Biking with your dog is a lot of fun. Most importantly, it gives you and your dog great exercise in a short amount of time, especially if your dog has a lot of energy to burn! We give you simple, quick steps to learn to bike with your dog. You’ll enjoy hitting the trails in no time.
Quick Steps to Biking With Your Dog
- Get Used To Equipment
- Walk With Your Bike
- Get On Your Bike – Go Slow
- Practice Turns – Go Slow
- Build Up To Faster and Longer Bike Rides
Read on to learn more about getting started with biking with your dog. We also give you some more tips on what dogs can run, health and safety considerations, cycling etiquette, biking tips for smaller dogs, and information about bikejoring.
Before you start, don’t forget to tune up your bike and replace any worn out parts! You might want to make sure your bike is outfitted with enough reflective gear and a bell before you train your dog. If you are just starting out with your dog, you may want to change clips to a flat pedal.
Need to know what type of biking accessories to get for your dog? We got you covered here.
Related Pawtivity / Event: Biking
HOW TO BIKE WITH YOUR DOG
1. Get Used To Equipment
Dogs aren’t familiar with biking gear and equipment so have them sniff any gear you will be using, bringing, or wearing. Get your dog used to the sounds and actions of the bike. Reward with a lot of treats even when they take an interest in your bike. Roll your bike and turn the wheels so your dog can hear and see the bike move.
Have another person hold your dog as you ride your bike in full gear so your dog can see you going faster on a bike and what to expect. Don’t forget to reward heavily with treats so your dog has a positive association with you riding the bike.
2. Walk With Your Bike
Leash your dog to your bike with the bike attachment and take a short walk. Don’t get on your bike, just walk while holding your bike going in a straight line. Next, introduce your dog to wide turns going left and right as you walk your bike. Your dog will have to learn to slow down and speed up when necessary.
Gradually introduce your dog to tighter or wider turns so your dog. Then, gradually walk faster and slower so you dog ca start to learn how he needs to adjust his speed to go along with the bike. Give rewards and praise as you train your dog.
If your dog is having a hard time with this step, take your dog off the bike attachment and hold them with a regular leash as you walk. You may even have to go back to training your dog to walk in a heel position next to you so they learn to focus on you and stay at your side as you walk. Use treats and praise to reward as you train your dog.
3. Get On Your Bike – Go Slow
Find a location with little traffic, distractions, and a path that is relatively straight for along time. Leash your dog to your bike with the bike attachment. Start pedaling slow in a straight line and pay attention to how your dog responds. Get them to a trotting stance to start with and then to a slow jog.
If you have more than one dog, train each dog separately up to now before attaching them to the leash together. The dogs should already be used to walking side by side together.
4. Practice Turns – Go Slow
Now that you have a mastery of biking slowly with your dog, add in turns but go slowly again and pay attention to how your dog is progressing. Practice riding the bike slowly with your dog attached until your dog becomes more comfortable going straight and turning.
5. Build Up To Faster and Longer Bike Rides
It’s time to hit the trails. Remember, your dog will be the one setting your pace so you need to pay attention to how fast your dog can run.
Dogs need to build up endurance and stamina. They also need to build up their paw pads so they don’t get raw pads from running. Start with 5 minutes of running at a time. Start with your practice speed and gradually increase speed. Each week you should increase distance by only a few minutes.
Don’t forget to take frequent breaks and reward him each time for doing such a great job. Keep practice sessions to no more than 15 minutes and keep your dog anticipating more time on the trail. He should be running towards you the next time he sees your bike!
As you bike, give your dog small, frequent water breaks even every 5 minutes at a time. Check their paws, mouth, and eyes each time. You will need to pay attention to signs of overheating, excessive panting (they are too hot), and even limping as you increase your mileage. Don’t overdo it. Slowly get a sense for how much your dog needs to drink . Use that knowledge when increasing mileage for your dog.
Most Important: Don’t forget to have fun while you are out with your dog! It’s not a competition to go the fastest. Baby steps people!
WHAT DOGS CAN RUN
Dogs that can keep up with you on a bike are usually medium to large in size, which is the size most bike equipment for dogs are designed for. Your vet should be able to tell you how well your dog may be able to run, especially if you have a puppy or senior dog.
Some of the best running dogs include Weimaraners, Border Collies, Siberian Huskies, Jack Russell Terriers, Parson Russell Terriers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Vizslas, Retrievers, and Dalmations, just to name a few.
It’s not usually recommended that small dogs run with you on a bike as it takes them a considerable amount of energy and stamina just to keep up with you long enough to make it worthwhile. There are still plenty of little dogs out there who can run as you ride – read on ahead. You can always bring along a dog bike trailer if your dog just wants to join in on the ride!
Some dog breeds, such as bulldogs, are prone to breathing difficulties and respiratory problems due to their short noses and flattened faces. It may be better to take short runs or frequent breaks with these breeds.
HEALTH & SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS
Consult your Vet.
Before you go out on a bike ride, consult your vet to make sure your dog is fit enough to run. Dogs should be at least a year old with a mature skeletal system. Your dog should also have mastery of basic commands and be able to walk next to you on a leash. Train them to follow you in the heel position so that they learn to stay behind you as you walk, and behind you when you ride.
Bring Enough Water.
The most important health and safety consideration is to make sure your dog is getting enough water. Dogs will heat up quickly when they run. Read our tips on how much water to bring for your dog along with signs to look out for.
No Flexible or Running Leashes.
Never bike holding a regular leash or attaching one on your waist. If your dog pulls even a little, you’ll likely lose control. Worse, you’ll crash or fall on your dog.
Choose A Wide, Open Trail – Shady, Cool
A busy road is not the best place to run with your dog, especially if you biking with your dog is new to you. The best place to start is on a wide, paved trail designated for bikers. A shady trail is best during the morning or early evenings. There are many local options, but consider planning a weekend trip to one of these top destinations for biking with your dog.
If it’s too hot out, don’t go out with your dog. Otherwise, shorten your ride and bring more water, get a cooling vest for your dog, and take frequent and longer breaks. You can also bring your dog in a bike trailer instead of having him run while you bike.
Have Paw Protection.
If you are running on hot or rough terrain, apply some paw wax* to your dog or give them booties they have been trained to run in. You can also build up their paw pads, but this happens gradually. Start running, walking, or hiking with your dog for short distances at a time until the paw pads become harder.
BIKING TRAIL & CYCLING ETIQUETTE
A few biking or cycling etiquette before you go out:
• Wear a helmet.
• Ride on the right side of the road. Pass on the left when clear. Notify others ahead that you are passing.
• If you are in a busy area, it’s good to have your dog farthest away from oncoming pedestrian and bike traffic.
• Don’t hog up the entire width of the road if other riders or pedestrians are coming the other way.
• Take your breaks off to the side of the road so others can pass.
• Pick up after your dog. Bring your own poop bags.
• Don’t ride with headphones if you bring your dog.
• Obey road signs and traffic laws.
• Give ample room ahead and behind you if you plan to slow down or stop.
• When in doubt, communicate what you are doing to another rider or pedestrian. Get their attention with a bell.
• Exercise caution every time you see younger children.
LITTLE DOGS CAN BIKE TOO
Biking gear isn’t always made with little dogs in mind. However, some small dogs can really run and keep up with you on a bike. Most, however, can only go a short distance or at a slower pace.
Many opt to take their dogs off leash, although this requires a whole different training. If you do get a bike attachment for your small dog, one to consider is the Bike Tow Leash Bicycle Attachment*. It’s been rated 5 stars by the American Pet Association and one of, if not the safest, bike attachment on the market today.
If your dog can’t keep up with you on a bike for a long time, it may not be worthwhile to take your dog running as you bike. You won’t be going far on the bike. Look into getting a bike trailer instead.
Check out Lily, the Jack Russell Terrier, as she races with her owner on a mountain bike course. Go Lily!
Ruffwear puts out a great article that gives some more tips about how Ross Downard trains Lily to run. Some key points to remember are to build endurance, build pad tolerance, and to provide proper hydration and nutrition.
We also think it’s important to have fun and to take it easy. It’s easy for us to go on a bike, but dogs won’t always tell us when enough is enough. Dogs should have mastery of basic commands, especially recall, and at least obey voice commands. Results likely won’t happen overnight.
Bikejoring is a dog sport that involves having your dog pull you on a bike. Your dog will be running in front of you as they do in Canicross. You need to have very good voice command of your dog or you’ll find yourself on the floor fast. The equipment and gear required for bikjoring is different than regular biking with your dog.
Is there a great dog-friendly activity or event missing from our list? Contact us so we can share it with the community!
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