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Bike riding is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with your dog. Here’s how to safely enjoy biking with your dog.
Dogs Running Alongside Bikes
Having your dog running alongside your bike can be a very fun activity but it’s also high impact—especially when you’re biking on concrete. Before you try it, consult with your veterinarian to confirm if your dog is in the right physical condition to do it safely. They should also assess to see if your dog is able to keep up with a bicycle. Most small-to-medium dogs cannot keep up with a bike because of their shorter legs. Because of this, it is best to allow only healthy, large dogs to run alongside your bike.
Once you have the all-clear, it’s best to use a biking leash that attaches directly to your bike. This will help keep your dog away from the wheels and means you don’t have to focus on holding the leash while steering the bicycle.
When you start biking with your dog, begin very slowly with very short distances and slow speeds. Attach your dog to the bike, and treat and praise them before doing anything else. Next, slowly roll forward and when your dog starts walking with the bike, praise and treat. You can slowly build up to riding a block or two, and even further. As your dog is adjusting to walking or running alongside your bike, be sure to continually praise and treat them.
In addition to being thoughtful about how far you ask your dog to run on concrete, which is hard on joints, check the temperature of the concrete where you are riding. If it’s hot out, it can cause burns and injury to your dog’s paws. Even when it’s not hot out, running on concrete can be hard on their feet. Be sure to start very slowly with short distances to allow your dog to adjust, while keeping in mind that this is a very high-impact activity and can be tough on their body.
Dogs in Bike Baskets
If you have a small dog, an option is to have them in a basket attached to the handlebars or the back frame of your bicycle. But it’s essential to make sure that any basket you put your dog into is specifically designed for dogs to ride in. It must have appropriate safety straps to prevent them from falling or jumping out while you are riding. Make sure you also follow the manufacture’s instructions on how to attach your dog’s harness to the basket.
Before going on a ride, introduce your dog slowly to the basket. Lift your dog into the basket, secure them, then treat and praise before lifting them out. Repeat several times, putting your dog in and taking them out. The goal isn’t to make your dog wait to see how long they are comfortable in the basket but rather to build positive associations with being in it. After several repetitions, you can start to slowly increase the duration of time you ask your dog to stay in the basket. Continue to praise and treat your dog for being calm and still in the basket. After double-checking that they’re fully secured, gently roll your bicycle while stopping to praise and treat along the way.
Dogs in Bike Trailers
If you have a medium or large dog, you can try pulling them behind your bike in a trailer. Bike trailers designed for toddlers and small children can be modified to work for dogs, or you can purchase bike trailers specifically designed for dogs. Pulling your dog along behind you is a great way to transport them when it’s too hot to safely run on concrete. It’s also good for busier city streets and for older dogs who can’t run or walk beside a moving bike for health reasons.
Again, you’ll need to get your dog accustomed to the bike trailer. Start by encouraging them to get in it and praise and treat when they do. Then encourage them to jump out and praise and treat again. Repeat this several times so your dog becomes comfortable getting in and out of the trailer. Once they’re doing it with ease, attach the harness/seatbelt and gently move the trailer, starting with just a few inches at a time, then praise and treat.
If your dog is comfortable, you can start to move the trailer further and then start with short bike rides where you can stop regularly to check on and reward your dog. Regardless of how much your dog likes the trailer, it’s important to make sure they are securely attached to it before you start biking so that they don’t jump out in traffic.
Dogs in Cargo Bikes
Cargo bikes are specifically designed for transporting dogs. These (usually) three-wheeled bikes have open-topped carbo box areas built into the bike, allowing you to transport even very large dogs via bicycle. Some of these dog cargo bike options even come in e-bikes or battery-powered assist bikes, which can be especially helpful when transporting very large dogs up hills. Getting your dog accustomed to riding the cargo bike follows the same process as a bike trailer.