Bikes & barks: Tips and advice on riding a bike with your dog

bike ride with dogs
Margaret Davies

Dogs love being with their owners especially outdoors so what better way to spend some quality time together than on a bike ride!

Your pup can accompany you either by travelling in a basket or trailer or running alongside you. Which method you choose all depends on the size, age, health and fitness level of your dog.

Small dog breeds and puppies are best suited to a basket whereas a trailer is ideal for a larger dog that is not fit enough to keep up with you, has health issues or is old. If you have a high energy dog, having them run alongside you when you on are on your bike is an excellent way for them to exercise. However, before you decide to ride off into the sunset with your beloved pet, there are few things to consider first.

Dog bike basket

If you own a puppy or small breed of dog, they can accompany you on your bike in a basket secured to either the handlebars or at the rear on a back rack.

The ideal basket has padding along with secure attachments which connect to both the bike and your dog’s harness to prevent them from jumping out. The material used for dog bike baskets are either wicker, wire or fabric, and some include storage space for items such as a water bottle, treats and a lead.

Before you start enjoying bike rides together, it is essential that you familiarise your pup with riding in a basket as a frightened dog going crazy can unbalance the bike causing a possible accident. Some dogs feel restricted and don’t enjoy the experience whereas others love it! Be patient, taking as much time as necessary as it is imperative that you build confidence and trust in your pet, so they are not scared. Make sure the basket is the correct size for your dog and introduce him to it off the bike at first so he can get used to it.

The next stage is to fix the basket to the bike and place your dog inside, standing next to him. Keep him calm by petting him and talking to him gently while attaching the harness.

If he seems fine, then walk with the bike so he can become accustomed to the movement. Once he appears confident, go for a short, slow ride, on a smooth surface. Gradually build up the distance and speed each time, rewarding him with treats.

As your dog becomes used to travelling by bike, introduce small bumps and hills but don’t go mountain biking as riding over rough terrain will throw your pup around like a rodeo rider! Having a dog in a basket at the front of the bike can make steering difficult so when braking, lean back and use the back brake first before using the front brake. Never leave your pup in the basket when you park your bike, as even with the bike stand down a fidgety dog can easily make it fall over.

Dog bike trailer

A dog trailer is attached to the back of the bike and towed along by the cyclist. It is ideal for owners who like to cycle long distances with their dog running alongside, giving him the chance to rest for some of the journey. A dog trailer also allows a senior dog or one with health issues to get out into the fresh air and enjoy the ride.

When choosing a bike trailer for your dog, there is much more to consider compared to a dog basket. First, it should be big enough for your pup to sit, stand, lie down and move around in comfortably without feeling restricted. The ideal trailer should have a large wheelbase, and a low centre of gravity with large wheels for a smoother ride and the floor should be removable to make cleaning more practicable. The trailer must also include a protective cover for all types of weather with a large opening for easy access.

Your dog’s well-being is paramount, so it is essential to choose a model that meets certain safety standards. It must have a safety harness and a safety strap for the hitch in case the trailer becomes detached as well as an automatic braking system. Reflectors and safety flags make the trailer visible to other road users.

Just the same with a basket, allow your dog as much time as he needs to become used to the trailer using lots of treats. Start by introducing it without the wheels, placed somewhere in the home so he can become familiar with it and go inside. If your dog is reluctant to go in, leave his favourite toy or some treats inside to encourage him.

Once your dog is happily going in and out of the trailer, attach the wheels and hitch it to your bike. Ask your pup to go inside the trailer, again taking your time using praise and treats. Once he appears happy, connect the harness and push the bike around. If all is well, go for a short, slow ride over a smooth road. Gradually increase the distance and allow your pup to get out sometimes to have a run around.

Dog running alongside bike

If you have an energetic dog, having him run alongside you when riding your bike is a fun way for you both to exercise.

Your pup should be at least a year old and, before you start, should be taken for a health check with your veterinarian to ensure he is fit enough for such strenuous activity. The build of your dog is also an essential factor to consider. Dogs with lighter frames can run longer distances than those that are heavier and more muscular so always bear this in mind. Brachycephalic breeds are not designed for this form of exercise as they quickly overheat.

If your dog has the all clear from the veterinarian, then you can start thinking about going on bike rides together. Before you do this though, ensure your pup is obedient, responding to your commands and knows how to heel. Riding a bike with an undisciplined dog is extremely dangerous and can cause an accident. You will need to purchase the correct equipment if you are to ride your bike with your dog running alongside you safely. Although you may see people riding a bike with their dog holding the lead in their hand, this is dangerous as it could either get caught up in the wheels or your dog could pull you over.

There are various bike attachments available for canines including a specially designed dog bike leash, which is fixed to the bike frame or seat post along with a cord that attaches to a no-pull dog harness. Other inventions include a rigid dog leash which connects to the rear wheel allowing the dog to stay close and in full view. This design encourages the dog to maintain heel position and has a device that transmits to the dog any changes of direction. Other essential accessories you need for your dog are a reflective vest as well dog booties to protect the feet from sharp objects or hot concrete.

Introduce your dog to your bike with his lead on taking him around the bicycle before walking him alongside it. Once he is happy doing this, connect him to the bike leash and continue to walk practising commands you would say when riding for slowing down, turning or stopping. You can then take him for a short ride going slowly. Build his fitness up gradually from walk to a trotting speed travelling on smooth, quiet roads.

Observe your dog regularly, checking for excessive panting or tiredness and make sure he has frequent breaks so he can have a drink and a rest. He should be detached from the bike when you are not riding. Towing a bike trailer is useful for long distance rides as your dog can relax in it for a while if he becomes tired.

Biking with your dog

Biking with your dog is tremendous fun so long as you take the necessary precautions to ensure both you and your pup are safe. Always take your time introducing the equipment to your dog to provide a happy experience. When transporting your dog by basket or trailer, allow them to get out to stretch their legs and have a drink of water. Like people, all dogs are different, and your pooch may not enjoy travelling by bike so never force him. Ensure your bike is roadworthy and always wear a protective helmet. If you prepare your dog correctly, he will make an excellent biking companion for you!

(Article source: Pets 4 Homes)

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