For anyone out there trying to decide if taking their dog on a bike ride is safe and/or how to do it, there are several things to consider before making your decision. This article will discuss some of those considerations and give tips for how to ride a bike with a dog in a manner that is safe for you, your dog, and others that share the road. Biking your dog can be a great way to help release your dog’s pent up energy and keep them healthy and happy, but only when done with the appropriate knowledge and equipement.
For starters, NEVER attempt to take your dog biking by just holding on to a normal leash – even if your dog is well trained. There are so many things wrong with this idea that I don’t even know where to start. Not only are you putting yourself in danger, but you are putting your dog and even others who might be nearby you in danger as well. Holding a normal leash is dangerous because:
You don’t have control
Your dog could run in front of the tire and get injured or worse
The leash could get tangled in the spokes or chain
You and your dog take up too much space on the road
If your dog bolts you will go with him – usually without your bike
So now that that idea is out of the question…
There are specialty bike attachments out there designed specifically for biking with your dog. One such dog bike attachment is the WalkyDog dog bike leash. A well designed dog bicycle leash will keep your dog from running ahead and potentially getting caught up in the front tire. This is one of the biggest dangers to the dog when using a normal leash. It will also encourage the dog to stay out to the side far enough (but not too far) to keep them from injuring themselves on the pedals or by running too close in to the bike. For added safety some bike leash manufacturers recommend attaching the dog on the left side of the bike away from the chain although this is not necessary with all units. A well made bike leash needs to have built in shock absorption of some sort so that if the dog pulls out to the side, balance can be maintained by the rider. The WalkyDog has a patented internal spring system designed to handle this situation.
The WalkyDog in Action
*Notice Parker is always at my side or pulling ahead - never lagging.
Although many people want to be able to take their dog on bike rides with them, the activity is not suited for all dogs. For example, biking very small dogs is not recommended. We recommend that dogs under 20 lbs should not take part in this activity. This is just our suggestion and it is up to the owner knowing their dog’s capabilities if this is appropriate for them. The smaller the dog is, the slower the pace and the shorter distance they should be biked. NEVER push a dog beyond their limits or even get close. The dog should never be lagging behind or it is time to stop. Dog biking is best suited for dogs that have a lot of energy where simply walking them is not enough. The dog should enjoy the activity and if they don’t it is time to find a new activity for them to try. Many dogs enjoy going for a bike ride immensely.
For some dog bicycle leashes it is best to use a comfortable dog harness instead of connecting to the collar. This takes stress off of the dog’s neck and make for a more enjoyable experience for them. There are some harnesses that are designed for powerful pullers and others designed for a conformed performance fit on your dog. It is best to research the type of harness that will work well for your pup ahead of time. One thing to look out for is that the straps of the harness do not rub your dog raw. Some harnesses have padding to prevent this; these are the best harnesses for biking.
Another thing some people might be considering is biking 2 dogs at once. Some bike leashes like the WalkyDog are designed in a way that if 2 were purchased, one could come out on either side of the bike and one dog could ride on either side. While it is possible to do this, we do not feel that this is the best idea and if attempted, extra caution should be used. This should definitely not be attempted in areas where there is traffic – people or vehicles. Both dogs would need to be willing to ride at the same pace and be of relatively similar size. Really the only way I could see this working well is with 2 well trained dogs that keep the same pace out in a very open area with little distraction. You can see I am not a huge fan of the idea.
Below is a list of tips and safety considerations when biking your dog:
1) We suggest using the WalkyDog with dogs that are over 20 lbs and more than 6 months old. Always ride at your dog's pace - NEVER pull your dog along - the WalkyDog is a tool for the enjoyment of your pet and should never be used irresponsibly. The smaller your dog, the slower you should ride and for shorter distances.
2) Always make sure you have an understanding of your dog's obedience, capabilities, and physical condition before biking your dog. Consult your veterinarian or a licensed dog trainer if you are still unsure.
3) Always be aware of your surroundings when biking your dog using the WalkyDog. Avoid riding in crouded areas and always give pedestrians and other bikers the right of way. Just be courteous to others on the road for your safety and theirs.
4) We suggest using a comfortable dog harness when biking your dog for his/her safety and comfort. We offer a couple of options on our site that we have thoroughly tested and use ourselves, but there are probably other options out there that will work as well.
5) When introducing your dog to a bike leash, we recommend starting out by attaching your dog and then walking (not riding) next to the bike until they become comfortable with the idea. You want your dog to realize that biking is no different than taking a walk. You may need to take out 1 or 2 of the internal springs to make the cord longer and give them a little more space away from the bike. Once they are comfortable, then you can mount the bike and try riding at a slow pace. Most dogs I have worked with take to the WalkyDog right away. If you have any questions please contact me.
6) If you will be riding at a brisk pace or over longer distances, check with your vet first to make sure that your dog is healthy and ready for active workouts. We suggest starting out slow with your pup and gradually increasing the distance and pace at which you bike your dog. If you ever question your dog's ability to ride a certain distance then you have probably gone too far. I wish I could offer advice on how far to ride, but every dog is different. Please don't ever push your dog beyond his or her limits or even try to test those limits. The WalkyDog was made for your dog's enjoyment - please don't use it irresponsibly.
7) During hotter times of the year, please wait until cooler parts of the day to bike your dog.
8) Always bring plenty of water along to keep your pup hydrated.
9) Riding on asphalt for extended periods can damage your dogs paw pads if they are not used to this. Please monitor your dog's paw pads and limit riding on asphalt for extended periods at first. Never ride on asphalt during very hot times of the day. There is a product I use called Musher's Secret which is a paw pad wax that helps condition and toughen your dog's pads. I like this product a lot - and it is totally organic which is nice. As you can see from my videos - I do ride on asphalt, but my dog's pads have toughened over time. Just monitor your dog's pad wear and you should be fine.
10) If you have a powerful puller we have found it is better not to use the clear plastic insert that goes around your seat post. This should keep even the most powerful pullers from moving the bike leash.
11) Always obey local laws that may govern the use of this type product in your area.
12) Have fun out there!, but please always use common sense when biking your dog. Never ride faster than they are comfortable with. We want your dog to have as much fun as you do.
13) It is always best to wear a helmet when riding a bike with or without a dog.