When done safely, biking with your dog can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for you both. It is good exercise, it keeps your dog happy and active, and it prevents the guilt you feel leaving your pup at home while you go for a ride. Of course, biking with your dog can be tricky, especially if you’ve never done it before or if either of you is out of shape. The tips below should help the ride go smoothly.
1. Make sure you are both up for the ride. Before taking your dog on a bike ride, bring her to the veterinarian for a complete physical. Likewise, if you are new to riding and have been living a sedentary lifestyle, get a physical before engaging in any new exercise routine. If you both check out, determine how much activity you can handle by going on a test jog around your neighborhood.
2. Get the right gear. To ensure your dog’s safety, as well as your own, you’ll need to invest in a few items before going on your first ride. Purchase a non-tangling lead and a fitted body harness for safely holding onto your dog, and grab a reflective dog vest if there is any possibility you’ll be riding at night. Also, buy some flashing lights for your dog’s collar and for your bike, and pack a small kit that includes water bottles, first aid supplies, and an extra lead for your dog.
3. Consider your climate and comfort. Depending on the weather and terrain, you may also want to invest in some hiking booties for your dog, rain gear for both of you, and/or cold weather covers for you and your dog that are warm, insulating, and lightweight.
4. Start slow. Get your dog used to biking and wearing her body harness by walking your bike with her attached. Choose a comfortable path, such as grass or soft dirt, and stop when your dog resists. Once she is comfortable with this, go on short, slow runs until she gets the hang of it.
5. Practice safety commands. Safety commands are essential and must be learned before biking in traffic or around pedestrians. Determine what commands you will use for slow down, turn, stop, run, and leave it. You may want to practice with commands created especially for biking to prevent confusion if your dog hears a passerby using command words while you are out biking.
6. Take breaks. Biking is hard work, and running next to a bike is just as hard. Take frequent breaks, especially in the beginning, to check on your dog. Make sure she shows no signs of fatigue or injury and offer her water at each stop. If she seems to be struggling, call it a day and head home.
7. Know when to quit. Some dogs never quite get the hang of biking, while others simply dislike the activity. If your dog seems less than impressed with the experience, it might be time to go back to riding solo. It is not fair to either of you to keep going if your dog is having trouble keeping up.