First, make sure you take your dog to the vet to get the okay before you start any exercise routine. It’s incredibly important that your dog be physically capable of keeping up with you and the bike. Once you receive the medical approval, you’ll want to ensure you’ve got a proper harness and attachment for running alongside a bike. These attachments act like a “shock absorber” to help prevent injury to both you and your dog.
Once you’ve done those things, you’re ready to begin training. Start by walking the bike with your dog attached to it, until your dog is comfortable walking in close proximity to your bicycle.
Teaching your dog some basic commands is essential for safety. For example:
- Hike (let’s go!)
- Gee (right)
- Haw (left)
- Whoa (slow down)
The next step is to ride the bicycle for short distances in a quiet, low-traffic area. Start slowly, and be sure to monitor your dog’s well-being. When you are confident your dog is ready and comfortable, you can start taking longer rides.
Remember: your dog may not necessarily stop running when tired. Many dogs, especially working dogs, continue to run past the point of exhaustion. All dogs are meant to roam and do not usually sprint for long periods. Maintain a pace slow enough that the dog is only cantering, rather than galloping full out alongside the bike.
Provide lots of breaks for water and rest and watch the dog for the following signs of exhaustion or heat exhaustion:
- Panting heavily, with the tongue fully extended
- Stumbling, dragging feet
- Glazed eyes
- Staring or anxious expression
Use extreme caution when biking in warm weather. On a hot day, it doesn’t take long to cause heat exhaustion, stroke or even death. Note that lots of sunshine means pavements can quickly become hot and damage the dog’s feet. To avoid these risks, exercise the dog earlier in the morning or late in the evening. And if it’s too hot, leave the dog at home and hit the bike trails by yourself!
Photo by Malingering