How to bike safely with your dog
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If you love to cycle and your dog loves to run, biking with your dog seems like the obvious solution. It’s vital to learn how to bike with your dog safely, however, because rushing into it could be harmful to your canine companion.
Running alongside a bike isn’t right for all dogs. They must be fit enough, have no breathing or joint problems and be enthusiastic runners. That said, there are other ways for you and your dog to cycle into the sunset together.
Is biking right for your dog
It’s important to accept that not all dogs can or should run with you while you cycle. Biking isn’t suitable for brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, such as bulldogs and pugs. They have a tough time breathing under normal conditions, so vigorous exercise can be dangerous for them.
Toy breeds often don’t have the stamina to run long distances, and you’d need to cycle slowly for them to keep up with you. On the other end of the spectrum, giant breeds are too heavy to put as much pressure on their joints as long runs do. Puppies and young dogs don’t have fully developed skeletal structures until around 12 to 24 months, depending on the breed. Running for long periods before they’re finished developing can cause serious joint problems, so never bike with puppies.
If your dog isn’t suited to running alongside your bike but you still want to take them on adventures with you, consider a bike carrier for small dogs or a dog bike trailer for bigger dogs. These are great options for dogs who love to come everywhere with their humans but can’t handle too much running.
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Train your dog to walk with a loose leash
To bike safely, your dog will need to know how to walk and run next to you with a loose leash. If your dog doesn’t already know how to do this, you’ll have to train them before you can start biking together. You’ll need plenty of dog treats and a healthy dose of patience.
Be prepared to bike safely with your dog
Cycling safety is paramount when you go out with your dog. They should always wear a harness rather than a collar on bike rides because collars can damage the neck, spine and trachea if they pull too hard on the leash or something goes wrong and they end up getting jerked by the leash.
Consider buying a leash with a bungee part or a shock-absorbing leash attachment for your bike to reduce the chance of your dog hurting themself or you if they see something tempting enough to try to dash after.
Since there’s a chance that a dog not used to biking could get spooked and pull you over or cause you to lose your balance, your own safety is also important, so make sure to wear a bike helmet.
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You should also consider your cycling routes ahead of time. Although some people are comfortable cycling on quiet roads with their dogs, it’s much safer to stick to off-road trails or dedicated cycle paths. If you need to cycle on the road at all, keep your dog on the inside where they’ll be safer.
Get your dog used to your bike
Some dogs are naturally nervous around bikes, especially if they haven’t spent much time around them. Unless your dog is already comfortable with them, you’ll need to work on this. Start by letting your dog sniff your bike and spend time next to it while you feed them treats, then gradually progress to walking your bike around while someone stands with your dog nearby giving them treats.
After this, try pushing your bike while bringing your dog along with you and still giving plenty of treats and praise. Once they’re comfortable with this, they should happily run alongside your bike.
Start slowly when cycling with your dog
Running next to a bike is a much more intense exercise for dogs than running around on walks, as it’s nonstop and they can’t set their own pace. Therefore, you must start slowly when training your dog to bike with you. Start with no more than 5-10 minutes of cycling at a slow pace. You can gradually build this up over time but still take it easy. Don’t expect your dog to run flat out for hours. Vary your pace so they’re sometimes at a trot and sometimes at a full run and take regular breaks.
Always consider your dog’s comfort
Remember that biking with your dog is more about your dog than about you. If you want to go on a 30-mile ride or cycle at high speeds, leave your pup at home. A bike ride with your dog should be at a leisurely pace. Look for signs that your canine companion is getting tired and stop when they need to. Bring water to give them during breaks to keep them hydrated and don’t cycle with them when it’s too warm because excessive exercise in hot weather can cause heatstroke in dogs.
What you need to buy for biking with your dog
Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness
This harness will keep your dog safe and secure while biking. It’s easy to put on and adjust and has reflective strips, which are great in low light.
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Malabi EasyRide Dog Bike Leash
The ultimate choice for hands-free biking with your canine companion. It’s extremely secure and has an internal, shock-absorbing mechanism.
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Tuff Mutt Hands-free Dog Leash
If you want to be on the other end of your dog’s leash rather than attaching it to your bike, this hands-free leash gives you the option to hold onto your dog or secure them around your waist. The bungee section helps absorb shock if your dog pulls.
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