Cycling with your dog
In April 2020, the UK saw a boom in Britons buying bikes to spend more time on two wheels during the country’s lockdown. Bikes provide hours of fun for families, offer a form of transport and are a great way to exercise. But can you take a dog with you on a bike ride, and if so, can this be done safely, and do you need any extra accessories to do it properly?
Is riding your bike with your dog safe?
Taking your dog on a bike ride can be done safely but isn’t something you can do without preparation. Just like everything else that’s new to your pooch, a slow introduction is best whether they’re riding alongside the bike or in a basket or trolley.
When talking about ride-along dogs, the safeness of the activity does depend on your dog’s fitness level, experience and temperament. Making sure you take all of these into consideration can help avoid injuries and accidents.
A low-energy, skittish, easily distracted or unruly dog might not make the best bike ride companion, but you might be able to train them to make the perfect fitness partner.
How can I ride safely with my dog?
The size, fitness level, experience and temperament of your dog are all deciding factors in the best way of making cycling with your dog fun and safe.
Bike lead attachments
There are lots of different bike lead attachments on the market for owners looking to take their dogs along on bike rides. These can often provide a dog with plenty of exercise, with some products boasting that no training is required before using the attachments.
Some of these bike leads are universal, meaning that it doesn’t matter what type of bike you own, allowing you to install the device easily and swap between bicycles if needed.
It’s important to compare the different bike leads available and make sure that the safety of the biker and dog is the priority in the design of the attachment. While convenience is a plus, a bike lead that absorbs the shock of any pulling and won’t detach in the event of an accident (so that your dog isn’t able to run into traffic) is key.
If you own a bike lead or think this is the best option for you and your dog, make sure that using it safely is just as important too.
For smaller dogs, those not quite fit enough for a bike ride, or maybe even those with health conditions or disabilities, a bike trailer offers dogs with a chance to enjoy the wind in their fur. Trailers that ride quite low to the ground can help keep your dog safe and comfortable.
Some trailers come with extras like removable padding for comfort and pockets to store treats, poo bags and maybe a ball or two for a game of fetch if you stop.
When looking at trailers to buy, the product’s weight is an important consideration as the heavier the trailer, the harder it will be to pedal or start if you’ve come to a stop. Other features to consider include:
- Attachment compatibility with your bike
Dog bike baskets are another option when thinking about taking your dog cycling. While you wouldn’t be able to fit a Great Dane in one of these, it might make a good alternative for the smaller dogs that might not be able to manage running alongside your bike.
You’ll find there are baskets available to mount to the front or back of your bike, and usually come with a strap that secures to your dog’s collar or a protective wire covering.
Each carrier will offer different material, comfort, sturdiness and weight capacity meaning that you’ll be able to find one that’s right for your pet.
Things to consider when cycling with your pet
Whatever you decide, there are always things to consider when taking your dog on a bike ride. Dogs should always set the pace and the route length – you should never attempt long distances if they haven’t been conditioned properly.
Choose your terrain and exercise location safely, too, especially when using a bike lead attachment and having your dog run alongside you. Distractions or unexpected events could cause your dog to react instinctively, which might cause a crash if the lead pulled the handlebars, or the dog bumped into the bike so always be wary when riding alongside on the lead, especially if your dog is skittish or younger.
There is no law to say that you and your dog are not allowed to ride on the road, but The Highway Code, section 68, says it is illegal to ride a bike in a “dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner”. Having a dog attached to your bike by a lead, you could argue it could be all three of those, depending on what happens as you ride.
Taking your dog for a bike ride in an open area, like a forest or plain, might help keep you and your dog safe.
Always remember to wear a helmet yourself, because you would want to make sure you’ve taken the necessary precautions to stay safe and be able to tend to your dog if you were involved in an accident.
As responsible owners, careful planning and preparation can help to avoid or mitigate many of the dangers to your canine friend associated with riding and roads, but should the worst happen, a dog insurance policy can help to cover the cost of veterinary treatment, helping to provide security for them against the unexpected.