Walking, hiking, running, camping…and biking?! Of the many fun ways to spend time outdoors with your furry friend, biking may not have come to mind as a dog-specific activity. However, we have some good news for dog-loving cyclists: many pooches can learn to run alongside a bicycle and will enjoy the ride just as much as you do! Whether you prefer to take leisurely rides around the neighborhood or opt for demanding trail routes, biking with a dog offers excellent cardio exercise for pups and pet parents alike.
Safety and training are the keys to a successful bike-riding experience. We’ll help you decide if this activity is right for your dog, list the equipment you’ll need, and offer advice to help you get going!
Is Biking Safe for Dogs?
While running alongside a bike is a great activity for many dogs, it is not ideal for all pups. Brachycephalic dogs (dogs with short snouts), senior dogs, overweight dogs, puppies under a year old, dogs with short legs, and dogs with health conditions are not the best fit for biking. If your four-legged friend does not fall into any of these categories and has enough stamina to run long distances, biking may be a superb choice!
Your dog should know how to walk on a leash without pulling before you start training. There will likely be distractions when you and your dog are out on the road or trail, and you will not have the same amount of control over the leash while biking as you would on a walk. So, leash training is a must prior to this activity.
If you have any concerns about your dog’s ability to accompany you on a bike ride, talk to your veterinarian for advice.
Dog Biking Supplies
Bike riding with a dog isn’t as simple as looping their leash on one of your handlebars or holding it as you ride. In fact, these ideas can be quite dangerous for you and your pooch—especially if your dog chases after an animal and knocks you off balance. Instead, prepare for a safe trip with the following gear:
- Bicycle-specific leash
- Reflective harness
- Extra handheld leash
- Water and a collapsible bowl/container
- Waste bags
- ID tag
Many companies sell spring-loaded, bicycle-specific dog leashes that attach directly to the seat post. This hands-free design allows you to focus on navigating and reduces the amount of pull you’ll feel. Plus, these leashes are specially made to prevent your dog from getting too close to the wheels or otherwise tangling the leash mid-ride. Be sure to pick a leash length that is appropriate for your dog and hook it up to a reflective harness.
It’s also a good idea to keep an additional, handheld leash at your disposal in case you and your dog need to walk away from the bike for any reason. As always, don’t forget to wear your helmet!
Related: The Best Dogs for Runners
How to Train Your Dog to Run Alongside Your Bike
Remember learning how to ride a bike? Your dog will need some training, too! Although your Cadet won’t be on the bike, they must master some basic commands and exercises before they’re ready to take their first stroll by your side. Follow these steps to ensure a smooth, safe trip!
Step #1: Teach Essential Commands
In addition to walking calmly on a leash, your furry friend should know how to perform some important dog obedience commands before biking together. Make sure your pup knows the basic “stay” and “sit” commands, as well as more activity-specific commands including “slow” and “stop.” Communicating these words to your dog will help you take charge of their pace, keep them from chasing wildlife or other bikers, and give you greater control when stopping for a breather.
Step #2: Familiarize Your Dog with the Bike
You may not pay attention to the subtle noises a bike makes, but these clicks and clunks can frighten your pooch. Fortunately, with a little patience, you can acclimate them. Introduce your dog to the bike outside your home, allowing them to observe and sniff the vehicle while it’s stationary. Once they become familiar with it, move the bike a few feet so your dog can experience some of the noises it makes. If your bike has a bell or horn, this would be a good time to ring it.
If your dog seems afraid, give them cuddles and reassurance that everything is okay. Offer praise and a dog treat when your pup stays calm to let them know they’re doing a great job. It may take a few weeks before your dog feels completely comfortable around the bike, so take it slow and gradually increase the amount of time they spend hearing the sounds before taking your first trip.
Step #3: Take Slow Bike Rides Together
Once you feel confident your dog is ready to go for a spin, give them plenty of water and hook them up to their special bike leash. Gently coast down a low-trafficked area with your dog by your side, making sure you are going slow enough for your dog to walk or jog comfortably. You may need to slow down at times so they can keep up. Your first trip should not last more than a few minutes; when it’s over, be sure to give your dog lots of praise and an extra-special treat.
You’ll want to head out for your bike ride when the weather is cooler, as strong temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion in dogs or the pavement becoming too hot for their paws. If you plan to take the bike out on a warmer day, aim for a morning or evening ride when the heat is less intense.
Step #4: Pick Up the Pace
Nobody knows your dog’s stamina as well as you! Gradually build up distance and speed after a few trips biking with your dog, keeping a pace your pup can handle. A furry friend who likes to play for hours on end is likely better suited for distance biking, while a dog who enjoys quick, heightened bursts of play may be well equipped for a shorter and more intense ride.
No matter your dog’s preference, make frequent stops for water and rest. Look for a shady spot where your four-legged friend can catch their breath and rehydrate—they will appreciate the break! Don’t walk away from the bike while your dog is still leashed to the seat, as it could fall and frighten or injure them.
As is the case with many dog-specific activities, don’t overdo it. Your dog may not have the same endurance you have, so it’s critical to keep an eye on them and stop if they appear exhausted. A well-rested dog is a happy dog!
Ready to Roll?
Bike riding with a dog offers a unique opportunity to shake up your exercise routine and provide your furry friend a new, exciting challenge. If you use common sense when you hit the road and follow local biking laws, you’ll be in great shape to enjoy this side-by-side workout together!