Cycling is one of life’s great joys. It’s free -- except for the expense of the bike -- it’s healthy and it’s an environmentally friendly alternative to taking the car. There is no reason your dog can’t safely share in this fun activity, but there are certain risks. With a little training and planning, you and your dog can enjoy cycling together, provided you know which risks to avoid.
For dogs who aren’t in the best physical shape or are injured, high-impact exercise like running alongside a bike can pose a health risk. At your dog’s next veterinary check-up, tell the vet you want to take your dog cycling and ask his opinion. It may be necessary to put your dog on a diet or introduce him to a more low-impact exercise regimen first to get him in shape and prepare him for the rigors of accompanying you on your bike ride.
Injury to the Dog
The pedals and the wheels both pose an injury threat. So you’ll need to train your dog to stay at a safe distance from the bike. Do this by starting out with bike-walks. Take Rex for a walk, but wheel your bike along, too. Use verbal commands such as “Back” to discourage him from approaching the bike. For extra safety, invest in a bike lead baton. This device holds the lead firmly at an angle that prevents your dog getting too close for comfort.
Injury to Owner
If your dog pulls sideways when trotting alongside your bike, he could cause you to veer off course and potentially crash. The leash must be sufficiently slack that sudden movements from the dog don't tug on the bike, but not so slack that it tangles or lets the dog get away from you. Good training is also required from the outset. You shouldn’t cycle with your dog until he’s mastered the heel command. If he pulls, use the heel command to stop him before he causes you to fall. For his health, it’s imperative that you use a body harness on your dog when you're out and about on two wheels so the weight of the bike isn't applied directly to his neck when he reaches the end of the leash.
Injury and Alarm to Others
Cycling often requires you to share space with others, and whether they’re on foot or two wheels, you must be mindful of the risks your dog poses to them. He must be visible so other people can, if necessary, move aside to let you both safely past. A collar with lights and a high-visibility dog jacket are essential for night rides. Also, you must ensure that the leash is sufficiently short so that your dog can’t accidentally wrap it around the legs -- or wheels -- of others.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.