This post aims to help you to train your dog to safely run next to you when you are riding your bike. Also, we feature some gadgets to keep you both safe. Bicycling with your dog is an excellent opportunity for high-energy, generally younger to middle-aged dogs who love to run to get some great exercise. Cycling with your dog can be a great bonding exercise and reinforce your dog’s training compliance, too. And it can be great fun for both of you.
Dogs Love to Run
Most dogs love to run, and even need to run in order to be happy, calm, and not destructive. Walking tends to just not be enough for most dogs to get all of their energy out every day, and most people are not runners, so this can be a real problem.
So, cycling while your dog runs next to you can be a wonderful thing to do for both of your sakes. However, you’ll want to consider some factors first, before deciding if cycling with your dog is a good idea.
Things to Think About Before You Train Your Dog to Run Next to Your Bike
How Does My Dog Generally React to Bicycles and People on Bikes?
Your dog will need more socialization to bicycles if he has any of these behaviors:
- Raises the hackles on his neck and back when he sees a bicycle or a person riding one, as if he is afraid of it, or perceives it as a threat.
- Chases bicycles and tries to bite them.
- Barks or growls at bicycles or people riding them, or – worst case scenario – lunges at people on bicycles to try to attack them.
If your dog simply needs some more socializing, and doesn’t think that bicycles are a prey animal, a predator trying to kill them, or their otherwise sworn enemy, then all is good.
How to Socialize Your Dog to Bicycles
To socialize your dog better when it comes to bicycles, start by simply putting the bicycle in your house, in a place your dog frequents, so that he can smell it and get used to its appearance.
Don’t put the bicycle near your dog’s bed or food and water bowls, though, because if he is afraid of it, he may not want to eat, drink, or sleep near it.
Lay the bike down, so that it is not taller than your dog. This will make it less intimidating. Put treats on the bike, and praise him when he eats them.
Give your dog treats anytime he is near the bicycle and being calm, and say the word, “Bike,” or, “Good boy, bike.” This will form a connection in your dog’s brain between your bike, the word “bike,” and good feelings. Do this several times per day for two or three days, until your dog seems perfectly comfortable with being near the bike.
How to Socialize Your Dog to Bike Helmets
Does your dog react badly to you wearing a bicycle helmet? If so, do a similar socialization process.
Take your helmet off, let him sniff it, then put it on, and crouch down so that he can sniff it again. You can incorporate treats, praise, and the word “helmet” into this routine, just like with the bike. We want your dog to recognize your helmet as just another everyday thing, and even a good thing, even though it changes your appearance slightly.
The Goal: Associate Bike Rides with Fun for Your Dog
Remember, dogs are very good at chaining events together. So the goal is that when you say, “Do you want to go for a bike ride?” or even when you go get your helmet or wheel your bike out of the garage, your dog will associate it with fun, pleasant experiences. Such as rewarding praise, getting to run, treats, and his favorite thing of all – spending time with you!
The name of the game with incorporating your dog into your bike riding routine is to go very slowly with every step. This is a foreign, new thing to your dog, and one traumatizing experience can wreck it for a lifetime. Or at the very least, make trying it again extremely difficult.
What Factors Do I Need to Consider Before Starting to Train my Dog to Run Alongside my Bike?
Physical Health of Your Dog
You may need to get your dog a complete physical by your veterinarian to make sure that he is healthy enough to run with you.
Microchips for Your Dog
This is also a good time to consider a microchip. This is in case you somehow manage to lose your dog while you are cycling. In case you think this is impossible … consider that a sudden loud noise might cause a normally calm dog to suddenly take off in panic. This is more likely with very young dogs, or dogs with anxiety issues about loud noises.
Vaccines for Your Dog
Also, consider whether or not you should get your dog any non-core vaccines, like Leptospirosis and/or Lyme vaccines. Leptospirosis is often contracted in wooded areas that have standing water. Lyme Disease is transmitted by ticks, and is much more common in certain areas of the country.
Also, you’re probably already on top of this, but a flea/tick/intestinal parasite/heartworm preventative is a must if your dog is going to be spending a lot of time outside.
You’ll also want to consider the humidity and temperature where you’re going to be cycling, and your dog’s coat thickness and color (black and other dark colors attract heat).
It’s not common, but heat stroke can happen in dogs, usually after they’ve done some hard running. Never take your dog out for a bicycle ride on an extremely hot day.
One Size Does Not Fit All for Humans or Dogs
Keep in mind that smaller dogs do not have the stamina that larger dogs do, and tend to tire easily. If you have a toy or teacup breed dog, look into a covered bicycle basket, so that your dog can come with you, but doesn’t have to run alongside you.
Your veterinarian will take into consideration your dog’s weight, age, and physical health to determine whether cycling with him is a good idea or not.
If your dog is a puppy (under 18 months old, older in giant breeds), be sure to ask your veterinarian when his growth plates will close, so that his skeletal system will not be damaged by running on hard pavement or frozen ground. There is a link that has been found between excessive exercise in puppyhood and the development of hip dysplasia (see References).
How Do I Safely Cycle with My Dog?
- First, walk a few steps with your bike indoors, and encourage your dog to follow, lavishing praise upon him in happy, higher tones, while giving him treats.
- Add in your dog’s harness and leash when he is comfortable, still inside the house.
- When your dog seems comfortable with that, try doing the same thing outside, on-leash (tied to bike seat post).
Eventually, you will be able to get on the bike, and, going slowly, ride with your dog walking alongside you.
Over several days, add in some distractions. Go through a puddle, over a curb, a man-hole cover, grass, a speed bump, etc. If your dog reacts badly to any of these, stop for the day and revisit it tomorrow, slowly, with praise and treats. The goal is to make cycling with your dog fun, and not scary.
Increase time, speed, and distance very slowly. Let your dog set the pace.
At a normal cycling speed, your dog should be at a trot, and not a gallop.
How to Keep Your Dog Safe from Traffic when Biking
Keep in mind that you are required by law to cycle with traffic if you are on a road, and on your left side, your dog will be closer to the vehicles passing by. The safest option, if you absolutely have to be on a road with cars at all, is to train your dog to both walk and run while you are cycling on your right side, and cycle on the right side of the road.
Work in training words for “Turn,” “Slow,” and “Stop,” so that your dog knows what you are going to do, which will reduce the risk of a crash.
What Equipment Do I Need to Take My Dog on Bikes Rides?
Besides your bike, helmet, leash, and brightly colored biking clothes for your safety, you should always have a few other things on your person when biking with your dog. These include:
- Two water bottles, one for each of you, and a small bowl for your dog to drink from
- Spare tire
- Tire pump
- Tire repair kit
- Cell phone
- Brightly colored, reflective collar and vest for your dog’s safety
- Harness for your dog, to attach him to your bicycle
- Healthy treats.
- Dog food, if you’re going for a long ride, and a bowl
Attachments to Help you Cycle Safely with Your Dog
When your dog seems pretty comfortable, work in the Springer, WalkyDog, or BikerDog attachments. These are non-pull attachment that make your dog less likely to pull you over. Some good ones on the market are: The Springer, BikerDog, or WalkyDog. They are designed to keep you and your dog safe, and include a quick release in case an obstacle comes between you and your dog.
Identification for You and Your Dog
It is important to carry dentification for you and your dog. Besides your own ID, you’ll want a tag on your dog’s collar with his name on it, your phone number, and your address. This is true even if your dog is microchipped.
Microchips are only effective if a dog ends up at a shelter, veterinary office, police station, or other place that has a microchip scanner, which doesn’t always happen. Plus, these places are not generally open 24 hours per day.
Additional Considerations to Cycle Safely with Your Dog
A definite no-no is to cycle while holding your dog’s leash, or to tie it to your handlebars. You can attach it to your seat post, which is the best out of these three options, but even better is to buy one of the attachments listed above to reduce pull to a minimum.
Never, ever tie your dog to your bike, and then leave him alone. Chances are, he will pull the bicycle over on top of himself, or at the very least, become scared and tangled up with it, which could end his cycling career forever.
The Bottom Line on How to Train Your Dog to Safely Run Next to You When You Are Cycling
Cycling with your dog can be a fun, easy way for both you and your dog to maintain your fitness and bond with each other. Always remember that safety comes first, and happy cycling!
7 of the Best Dog Bike Baskets and Dog Carriers to safely take your dog along on bike rides.
6 Steps to Gently Train Your Dog to Go on Bike Rides with You
Author Unknown. “Understanding Hip Dysplasia in Dogs.” Morris Animal Foundation. April 16, 2020. https://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/article/hip-dysplasia-in-dogs
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