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As dog lovers, we’re always looking for fun ways to incorporate spending time with our best pals in our day to day lives. Our dogs love being active and adventurous with us, and above all, they enjoy spending time with us. Many owners, myself included, take their dogs to dinner at their favorite pet-friendly restaurants, hiking in local parks and nature preserves, and even on biking trips.
Riding a bike with your dog can be an incredibly fun and rewarding activity, as long as it is done with the safety of both dog and rider in mind. Never brought your dog along for a ride before? Not to worry. If you’ve been thinking about biking with your dog and learning about the best tools to assist in the process, see below for answers to some of your biggest questions and advice regarding all things dogs and bikes.
As with many dog-related activities, only you can truly answer this question based on your dog’s activity level, experience, temperament, and general disposition. If you have a low-energy, skittish, or unruly dog that could either get himself injured or simply would not enjoy the process of running alongside you, perhaps taking your dog along on your next bike ride isn’t the best idea. This goes for your pal if she is easily distractible and loves darting after bikes, cars, or other animals, as well.
But no need to despair. As long as your dog is willing and able to learn, there are actually a number of great products out there to help you bring your pet along for the ride, even if they’re not physically running by your side. No matter your dog’s size or activity level, you can find the right dog bike leash, pet basket, or dog bike trailer to explore the outdoors with your dog.
Just remember to stay safe during your trip by adhering to all local traffic laws regarding biking. And if you’re biking on a busy trail or in a heavy traffic area, keep yourself and your pet safe by using caution and common sense.
If this is your dog’s first time biking with you, take the time to allow him to become familiar with the bike to ensure he doesn’t get spooked during the ride. The first time my husband went riding with our poodle JoJo, he walked his bike up and down the block with him before getting on. After a few minutes, JoJo became accustomed to the bike and my husband was ready to set out on a longer ride with him trotting happily beside him.
As you prepare, consider your dog’s health and energy level and tailor your ride accordingly. Is your dog young, energetic, and never wants to stop? As long as he’s been cleared by his vet during his last checkup, you shouldn’t have any physical restrictions holding you back. If your dog is older or less active, however, he may enjoy a leisurely ride around the neighborhood more than a long ride. According to dog expert J. Leslie Johnson, it is a good idea to wait for a younger pet’s musculoskeletal development to complete before taking them running on your bike with you.
In addition, think about weather and road conditions before you set out. Will your dog be running on hot or rough pavement? It could be that dog shoes are a good option to help protect your pet’s paws from the strain of running on the road during your journey. The experts at petMD recommend using a fitted body harness to bike with your dog rather than just a neck collar. A harness offers more stability when guiding your dog and can prevent neck related injuries. Lastly, it’s also always a good idea to make sure your dog hydrates well before, during, and after your biking trip.
Larger and more active dogs often relish running alongside you while you bike. If your dog is comfortable with this, consider a special biking leash to make the process easier and safer for both of you. If you have an experienced runner, you may be comfortable going it “old school” with leash in hand, but a safer option may be one of a number of hands-free dog bike leashes for your bike.
These specialty bicycle leads, which attach directly to your bike’s frame, allow you to keep both hands on the bike, and also keep your dog at a safe distance from the wheels while in motion. A variety of bike leashes are available on the market today, allowing you to find the one that attaches at the best location on your bike to accommodate both taller and shorter dogs.
One of the advantages of a bike leash versus a traditional hand-held lead is that it can minimize chances of unwanted tugging and accidents. Just take care not to pedal too fast for your dog. You don’t want them to overexert themselves running. If you notice you’re pulling your dog rather than pacing them, slow down to a more comfortable speed for both of you.
According to Johnson, your biking routine with your dog should include a walk to warm up, trotting alongside your bike during your actual ride, and a cool down period at the end. At first, keep biking with your dog to 10 or 15-minute sessions so he or she can acclimate to the new workout before going on longer rides together.
Smaller, older, and nervous dogs may do better riding with you rather than running alongside you. There are several comfortable options for you to consider, including baskets, pet backpacks, and bicycle trailers. There are actual dog-specific models for each of these options available on the market, though many dog owners are able to customize bike baskets and trailers that they already own to suit their needs.
A smaller dog can do great riding in a front, side, or rear-facing bike basket, as long as the basket is well padded and the dog is strapped in safely to prevent falling or jumping out. When I lived in downtown Phoenix several years ago, I would often bike with my bichon-poo Rye sitting in a comfy basket on my vintage Huffy bicycle. She absolutely loved feeling the breeze on her face while we rode, especially when we picked up the pace.
Both smaller and larger dogs can also join in the fun by riding in a bike trailer. As with the basket, the only requirement to make this option work for your pet is ensuring that the trailer is comfortable and safe. Confirm your dog is strapped in and can’t make an unexpected exit while on the road. Learn more about dog bike trailers here.
The checklist for your bike being dog ready should include all the same items you’d use to determine road-worthiness for yourself, including working lights and reflectors, tire pressure and brakes. If you’ll be carrying or pulling your dog during your ride, or running him alongside you, ensure your bike is up to the task. You wouldn’t want to find out mid-ride that your bike basket can’t maintain your dog’s weight, or the bike trailer isn’t connected securely.
Once you’ve prepped your bike, don’t forget to pack a bag for the road. Some important things petMD suggest you bring along on your bike trip include a detachable lead for when you and your dog are away from the bike, a first aid kit, and a bowl with plenty of water for your dog.
One of the most obvious benefits of riding a bike with your dog is the amount of exercise it offers not only you, but your pet as well. If you have a high-energy dog who never seems satisfied with even the longest walk or play session, then regular biking trips may be the thing she’s been missing. Biking with your pet can give them the workout they desire in a fraction of the time it would take to burn the energy during a regular walk.
Strong, high-energy dogs with the stamina to walk, run, and play for extended periods of time are perfect candidates for coming along on your bike ride with you. Some of the most likely breeds to enjoy the exercise include huskies, border collies, Labrador retrievers, and boxers. But smaller dogs like Jack Russell terriers and poodles can take pleasure in the activity as well.
Just remember, your dog doesn’t have to be a certain breed or size to enjoy spending time with you biking. As long as your dog enjoys running alongside, being carried in a basket, or pulled in a trailer, you can have a great time on the road together as you bike.
10 Helpful Dog Biking Tips
- Familiarize your dog with the equipment before you set out
- Check all lights and brakes are working properly
- Find the method that works best for biking with your dog (running leash/basket/trailer)
- Pack a detachable lead for time away from the bike
- Ensure your dog is safely leashed/restrained during the ride
- Follow local traffic laws regarding biking
- Bring along water for yourself and your pet
- Allow for plenty of breaks during a long ride
- Find a comfortable pace for yourself and your dog
- Praise your dog often for being a great biking partner
All photos are © Melanie Lewis.