[From Tufts December 2011 Issue]
I would like to give my dog more exercise by bike riding with her. She is about 20 pounds and can outrun me (who can’t?). Any advice? I don’t want to get hurt or hurt her.
Elkins Park, Pa.
Taking your dog on a bike ride can be a great way to give her some quick exercise. However, the practice can be dangerous for both dog and owner, and it’s definitely not for every dog. Here are some pointers:
– Keep both your hands completely free to steer the bike and operate the brakes. Wrap the leash around your waist or better yet, purchase equipment specially designed for biking with a dog. Generally, this equipment will attach to the bike itself and keep the dog positioned about two feet to the right of your sitting position.
– Maintain as steady a pace as possible. Ideally, your dog should be trotting (not walking because you will be unstable at slow speeds) and not running (you won’t have adequate reaction time).
– Practice in a driveway or parking lot before taking your dog on a street. Start with short rides, and gradually increase the distance.
– During the practice session, teach your dog some simple commands that alert her to what she is to do (e.g., whoa to slow down, left to turn left, etc.)
– Be aware that pavement can traumatize dogs’ footpads — again, start with short distances to allow the pads to toughen, and check the pads to be sure they are not becoming abraded.
– Excitable dogs that cannot resist chasing cats or other animals are poor candidates for bike exercise.
– Be careful in warm weather — long-haired breeds and brachycephalic breeds can easily become overheated.
– Take water for your dog.
– As your dog gets tired, she will become less alert and more inclined to cause an accident — be careful not to go too far. Remember, when you reach the farthest point from home, the ride is only half over.
I hope this helps — enjoy!
John Berg, DVM DACVS
Professor, small animal
soft tissue surgery