Biking With Dogs

My dogs are my best friends. And what makes them great biking companions? They never complain, they always want to go with you and make you get outside.

There are many ways you can bring your best friend on bike rides with you, and I’d highly recommend going to a local trainer to get specific advice for your dog. But here’s what I did to get my two dogs, Phil and Charlie, biking-dog-ready.

Phil’s Story

Phil is beautiful, but he is very “husky” (which means that he has selective hearing and likes to wander). As a puppy, and up until he was almost two years old, he needed to be on a leash because he just did not listen. For a good biking dog, you need to make sure they have good recall. Mostly because, with biking, you can cover a lot of distance very quickly. The last thing you want is to lose your dog!

When we started training Phil, we waited until he was a couple months old. First we put him around our various bikes, as he was quite scared of them.

We wanted him to be around a moving bike, so one night in the winter we put him near my husband Ryan’s exercise bike. Ryan started pedalling and, literally, Phil jumped in fear and peed himself … and peed on the bike.

Not a great start for a very scared dog who doesn’t listen.

Once he got bigger, about six months, we did a slow walk with the bikes. This helped him understand that as the bike moved, he needed to move. We tried off-leash, but still he wouldn’t listen.

Once he hit 12 months, he was physically ready to do some biking. Phil is a medium-sized dog, so at 12 months he was full-grown. Large dog breeds should typically wait until they are two years old, to protect their growth.

We still wanted to pace Phil, but as we rode with him on-leash, he would stop, move and almost get eaten as the bike derailleur “sucked up” his leash. It was a nightmare.

We tried getting a leash that sat off the bike, like a pole with a leash attached. Also didn’t work. Leashing him just didn’t work with the bike.

So we worked on his recall. We tried food; we tried everything. Nothing worked. We honestly thought he might never be a biking dog.

We then decided to try a buzz collar (it has a warning sound with incremental small zaps). We tested it on ourselves and it kind of tickled. We started and said, “Come.” He didn’t come. So our warning sounded the collar. He didn’t come. We said “Come!” He didn’t come, so we buzzed him. Instantly he moved and came to us. Success! Very quickly he identified the warning sound that would lead to a buzz if he didn’t come, and suddenly we had a dog that would stick with us.

Charlie’s Story

Charlie. My beautiful, angsty buddy. When we first got Charlie, he would barely walk because he was so overly fat. You wouldn’t think that looking at him now, with his lean, muscular body and ability to run at over 35 kilometres per hour.

Similar to Phil, we started Charlie out as a puppy, being around bikes. He had no issues with them and we noticed, straight away, that he never wanted to be far from us. Either he thought we’d abandon him in the woods or he had serious co-dependency issues. Either way, that made for a great biking dog. We decided to do a little fat biking, at a walking pace, to see how he’d do with a bike. Ryan started biking and I let Charlie go … and that was it. He followed perfectly behind the bike tire. Charlie is the dream biking dog. We have literally never had to train him on this. Any time we call his name, he comes. He loves to run and gets annoyed if we aren’t moving. He prefers to bike with my husband because he goes fast

If anything, we had to take it really slow and, once the snow was gone—to build with slow bikes or longer walks, to build up his muscle and stamina but not overexert (he’s the kind of dog that probably would run forever).

Now we have two good biking dogs that love to go riding with us … although I think Phil still prefers slower-paced sports such as hiking.

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