Cycling with your dog isn’t just a fun activity; it's also a great way to keep both you and your furry friend healthy and active. It provides your dog with an opportunity to explore new environments, sniff out new scents, and burn off some energy. Plus, it strengthens the bond between you and your pet, making it a rewarding experience for both of you.
But before you attach your dog to your bike and start pedaling*, there are a few things you need to consider.
Consider Your Dog's Breed and Age Before Cycling
Not all dogs are suitable biking buddies. Factors such as age, breed, health, and fitness level will impact a dog's ability to keep up with a bike. For example, brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Frenchies aren’t built for this kind of activity unless they’re in a basket or trailer.
Your pet’s age is also important. Puppies should only receive around five minutes of exercise for every month of their lives, up until they’re fully grown. Their bones and joints are still growing, and excessive exercise could hurt their development. You should speak to your vet to see when you can exercise for longer.
Ensure Your Dog is Trained Before You Ride
It’s also crucial to train your dog well before you start biking with them — and not just to get them physically fit. For safety reasons, your dog must be able to respond to basic commands, especially recall, AKA “come.”
This is crucial for your and your dog's safety and the safety of others. Your dog should be leash trained, respond to commands like "stop", "stay", "slow", and "leave it", and be comfortable around traffic and other distractions.
It’s important to consult with your vet and assess your dog's abilities before you start biking with them. Remember, this should be a fun and enjoyable experience, not a strenuous or stressful one.
Get the Right Cycling Gear
When it comes to gear, consider how far you want to bike and where. The kind of gear you choose depends on your dog’s abilities and what you’re both comfortable with.
If you’d like to cycle with them alongside you, you could choose a bicycle dog leash. This special type of leash attaches to your bike and allows your dog to run with you. It keeps them at a safe distance from the bike, preventing them from running in front of the wheels.
A comfortable dog harness is also important since it distributes pressure more evenly across their body, reducing the risk of injury. NEVER go biking with a dog that’s leashed at the collar, as it poses a serious risk of injury. Plus, a harness gives you more control over your pooch, especially if they’re large or strong.
If you're planning a longer trip and the terrain is suitable, consider bringing a bike basket for your dog or a dog-carrying trailer. This will give your pet a chance to rest if they get tired. Remember, the goal is to make the experience enjoyable for your dog, not exhaust them.
You can also choose these items over a bicycle dog leash to begin with, letting them sit back and relax while you take on all the strain. A dog basket is better suited to smaller breeds. A trailer, which attaches to the back of your bike, can be more suitable for larger breeds.
Start Off Slowly
If you choose to let your dog run alongside you, there are a few steps to consider.
Once you're ready to start cycling, introduce your dog to the bike slowly. Let them sniff it and get used to it. Then, walk the bike with your dog. This, too, will help them get used to it and understand that it's not something to be afraid of.
Start slow, then gradually increase the speed and distance. This will give your pet time to adjust to the activity and build up their stamina.
Always keep an eye on your dog when you’re biking. Look for signs of fatigue or discomfort and adjust your speed — or take breaks — as needed. Remember, this isn’t the Tour de France: Even if you’re fond of pushing yourself to your aerobic limits, you should never exhaust your dog.
Care for Your Dog's Paws
Caring for your dog's paws is another important consideration when cycling. Be mindful of the ground you're biking on. Asphalt and rough terrain can be hard on your pup’s paws. Try to stick to grass or dirt trails when possible, and avoid hot asphalt, which can burn their paws.
Protect Your Dog from Heat
Cycling in warm weather requires additional precautions, and you should consider whether it’s too hot to take your pet out.
Dogs’ paws can quickly burn if the ground is too hot. And they can easily overheat in hot weather, especially if they’re exercising, which can result in heat stroke. So if you’re biking with your dog in warmer months, it’s always wise to avoid the hottest times of day. An early morning or early evening cycle ride may be your best bet for steering clear of the day’s highest temperatures.
Choose a path that's dog-friendly, provide plenty of fresh water, go slow, and take plenty of breaks to prevent your pup from overheating. You may also want to apply pet-safe sunscreen; just make sure it’s specifically made for pets since human sunscreen contains ingredients that can be toxic to pets when licked.
And make sure you know the signs of heatstroke in your pet so you’re prepared to take action in a worst case scenario. If the day is especially warm, it may be better to postpone your ride altogether.
Respect Others (and Nature)
Finally, always respect other people, pets, and Mother Nature when you’re out cycling with your dog. Clean up after your dog, keep them close or on a leash, be mindful of others, and observe local rules and regulations for pets.
Consider Getting Pet Insurance
At ManyPets, we understand the love and concern you have for your pet. We know that they're not just a pet but a cherished companion, family furry friend, heartwarming housemate, and pawsome partner.
That's why we offer dog insurance to help you take care of them, whether you need coverage for illnesses or accidents. We always aim to provide you with peace of mind, letting you focus on enjoying life's adventures.
*This article is written for informational purposes. It is not a substitute for advice from a licensed expert. If you have any real-life concerns or questions about biking with your dog, please consult with a licensed behavioral specialist, a veterinarian, or both.