As owners who are passionate about your dog, you are always looking for practical solutions and entertainment for your dog.
Since all animals like to be active and are curious, long walks are definitely part of your plans. Why not try biking?
Cycling with your dog can be an incredibly fun and rewarding activity, provided it is done with the safety of both the dog and the cyclist in mind. The activity is much simpler and safer than you might think.
A few common sense rules, a bit of equipment and you’re ready to take your dog for a bike ride!
Is it safe to ride a bicycle with my dog?
As with many canine activities, only you are the only one who can know the physical capabilities based on your dog’s level of activity, experience, temperament and general disposition.
If you have a low-energy, nervous or undisciplined dog that could get hurt or simply wouldn’t like to run alongside you, taking your dog with you on your next bike ride may not be the best idea. It’s the same if your dog doesn’t recognize some of the skills he’s learned, such as walking on foot, rappelling, or is too easily distracted by passers-by, other animals or, even worse, cars. A little training, with or without the help of a canine behaviourist will make all the difference.
Cycling with a dog requires a well-trained and enduring dog… If not, don’t panic! Use a leash, a basket or even a trailer.
And, stop fatality! If your doggie seems unable to run alongside you while you’re pedaling, it’s time to look into accessories that help you take your pet for a walk, even if it doesn’t physically run alongside you. Regardless of your dog’s size or activity level, you can find a dog leash that attaches to the frame, a basket that attaches to the handlebars, or a dog bike trailer.
Remember to stay safe during your trip by complying with all local traffic laws regarding bicycles. And if you’re riding your bicycle on a busy trail or in a high-traffic area, protect yourself and your pet by using caution and common sense. With a dog, the goal is not performance (long distance, fast speed), but fun and relaxation.
Is your dog ready?
If this is the first time your dog is riding a bike with you, take the time to familiarize him with the bicycle to make sure he won’t be scared during the ride. The first time my girlfriend went biking with Jodie, she let him feel the bike, then walked with him while she pushed the bike on the road and observed a few pedals to get a good understanding of how it worked.
Jodie didn’t show any fear, but rather great excitement. She understood on her own that she shouldn’t try to put her head near the pedals, but that she could follow him.
When preparing, consider your dog’s health and energy level and adjust your walk accordingly. Is your dog young, energetic and never wants to stop? As long as he has not been diagnosed with any particular physical problems, you should not have any physical restrictions that hold you back.
If your dog is older or less active, however, he may enjoy a leisurely walk in the neighbourhood rather than a long walk.
For Jodie, that’s what we did. The Cavalier King Charles being cardiac, we prefer to go for short walks in the surrounding area avoiding the hills. For the long trips, we make hiking on foot.
According to the veterinarians, it is a good idea to wait until the dog’s musculoskeletal development is complete before taking them to run alongside you while you pedal.
Also, think about the weather and road conditions before you leave. Will your dog run on a hot or rough sidewalk? Dog shoes may be a good option to help protect your pet’s paws. However, it is very important that the size is the right one as it may be more of a hindrance than a help.
Avoid walking when it’s hot or too cold. Choose roads with few vehicles or even sidewalks with few people.
It is better to use a tight-fitting harness when cycling with your dog rather than a simple collar. A harness offers more stability when guiding your dog and can prevent neck injuries.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to make sure your dog is well hydrated before, during and after your cycling trip. By observing your dog, you’ll quickly notice if he needs a break to drink.
Cycling with larger dogs
Larger, more active dogs often enjoy running alongside you while you’re bicycling. If your dog is comfortable with this, consider a special leash to make the process easier and safer for both of you.
It’s also possible to have a regular leash that you hold in your hand, especially if the dog is used to cycling and is very well trained, but in the event of a fall, this could lead to injuries, especially to your handle holding the leash. This can be handy for fetching bread, but not for a long bicycle ride with your dog.
Canivtting equipment, which attaches directly to the frame of your bike, allows you to keep both hands on the bicycle and keep your dog at a safe distance from the wheels while he is in motion. A variety of bike leashes are available on the market today. The Trixies set below is great for cycling with a large dog.
One of the advantages of a bicycle leash over a traditional manual leash is that it minimizes the risk of towing and unwanted accidents. Be careful not to pedal too fast for your dog and keep a steady pace. You don’t want to wear them out because all of a sudden, you’ve got images of Tour en France in your head and your pace has quickened.
It is also essential that you dictate the pace because dogs tend to give it all at the beginning and then end up exhausted in a few minutes. If you notice that you are pulling rather than stimulating your dog, slow down to a speed that is more comfortable for both of you.
An ideal bicycle ride with a dog includes three phases:
- A slow pace for a few minutes to warm up;
- A trot at your side, the time of which depends on his (and your) physical condition;
- A slow pace again that allows you to finish in a calm manner, trotting next to your bike during your walk and a recovery period at the end.
In the beginning, don’t go on big outings right away even if your dog seems resistant. A quarter of an hour is enough. Once you get home, observe the dog for any limping or excessive fatigue. If not, consider pedaling a little longer next time.
Cycling with smaller dogs
Smaller, older and nervous dogs should ride with you rather than run alongside you. If we’ve already had Jodie run a bit on a bike, we avoid it with Mookie who is smaller and less enduring.
There are many comfortable options to consider, including baskets, pet backpacks and bike trailers.
A smaller dog is very comfortable in a bike basket, as long as the basket is well padded and the dog is securely strapped down to avoid falling or jumping.
There are also baskets available that have protection to protect the dog when the sun hits too hard or to avoid rain.
The backpack or carry bag is another option. It is not the most pleasant for the dog and the owner, but you arrive safely with it. Take a bag with several air inlets and if possible, a good visibility so that the dog can enjoy the view during the ride.
Smaller and larger dogs can also have fun by sitting in a bicycle trailer. There is no question of tinkering with rough and uncomfortable equipment. Take a trailer designed for this activity. It will be safe, fun and simple to attach to your bike.
Is your bike ready for the ride?
A fit dog is a good thing, but if your bike is falling apart and is a real danger, it’s no use!
The checklist for getting your bike ready should include the same checks as for a solo ride: lights, tire pressure, brakes, saddle and handlebar grip, chain, gear shifting…
If you need to carry or pull your dog on your ride, or have him run alongside you, make sure your bike is up to the task. You don’t want to find out halfway through that your bike basket is unstable or that the trailer hitch won’t release.
Once you’ve prepared your bike, don’t forget to pack a bag for the road. Always carry water with you, even for a short trip. Other items depend on distance and terrain. It can be a first aid kit, some food, a GPS…
What are the advantages of cycling with your dog ?
One of the most obvious benefits of cycling with your dog is the amount of exercise it offers not only to you, but also to your pet. If you have a high-energy dog that never seems to be satisfied with even the longest walk or play session, then regular cycling trips may be the thing she’s been missing.
Cycling with your pet can give them the workout they want in a fraction of the time it would take to burn off the energy on a regular walk.
The best breeds for cycling with your dog
Strong, energetic dogs that have the stamina to walk, run and play for long periods of time are perfect candidates for a bike ride with you. Some of the breeds most likely to enjoy exercise are huskies, shepherds, Labrador retrievers, boxers…
But smaller dogs such as terriers and Jack Russell’s can also enjoy themselves and manage to swallow the kilometers with their unfailing energy.
If your dog is sporty and likes to follow you everywhere, he can accompany you no matter what the breed. This is the case of Jodie who follows us on short bike rides when her breed is not known for this ability.
On the other hand, be careful with breeds like bulldogs or pugs that have respiratory problems.
Reminder of the 10 key tips in the article :
- Familiarize your dog with the equipment before leaving.
- Make sure your bike is in good condition.
- Find the right accessory for your dog: basket, trailer, leash or carrier bag.
- Make sure your dog is on a leash or securely strapped in place during the ride if he or she is running alongside you.
- Obey the Highway Traffic Act and anticipate dangers your dog may not recognize.
- Bring water for your doggie.
- Plan plenty of breaks during a long hike.
- Find a comfortable pace for you and your dog.
- Praise your dog often because he’s a great cycling partner.
- Observe your dog in the hours and days following the ride to prevent any problems.