In this post Lindsay shares 10 tips for biking with your dog. Then, Barbara shares a specific example of how she recently started training her active pup to start running next to her bike!
Lindsay here! I used to take my lab mix Ace biking with me around the neighborhood. Here are my top 10 tips for biking with your dog:
1. Buy a hands-free bike leash.
You can definitely just hold the leash if you prefer. However, some people may prefer an actual dog biking leash to safely attach your dog’s leash to your bike. That way, you can have both hands free at all times. Try the Springer brand or the WalkyDog. For more information, check out my review on the hands-free bike leash.
2. Start out by walking with your dog and bike.
To introduce Ace to my bike, I started by walking him on my left with my bike on my right. I was in the middle. This was an easy way to get Ace used to the bike, and to teach him that he still has to heel when the bike is involved. I didn’t want my dog to be scared of the bike or too excited by it.
(2020 update: Ace has passed away.)
3. Start out embarrassingly slow.
The first time I biked with Ace, I went really slow, slow enough so I could easily stop and correct him if he went ahead or tried to jump up at me. Early on a Sunday morning is a good time to try it, especially on a quiet street or park.
4. Don’t tie the leash to your handle bars.
Tying a dog’s leash to a bike is is a disaster waiting to happen. I have never done this because I am afraid Ace’s leash will get caught in the bike. He could take off after anything and knock the whole bike over. Instead, I just hold his leash in my left hand.
5. Keep a slight amount of slack in the leash.
When I bike with Ace, I allow him the same amount of slack as I do on a walk. I don’t want the leash tight and pulling him, but I don’t want him to have the freedom to run out in front of the bike, either.
6. Teach your dog turn commands.
A dog can learn the commands left and right, or simply “turn!” This is valuable when you want to turn inward without slowing down too much and without hitting your dog! I have started teaching Ace these commands by saying “left” or “right” as I am preparing to turn. I make sure to slow down so he has enough time to react.
I don’t think he actually knows what these commands mean, but he knows when I say something we will be turning directions. He is always paying attention.
7. Don’t be afraid to stop and walk by people.
When Ace was first learning to run next to my bike, I would stop every time we approached another person, whether they were walking, running, biking or whatever. I did not want to risk an accident, such as Ace running up to another dog and getting the leashes tangled in my tires. I still often stop and yield to others when Ace is along.
8. Carry a ball or treats.
Have something to bribe your dog. I keep a slingshot ball tied to my handlebars and Ace doesn’t leave my sight for anything. If there’s something your dog loves, find a creative way to use that to keep his attention.
9. Know how far your dog can go.
My dog overheats very easily. He is also the type of dog that will run himself sick because he doesn’t know when to quit. I have to set limits for him and only bike with Ace in short sessions. I carry water in a small backpack and check the pads of his feet afterward to make sure they aren’t worn. I also challenge myself by biking with a backpack on (to carry more weight) and using the most difficult gears. These are little ways to make it easier for Ace to keep up.
10. Don’t bike with your dog until he’s ready.
If you’re not comfortable biking with your dog, it’s probably better not to. Wait until your dog is totally under control on a normal walk before you even think about biking with him. If he’s crazy around other dogs or people running, it’s not worth it to risk getting hurt or losing your dog. Use your best judgment.
Also, remember your helmet!
How to train your dog to run next to your bike – an example
Hi, this is Barbara! I write for That Mutt regularly and today I’m sharing how I trained my two year old Feist mix Wally to run next to my bike. You may wonder why I wanted to train him to run next to my bike in the first place?
Well, Wally has a decent amount of energy and we’ve been going for backpack walks almost daily since I adopted him a year ago. He also gets to run around in my fenced-in backyard.
However, he could use some additional, faster paced exercise that tires him out more. Since I’m not a runner but have been wanting to get back into biking for a while now, I figured I’d give biking together a shot. Let me tell you that it has been the exercise jackpot I’ve been looking for!
5 training steps to get Wally comfortable around my bike
I eased Wally into the concept of biking with me using the following 5 training steps:
1. Just letting him be around the bike for an entire day
The day I bought my new mountain bike, I simply let it sit on my patio for Wally to sniff and acquaint himself with it. He was a little curious about it, gave it a really good sniff, and then seemingly accepted it as a new “thing” Mommy brought home. I think it’s because I didn’t make a big deal out of it, so neither did Wally.
2. Walking Wally and my bike the following day
I probably could have started biking with Wally the moment I rolled the bike out of the garage. He’s never acted nervously around bikes we’ve encountered on our walks, nor has he ever wanted to chase them. But I decided to still ease ourselves into this new bike adventure, just in case it’d spook him, so I walked Wally and my bike for the first 10 minutes before I actively began biking with him.
While we walked, I rewarded him for looking at me with training treats, just like we do when we’re out on a regular walk.
3. Very slow 10 minute biking session
After that 10 minute bike walk, I sat on the bike and began pedaling VERY SLOWLY. I went so slowly that Wally didn’t even have to pick up any speed. He was essentially just walking at his normal Wally pace right next to me, on the left side.
We picked up a little speed after about a minute or so, and Wally did great. He didn’t try to pull or race ahead but stayed more or less next to me. Every now and then something would catch his attention like a barking dog in someone’s yard or kids playing outside. I’d redirect him by calling his name in a happy voice and a short tug on his leash. That’s all I’ve been having to do to get him to focus back on me.
4. 15 minute bike rides the following 3 days
After this successful short bike ride, we went for 15 minute afternoon rides on the following 3 days. I stopped briefly during each ride to let him go potty and then made sure to check his paw pads once we were back home. After all, he’s not used to running on asphalt, so I made sure to follow Lindsay’s tip of easing him into it and checking his pads for cuts. Thankfully he didn’t have any!
5. 30 minute bike rides
We transitioned to 30 minute afternoon bike rides after the successful shorter biking sessions. Wally has been doing great and we’ve both been having lots of fun! I particularly love it when he curls up for a nap after our bike rides!
Tools I’m using on our bike rides
Let’s get a little technical now. I use the following tools when I’m biking with Wally:
- Helmet for me. It’s just the safe thing to do in case I should fall for whatever reason.
- Padded gel cushion cover for my bike seat. It’s extra comfort for my behind.
- My fanny pack. It holds house keys, ID, cellphone, extra (slip) collar, extra poop bags, tissues, bandaids, eyedrops, lip balm..you get the idea!
- Head collar Halti for Wally. This collar is a gentle way of having more control over him.
- Wally’s regular 8 ft leather leash. I prefer leather leashes over nylon and other materials because leather is so soft yet durable. The length is great for biking because it allows for enough slack to not keep tension on the leash.
- Wally’s poop bag holder. It’s attached to his leash.
Speaking of poop, here’s a poop hack for you: I’m tying Wally’s poop bags to my handlebar until we’re able to toss them into a doggie poop station (there’s only one area in our neighborhood that has two poop stations). That way I don’t have to hold a leash AND a poop bag in my hand.
How I’m holding Wally’s leash while biking with him
For now I’m still holding Wally’s leash myself as I haven’t invested in a hands-free bike leash quite yet. I’m still thinking about it. Since Wally runs on the left side of my bike, I’m holding his leash in my left hand.
I never tie it to my handlebar nor do I recommend you try that! Just imagine how quickly you could fall and potentially injure yourself severely. All it takes is for your pup to get distracted by loose dogs or whatever else might cause him to suddenly pull away from you.
So I’m holding the leash with only three fingers while my thumb and index finger are holding the left bike handle. That way I can easily let go of the leash in case of an emergency without risking falling over with the bike.
How I’m taking turns with Wally
I don’t have any turn commands yet, but I’m thinking of teaching him the command “turn”. For now I’m using “come, come” whenever we’re getting ready to turn either left or right. Wally also pays attention to the front wheel which definitely helps when we’re getting ready to turn.
Future bike experiences I’m contemplating
Probably about two months into our biking adventure, I want to add a few features to our rides. For one, I’m thinking that Wally can start wearing his backpack on longer bike rides for a more intense physical workout. He’ll be carrying his own water bottles for a drinking break on our rides. So far I’ve only taken him for short 15 minute backpack rides.
I’d also like to start biking at local parks. Our neighborhood is only so big and I can see it becoming boring biking only in there. In order to accomplish that, I’ll need to invest in a bike carrier for my car since I’m not able to fit the bike and Wally into my car at the same time. If you’re aware of a good carrier, please let us know in the comment section below this article! Just FYI: I don’t have a hitch…
That being said, I’ll be looking to take Wally on a few longer bike rides every week. I’ll still incorporate 20-30 minute shorter ones in our neighborhood, but definitely want to mix it up. I’m hoping that neither of us will get bored that way!
Now we’d like to hear from you!
Now it’s your turn! Have you used any of these approaches to bike with your dog? Do you have any additional advice?
If you have any questions, let us know in the comments!