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How to Bike With Your Dog Safely

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KEY
POINTS

  • Before you start riding with your dog, do your best to walk your bicycle while you walk your dog.
  • A neck leash will not be safe for this form of exercise. Instead, you will need a fitted harness that attaches to the frame of your bike.
  • To get your dog in better shape and to help them increase their joy in this workout, work in short bursts.
  • Try to get out early in the day before the asphalt gets too hot.

Biking with your dog can include either running your dog beside you as you cycle or you can carry your dog in a contained carrier on the bike or in a trailer. Here’s what you need to know to prepare yourself and your dog for your first ride.

Establish Leash Control First

If you are already walking your dog, you know when your dog is prone to acting out or taking off. For those who want to take their dogs out to run alongside their bike, you will need to allow your dog to get familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells of your bike.

For example, the spinning of wheels can be pretty distracting. Before you start riding with your dog, do your best to walk your bicycle while you walk your dog. Consider also wearing your helmet and any eye protection you usually wear bicycling to get your dog accustomed to what you look like in your bicycling gear.

Practice Riding At a Walking Speed

Once you and your dog have a steady walking speed, try cycling at that speed so your dog can transition quickly. Be aware that a neck leash will not be safe for this form of exercise. Instead, you will need a fitted harness that attaches to the frame of your bike.

Once you have a fitted harness that works comfortably for your dog, apply reflective tape to the harness, so your dog is visible to cars no matter the light level and weather conditions.

Make sure that your dog has the stamina to go faster than a walk when you are ready to ramp up the speed. If you are not sure how hard you are pushing your dog, go ahead and time the route when walking vs. riding. You are probably traveling the path faster on the bicycle.

Start With Short Sessions

To get your dog in better shape and to help them increase their joy in this workout, work in short bursts. Ride for a short amount of time on the street, then pull off, give your dog a drink of water, treat them, and provide lots of praise.

Try to get out early in the day before the asphalt gets too hot. If you usually walk on the sidewalk, be aware that asphalt on the street will be inherently hotter than concrete. If at all possible, do your best to change up the surface your dog has to run on to give their paws a break.

Avoid Very Hot Weather

You may be calmed and cooled by a breeze on a hot day, but your dog cannot sweat. Not only is hot pavement dangerous for your dog’s paws, but your dog is closer to the pavement. They will be absorbing more heat than you will have to simply because of proximity. If you have to ride mostly on asphalt, consider getting your dog trained to wear booties to protect their paws from burning.

No matter the temperature when you are riding, plan a break where you can:

  • get off the hard surface
  • give your dog some cool water
  • let your dog lay down in the shade and catch their breath
  • walk for a bit to cool down

If you hear your dog huffing and puffing, make sure you give your dog frequent water breaks and be ready to incorporate a cool down into your travel plans. Another option to include is lots of treats. Let your dog learn to celebrate these rides and runs together.

Which dog breeds can safely run alongside a bike regularly? Consider the following working breeds to join you on your bicycling trip.

  • Herders, such as the Australian Cattle Dog
  • Hunters, like the Brittany
  • Workers, like the Husky

If you have a mixed breed and are wondering if they will enjoy biking, look for long legs and short fur. For example, the Husky will run for miles, but they will overheat. Hunters love to run, but they are often sighthounds.

Bicycling with a sighthound, such as a pointer or a Greyhound, is one of the best reasons to NEVER attach the dog to the handlebars. If your dog sees something that catches their eye, they will hurt themselves, you, and your bike trying to check it out.

Herders love to run, and may actually run until they hurt themselves but will not stop until they fall over. Because herders, such as collies and Australian shepherds can often be headers, or need to be in front, pay special attention to your leash routing between you, the dog, and the bike, or train your dog to run beside the bike. Be aware that this will take time.

If your dog needs exercise, such as a Weimaraner or a Dalmatian, you have to be in charge of stopping and reviewing their physical condition. Dogs who love to get out and burn off some energy can get themselves so excited that they either hurt their feet or vomit when they get overheated.

Damaged paws take time to heal, and a running dog who starts vomiting may aspirate. Be prepared for some pushback from the dog. Once they learn to travel with you, they will not want to stop.

A Word About Carrying or Hauling Your Dog

Small dogs or older dogs that love to be with you could be terrific candidates for a carrier basket or a hauling trailer. However, even a squarely built bulldog or a tiny toy poodle will want to check out their environment and may try to hop out of the hauler or the basket.

A small dog that hops out of that front basket is at risk of being run over, firstly by you and then by everyone else on the road. Likewise, an older dog in an open trailer is at risk of rolling out or stepping out to check out something interesting.

To get your dog used to these settings, put them in the carrier with a treat and zipper the carrier or hauler closed. Talk to them, walk the bike for a bit, then take them out and celebrate their time in the carrier.

To ensure that the carrier is a familiar spot for your dog, go ahead and store a dirty workout shirt in there for a day or two before you start getting them familiar with the carrier.

Unlike a crate at home, you do not want to leave fabric that smells like you in the carrier when you are out on the bike. It could make things too slippery for your dog.

Your dog loves to hang out with you, and they may learn to love joining you on a bike ride. Get them familiar at a walking pace. Invest in the right gear, whether that is a harness for a running dog, a closed basket for a little dog, or a hauler for a bigger dog.

Get your dog accustomed to the environment and the pace. Finally, be extremely responsible about the physical condition of your dog. Some breeds will ignore the signs of injury and exhaustion.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Biking With Your Dog

Before biking with your dog, you need to consider the age of your dog, its experience level, health status and physical build. Dogs that are younger, older, overweight or have injuries may not be able to handle biking.

Additionally, if your dog is too excited or distracted along the way it could make for a bumpy ride. The best way to check your dog’s health is by checking its panting. Dogs are known for panting when they are overheated, but it can also be a sign of nervousness or stress–however, there are other ways to tell.

And remember, If you realize that biking with your dog is not the best option, take them out for a walk instead. You don’t have to do it because someone told you so.

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About Alek Asaduryan

Alek Asaduryan is the founder of YesCycling and has been riding bikes and in the cycling industry since 1991. Since then, his mission is to make cycling more accessible to everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people to achieve that. When he's not out riding his beloved fitness bike, Alek reports on news, gear, guides, and all things cycling related.

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