Many dogs have issues with wheels – bikes, Rollerblades, strollers, wagons, scooters, motorcycles, wheelchairs, skateboards, even cars.
The issues vary from dog to dog. Some act out aggressively, lunging and barking. Some would actually bite a person on a bike if they could. Other dogs pull frantically at the leash while trying to chase or flee.
Some dogs even shut down out of fear and crouch as submissively as possible.
No matter how inappropriately your dog acts around bikes, she is most likely acting out of fear and uncertainty. Dogs often act aggressively when they are afraid. So if your dog is lunging and barking, she isn’t “macho,” she is insecure.
Here are some tips for helping your insecure dog get control of herself around “wheels.”
I’m going to stick with bikes in this post, but the same concepts can be applied to anything.
Get your dog used to strollers, bikes and Rollerblades.
1. Master loose-leash walking.
My dog doesn’t have issues with wheels, but he used to get overly excited over other dogs. The best way to get him used to new things was to take him out as much as possible. So, start walking!
Get consistent on obedience. Carry treats on walks, and go out on weekends and after work when there is more “excitement.” Most importantly, teach your dog to heel. A dog that walks at your side is under control. A dog that is all over the place on a Flexi leash or even pulling on a 4-foot leash is more likely to respond negatively to bikes.
2. Buy the best training collar for your dog.
It might be a pinch collar. It might be a Halti or a Gentle Leader. The point is, you need to be in control. That isn’t always possible on a regular, buckle collar. A choke collar isn’t much better unless it is kept high on the dog’s neck. I recommend a Halti.
3. Practice obedience next to a bike.
Set your dog up for success. That means think of training in the tiniest steps possible. Practice some sits and stays in the backyard or your garage next to an unoccupied bike. Reward your dog when she sits calmly next to the bike. This will be easy for most dogs, but it is still a good place to start. If your dog reacts to a bike that isn’t moving, then you know how much work you have ahead of you.
4. Get someone to ride the bike near your dog.
Continue to practice obedience. Ask someone your dog knows to slowly push the bike around the yard. Pretend that you don’t even notice this person or the bike. This will help your dog learn that bikes are no big deal. Depending on how your dog reacts, that person could slowly ride the bike. Work on keeping your dog’s attention and reward calm behavior with highly valued treats like hot dogs, cheese or jerky.
5. Walk with your dog on one side and the bike on the other.
Go for a walk while wheeling the bike on your right side, with your dog on your left. You will be between the dog and the bike, with no one on the bike quite yet. You are teaching your dog that there is no reason to be scared of bikes. Go at a slow pace. If your dog is uncomfortable, ignore her and reward her with food once she is calm. Correct unwanted behavior like barking or pulling. If your dog is obviously very panicked or stressed, don’t force her to continue. Instead, go back to previous steps where she can be successful.
6. Ask a family member or friend to bike by you and your dog.
Again, reward your dog for calm behavior. If your dog lunges or barks, correct her with a leash pop or redirect her attention with food. You will probably need the person to bike by you 10 or 20 times and very slowly at first. If it doesn’t go well, try again on a different day. Once your dog is able to ignore the bike, ask your friend to increase his speed. A lot of dogs are fine around bikes at slow speeds but become agitated when bikes go speeding by.
7. Purposely walk by strangers on bikes.
If you want your dog to get used to bikes, you’re going to have to stop avoiding them. Continue carrying treats during walks so you can keep your dog’s attention and reward her when she’s calm. Some people like to stop and make their dogs sit when bikers go by. If this works for your dog, then do that. I prefer to keep walking and act like the bike isn’t there. Remember not to be too tense or your dog will also be tense. The calmer you can be, the better your dog will be.
8. Stay calm. Don’t get angry.
I can easily loose my temper with my dog when he doesn’t understand what I want. But I also know this does nothing to help either of us. If my dog is confused or acting “badly,” it means I need to change something. That’s probably why I lose my temper, because I’m mad at myself! Dog training is not a quick process. Take it easy and remember that getting angry only makes the dog more confused, insecure or scared.
9. Continue training.
Dogs will regress if they don’t keep practicing. So continue to work on all of the above steps as needed. My dog is well behaved in our own neighborhood, but he gets more excited when we go to new areas. Don’t be surprised if you go to a new park and all the sudden your dog is freaking out around bikes again. She might also behave when you walk her but not when your husband or daughter walks her. That’s why it’s important to encourage all family members to take part in the training. Be patient and continue training your dog every chance you get.
At this point, your dog will probably be much more comfortable around bikes. Now you can even take your dog along on bike rides. I recommend a dog bike attachment which is a hands free bike leash. Don’t forget your helmet!
Does your dog have any reactions to bikes and strollers? What do you do?
Have a good Memorial Day weekend!!