Last week, we started our look at riding an ebike with your dog with a break down of the equipment needed to participate in this activity safely for both you and your furry friend. Today, we’ll continue our series as we discuss training your dog for bike riding, how to get started, and some great places to ride a bike with a canine companion. If you’re interested in trying out an electric bicycle, why not check out our rental program? The eBike Store has new eBikes, rentals, and guided tours around Portland to give you a taste of life with an eBike.
-Beginning Bike Training for Dogs
Think back to when you first learned how to ride a bike. You likely started off slow, with a tricycle, moved on to a two-wheeler with training wheels, and then finally the trainers came off and you were a fully-fledged bike rider. It takes time to get used to a new and scary activity, but it helped to have mom and dad giving you guidance and stability as you learned. When you finally started riding on your own, you weren’t done learning. You had to tackle how to slow down, take turns, and ride up and down hills. After some time and practice, you’re able to cruise around with no problem.
It took time for you to get comfortable with riding a bike and the same goes for your dog. For a dog to become a good cycling companion, they need to be comfortable around your bike, no matter if you’re stationary or moving. Your dog will need to be well-acquainted with any equipment you use, how to slow down, turn, and stop. Just like you learned gradually, start your pup off slowly, and ease them into longer and further trips as they become more comfortable with the activity.
While your dog may be used to seeing your bike around the house (that occasionally disappears), they likely just view it as another piece of furniture. The first step in your training should be getting your puppy used to being around a bike, as many dogs can be scared of a moving bicycle. Either in your house or the garage, hold your bike and call your dog over. Let them sniff the bike to get acquainted with it. Give them treats, pets, and praise for being so brave. Then lay the bike on the ground and sit next to it. Call your dog over again to repeat the exercise. You can place treats on different parts of the bike to play a game with your dog so they can begin associating this strange device with having fun. Next, walk your bike a few steps and have your dog follow along using treats and praise to encourage them. Keep practicing indoors, add in your dog’s harness and leash, and move outdoors once your dog shows they’re comfortable with walking next to you and your bike.
Once you’re outside, go through the same walking process. You’re introducing a number of distracting elements when you’re outdoors, so repeating the exercise will help your dog focus on the task at hand. As you walk, introduce some distractions that will pop up in the course of a normal ride: walking over a curb, over a manhole cover, and through a puddle. Move the bike so that it wobbles a bit, make some turns, walk fast then slow down, and try jogging a little. If at any point your dog shows uneasiness, slow down and work on what they’re having trouble with. This practice may take a few days before they’re ready for a full ride. Keep working on it until they can handle these distractions with no issue. Then, teach them commands that they’ll need as a guide as you ride, such as “slow”, “stop”, “easy”, “turn”, and “leave it”.
While you’re out riding, there may be a point when you need to park your bike to go in a store. However, if your dog is connected to the bike using one of the attachments we discussed in part one of this series, it’s important you do not leave them unattended. If you walk away, your dog may try to follow you or lunge after a passing squirrel. When they’re attached to the bike, it will come crashing down, likely right on top of them. In a best-case scenario, the bike won’t fall on them, but the scare may make them try to run away. This can be incredibly dangerous for your dog and could end their career as a riding companion because even if they aren’t physically injured, it will take time to try to get them comfortable with the scary machine that almost hurt them. Avoid that mental damage by disconnecting your dog from the bike when you walk away.
-Starting to Ride
Once your dog is comfortable walking alongside you and your bike, it should be a pretty easy transition to move to the leash of a bike attachment like the Springer, WalkyDog, or BikerDog. Continue practicing walking with your dog attached to the bike to get them used to the attachment. Once they don’t show signs of uneasiness, you’re ready to start riding. Start off slowly to prevent your dog getting overwhelmed by the process. Your pup should be accustomed to the act of walking alongside your bike as it moves, at this point, so they should happily trot along with you. Make your first excursion short and slow, and provide them with ample praise and treats to encourage their bravery and good behavior.
Gradually increase the distance and speed of future rides until you work up to a steady trot. After you go on more rides with your canine cohort, you’ll get a better understanding of their natural pace and what they are comfortable with. Dogs will often do everything they can to keep pace, while never showing signs of discomfort no matter how fast you ride. It’s for that reason that you need to let your dog dictate the pace of the ride. Once your dog is in strong running shape, you can add in brief moments of acceleration to bring them to a gallop. However, it’s recommended to maintain a comfortable trotting speed for most of your rides.
How often you ride, how far, and how long will all depend on a variety of factors. Age, breed, size, fitness level, coat, running surface, and weather conditions will all need to be considered. It’s imperative that you keep your dog well-hydrated, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of heatstroke, inspect their paw pads frequently, make sure their harness isn’t chafing them, and keep an eye out for lack of enthusiasm or a feeling of uneasiness. When you slowly increase the distance and duration of rides, you can prevent soreness and injury, which also allows your dog’s respiratory and musculoskeletal systems to adapt to the increased workload.
-Where to Ride
When you ride with your dog, your width triples with them attached to you. This makes riding on roads with traffic incredibly dangerous. It makes you a much larger target around road curves and you’re in greater danger from careless drivers. Getting honked at by impatient drivers can scare your dog and make your whole ride less fun. Rural areas with lightly traveled paved or dirt roads are a better option, as long as you are still cautious of vehicles that may pass by. However, even if you live in a densely populated area, there are safe options to ride your bike with your dog. While you may need to load up your dog and ebike into your car for a short drive, it’ll be worth it to have a safe ride with your furry friend in tow.
Many bike paths provide miles of smooth riding perfect for biking with your pup. If it is a paved asphalt path, it’s important you avoid these types of surfaces on extremely hot days to avoid burning your dog’s feet. Wood chips, dirt, or soft cinder paths are better options in the summer. A nice, quiet neighborhood that doesn’t have a lot of traffic, especially on certain days or at certain times, can be a perfect and safe riding option.
Due to the increase in difficulty and danger, biking with your dog on extremely rough terrain isn’t recommended. As even experienced mountain bikers still have their share of crashes, you place yourself and your dog in danger of injury. While letting your dog run off-leash as you mountain bike can be an attractive proposition, the physical demands of the terrain will make it difficult for you to keep track of your riding partner. This can leave them susceptible to getting lost, getting bit by a snake, or contracting giardia — an intestinal parasite that can cause serious illness — from a stream or puddle. It’s safer to leave your riding partner home for these intense rides and instead plan on a more manageable ride to do together.
That brings us to an end for part two of our series about riding an ebike with your dog. We’ll be concluding this series in the near future with some tips regarding riding in the woods with your dog safely. For now, we hope this has inspired you to take your furry friend on an adventure with your electric bike. If you don’t yet have an electric bicycle, check out the great selection we have at The eBike Store. Whether you stop in at our Portland location or you have one shipped to you, we’ve got something to fit your experience level and riding style. We hope to hear from you soon!