’t having fun you may have to find another activity to do with them or another way to have this adventure together. For example, check out our article on hiking with my dog.
Bonus - Biking with Small Dogs, Older Dogs, Dogs with Illnesses and Other Situations
For those with a fur baby under 25 pounds, or one that is older or has an illness, there are certain products that can be used so they can share the adventure with you.
A dog bicycle seat or basket or even a tow behind trailer make it easy for you to take these, or any dog with you. If your fur baby is easily distracted and this would get in the way of you enjoying your own adventure than using these tools can allow you to share this time in a more enjoyable way. This can also be great for socializing and making new friends. Awe look how adorable that dog is sitting in the basket?
As a loving dog owner, you want to share memorable moments with your fury best friend as much as they want to with you. With a little time, patience and good equipment you and your dog can explore the world of bicycling together.
From your own city to the world at large, you and your pooch will never run out of territory to explore.
Your adventures await, enjoy them while you can!
Stay tuned next week for helpful knowledge on Kayaking with your dog!