A Primer for Cycling With Dogs

Bikes and dogs
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Maybe you're a fan of cycling who also loves dogs. Or, perhaps you are a dog lover who wants to start riding a bike. Can you put the two together and ride a bike with your dog? The answer is maybe.

Cycling with your dog means one of two things:

  1. Your dog is riding in a bike trailer or pet basket
  2. Your dog is running alongside your bike

The latter can be a great form of exercise for certain people and dogs. For smaller dogs or exercise intolerant dogs, it's best to stick with the bike trailer or basket. Either way, it's important to do this the right way. Here's what you need to know before you start cycling with your dog.

The Ride-Along

Some dogs are not meant for running. Some small dogs, dogs with short muzzles (such as Bulldogs or Pugs), senior dogs and exercise intolerant dogs fall into this category. If you still want to take your dog along on your bike ride, you should get a bike trailer or a pet basket. Be sure to choose a trailer or basket that is large enough to give your dog some room to move around. Your dog should not be able to jump or fall out, but should also have plenty of ventilation. Consider something like the Burley Tail Wagon for a trailer or the Snoozer Dog Basket for a mounted basket.

Be sure to introduce your dog to the basket or trailer using positive reinforcement. Make sure the first few rides are slow and gentle. High speed and a bumpy ride can really scare your dog. Also, make sure the basket or trailer is securely attached to your bike.

While you're out there riding around, don't forget to stop and give your dog the opportunity to eliminate, stretch his legs, and drink some water.

Running With the Bike

If you decide to start letting your dog run alongside your bicycle, you will need to keep a few things in mind.

First of all, determine if this activity is appropriate for your dog. Remember that while you ride your bike, your dog will need to run the whole time. Consider the guidelines for running with your dog. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my dog a puppy? If so, you should wait until he is grown to avoid injuries.
  • Has my vet cleared my dog for running? Your dog should see the vet before starting any new exercise regimen.
  • Is my dog physically fit for running? Dogs with short muzzles (such as Bulldogs or Pugs), senior dogs, exercise intolerant dogs and some small dogs are just not cut out for running. The can overheat or suffer from exhaustion, illness or injury. 
  • Is my dog mentally fit for running? Your dog must be well-trained and socialized in order to run alongside your bike without incident. Make sure your dog can walk on a loose leash and knows how to properly behave during a walk.

Introducing Your Dog to the Bicycle

If you have decided that running is right for your dog, you next need to introduce your dog to the bike. Some dogs will be just fine with a moving bike while others will be scared. If your dog seems hesitant, be aware it may take days to weeks before your dog will walk beside you while you ride a bike. Start with your dog on a leash and a bike that is parked. Bring your dog towards the bike and reward him if he seems comfortable and aloof. If he seems afraid, walk away from the bike and reward him when he stops showing signs of fear. You will need to get him used to the bike, gradually moving him closer but avoiding a fearful reaction.

Once your dog is comfortable with the bike, you can begin to move the bike gently. Work your way up as slowly as needed until your dog will walk leisurely beside you on a leash while you walk your bike. Reward him for being calm and keeping his attention on you. Then, start riding the bike slowly while holding your dog's leash.

Start Slowly

Once it's time to go for your first bike ride with your dog, begin with about 10 minutes at a slow to moderate pace. Monitor your dog's reaction to the exercise increase. Add 5-10 minutes to the ride every few days if he tolerates it well. If your dog is slowing down on his own or begins to limp, it's time to take a break. Rest a bit and then walk home. Increase your pace as your dog can tolerate it. When in doubt, go for short and slow rides until your dog builds up the endurance for more.

Avoid high speeds and sharp turns. It's best on your dog if you always keep a moderate pace that allows him to trot or jog. Go too fast and he can get injured!

It's important to keep your dog on a leash when running alongside your bike. Consider a bike leash like the Springer Dog Leash to make it easier for you both. 

Safety First

Make sure your dog has access to plenty of cool, fresh water while running. If you cannot bring water with you or run in a public area where water is available for both humans and dogs. Remember, your dog is running and might need even more water than you.

It's important to know that dogs do not cool themselves efficiently. On hot days leave your dog at home. During warmer months, consider early morning rides with your dog before the heat of the day. If your dog shows signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, seek immediate veterinary attention. Also, do not ride on hot asphalt with your dog. If the ground is too hot for you to touch, it's too hot for your dog's paws!

Be Responsible

When cycling with your dog, you should follow the same basic rules of walking: pick up after your dog, have control of your dog, respect others, pay attention. Most of all, have fun!