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Want to bring your dog with you on your next bike ride? The market is full of products to help you, from bungee leashes and backpacks to basket-style carriers and bike trailers. But what’s the safest way to ride with your dog—and how can you know if your pup is up to the challenge?
To answer these questions, we asked Dr. Megan Conrad, a licensed veterinarian at Hello Ralphie and an avid outdoor enthusiast and hiker. Together, we take a closer look at bike trailers, baskets, carriers, and more.
How Bike Trailers, Carriers, Backpacks, and Leashes Work
If you want to bring your dog on your next bike ride, you have quite a few options. What you pick all really depends on your specific dog and what they need to stay safe and happy while you explore new paths together.
Bike trailers can be a good place to start. Most models, like the PetSafe Happy Ride, are lower to the ground and partially or fully enclosed, keeping your dog securely fastened so they don’t jump out. They also provide ventilation and shade to keep your dog from overheating—a good idea for pups in hotter climates.
Best suited for smaller breeds, bike carriers and baskets are attachments you can add to your bike’s handlebar or handlebar stem. For safety, look for options that are fully enclosed or have leash attachments, like the Petsfit Dog Bike Basket. Soft cushions keep things comfortable, and a safety belt offers peace of mind. The Petsfit basket also doubles as a shoulder bag and car booster seat.
For pet parents doing a mix of walking and riding, dog backpacks are a popular pick. Look for options like the Muttmover Dog Backpack, with a solid bottom and enough space for your pup to lay down—plus enough airflow to keep both you and your pup cool. We’ve tested it ourselves and found it a strong option for cycling commuters and errand-runners.
A bike leash or tow lets you hook your dog to your bike so they can run beside you. While it’s a fun way to exercise with your pup, it’s also a more advanced option that will likely require a blend of the right temperament, fitness level, and training. If your dog ticks all the boxes, then try a strong, sturdy option like the Bike Tow Leash, which has a 5-star safety rating by the American Pet Association and is uniquely designed to help prevent tipping, tangling, and steering sideways.
For more options, check out “The Top 10 Bike Carriers for Dogs.”
What the Experts Say About Dog Bike Trailers and Carriers
So are bike trailers, carriers, backpacks, and leash attachments safe?
Ultimately, it depends on your dog. According to Dr. Conrad, it’s important to consider your dog’s breed, size, and age when deciding whether or not to bring them along for a bike ride. For overall safety, bike trailers are usually the best bet because they’re enclosed and lower to the ground, which helps prevent your dog from hurting themselves if they jump out or your bike accidentally tips over.
While leash attachments can be safe if used appropriately, some dog breeds should not be taught to run along beside you. “Brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Frenchies are not athletic, so you will not want to have them run beside your bike,” says Dr. Conrad.
“They are prone to breathing issues as well as heat stroke, so riding in a well-ventilated bike trailer that provides shade is the safest way for them to tag along.” She also notes other small dog breeds and dogs under a year old should not be taken out on runs with bike leash attachments.
That being said, some dogs may thrive with a bike leash attachment. “If your dog is physically fit enough to run alongside your bike, this can be a great way for them to get exercise,” says Dr. Conrad. “You will want to make sure your dog is well-behaved on walks before taking them on a bike ride. If your dog pulls on the leash, this could be dangerous to you when you are on your bike.”
When choosing a basket, carrier, or backpack for your dog, Dr. Conrad says to select an enclosed style to prevent your dog from jumping out while biking. She also notes baskets, carriers, and backpacks tend to provide the least sun protection, so it’s best to leave your pup at home when it’s hot outside so they don’t run the risk of overheating.
More importantly, you both should be having fun. Dr. Conrad emphasizes slowly easing your dog into bike rides and taking care to watch their body language to make sure they’re having a good time.
“However your dog joins you on bike rides, pay close attention to how they are behaving,” she says. “If your dog seems nervous about the bike, you can encourage them with treats to make the ride a positive experience. Start with short rides and gradually work your way up to longer trips to allow your dog to get used to riding with you or to build their stamina.”
And no matter what you choose, take frequent water breaks to keep you and your dog hydrated.
The Final Verdict: Are Dog Bike Trailers and Carriers Safe?
So is it safe to bike with your dog using a trailer, carrier, or backpack? That depends! While dog bike trailers tend to be the safest option because they’re enclosed and lower to the ground, you’ll want to double-check size and weight restrictions to make sure your dog can safely cruise along with you.
As for carriers and baskets, these have weight restrictions and are often best for smaller breeds. While some can carry pups up to 20 pounds, others have lower weight limitations, so it’s important to check before going out for a ride together.
Dog backpacks are also a safe option if you’re an experienced biker. Choose a hard-bottomed, dog-safe pack that maximizes comfort for you and your pup. You’ll also want to ensure it has proper air ventilation—backpacks with mesh fabric are a nice choice in the summer.
Leash attachments can be a safe option, but they require proper training and shouldn’t be used for first-time bike rides. You’ll want to build up your dog’s endurance and avoid going on long bike rides when the temps are high.
How We Chose Our Dog Bike Trailers and Carriers
The dog bike trailers and carriers featured here were selected based on a combination of our own hands-on testing, a comprehensive look at customer reviews across a wide variety of retail platforms, and interviews with veterinary experts, including Rover’s Dog People Panel. We selected products based on safety and durability. We’re also guided by the experience of living and playing alongside our own much-loved and strongly opinionated pets, who are never stingy with their feedback.
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