Cycling with your dog is a great way to keep fit and exercise your dog in one quick hit, particularly if your dog has lots of energy. Before you grab the dog lead and bike and head out the gate, there are a few questions you should ask yourself….
How healthy is my dog? Cycling with a dog can be an intense workout for the animal. Is your dog fit enough to jog over an extended period? If in doubt get your dog checked over by your local vet. I suggest short bike rides initially. This will allow you and your dog to become comfortable with the exercise. Your dog may wish to gallop but a slow trot is best and will reduce the risk of your dog overheating.
How emotionally mature is my dog? Can your dog understand some basic commands? It’s important for you to have some control over your dog whilst they’re running beside you. For most dog owners this happens around 1 year. Each dog is different though – I had to wait until my dog reached 3! It’s essential that your dog knows some basic commands and that they will keep moving when you’re riding a bike with them. Sudden stops can cause all sorts of problems.
Have I got the right gear? A harness and a strong, solid lead are your minimum requirements (after the dog and bike of course). If your dog pulls constantly on a neck collar it will cause them excessive discomfort. A harness around the dog’s body will help transfer the weight better. The lead should be the non-extending variety and should be attached to the bike at a secure point – preferably around your bike’s centre of gravity (I find just under the seat works best for me). If you’re not keen to tie your dog off to the bike then consider a specialized bike attachment that allows for quick release.
Is it safe enough? Gears – check, tyres – check, brakes – check, safety helmet – check! It also helps if you’re a confident cyclist. Ensure that you and your bike are ready for the road trip. Keep your dog on the side that is away from traffic – if your dog pulls then it should take you away from the road, not into it. Also make sure you keep your dog away from the front of your bike. Do not attempt to ride with the dog’s leash in your hand – a dog can easily float in front of your wheel or pull your handlebars in the wrong direction – it’s an accident waiting to happen!
And finally, cycle where there’s the least amount of traffic or choose a time when it’s not peak hour. I do a quick suburban hop during the early morning hours to some fields nearby where my dog can run freely beside me. This way he gets the opportunity to put his head down for a sniff or too. It also gives us both a chance to set our own pace whilst out exercising together.
In Part 2 of How to Bike with your dog I’ll take you through the step-by-step process that I use to bike with my dog regularly.
Was this article helpful? Are you keen to give cycling with your dog a try?