Biking can be an extremely enjoyable activity for both dog and owner when the right precautions are taken. We recommend biking for dogs that are at least 20 lbs. In most cases this is an activity that is best suited for medium to large dogs. Your dog needs to be in good health and it is ideal to get a checkup with your dog’s vet before beginning any serious exercise. Dogs with slight builds will be able to bike for longer distances than heavier or more muscular breeds so keep this in mind when deciding how far to bike your pup. Breeds such as Bulldogs and Pugs that have flat faces are not designed for distance running because they can become overheated very quickly. They also don’t move air in and out as efficiently as other breeds. Breeds with long bodies or short legs also aren't designed for distance running and this should be taken into consideration. Biking is not an activity for puppies. Your dog should be at least a year old and a minimum of 20 lbs to start biking. They should be closer to a year and a half before biking longer distances. Please use common sense when biking your dog. Build up stamina slowly and never push your dog beyond their means.
What Equipment Do I need?
Below are my suggestions based on biking my dog for the past couple of years starting with the essentials:
Ideally it is best to use a cruiser or mountain style bike - something with standard or wider tires. I don't feel that bikes with skinny racing style tires would work as well. In some cases recumbent style bikes or trikes can work out great as well with the Bike Tow Leash (shoot us an email to see if your model might work).
If using the WalkyDog, a non-restrictive comfortable dog harness is recommended – preferably with padding. Using a dog harness with the Bike Tow Leash is a personal preference. If using a harness with the Bike Tow Leash, it is important to make sure that it doesn’t allow your dog to get too far forward on the bike. This will make it harder for your dog to determine when you are turning towards him/her.
Paw pad protection. It is important to monitor the wear on your dogs paw pads. They will toughen up over time, but products such as Musher’s Secret can help condition, protect, and make your dog's pads more resilient to all types of terrain.
Cooling vests for summertime heat. I strap a large thermos with ice water to my bike and take Parker’s cooling vest along for the ride with us.
A dog bike trailer. A great way to go on extended rides so your dog can rest when tired. Or you can bring your small dog along for a bike ride in complete safety. Our trailers are easy to assemble and come in 2 sizes.
Some dogs take to this type of exercise right away and others need to be acclimated a little more slowly. The best way to introduce biking to your dog is to start by attaching your dog to the bicycle leash and walking alongside your bike on the opposite side of your dog. The idea is to let them get comfortable with the bike and realize it is no different than taking a normal walk. If using the WalkyDog, make sure that you have adjusted the cord length to make your dog feel comfortable. To do this you can remove 1 or 2 internal springs, add a leash extension, or create a custom length line (watch video on this page). Once they have going straight down, practice turning left and right and then u-turn to either side. Once your dog seems confident, hop on your bike and ride slowly at first practicing the same maneuvers. It is best to begin in an area with few distractions so that your dog will focus on you. It is best to bike at a trotting pace, just make sure you never go beyond your dog’s pace. If your dog gets nervous and freezes up DO NOT attempt to keep pulling them along. Immediately stop and start walking next to the bike again. We do not recommend biking in areas with heavy traffic.
How Far To Ride
You cannot just start biking miles on your first time out. You need to gradually increase your dog’s stamina. According to canine expert Christine Zink, D.V.M., Ph.D, you should gradually increase the distance you travel by 5 to 10 percent every four to six exercise sessions. She recommends that once you reach a distance of 2 miles, you should limit biking to every other day providing a day of rest for rejuvenation of the muscles. Extremely fit dogs can run farther distances per day if the sessions are broken up (less if riding on pavement, which can be tough on the skeletal system). Personally I even feel like a couple of miles is plenty. At the end of your ride, pay attention to how your dog reacts. Are they panting heavily for over 10 minutes and laying down (you probably went too far) or do they seem to be ready for more. In the hot summer months remember that your dog can become overheated quickly. Only ride during cooler parts of the day and make sure the pavement is not too hot. Also make sure the rides are for shorter distances. Your dog can become overheated quickly since they cannot cool their bodies through sweating like humans. Parker and I usually ride a mile or two every other day. Sometimes we break up the rides. Obviously, be sure to stop to rest occasionally and always monitor your dog for signs that nature is calling. Also monitor your dog’s pads for cuts or scrapes. Consider using a good paw pad wax or even protective booties if riding on rough terrain often. As I mentioned before, please use common sense when biking your dog. Remember that he or she wants to please you and can't communicate that they are getting tired. Always err on the side of shorter distances and slower pace when in question.
Dealing With Summer Heat
During the summertime when temperatures spike, it is VERY important to only bike your dog during cooler parts of the day and for shorter distances. If biking on pavement be sure to check the temperature of the pavement before biking and that your dog's pads have become accustomed slowly to pavement riding. Always bring water along for the ride and take frequent breaks. Consider bringing along a dog bike trailer with a cool wet towel or cooling pad inside to give your dog a rest on the way home. You may even consider looking into a dog cooling vest. Keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion such as if your dog’s tongue becomes very wide and curls up at the end. Please take care not to push your dog in the summer (even if they want to keep going)! If they become overheated, the best way to cool them down is from the bottom up. You can spray them down with cool water on their paws, legs, underside and head/neck first - then get them into a cool environment as soon as possible. If they don't improve, don't hesitate to take them to a vet immediately.
A Note About Smaller Dogs
As noted previously, we recommend biking for dogs at least 20 lbs and a year of age or more. If your dog is below 20 lbs we strongly recommend against biking for their own safety. Even if your dog is a high energy breed, please consider another activity. The last thing we want is a dog being pushed beyond their limits or hurt while using a product we carry. The bike leashes we carry are just not designed for dogs this small. If your dog is above the minimum, but still on the small side, it is important to bike at a slower pace for shorter distances. We also strongly advise a padded secure harness such as the Ruffwear Web Master harness.
Want more help deciding?
We have answers to all your questions about biking with your dog and if it is the right activity for you and your pup/s. Browse through our dog bike leash buyer's guide and if you can't find an answer to your question there or in our Frequently Asked Questions section, just shoot us an email and we will promptly get you the detailed answer you are looking for. Email us 24/7.
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