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, here are a few questions you should ask first.
Is my dog ready? Get your dog checked over by your local vet to ensure your animal is healthy enough. If you have a young dog (under 18 months) sustained jogging is not recommended as the dog’s bones are still developing. Once you’ve been given the OK 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.
Does your dog understand some basic commands? It’s important for you to have some control over your dog whilst they’re running beside you. Keep your commands simple. I click to let my dog know that we’re changing direction or speed. Ensure that your dog will keep moving when you’re riding a bike next to them. Sudden stops can cause all sorts of problems.
Have I got the right gear? Because your dog may pull at some stage during your bike ride it’s important to use a harness instead of a neck collar for attachment. This way weight can be distributed more evenly and the leash will sit in a better position for cycling purposes. I use the EzyDog Quickfit harness because of the way the attachment ring allows the leash to move to either side without pulling the whole harness over to one side.
For the leash I use the EzyDog Mutley leash 25” (64cm) and attach it to the harness and bike. This leash is good because although it’s a standard length it has shock absorbing ability which allows for a little bit of give (but not too much). A short leash is preferable as this stops the dog drifting too far ahead and in the way of your front bike tyre. The leash still needs to be long enough for the dog to run confidently beside the bike without getting in the way of your bicycle’s actions.
I’ve learnt that the best place to attach the leash is underneath my bike seat. It’s closest to my centre of gravity and enables me to maintain balance if my dog pulls or does anything unusual. To attach the leash onto the bike I use the EzyDog car restraint. By taking my bike’s seat off I slip the belt part onto my seatpost and make it sit above my rear reflector. Keep this part high on the seatpost because if the attachment slips down the leash can become entangled with the back tyre. My leg and body remain in front of the leash once attached. I find that my leg acts as a brace if my dog pulls and keeps my dog enough distance away from my bike.
If you’re not willing to attach the lead to your bike then do some research and buy a specialized attachment that will detach in emergency.
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. It’s important that people notice that you’re travelling with a dog attached. Ensure your dog is wearing a bright coloured lead or harness to alert everyone of its presence.
Most importantly, 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!
Cycle where there’s the least amount of traffic or choose a time when it’s not peak hour. If you can, go offroad – somewhere where your dog can run freely beside you. This way the dog gets the opportunity to put their head down for a sniff or too and its kinder on the dog’s paws.
Remember these important steps and you’ll have fun:
1. Use a dog harness and safe equipment.
2. Keep your dog mainly trotting beside you for the best workout and to prevent overheating.
3. Use simple commands to let your dog know you are turning or slowing down.
4. Try going off-road if you can – it will give you a better workout and be softer on your dog’s paws.
5. Carry a saddlebag with treats to help focus your dog’s attention back onto you.
Kate Richards is a blogger and promotes an active, healthy lifestyle for dogs and doglovers via her website pawsandpedals.com.au. Scooter and Kate have been biking together for over 2 years. Her dog Scooter inspires her to get out and about, enjoy others and ultimately lead a happier and better life. Hopefully her blog will inspire others to have a bit more fun with the dogs in their life.