If you love dogs and love to bicycle, here are some ways you can safely bike with your dog.
Use a proper bike-leash attachment.
Put the attachment on your bike and a proper harness on your dog so that the dog is positioned in the correct place for heeling with a bike. Ideally, this just to the right of the saddle with the nose parallel to the pedal. You should use an attachment system that allows the dog to run alongside the bike, without being able to get loose or pull the bike over.
- Ensure you have a bike water bottle clean and filled with fresh water for the ride. Make sure you offer your dog drinks frequently (see below for more on how to watch for heat related problems). Most dogs eat from their owner’s hands so giving him/her drink is as easy as slowly pouring it in your cupped palm as they lap it up. DO NOT spray their head/shoulders as you would a person.
Keep your average pace at a trot. Only use faster paces for short bursts. Teach commands like “Whoa” and “Gee”/”Haw” (for turning) so that you can anticipate the motions of the bicycle. Note that, in this case, we use “Whoa” to mean slow down, not stop. The commands you use (the words themselves) are not so important as being consistent. When selecting words for your turning commands, be careful not to use words that you or others (within ear-shot of the dog) might inadvertently say. This could cause your dog to turn suddenly when you are not expecting it.
Practice together in short intervals, with lots of praise. Work up to longer distances. Your dog’s foot pads are tender and can shred. It takes a little time for them to toughen up. Start with about a kilometer and gradually add distance.
Keep your energy and attitude calm, positive and confident.
- You could use doggie booties to protect your dogs pads. However, if you do so you will probably have to do so all the time as your dog’s pads will not get the chance to toughen-up.
- Have your dog do its business before you go for your ride.
- Let your dog set the pace. If he/she wants to run fast, do so, but carefully. If he/she wants to jog at a slow pace, do the same. Remember that this is more exercise for the dog than you and you are not likely to get any aerobic exercise benefit from this activity.
- Only use a bicycle with hand brakes, no coaster brakes because it will be harder to control the bicycle and dog if you need to brake suddenly. Hand brakes also allow you to control the speed of the dog if they are going too fast. You should be able to make a running dog come to a complete stop in a short distance by only using the hand brakes.
- Never do this with a dog less than 9 months age. While it is possible for certain breeds to do this at 9 months of age, they are few. Some breeds may be able to do this at 12 months. Further, certain other breeds should probably wait until they are closer to 18 months of age. The key issue here is the bone plates MUST close and/or reach maturity BEFORE you start. Check with your veterinarian to make sure for your particular dog.
- Do not use just a leash attached to you or your bike!
- Do not use just a collar on your dog as it could cause neck, shoulder or spinal injuries.
- Do not use an “X-Back” harness on your dog with certain attachments as the dog will be able to run too far forward. This can cause you to run into your dog.
- Bicycling with dogs can be dangerous if not done carefully. Pay attention to your safety and other bike riders. Be sure your dog is well trained with voice commands.
- There are some dogs that probably should not try this form of exercise (e.g., Bulldog, Dachshund, etc.).
- Keep a close eye on your dog’s status as you ride. Watch out for signs of severe fatigue or other problems. For example:
- Thick ‘lolling tongue that seems out of control
- Loss of visual acuity (the dog fails to respond to a simple blink test)
- Loss of stability or coordination
- Using anything other than a proper bike leash attachment will cause you to risk:
- Accident or Injury
- A ticket under most highway traffic acts for improper care and control of your bike
- A hassle (rightly so) from humane societies for risking your dog’s safety
- A poor and frustrating experience for both you and your dog
- This may be illegal in the country you are in. Check with the local authorities before doing this.
Things You’ll Need
- A healthy human capable of riding a bike outfitted to conform to your local laws (helmet, shoes, clothing, etc.)
- A safe bicycle equipped to conform to your local laws (reflectors, good state of repair, good tires, etc.)
- A healthy dog capable of sustaining a trot (11 Kmh / 7 MPH)
- A bike leash attachment suitable for your dog’s size and weight
- A harness suitable for your dog’s size and weight
- A clean water bottle filled with fresh water and some treats for longer rides
- A love for your dog and his/her well being