Tips for Cycling with Dogs
Whether it’s to get about the city, to stay fit or for trips, the trend for biking goes on and on. You can also get a lot of fun cycling with a dog if you keep a few things in mind.
To avoid damaging the bones and joints of your dog, it should only start accompanying a bike once it’s grown (one to two years, depending on the race – check with your vet).
Use this time to bond with your four-legged friend. Once the dog has been trained to heel, walk on a leash at least three metres long, and understands “stay” and “continue”, you can think about getting it familiar with the bike.
It’s best to start on foot so the dog can gradually get used to having a moving bike near it. This will prevent dangerous stress reactions such as pulling sideways or to the front, or sudden changes of side behind the bike. It’s practical for longer rides and older animals to have a bike trailer or special basket on the handlebars (only for small to medium dogs). Get your four-legged friend used to these early on so it can rest while you’re under way, without you having to stop yourself.
When the “dry runs” are going well, you can try a bike trip
But slowly, please. Increase the distance, pace gradually and keep an eye out for signs of stress such as yawning, licking, blinking or pawing the ground. The dog should preferably lope along and not run all the time. Its condition is the deciding factor when it comes to distance and pace. Short-legged, heavy dogs and dogs with breathing problems should only be taken for short distances at a slow pace.
Check as well how your companion is going in the trailer or basket – animals also get travel sick. My fox terrier got sick the first time we went out with the handlebar basket. He’s since come to enjoy it and likes to spend time there and be spoiled with pats.
If the interaction between human and dog is working well, the dog can also be let off the leash in a suitable area (if permitted). But how does the balance of fun, safety and breed-related needs look when cycling with dogs in the city or area where you have to use a leash?
Is cycling with dogs on a leash recommended at?
“Provided the conditions are right, it’s a great activity with the focus on shared experiences,” says Bianca Wellbrock, dog trainer at the Gespürnase training school in Hamburg, Germany. If you want to take the dog into the city with you, it must be kept on the side of the bike path away from the traffic or, if that’s not possible, in restricted traffic zones.
The equipment is important too. She recommends a well-padded harness (never a collar), a two to five metre long leash (not a flexible leash because of the risk of having an accident) and maybe even a “springer” for the bike so the rider’s hands are free. This is a bracket fastened to the bike frame to even out any backward tugging on the dog’s part.
“As far as the dog is concerned, it’s important that it is healthy and that the physical and environmental conditions are right,” says Wellbrock. So, from the point of view of the expert, this means: no tarred roads above 15° C outside temperature; in summer only mornings and evenings . It’s vital to take along enough water and to alternate action with rest periods. And a wellness tip from the dog trainer: “Massage your dog during rest periods to prevent muscle cramp.”