Tips to ensure you cycle safely alongside your dog
My passion for cycling with my dogs first started when I lived in London with my pack of six. Trying to get all the dogs in the car and off to a park in rush hour traffic was never easy. Even walking down the busy streets with my dogs in tow was a challenge. I soon noticed parents cycling to school with their children, and thought what a great idea that would be with my pack.
I started researching different methods and soon came across the Babboe cargo bikes for dogs, which looked perfect for what I needed. But there are plenty of other options too, for dogs of all ages, sizes and energy levels.
Have you ever thought about cycling with your dog? Not sure where to start? If so, these are the steps you’ll need to take in order to prepare for a bike ride with your dog.
When to introduce your dog to bike rides
Rigorous exercise like running alongside a bike can damage your dog’s growth plates, leading to future mobility problems. This especially applies to puppies, overweight dogs and older dogs who may have stiff joints. Depending on your chosen method of cycling with your dogs, you should discuss bike rides with your vet.
When you feel ready to include your dog in your cycling routes, you can carefully introduce cycling as part of their routine. Cycling with your dog is a fantastic way to strengthen your bond. You should, however, appreciate that even though cycling can build up a lot of excitement for your dog, it can also be a scary experience for them if not done safely.
How to start
Getting used to something new can be a little scary for dogs. For me, it was a process of familiarising my dogs, in order to associate a positive experience with the bike.
Initially, you can start by introducing your dog to the bike whilst it’s stationary. For small breeds especially, the bike may seem a little intimidating, so let them have a good chance to explore it. All dogs will naturally be inquisitive of any new object. Pay attention to your their reaction to your bike and give lots of positive encouragement, especially if they show any signs of apprehension.
Pedalling the bike around my garden allowing my dogs to watch and listen to the sounds a bike makes was crucial to building their confidence. I would then advise you to gradually start walking with your dog alongside your bike. Make sure you take this step with them safely; avoiding any heavy traffic or overwhelming distractions.
Having your dog simply run alongside you as you cycle is a great way to get them enjoying this new form of exercise. This is especially suitable for larger, more agile breeds, and is a lot more fun in short distances. I often let my golden retriever, Mabel, out of the cargo bike basket carrier before we race each other up the path to my house.
It’s lovely watching your dog soak up the sights, smells and sounds around them! It can also get quite competitive as they keep pace with your pedalling. I would advise to only let your dog run alongside you off their lead if they are 100% reliable with their recall and only in quiet, secluded locations. Otherwise, you might choose to use a dog bike tow lead.
A bike lead reacts to your dog’s movements, like an extra arm mounted on your bike. It is a point of contact between them and the bike, to gently communicate direction and speed changes. If your dog pulls on the bike attachment, the tow lead keeps them on course.
Make sure your dog is comfortable and familiar with the routes you intend to take, staying clear of busy roads.I recommend wide open spaces – you wouldn’t want the lead to wrap around a lamppost – or worse, another cyclist!
Cargo bikes for dogs
A dog cargo bike is custom-built to carry multiple dogs. It’s available in push-bike or e-bike form and is great for long distances.
The Babboe bike is perfect for my pack of six, and it comes with a ramp and a door. It has a large basket and the ramp allows older dogs to join in on the fun. This was the perfect solution for my beloved elderly spaniel, Ella, who very sadly recently passed away.
The box has safety points to attach your dogs to, as well as an anti-slip mat, so wet or muddy paws won’t skid. The bike has a rain cover for wet weather, which has led to many amusing instances at traffic lights. I can peep inside to see my dogs cosy and dry, sometimes even having a nap, whilst I am soaked to the bone.
Even though I now live in the countryside, I still get plenty of use out of my cargo bike and the dogs truly love it. The song that goes through my head whilst I’m pedalling away is “A Whole New World”, from Aladdin. It feels like the dogs are on their own magic carpet ride. The dog bike has never failed to put a smile on someone’s face, which is such a great feeling.
Doggy cycling backpacks and carriers
The cargo bike may not be the best solution for you, especially if you don’t have spacious bike storage. However, there are plenty of other safe and fun ways to cycle with your dog.
For smaller or less active dogs, many dog owners prefer securing their four-legged friend in a cycling backpack, basket or carrier. These are attached to yourself or the bike, and can be more reassuring for beginners, as you can keep a close eye on them. There are dog-specific models for each of these options, designed specifically for the safety and care of dogs.
When using a front-facing dog bike basket or bike trailer, always make sure your dog is secured safely and comfortably. It’s best to use a harness rather than a collar, as this provides extra stability around their shoulders and chest, to prevent neck injuries. Most good quality carriers will include a carabiner clip to attach to your dog’s harness.
When using a doggy cycling backpack, it is advised to familiarise your dog with the backpack in the same way you did when they first “met” your bike. This is to ensure they are confident and comfortable in the backpack. Carrying your dog in the backpack whilst at home, or even just out for a small walk will help them get accustomed to it.
The best dog backpack I can recommend is the K9 Sports Sack, which a number of my friends use. These are reliable, sturdy and come in different sizes.
Bring supplies such as treats, water and a first aid kit.
Consider accessories such as a bike light and hi-vis dog harness for cycling at night.
It’s important to check the weight limit for bags or baskets, especially if you have a growing puppy.
It’s best to avoid a bike ride in extreme weather. The ground may be too hot for your dog’s paw pads, and a carrier can become stressful for some dogs in intense rain or heat!
Enjoy the ride
Cycling with my dogs is one of my favourite hobbies – and they enjoy it just as much as I do! Not only is it an environmentally friendly mode of transport, but it’s also an excellent way to bond through exercise.
Seeing the wind in their fur and their noses sniffing the air is such a joy and it’s the best way to travel in my opinion. If you follow these guidelines and tips, you’re definitely in for the best bike ride you can have with your dog!
James & Ella x