I don’t have dogs of my own, but every time we go hiking and many times when we’re gone biking, Adelle and I take her dogs, Autumn and Norbert with us.  I’ve also biked with other friends’ dogs, and out here in Western Colorado we regularly see people out on the trails with their four-legged friends.

Dogs seem to love biking.  Every time I see a dog out on the trail he/she has that doggie smile on its face and is happily trotting along beside its human biker.  Biking with a dog is not something to take lightly, however.  It takes patience and a little extra work to make it all possible.

Here are 5 tips for biking with your four-legged friend:

1.  Know your dog’s ability.

Autumn is getting older and she can’t run as far or as fast as she used to.  We know that if we want to take her biking, she can go about 3 miles before she starts to get tired.  Autumn loves biking, though, so we do still take her on some short after-work rides.  I have a friend, though, whose younger dog is very fit.  Rojo can run with his owner for a few hours before he starts to run out of steam.

It’s not just old vs. young that can affect a dog’s ability.  One friend’s dog has shorter legs, even though she’s a medium sized dog, and she just can’t run that fast.  She loves to go, but we often have to stop and wait for Maggie to catch up… and she always does!

Test your dog out on some short bike rides and see how he or she seems to feel afterwards and the next day.  If the dog seems to still be ready for more, then gradually extend the rides you take them on.  If you have any questions, check with your veterinarian.

2. Take care of your dog’s feet.

Autumn, as you can see in the photo above, wears “Ruffwear” booties when we bike.  She actually loves them because she knows they keep her feet from hurting. We learned the hard way that her feet are just too sensitive to go without them.  Norbert, Adelle’s beagle, has very tough pads on his feet and doesn’t need booties.  Each dog is different, and some dogs hate the booties so much that you’ll never get them to keep them on.  Just keep an eye out for limping, and make sure to check their paws after a ride for cactus needles or small cuts.

SRAM the trail dog, enjoying the descents! Photo: mtbgreg1.

3. Take extra water and snacks.

When we’re out on rides (or hikes) and stop for a snack, we make sure to give the dogs snacks too.  They’ve been working just as hard, if not harder, than us!  We both also share water with the dogs.  You can train a lot of dogs to lap water as you spray it out of your hydration hose (they don’t touch the hose), or you can take a collapsible water bowl with you and spray water into that.  Better yet, bike near a water source!  Always have more water available back at the car, especially if you’ve taken the dogs on a long ride.

This is just one of many great collapsible water bowls.  The small version only weighs 4oz!

4. Train, train, train.

Taking a dog biking doesn’t just happen overnight.  I’ve asked Adelle many times how she got these two, especially a beagle, to be such great bike dogs.  Autumn will run right by your back tire, but she never gets in your way and she always knows when to move.  Norbert loves to sprint ahead.  Still, he always comes back, and stays clear of bike tires.

Adelle says she started by bribing the dogs (ok, rewarding), and it still works.  Last year while we were biking we saw a herd of Pronghorn antelope on a hillside.  Norbert looked at them, but instead of chasing after them he stayed right by us and was rewarded with a treat.  This works–with him, at least–every time.

Adelle also started off by biking with each dog around her neighborhood, with the dog on a leash.  This seems like a scary thing to do, but I see people do it all the time.  The dogs learned how to be around the bike without being afraid of it or trying to bite it.  Now they’re used to people on bikes.

It takes time to get a dog used to being around a bike, running with a bike, and getting out of the way of others on bikes as well.  But with patience and some positive reinforcement, it can be done!

"My 5yr Old Chocolate Lab, "Bella," at the top!" Photo: Rob.Kugler.

5. Clean up!

Please clean up after your dog.  At our Lunch Loop trailheads we have doggie poop bags available, but you should always make sure to stash a plastic bag in your backpack.  Whether it’s the bag your newspaper came in, a plastic grocery bag, or something else, you’ve got one around.  Keep those with you and use them!  No one wants to run through dog poop on their bike, or while hiking or running for that matter. If you’re making a loop, then leave the bag and come back for it.  Otherwise, try keeping a ziploc to store that dirty bag in and stick it in an outside pocket of your pack.  Sure it sounds a little gross, but trust me, poop from the trail flying up in my face because I have no way of avoiding it is gross too.

Biking with your pet is a great way to get your exercise and your pet’s too.  By keeping a few simple guidelines in mind, you and your dog can get out, enjoy some fresh air, and have a great time together!

Your Turn: Do you bike with your dog? Share your tips in the comments section below!

# Comments

  • dgaddis

    I’ve ridden with a friend’s dog once or twice and it was really cool. We did 11 miles and he was barely slowing down at all at the end! He’d lead on the climbs, then pull over and let us by on the downhills. Dogs are awesome! If I wasn’t allergic I’d get one.

    One tip you didn’t mention: not all trails are appropriate for dogs, at least not at certain times. One of our local popular trails is a super fast flow trail, and it gets a good bit of use, and it’s no place for a dog off leash during the busy times.

    • mtbikerchick

      Great point! You definitely have to be aware of which trails are best for your dog, both in terms of rocks/cacti, etc. and traffic!

  • Greg Heil

    Back in Dahlonega one of my good riding buddies would bring his dog with us regularly she’s an awesome trail dog, and is super conscious around the bikes!

    One thing you didn’t mention is the weather: his dog could bang out 20-25 mile rides with us in the late fall/winter/early spring, but in the summer it gets so hot and humid that there’s no way she could do that distance.

    Also, when running your dog for long distances, be sure to give them breaks, especially if you come across a nice stream. Streams are a great place for dogs to jump in and cool down after sweating for miles.

    But I always loved riding with his dog (Ella). She would be on us like white on rice, and if we’re going slow she’d totally pass and leave us in the dust. When the speeds pick up, she’ll take short cuts (through switchbacks or overgrown side trails) to make up the difference that left me thinking, “man, this dog knows these woods better than I do!”

    • mtbikerchick

      Breaks and water are just as important for dogs as for us, for sure! If it’s warmer out we’ll purposefully stop near shade trees or streams so that the dogs can get cooled off.

  • AJ711

    Great article and tips! Dogs need exercise just as much as we do.

    The under enforced leash laws at my local trails prevent me from doing something like this. I love the idea, but I’d want to have the dog connected to me in one way, shape, or form. I can’t get ticked off at walkers/hikers who let their dogs off leash if I’m not going to comply with the rule.

    And since my girlfriend was attacked by an unleashed dog the other afternoon while running on a local trail, I’m pretty adamant about leashing. Well behaved, friendly, or whatever, they’re still animals and you never truly know what is going to happen.

    Come to think of it, I’d probably love to bring a mutt along with me on night rides. I know I’d be more comfortable on solo rides if I had a four legged little buddy with me. And the trails would be MUCH quieter of extra traffic and issues. I think I might be on to something with this one.

  • jkldouglas

    I loved this article. I ride with my dog fairly frequencly and love it. I am always surprised how many people think it is awesome that I have a trail dog. I have ridden with her enough that she knows which shirts and shorts I wear when I go biking so if I walk out of the bedroom with any article of biking clothing she goes crazy.

    The article does a really good job of addressing all of the issues of biking with a dog. I have to echo gdaddis said, you have to know the trail and your dogs limits for it to be enjoyable for both parties.

  • chukt

    I try to limit my dogs mileage to 8-12 miles. I know that they can go further, and that they want to go further, but I have seen too many “outdoorsy” dogs suffering later in their lives from joint problems.

    So the point is, don’t wear your dogs out, for their sake…because they will not stop themselves.

    Also, if your dog gets snowballs and ice between the toes in winter…and your dog despises booties…this stuff rocks: Musher Secret

  • brianW

    I believe a good trail dog will follow you, not go ahead of the owner. Part of being on the trail is sharing them with others and be respectful to them as well. That being said, the person, let it be by bike, foot, etc, be seen before the dog.

    I trail run/hike with a dog and she is behind me for that reason.

  • Techspec360

    I am definitely going to look into the aformentioned “Ruffear” but was wondering what certain brand shoe or bootie for your pooch you have good success with? We got some pretty rocky trails which always leads to sore or bloody paws. Also, I definitely want to get one of those collars with a loud beeper on it that can be remotely activated. Anyone have any suggestions on these?


    • mtbikerchick

      The Ruffwear is really the only one I’ve had any experience with. It works pretty well though sometimes Autumn will get a rock in her shoe…so we have to be careful about that. Anybody else tried any others?

  • Garrett Johnson

    I love riding with my 3 year old German short hair pointer, great way to keep in him shape for bird season in the fall when he’s running for hours! I only ride trails with him that have rivers or ponds on the trail so he can drink and go swimming to cool off and drink.

  • khunt802

    I have three dogs who love running the trails with me. They’re unlikely trail candidates, and all have different styles of keeping up, too. (Dachshund, Chihuahua, and Beagle mutt). All of them are not too fast though, so trail rides with them are more about their enjoyment rather than me flying through the trail. I find it’s a good time to work on my technique and skills. They give me a reason to slow down and pay close attention to my movements on the bike, and enjoy the scenery! They have different abilities when it comes to socialization, though. My Dachshund can only comes with me on trails where there won’t be a lot of people. He isn’t aggressive and he’s too scared to get close enough to bite even if he would; people scare him. Being nervous he will bark a lot and sometimes chase runners away from my bike. We’re working on his people skills, but in the mean time we leave his interactions with people to the dog park where he can be in his recreation place.
    It’s good to hear that I am not the only weirdo that bikes with dogs on leashes, too! I always get the strangest looks, but it a bigger city, when biking to the park, they need something to keep them off the road. I ride slow and with them on the inside, farthest from traffic. My chihuahua will ride in a basket, and the other two on leashes. They love it, though my dachshund is still getting used to being so close to the bike.

  • Kno-endo-ridin

    We ride with our 3 year old border collie. She can go forever, and just doesn’t
    ever want to stop. She always rides behind the lead riders rear tire, and we stop often to let her recover and drink etc. She’s a great riding buddy!

  • spleeft

    I started riding with my new doggie ( after he turned 1 year ) and love it !. Ive found the technical / rocky trails with lots of climbs to be more enjoyable for him. Hes not getting worked running fast and hard for long periods like a flat or flowy ride would do.
    I am having a hard time finding places to to take him now that its hunting season here in Maryland. I need to start a facebook page or something to make all the best mountain bike trails that are dog friendly with no hunting available !

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