5 Tips for Biking with Your Dog

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!

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