TREATS! That word summarizes peoples’ stories, tips and experiences around training their dogs to join them on the bike. Mine too. Treats have been my #1 ally through a journey of getting my dog Amélie to ride with me.
The journey I took before writing this story took me more than three weeks of observing my dog, training her with consistency, feeding her, giving her courage, trust and love and, finally, riding my bike with her. In the past few weeks I asked BikePortland social media followers about their experiences and attended the Pupperpalooza ride.
In this post I’ll share some of what I learned as well as a few reader stories.
When asking around, a lot of people with dogs mentioned two main reasons for not biking with them: The first was about the safety of their dogs and themselves; the second was fear of their dogs getting into a cargo trailer or backpack. That second one is exactly what brought me through my journey with Amélie. She was terrified of getting into the trailer, and as she is my service dog, my dream is to be able to bike with her to work and almost everywhere. Before that happens, she will need to do so much training in managing her fear and comfort level and I need to do a lot more training to pull this almost 60-pound dalmatian. We will get there…
My Dog Amélie
This is Amélie, we have come so far together. She has not only learned how to work and develop tasks and skills, she has healed from a hard past. (PSA: I encourage everyone to give a second chance to older dogs; they are the ones that tend to stay forever in the shelters… give yourselves the chance to heal together, it’s life changing! It is harder to train an older dog but it is also very rewarding and it creates a huge bond between you and them.)
@arango_maritraining training training before biking 🚲💜🐾 #dogchallenge #bikeportland #bike @bikeportland
People are constantly obsessing about asking if my dog is pure-bred or not and I can’t stop thinking, “Who cares? Why does that matter?” In my case, my dog’s job does not require her to follow any sheep or pull any sleigh. That said, I understand that some dogs are more physical than others and that is something to have in mind when thinking about the best way to ride your bike with them. This is one piece of advice I received regarding breeds and training:
“Working dogs are the best breeds to train because they are energetic and intelligent. They’ve been bred to do a job so make biking their ‘job.’ Every moment you’re with your dog is a trainable time for them and that should be your mindset.”
Dog Carrying Options
There are so many different options, materials, sizes and prices on the market. I’ve listed a few basic options below. Just keep in mind it’s important to do good research on the best option for you and your companion.
- Cargo bikes with big buckets
- Running along with a leash
- Running along without a leash
As you can see in the photos above, there’s no need to buy a very fancy trailer or backpack. We received some amazing DIY examples that included a dog that comfortably rides in a laundry basket!
Reader Story: Annabel
“Annabel has been off leash almost her entire life, I rode with her leashed to and from the park until she was about 6 months old and then I took the leap to trust her off leash not only at the park but to and from it as well. She wasn’t perfect out of the box but I trusted her (and myself) enough that even if she made a mistake we could correct it and now, at just over a year old, I hardly have to tell her what to do at all, she knows her job and she works it.
The best advice on dogs I’ve ever heard was in a comedy show (Letterkenny), ‘Exercise, discipline and affection, in that order.’ A good working dog will need to have plenty of exercise but the best working dogs will have disciplined owners, not corporal punishment, but monkish discipline over the activities and work they do with their dogs. When Annabel does her job her reward is affection and she naturally wants to do her best to make me happy and shower her with that affection.”
Every dog has its own personality and learning pace, just like we do. Not every system, bike set-up or training method will work for every dog. It is important to listen to their needs, be aware of their size, weight and your own physical skills. It is definitely not the same to have your dog running along your side, carrying them in a backpack, or pulling a 60-pound trailer (like in my case).
Reader Story: Backpack Experience
“Break it down into small steps and take it slow. I started by just having her sniff and get familiar with the pack. Then after a few days I put her front legs in (lots of treats as rewards). Step-by-step over a few days got her into the pack, letting her out almost immediately. Then started carrying her in the house, then yard, then on foot close to home before taking her by bike. She was already familiar with bikes because we also use a trailer, but we originally did similar familiarization with the bikes —sniffing, letting her watch us ride them, etc. She can be a pretty nervous dog, so taking it slow was key! The pack is a K9 Sport Sack Air 2. She’s 27 pounds, so close to the 30lb max for that bag.”
On July 25th I did the Pupperpalooza Ride hosted by Corvidae Bike Club. This was their second dog ride and a huge variety of dogs and bikes were there. Hopefully many more dog-friendly rides will come so a stronger and bigger dogs-on-bikes community can be created. These photos are just some of the dogs, bikes, humans and plastic animals that attended that day!
A Few More Tips
Starting early is a game-changer. Most of the stories I read and listened to were stories about dogs that weren’t trained at all, they were mostly stories about very young puppies that were put into biking when they were just new to the family and the world. Some of us get adult dogs or started biking once our pups were adults, and this is why having patience is so important. Again, it is the same for us humans: the older we are, the more time we need to learn something new.
Final tips: be patient, enjoy the journey, don’t be afraid of the process and the mistakes you both can make, trust your instincts, keep yourself and your dog safe, trust your dog, and of course, give your pup a lot of treats! Thank you so much to everyone* that took the time to share images, videos, tips, frustration stories, success stories and your dreams of riding with your dogs in the future.
*Special thanks to Annabelle’s humans for all the tips, images and videos. More of your content will be shared on social media. Be sure to follow us on Instagram!
— Maritza Arango, @arango_mari on Instagram, Twitter and Tiktok.
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