Biking With Your Dog
In this article I will be describing how to bike with your dog next to you like you might on a city street. This is different from Bikejoring, where your dog actually pulls you while you are riding on your bike. You will see I use a collar in the above picture. I recommend using a distance mushing harness for comfort. Kyra (in the picture) has been biking with me for years and I am comfortable with using a collar.
When you bike with your dog, your dog runs along side your bike. There are many contraptions out there that you can buy to attach your dog to the side of your bike. Every dog is different and I find that when my dog is hooked to some contraption on the side of my bike I end up being too wide for the sidewalk, too big for corners, or too close to traffic. I like to have a leash that I can adjust as I go along. But sometimes you need an attachement device to feel safer, and if that's the case find an attachment that works for you.
It is easy to scare your dog if you don't give her enough time to get used to your bike.
At this point you are just introducing the bike and your dog. Don't scare your husky or yourself by just grabbing her leash and going. The GOAL of this dog exercise is to learn to work together and build trust. You don't need anything fancy, just a short leash (3-4 feet), a regular flat dog collar, and a bike. Your husky must be leash trained to do this exercise. You can injur her back and neck if they pull on a collar. Do not use choke collars or head halters for this exercise. A front clip harness may be the best choice if your dog is a leash puller.
With your husky on the leash, walk up to your bike. If she is scared, don't force her. The first goal in training your husky, is to teach her to trust your judgment around something new. This is not about your husky being able to walk right up to the bike and head out on a major trek. Each day try to get your husky comfortable until your husky is willing to just walk up to the bike without fear.
You can take some good tasting dog treats and sprinkle them around your bike while introducing your dog to your bike. You can even feed her dinner each night in the vicinity of the bike.
When your husky is comfortable with your the bike, take a walk around the yard or driveway, just walking your bike AND your husky. Keep the leash in your hand and put the bike between you and your dog.
Practice this for several days until you both feel comfortable. Remember, this is mental stimulation for you and your husky. The goal here is not to ride the bike (not yet at least), it is to build TRUST through this dog exercise. Trust happens over time.
When you feel VERY sure about how your husky is going to react to distractions (squirrels, other dogs, children, cars) with you walking the bike, you may try a practice ride.
When you try a practice ride, secure the leash to the stem of the bike (the part below the handle bars). It should be long enough that your husky has room to move freely, but short enough that the leash does not get caught in the tires or any other part of the bike.
Your husky should be NEXT to your bike, NOT out in front. I have, on occassion, used a trekking belt, and secured my dog around my waist instead of the stem of the bike. Be careful if you do this because all your dog's movements will directly affect you. One strong pull and you could be in a very dangerous situation. You may want to attach a quick release snap to the belt for safety. Quick releases sometimes offer a false sense of security. You may find yourself in a position where you cannot let your dog free or you cannot acess the quick release fast enough. Know your dog!!
Now, practice riding down the driveway with your husky trotting along side. Do this several times before venturing out of your yard.
Biking with your dog encompasses traffic, sidewalk irregularities, people, and other dogs that you normally encounter while riding your bike. It also includes watching out for potholes, grates, and irregularities that your dog could stumble on or fall into. These are the reasons pre-bike training with your husky is so imperative. Be sure you know how your husky will respond to distractions, and make sure you can multi task.
Take your time with this. If you scare your husky you may never be able to bike with your dog again. Remember, if you take your time with this dog exercise now, you will build trust with your husky.
When you ride with your dog, you will be going slower than riding by yourself. Remember that your dog is running next to you so adjust your speed to your dog, don't expect your dog to run the speed of your bike!
Always check the feet. Pavement can be hard on a dog's pads and joints. Don't ride on hard surfaces for long periods of time. The most common joint injuries are shoulders, hips, and wrists. Overheating is also a concern! It's your job to take care of your dog. Don't expect too much too soon or your dog will quit, and end up hating going for a bike ride.
What if your husky gets it, and you are ready to ride on day 1?
Your husky might have the enthusiasm of a marathon runner, but they do not have the conditioning. Running along with your bike requires more mental focus and muscular conditioning than your husky gets just playing around with other dogs. It doesn't have to be hot weather for your dog to overheat. Large dogs and extra weight all add up to a dog that can't cool himself easily. No matter how enthusiastic your dog, you have to be the coach and caretaker. Be smart about it!
When you bike with your dog, remember your dog is working much harder than you are. Make sure you give your dog plenty of breaks, offer water, and check feet often!
Making a girth hitch with the leash
When you are ready to bike with your dog, you can use a regular leash and girth hitch it to the stem of your bike. This leaves your hands free for steering and braking.
A strong dog can still pull your bike unexpectedly. Also, watch where you are asking your dog to step. Unexpected pot holes can injur your dog's shoulders.
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