Riding a Bike with a Dog – Top Tips That Work Even For Fearful Dogs
Well to start with, training a dog to ride a bike is just like training your child to ride bike for the first time without the trainer wheels. It takes time, patience and a great deal of good humor! And it requires some techniques and equipment too.
Is my dog fit to ride?
Start with finding an answer to this question. Find out if your dog is fit enough to ride the bike with you. Riding bike is not an easy exercise as walking or running in the park. Smaller dogs or older dogs are best taken in bike carriers or dog trailers. Talk to your vet to know more about your dog’s physical stamina and endurance level.
Mostly dogs that have long legs, short hair and medium built are ideal for riding alongside you. Some specific breeds that have been listed in the Mountain Bike forum are Foxhound, Ridgeback, Pointer, Doberman, Australian Shepard, Boxer and Vizslas.
Start training when your dog is young. But make sure that your dog is well grown and is still not in the development stage. Putting too much strain when his body is still developing might do him more harm than good. A good rule of thumb is to start when age is more than 1 year and weight is more than 25 lbs.
You must have enjoyed a good laugh watching videos on America’s Funniest of people falling off their bikes when their buddy runs off to chase a rabbit. Apart from being entertaining these videos are also good teaching tools. They teach us what NOT to do while riding along with your dog.
- Never hold the leash in hand while riding the bike
- Use proper dog attachments and safety gear
- You can also use a dog basket.
Follow the given tips to ensure a safe ride:
- Use a proper bike: Generally, a hybrid or a mountain bike is ideal for these types of rides. Make sure that your bike is in good shape and that there are no parts sticking out of it.
- Use harness instead of leash: A leash puts strain on the neck muscles of the dog when he tries to pull. A harness minimizes such strain.
- Use attachments that will absorb force of unexpected tugs:
- Springer: This attachment is made of steel and is very easy to install. It has a U shaped spring that absorbs 90% of dog’s pulls and tugs. This not only keeps you safe but also protects the dog from the pedals and wheels of the bike. You can attach it to both sides of the bike. It has a safety release that will release your dog in case you come across a tree or a pole.
- Walky dog: The walky dog attachment is great for medium to large dogs. You can attach it under the seat. It provides a better view of your dog beside you. You can also attach it to both sides of the bike. In case you are attaching two walky dogs then ensure you have minimum of 3 inches of space under your seat to set them up.
- Bike tow leash: You can install this much lower on the bike like the rear wheel axel. It is flexible and is a good option for trails that can narrow down. You can attach it on the right hand side also. But for safety reasons the manufacturers recommend to use it on the left hand side of the bike. Refer http://www.biketowleash.com/questions.php.
Take a look at the following videos that show the attachments in action. They will help you decide the best attachment according to your requirement:
Bike Tow Leash
- Wear a helmet while riding: Despite sufficient training your dog might get distracted and decide to run off. The helmet will protect your head from these unexpected falls and keep you safe.
You cannot expect your dog to start riding alongside you on a bike the very first day. Bike like any other object is a new and curious thing for him. He needs to get used its smell, its sound, its shape and its use. Follow the given steps that cover everything. They start from familiarizing your buddy to the bike to making him a comfortable rider.
The steps are numbered day wise. This is just to give you an idea about how much time it takes to train the dog. Repeat steps till they are successful. It might even take weeks to perfect the partnership between your bike and your dog.
Day 1- Smell of the Bike
Get your dog close to your bike. Put some treats on the bike so that he comes closer to it. You can keep the bike standing or even laying down to help him familiarize with its whole shape.
Day 2- Walk/Ride the bike
Walk the bike in the garden or garage and let your dog follow it. You can use treats to motivate him to do so. You can even ride a little just to let him know the use and sound of the bike.
Day 3 – Leash the dog and then walk the bike
Once he is comfortable being close to the bike you can leash him to it. This will also be the right time to use the attachments. Doing it early will help him associate the new attachments with bike riding.
When you pick the leash your dog shows his happiness by barking or wagging his tail or even jumping. He knows it is time for park or a walk. He knows that he will get to run or play or whatever activity you do when you take him outdoors.
Similarly, he should start associating the attachments with bike riding activity. This helps him prepare psychologically for the activity.
You see bike riding and walking are two different activities when it comes to safety issues. Bike riding requires a controlled behavior on your dog’s part. With a leash he is used to pulling or tugging. Hence, to avoid any confusion for your dog it is important that he understands the importance of the attachments and differentiates them from the leash.
Start practicing new commands also. He must already know commands like stop or stay. Make him used to commands that you will need while bike riding. Commands like turn, slow, fast and so on.
Another important thing to decide right now is which side of bike the dog should ride. Some bike attachment makers like bike tow leash recommend the left side as the leash might interfere with the gears of a mountain bike. Dogs are also more used to walking on the left side of you.
But walking and riding are two different things when it comes to facing the traffic. Since riding requires you to go in the same direction as the traffic keeping the dog to the left side exposes him to the other vehicles. Choose a side keeping in mind your dog’ safety and comfort level.
Day 4- Walk the bike outdoors
Like you did indoors you can continue with the same walking routine outdoors. But avoid taking your dog in high traffic areas or noisy areas. There should not be any distractions. Take him to a quite park instead. Practice the commands to the point of perfection. Slowly he will get used to the idea of walking beside the bike.
Day 5– Ride the bike
Once your dog has become comfortable with walking alongside the bike you can mount the bike and start riding it. But ride slowly at first. This is a new form of exercise for him and you do not want to overexert him. It should be as enjoyable for him as it is for you.
Continue using parks and low traffic roads for this purpose.
Day 6 – Go for bike rides together
Now you can take your dog for bike ride along with you. Explore roads that are soft on the paws of your mate. Riding too long on asphalt roads might injure the paws especially during summers. Try to select roads that give both you and your riding companion enough space as a team.
The pace and distance of the ride should be in accordance to your pooches comfort level. Increase both very slowly and always be on the lookout for any signs of tiredness on your dog’s part.
It is important to remember to never push your dog to do something. At any point of training if he is not willing then go back to the previous step and start again. He should not cultivate fear of the bike and things associated with it. Otherwise it would prove very difficult to train him.
Coax him with treats and words of encouragement. Pat him, hug him and cheer him whenever he does something right like obeying your command.
All this will require patience but the results will be very rewarding. Think about all the things that you will be able to do with him once he starts riding with you. You will not feel guilty of leaving him alone at home when you go for your ride. You two will get to spend more time together.
Things to carry along
Here is a list of few supplies you will need to carry with you when you go bike riding with your dog.
- Drinking water: Dogs heat up much faster than humans. Their fur and their inability to sweat make them warm and thirsty much faster than us. Keep water with you and take regular breaks during bike riding. It will keep your buddy refreshed and energized.
- First Aid kit: This is not only for you but also for your dog. Small mishaps might occur during the early days of training. He might pull you or get hurt along the way. Use the kit to treat bruises, minor cuts and abrasions.
- Tire pump and other repair kit: Equip yourself with the right tools to help you out of any bike problems like a flat tire.
- Mobile, money and ID: For any kind of emergency you should have some money on you. Having a mobile gives you an option to call out for help if needed. Fit your dog with his own id. The collar of the dog should have his id attached to it.
Points to remember during the ride
All through the ride take care of the following points:
- Keep checking your dog regularly to see if he is ok. If you see any signs of tiring then take a break. You can even think about turning back home or slowing your speed.
- Check your dog’s paws for any injuries. Use dog booties if necessary to make the ride more comfortable for your furry friend.
- Bike riders are wear bright colored clothing so that they are visible properly. As your dog is now officially a bike rider he will also need to wear a bright colored vest. A reflective vest with a light embedded collar will be an ideal combination for him. Use a cooling vest in case the dog gets overheated.
- Always wear comfortable shoes while riding to avoid any kind of foot problems.
- Never park your bike unattended with your dog attached to it. The bike might fall on him if he tries to move away from it. This will set a fear in his mind that will undo all your efforts of bike training.
After the Ride
Like any other exercise, after bike riding too you need to give your dog sufficient time to cool down and relax. Give him water and check his fur for any dirt or ticks.
Riding the bike with your dog can be one of the most enjoyable sports if done correctly. Safety first is the mantra here and it pays to stay alert. It is an entirely safe and healthy way for highly energetic dogs who love to ride. It is also a good way to burn off their extra steam and keep them happy. I highly suggest to you and everyone that make yourself aware of biking rules in your country.
If you have a senior dog you have various other options to enjoy the great outdoors with him or her. You can buy a bike trailer. Here is a detailed bike trailer buying guide.