Bike with your dog!

Biking with your dog can be a great way to exercise both your dog and yourself.  It can be done safely by using a device called a Springer on your bike or by following the method I use.  I got my method out of a book on dog care and training.  It works well.  Please don't hold your dog's leash or tie it to your handlebars!  That is very dangerous!  Read what I have to say here and then go have some safe fun.

I've looked and looked for the book in which I first read about this technique.  I can't find it.  If I ever find it, I'll update this page.  The book contained a picture of the author biking with 4 or 5 pit bulls she had just rescued from the pound.  Her method is pretty safe because she attaches the leash to the seat post of the bike.  The seat post is your center of gravity while biking.  Pulling on the seat post doesn't affect your handlebars and in fact can hardly be felt at all.

I attach a leash by putting the snap through the handle and pulling out the slack.  Then I wrap the leash around and around until it's long enough that when I clip it to the dog, the dog's head reaches the middle of my front wheel.  This way the dog can't cross in front of me.

I usually have my dogs wear harnesses while biking because they like to pull and I don't want that stress on their neck.  Remember that if you use a harness your leash will need to be even shorter since it clips to the harness further back on the dog than where it clips to the collar.  I use one leash for each dog, although I have biked with two similar-sized dogs on a coupler.  Using a coupler means the dogs have to run side-by-side, whereas using two leashes means one can be in front of the other.  Try both if you have two dogs and see which works.  I've successfully biked with 4 dogs at a time of various sizes.

I always have all dogs run on the left of my bike.  This helps them learn not to ever cross behind to the right side.  I also start out by keeping away from obstacles and going slowly until I'm sure they know not to go on the opposite side of a tree or light pole.

You can bike with your dog at a walk-speed, and in fact you should bike at only a walk in the beginning until both you and your dog get used to it.  You should definitely get your vet's OK to start this or any other exercise program for your dog.  My vet says large breed dogs should be at least two years old before trotting or running alongside my bike, and small breed dogs should be at least one-and-a-half.  This is to minimize stress on the growth plates of the long bones.  Younger dogs can be biked at a walking speed to start getting them used to it.

Once your vet says it's OK, be sure to start slowly.  It's very likely that your dog loves you so much he'd run alongside you happily until he drops dead, never giving you any signs that he was uncomfortable.  I start new dogs trotting for half the ride, a time period that amounts to about 10 minutes.  We work up to trotting for 20 minutes over the course of a few weeks.  After 4 weeks or so I'll have them trot for 30 minutes and allow them to gallop for maybe 5 consecutive minutes twice during the ride.  After 5 or 6 weeks I feel OK about taking longer rides of up to a couple of hours, but I do a lot of slow riding on these long rides.

I also try to bike on grass as much as possible.  Running on concrete is especially hard, and asphalt or blacktop is only slightly better.  I find nice mowed fields at local schools and parks.  The benefits of biking on grass are twofold: my dog gets a softer surface upon which to run, and I get more of a workout by pedaling harder to move over the grass.  Remember that when it rains, grass and even streets can be slippery.  Rainy season isn't necessarily a good time to try this for the first time with a nervous dog!  I'm speaking from experience here.

Keep in mind also that blacktop, cement and asphalt can get hot in the summer.  In my area we have lighter-colored cement sidewalks that stay cooler than the roads.  If I bike a few blocks I arrive at a nice field with some dirt paths.  Both the grass and the dirt are cooler than sidewalks and streets in the summer.

One more warning: Don't walk away from your bike while your dog is still leashed up to it.  Without you on it, it can and will fall over on top of your dog.  Your dog will freak out and try to run, making the bike come after him and further scaring him to death.  This can turn a sensitive dog off of the idea for the rest of his life, not to mention it can really hurt a dog if you aren't lucky.  Always take an extra leash with you so that you can snap it to your dog's collar and unsnap the one that's attached to the bike for when you'll be parking your bike and walking somewhere or resting.

Thanks for reading this page and for being concerned about what you can do with your dog to keep him healthy and happy.