Five expert tips for cycling with your dog

Any keen cyclist knows just how great a good bike ride can be, whether you’re bombing down MTB trails or exploring new gravel routes, there really isn’t anything better than pushing your limits and enjoying the fresh air.

So, why not combine the two things you love most: cycling and your pet.

Bringing man’s best friend along for the ride can help take your favourite spot to the next level, transforming it into a fantastic bonding experience. Better yet, your dog will love getting out and exploring new territory. For those of you who haven’t tried it yet, the experts at Hunt Bike Wheels offer their tips for canine cycling safety.

Get them used to the bike

If your dog has never been cycling with you before, then it’s good to give them some time to get used to the bike. This might mean spending some time in your garden on some basic training exercises before you go out.

If they get scared, introduce them to the moving bike slowly. Start by having them sit next to the bike while it is stationary. Once they’re calm, slowly walk with the bike and your dog on a lead, offering words of reassurance as you do. After a while, they’ll realise that this is no different to their usual walks, and you can start to speed up to a run. Once they’re ready to come along on your adventures, then be sure to start off slowly again to give them time to warm up before increasing your speed and distance.

Remember how long it took you to train for long distances? It’ll be the same for your dog too, so make sure you build you speed and distance gradually to get then used to their new exercise regime.

Teach them some basic commands

Once your dog is used to your bike, it’s a good idea to teach them some basic commands before heading out on a real ride. “Slow”, “left’, “right”, and “stop” are four commands that your dog should be able to reliably follow before heading out on a ride with you. Ensuring they recognise these commands will keep you both safe once you’re out on the trail. Taking your dog out before they can respond correctly to them could make your outings riskier, so it’s worth taking the time for this training.

This is where the benefits of canine cycling really come into their own. Getting your dog to listen and respond can be incredibly rewarding and eventually, you’ll be working together to make the most of your riding experience.

Match your trail to your dog

Off road trails are best for canine cycling, as the soil and bark paths are often kinder to dog’s paws than concrete pavements, and much safer than roads. However, while you may not want to get out and explore some exciting rough routes with man’s best friend, it’s important to remember that not all dogs are suited to long, arduous runs. This isn’t to say that you can bring your dog along with you, but you will want to consider their abilities when planning your ride.

For example, large energetic breeds like huskies, golden retrievers, Labradors, and border collies are well suited to mountain biking, while smaller dogs, older pets or short-nosed breeds may struggle. It’s a good idea to always consult your dog’s vet before cycling to check that the activity is safe.

If you vet gives you the go ahead, then try out a short, simple route to start with (around 10 minutes is enough) to see how they hold up. Be sure to stop when you notice your dog getting tired or starting to fall behind. Remember that this is a ride for your dog, so matching their abilities and taking frequent breaks should be your utmost priority.

If you don’t think your dog will be able to keep up, or if your vet advises against it, then your pooch will still be able to come along for your ride, but you may need to consider using a different mode of transport.

Choose how they’ll travel

There are a few ways you can bring your dog cycling with you, and the method you choose can depend on your dog’s activity levels and your riding style. For off road cycling, it’s usually best to have your dog on a bicycle lead and a specially designed bike lead attachment. These are made to help both you and your dog stay safe while cycling. The attachment extends beyond the bike frame to keep your dog away from wheels, while the arm is flexible enough that your dog’s movement won’t affect your bike.

If your dog isn’t suited to running alongside you, then you could consider a bike basket or trailer. These are great for smaller or older dogs, allowing then to get out into the fresh air and enjoy the ride without tiring themselves out. However, these should only be used for more casual rides through your neighbourhood or park than high-intensity rides.

Invest in the right gear

As is always the case with cycling, having the right gear is not only essential for performance, but can make a big difference in terms of safety too. Your first step should be to make sure you have the right type of bike and wheels for your style of riding, as this will ensure your bike can handle the routes, you’re on – keeping both you and your dog safe. So, a specially designed mountain or gravel bike with thicker wheels and tyres is best for the kind of off road routes you’ll be taking your dog on.

Along with specially designed lead and attachment, it’s a good idea to clip the lead to your dog using a harness. This can be safer and more comfortable for their back and neck than a collar as they run alongside you. If possible, try to get a reflective harness that will make your dog easier to spot, especially as passing cyclists may not be aware that they need to watch out for your four-legged friend too.

James Finch from Hunt Bike Wheels comments: “As the weather heats up, what better way to spend the summer than with your best friend doing what you love? While there are some things to bear in mind before you head out and you will need to make sure your dog is safe and comfortable, it’s definitely worth it.

“Be sure to research cycling trails thoroughly and try them on your own before heading out with your pet. You’ll not only want to check that dogs are allowed on the route in the first place, but you’ll also want to make sure that the route is suited for your dog. You know your pet best, so consider their breed and usual activity levels to pick a route that is safe and enjoyable for you both.

“It’s always wise to be prepared for a bike ride, especially when you’ve got your pet in tow. Be sure to avoid particularly hot days and stick to grass or dirt roads if you can, to protect your dog’s paws. It can help to provide an extra protective layer using paw wax or dog boots. And, as always, be sure to take along plenty of water and snacks for the both of you, to keep yourself fuelled for your journey.”