I have never met a dog I didn’t bike. Really, I think I have biked with every dog I have ever taken care of, and some strangers’ dogs because they asked me to show them how or said their dogs would never do it. I have even biked with packs of dogs that included labs, huskies, border collies and dachshunds, all at the same time. Dogs love to run next to bikes if you get them started right.
The key to success varies a little bit from dog to dog, but I find that in general, using a regular dog harness and a rubber bungee with a clasp (like on a leash) at each end works best. Regular harnesses seem to work better than sled dog harnesses for biking. I have both because I use the sled dog harnesses for skijoring. Start slow until your dog figures out what is going on. You may also want to use a leash hooked to the collar just so you can keep your dog headed the right direction and away from the bike for the first few runs.
Hook the bungee to the right side of the rear rack as low as possible. Dogs always seem to pull sideways a bit when they run, so you don’t want the bungee clipped on up high or it can pull you over. Keeping it clipped down near the chainstay, at or below the axle level eliminates that leverage. Now your dog can pull as hard as a team of horses and you will not tip over.
Some dogs bike well with leashes. I always use a retractable leash and keep a loose grip on it. I learned this the hard way one day when Misha decided to stop to smell a tree and I didn’t notice. A quick jerk of the handle bars put me on my back. Misha paused reading her peemail and looked at me like “what is that human doing now?” If my dog stops suddenly, I would rather have the leash pulled out of my hands, stay upright and be able to go get my dog than have the wind knocked out of me and my dog loose.
Biking with my dogs is about the only way to tire them out. I can run them eight miles, and when I get back, I am spent and they are hardly panting. But biking allows me to go at a good doggy jogging speed and allows my dogs to pull if they want. Some dogs like to pull and others don’t. My dogs are getting older now (both are nine), and Misha, the husky, will still pull skijoring, but not on the bike any more. Bridget, my border collie will pull forever, just because it is a job, and she is a typical Type A border collie. Even when she is exhausted, all I have to do is say “squirrel” and the turbo kicks in.
I have biked with my dogs long enough that they will run along side me without a leash or harness. They are particularly good at this on mtb trails. If I keep moving, they pretty much don’t stop to smell the roses. But there is always the chance that they will see a deer, rabbit or other dog, and might be off on their own adventures. For this reason I am very vigilant when running them free and always have a leash handy so I can hook up my dog quickly if I need to.
Biking with dogs not only gives them excercise, but it wears down their nails. I have not had to trim my dogs nails since I got them. There are a couple of things to be aware of. In warm weather a dog can get hot quickly running along side a bike. Keep a close eye on your pooch and give them lots of rest stops if they need it. Don’t go so far that your dog is spent and can’t make it back home. Always turn around while your dog is still spry and running well or you may be carrying your dog home.
You can also either bring along a packable water dish or stop to let them cool off and drink. My dogs love to hop in the water every ten minutes or so when we bike on the mtb trails along the Menomonee River in Wauwatosa, even in the winter. I find that when I bike with my dogs, they hit the deck as soon as I stop. They know they need to conserve their energy so they don’t sniff around. This is a bonus outside stores with other people and dogs wandering by.
You really do have to watch out for car doors and sharp glass. My dogs’ pads are so tough they can run over most glass, but I still try to avoid it if I can. If you don’t want your tires running through it, you don’t want you dog running through it either. Always run the dog on the right side if you are on a street with moving traffic. This keeps your dog away from traffic and makes tire chasing less likely.
I have always suspected that dogs pity us slow humans a bit and simply tolerate our pace on walks and runs. When you are on a bike, it is the first time your dog has to work to keep up with you. The bike is really a great equalizer in human/canine relationships. Look your dog in the eye and try going on a bike ride together. If you are not there already, it may promote you to leader of the pack.