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Biking With Your Dog…Safely



Are you a biker who feels guilty every time you buckle your helmet on and head out the door as your dog whines sadly, knowing that you’re going off to have fun without her? Maybe you have been worried that your dog can’t keep up with you, or that her leash will get caught in the bike wheels, but there are ways to include your dog in the ride. Here are a few of the basics.  


Getting Your Dog Ready for Exercise


If your dog actually has the energy and stamina to trot along side of you as you bike, great! This is a perfect way to get exercise. But even if your dog appears to be in the best of health, you should have your veterinarian check your dog over before starting a new exercise routine like jogging -- which is essentially what this is. You will want to be sure that your dog doesn’t have any underlying conditions that could be worsened by strenuous exercise. Also, if your dog is overweight, jogging is usually not the best way to begin a new routine; it needs to be built up to with a regular walking routine first.


Once your dog has been cleared for exercise, you can buy the necessary gear. Essentials include a non-tangling lead; a body harness (attaching the lead to only a neck collar could be dangerous; attach the lead to a fitted body harness instead); a brightly colored reflective vest for your dog (you may also apply reflective tape to your dog’s vest); blinking lights for your dog and bike (you can get a collar that has lights embedded in it, or use an attachable tag sized light); a small first aid kit for little nicks that can occur; an extra lead for detaching your dog from the bike to do other things; and water bottles for you and your dog.   


Extras that can make the ride more enjoyable are dog booties -- hiking grade to protect your dog’s feet from jagged objects and from slippery or hot (or cold) concrete; a bike lead “baton” that can be attached to the body of the bike to hold the lead -- and the dog -- away from the bike’s wheels (as opposed to holding the lead up by the handlebars); reflective rain gear or cold weather cover-ups for inclement weather; and a dog backpack so your dog can carry her own water bottle and treats.


Getting Used to Riding


If your dog has never been around your bike before, start off by walking the bike along with the dog -- you on one side and your dog on the other -- just to get her acquainted with being attached to the bike. If possible, try to use paths that are soft, like grassy or dirt paths.


As you do these practice “runs,” begin using the commands you will be using for biking, such as for slowing down, making turns, stopping, or for bringing your dog’s attention back to you when she is distracted by something. Try (as best as possible) to choose words that are specific to you and your dog so that she is not confused by hearing other people use the words. Over time she will become accustomed to these new commands and will be able to anticipate your actions


Don't expect your dog to be able to run for long distances in the beginning. Just like us, dogs need some time to acclimate to an exercise routine. Start off by riding at a walking speed on an easy path for a short distance. As she gets used to this over a week or two, build up to a trotting speed after a ten minute warm-up walk. Observe your dog at all times and stop immediately if she appears tired, is panting heavily, drooling excessively, or loses coordination (this may be signs of hyperthermia). If she seems to be slowing down, stop and allow her to rest and have a drink.


Remember, this isn't a race. Pedal at a pace that will allow your dog to keep up easily. Watch your dog closely. Any distraction (another dog, animal, or person) that causes your dog to pull away can cause both of you to take a tumble.


During the ride and when you take breaks, remember to give your dog lots of praise for being a good biking partner.  



Other Tips


If you are biking with more than one dog, it might be best to have the dogs separated -- one on each side of the bike -- so they don’t get in each other’s way or get their leads tangled.


Do not hang the lead on the handlebars. If your dog pulls in a different direction, even only slightly, it could cause you to lose balance and fall. At the very least, keep the lead in your hand so that you can tug back in response to your dog’s change in direction. Ideally, keep the lead closer to your seat so that any changes in your dog’s movement are less likely to affect you. A good spot to attach the lead is the post just beneath your seat. Keep the lead as short as possible so that the dog cannot run in front of the bike.


If you do need to stop, do not walk away from your bike with the dog still attached to it. If the bike accidentally falls on your dog, she could get hurt, or she may panic and try to run from the clattering, falling bike, dragging it behind her. This type of experience could traumatize your dog from wanting to be around bikes. If you are using a special baton and lead that attaches to your dog’s collar, make sure to have an extra lead with you for when you have to remove her from the bike. Even if you don’t plan to do this, there may be circumstances that require you to. It is best to be prepared.


What if Your Dog Cannot Keep Up With Your Bike?


There are a lot of reasons for why a dog cannot keep up with a bike. It may be because she is still a puppy, in which case it is not recommended since strenuous exercise can affect the growth of the long bones; certain breeds are just not capable of much more than light walking; very small and very large dogs that cannot sun along with a bike; overweight dogs that can only do short bursts of light exercise; older or health compromised dogs. There are lots of reasons, but almost none of them preclude you from including your dog on your bike rides.


If your dog is smallish, you can get a handlebar basket for your dog to ride in, or you can attach a basket behind your seat in the same way you would a child seat. There are specialty bike baskets that are made just for pets. Check with your local bike shop, or look online. Remember to always keep your dog on a short leash that is clipped to the basket to prevent her form jumping out.


 Another option, which is great for multiple dogs and larger dogs, is a bike trailer/carrier. There are several trailer options, but the best are the ones designed specifically for carrying dogs. These have built in harness systems to prevent your dog from jumping out, a cover for sheltering your dog during hot or inclement weather, and they usually are built to enclose your dog while leaving the top open for her to put her head out to enjoy the ride.


Image: Megan Ann / via Flickr



Comments  5

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  • Biking With Your Dog…Safe
    11/22/2012 05:52pm

    It's a fantastic idea! Have done it, but Mapeta was too exhausted, so we mostly walked!
    Mapeta get ready to get your waistline back and make all the human sheep and chickens stand there hidden in the corners in total awe and muttering words of bewilderment as we dash by

  • The BuddyRider Solution
    10/04/2014 11:23am

    The thought of cycling with my small dog terrifies me -- visions of her darting under the front or rear wheels and getting run over, dying from exhaustion trying to keep up or somehow getting strangled by her own lead - no thanks. I love cycling and I hate leaving my dog at home every time I go for a ride, so I set out to find a solution....and here it is! 'The BuddyRider' - a bicycle pet seat for dogs.

    Pippa, my cross Shitsu/Toy Poodle and I loved this product so much we decided to import it and sell it to other cyclists and small dog owners who are experiencing this same dilemma. The Buddyrider fits quickly onto your bicycle seat post positioning your pooch between you and your handle bars where it can be securely strapped in with a front row view and enjoy the ride. NO more baskets, no more back seat drivers, the Buddyrider lets you keep an eye on your pooch and on the road without distractions.

    So if you're a cyclist and small dog owner you NEED a Buddyrider! Since I launched my new website 2 months ago http://www.buddyriderdownunder.com the BuddyRider has transformed the lives of cyclists and their dogs all over.....the best money EVER spent according to some of our customers.

    The Buddyrider is not a case of replacing your dogs daily exercise, its about getting your dog from A to B on a bicycle in a way that is safe and secure for both of you and then letting your pooch off for a run at the park, the beach or somewhere along your favorite cycling track where they can stretch their legs and do their business.

    I could literally go on forever about this awesome product that's transformed our lives....but its time for you to check it out for yourselves and please don't forget to tell you friends on Facebook, Twitter , Instagram and other social media.

    Thanks. See you on the other side.
    BuddyRiderDownUnder.com - The Bicycle Pet Seat for Dogs.

  • Bike tow attachment
    07/07/2015 02:06pm

    If you are thinking about biking with your dog, invest in the bike tow that attaches to the wheel hub and not one that attaches under the seat. http://biketowleash.com

    About 5 or so years ago I bought a few dog bike tows. The first couple I bought because they were the cheapest. Big mistake. I found those, which attached under the bike seat, knocked me off balance if the dog pulled at all. I'd end up on the ground with the bike on top of me. I initially bought them for my 90 yr old neighbor's powerful, 120 lb, young german shepherd dog. With the under seat type, he'd pull the bike over, I'd fall off and he, with the bike attached to him, would run another 50 ft or so dragging the bike behind him.

    I also tried holding a leash (with my own dogs - wouldn't dare try that with this guy.) - that was a terrible idea. There was no control - they were either too close or too far from the bike and I was afraid of running them over, their tail getting caught in the spokes, the leash getting tangled...

    So after many falls, cuts, bruises I invested in the one that attached to the back wheel hub. The design completely eliminated the dog's ability to pull the bike over. You can see it at: http://biketowleash.com - it is worth every penny if are considering safely taking your dog on a bike ride. The GSD is now in a wonderful home with people who can take care of him, but we had a couple years of daily biking. Although I don't take him out anymore, I still take 2 of my dogs out on the bike with the bike tow.

    Also, I'd recommend never riding on busy roads. I don't have bike paths around, so I just ride around the subdivision and since the tow attaches to the left side of the bike, I always ride against traffic so my dog is on the side of the road and the bike is between him and cars. People don't expect a dog attached to a bike, so they may not notice your dog and run him over if he is on the traffic side of the bike.

    If he happens to take off after a squirrel or cat, don't hit the brakes, the bike might flip. I learned this the hard way. Instead, slowly put on the brakes to slow the dog down or just let him run a little as long as he can't catch the critter.

    Don't make him run; let him walk/jog at his own pace. This bike tow, allows him to determine his speed. If he wants to go faster, as he speeds up, it will pull the bike instead of you pulling him.

    Please remember not only to check the outside temperature and sun intensity before deciding to take your dog for a bike ride, but to feel the ground with your hand before taking your dog out (just as you would before taking him on a walk). The pavement can burn his pads. If it's too hot for your hand, it's too hot for your dog's feet. Dogs can only cool down by panting cool air and by sweating thru their feet. If he gets hot, in addition to a cool drink, cool him down with cold water on his feet and belly - not on his hair, the wet hair and heat will turn his body into a steam bath. And then get him into some air conditioning. Whether walking or biking, the summer heat can be brutal and dangerous.

    Hope this helps anyone considering biking with their dog.

  • 07/08/2015 07:23am

    This comment is in reference to the statement in the article, "Extras that can make the ride more enjoyable are......a bike lead “baton” that can be attached to the body of the bike to hold the lead -- and the dog -- away from the bike’s wheels (as opposed to holding the lead up by the handlebars);"

    Agreed, dogs do love to accompany owners on bike rides and the exercise is good for them....But the "baton" is not an "extra” it’s a safety REQUIREMENT to prevent injury to both the dog and rider by keeping the dog's leash from becoming entangled in the bike! For safety reasons, a leash or lead should NEVER be used to run a dog beside the bike!

    Case in point: Late one afternoon I was "outrigger biking" with our 2 small Australian Terrier dogs down our neighborhood street. Each dog was attached on opposite sides of my mountain bike via 2 Walky Dog "batons" each clamped to opposite sides of the bike seat post. For shock absorption purposes, each dog was connected to the end of each baton via a bunji cord attachment specifically designed for that purpose in the event of unanticipated stops.

    As we rode past a neighbor lady's house, the neighbor yelled out to me that she was glad to see that I was wearing a helmet because not too long ago she happened across a lady, unconscious in the middle of the street, with her dogs' leashes tangled up in the bike! The neighbor lady called 911 but the lady was still unconscious by the time 911 arrived!

    For safety considerations, the method of attachment of the dog to the bike should always be a product specifically designed for that purpose, including a design feature to keep the dog at a distance from the bike to prevent injuries from entanglement, and a means of shock absorption to protect both dog and rider in the event of sudden stops or movements by the dog.

    The appropriate attachment location of the "baton" may vary depending on a number of factors, e.g., the size and style of the bike, the size and weight of the dog, and shock absorption features of the attachment method used.

  • Running and pulling bike
    01/18/2016 11:23pm

    My 3 year old Border Collie love to pull my bike with me on it on the road. She gets it up to 20mph and we usually go about 2 miles. She does not go at that speed all the time and is very good at following commands like "slow down" Stop" go left, go right, go straight.
    A great benefit of this is she is in superb shape and her nails are extremely short and this seems to satisfy the need to constantly be doing something.
    My concern is that she may be harming her joints by pounding on the pavement at that pace. She is slim weighs 29lbs.
    Does anyone have experience regarding this activity?

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