Have you ever cringed at the sight of a dog – on a loose leash – that is running next to a bike in traffic? You are not alone. While the dog’s owner thinks he is doing the pet a favor by exercising it, he is actually jeopardizing the animal’s health. Are there better options? You bet!
What Can Go Wrong When You Want Your Dog to Start Running Next to Your Bike?
Any dog lover who has ever seen a small animal attempt to keep pace with a bike rider while being half-dragged on a standard leash can empathize with this question. Is your dog in shape? Sure, it might enjoy the leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, but when it comes to running up and down the street, is the animal fit enough?
Just like you – a couch potato who does little more than running on a treadmill for 10 minutes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – would not be able to keep pace with a marathon runner doing a 5K without hardly breaking a sweat, your dog will not suddenly be able to go from daily walks to running long distances on its short legs. The Whole Dog Journal warns that smaller breeds usually only have the capacity for running “slowly for shorter distances.”
In other words, expecting your Yorkshire terrier mix to run at the same speed and with the same endurance as your collie is most likely going to be a mistake. Moreover, you need to take it easy in the beginning. Gradually work up to a standard biking route that your dog will enjoy and that will not push it past its strength and endurance. The latter is true even if your dog is fit, trim and ready to go.
Investing in the Right Cycling Equipment
You know that wearing a bicycle helmet is a good idea. You also know that wearing the right shoes – high heels simply do not work – and the right clothes – a flowing dress makes it difficult to peddle – is important for your comfort and safety. So why is it that so many dog lovers forget that you also need the right leash?
The Bike Tow Leash is an example of a product that allows your dog to run next to your bicycle safely. Designed to keep you safe and steady even when the dog pulls to the side suddenly, this leash setup also protects the pet from getting a paw caught in the bike chain or the wheel sprockets.
Training Yourself and Your Dog to Bike and Run Safely
A bicycle dog leash is only safe to use if the cyclist commits to going at the dog’s speed. Moreover, the experts at The Dog Outdoors strongly suggest that the best types of canines to train for this type of exercise are those, which are over one year of age and weigh in excess of 20 pounds.
Remember also that the dog’s overall willingness to obey, its ability to maneuver through traffic without getting spooked by loud cars and your fellow-riders’ level of care must play a role in your decision to train the animal for leash biking. It is never a good idea to put an untrained animal on a bike leash and ride into the thick of rush hour traffic.
So, invest in the right setup and then train the animal to get accustomed to its bike leash.
Mount the leash setup to the bike and walk the animal while pushing the bike. While you do so, train the dog to listen to voice prompts rather than tugs on the leash. Finally, practice riding – slowly! – in a park setting.
Common Mistakes and Misconceptions about the Bike Leash
It is a common mistake to expect an animal to take to being walked by bike right away. In fact, this exercise has a learning curve, which is similar to teaching the dog to walk on a leash in the first place. Problems arise when dog owners choose streets that are too busy or feature too many distractions before an animal is comfortable with the new method of exercising.
Hot weather brings the additional problem of exertion, especially if you pedal too fast for the dog to keep up. It is crucial to keep a close eye on the animal and make sure it is walking at a brisk but comfortable pace for its size and level of fitness and agility. Stop frequently to allow the animal to rest and drink water. By the way, you know not to ride on the hot asphalt at high noon, right?