Whether you’re a dog lover just getting into cycling or you’re an avid cyclist about to buy your first dog, cycling with your favourite canine friend has probably crossed your mind already.
If so, there are a few things that you need to think about. Cycling with a dog is harder than many think, and if you’re not the safest of cyclists then it won’t take much for your dog to be put off the idea altogether. Whether you’re biking with a small dog or you have a big German Shepherd, it can only take a slight fall for your dog to hate the sight of a bicycle!
So, without further ado, here is our comprehensive guide to cycling with a dog.
Make sure your dog is up to it
Before you do anything, make sure that your dog has the stamina and energy to keep up with you. Your dog could appear to be in the best of health but you should still have things checked out by a veterinarian. Look for any underlying issues that could make jogging difficult. Your dog should be in tip-top condition before you hit the road.
Also, if your dog is overweight then you should probably hold off on the bike rides until a bit more weight has been shed. Build up the dog’s fitness (and confidence) with a regular walking routine.
Familiarise your dog with the bicycle
No, we don’t mean sitting your dog up on the bike seat. Walk your bike alongside the dog (with you on one side of the bike and the dog on the other) so that the dog gets used to following. Go on a few of these practice runs so that you can train your dog to recognise certain commands. Eventually, your dog will anticipate these commands.
Here is some more information on training your canine friend. These are crucial steps, so take note!
How to train your dog to run alongside
As we’ve just mentioned, start using certain commands that you want your dog to follow. Whether you are slowing down, stopping, or making a sharp turn, choose words that you want your dog to associate with. You can even choose words that only you and your dog could know (this prevents your dog getting confused if they hear something like “turn left” or “stop” from someone else nearby).
You need to start slowly. Remember that this will probably be a completely new thing for your dog to try, so bear with them. Begin by riding at a walking speed. Then, graduate to a quicker (trotting) pace after two weeks.
Keep an eye on your dog at all times. If they look tired, they’re panting (more than usual) or drooling (a lot more than usual, depending on the breed), then stop to give the dog a break. If your dog seems to be losing coordination, take a break immediately.
Tips for biking with a dog
- Don’t wrap the dog’s lead around your handlebars, because one abrupt turn of the dog’s neck could cause you to lose balance and hurt yourself, your dog, or both.
- Instead, keep the dog’s lead wrapped around your wrist so that you can change direction with one hand while steadying yourself with the other.
- Keep the lead quite short so that your dog cannot run in front of the bike.
- Bring some water along so that you and your dog can stay hydrated.
- Think about protecting your dog’s paws and keep an eye on their wear and tear. You can get various types of paw protectors and, while your dog’s paws will toughen up over time, you should probably get some protection for their first few runs.
Like we said earlier, some breeds are better suited for your bike rides than others.
Best dog breeds for running
You should check whether or not your dog is suited for the running life. If your dog has plenty of energy (think, Border Collie or a Labrador) then you may have the perfect cycling buddy.
Here’s a quick rundown (geddit?) of the best dog breeds for running:
The Rhodesian ridgeback used to be bred to hunt lions in Africa, so they’re more than athletic enough for your bike ride. They’re also great with other people!
Agile, intelligent, and quick - a border collie is a great cycling pal. They’re a classically faithful dog, so you can rely on the collie to stay by your side.
The German shepherd is a very strong breed, and loyal too - you’re onto a winner here. They’ll keep up with the fastest of cyclists (and may even give them a run for their money).
An incredibly lean breed, a dalmatian makes a great cycling partner. Originally, the dalmation was employed to run ahead of firefighting carriages so your bike ride will be easy-peasy.
Possibly the smallest-built dog in our list, the Airedale terrier is an energetic customer but one that is perhaps better for 10k runs (or less). Its short and wiry coat is perfect if you live somewhere hot.
They may be pruned and precious-looking, but a poodle can pound the pavement with the best of them. They have plenty of energy, but they’re also smart, obedient and athletic. Perfect!
Get on your bike
Remember - start slowly! Your dog will take to the whole thing a lot easier if you take your time with them. Also, don’t forget that this is as much a test of endurance for you as it is your dog, so you need to stay fit and healthy for the both of you! Take a look at our range of vitamins and minerals to top up your diet. Most importantly of all, enjoy it! Cycling with your dog is a fantastic bonding experience.