Small Dogs and A Bicycle
January 9, 2011 10:41 PM   Subscribe

Anybody have experience bicycling with smaller dogs? (Less than 25 lbs.) Would appreciate any tips from seasoned dog bicyclists (if that's the proper term...)

Just got a bike, and tried riding around with each of my dogs one at a time. Had lots of fun (at least I did, the dogs were probably like..."what's our crazy human up to NOW?"), and am wondering if someone has any tips about bicycling smaller dogs (their respective weights are 10 lb, 18 lb, 23 lb).

1. I am looking at different bike leashes. Something like this bicycle dog leash seems great, but it's only recommended for larger dogs. Should I just go about hanging on to them by hand? They are "okay" with voice commands, but not 100%. If they see a cat sitting around, they'll heed my warning to not pursue it. However, a cat running right in front of us might get them to pull. They're pretty small, so I don't worry about tipping over as much as a sudden lunge into the bike wheels.

2. Do I want to ever try bicycling two of them together? There are three total, and one is super hyper--so Mr. Hyper will be bicycled separately. The other two have similar energy levels, so I'm wondering if I can bicycle them together.

3. Are there any rules of thumb for bicycling the dogs for exercise? How much is too much? I feel Mr. Hyper could probably go on for an hour (though 30 min will probably be far more than enough.) The other ones I'm not sure. They are all between 1-3 years of age, and don't have any respiratory or health issues that I know of.

I still will walk them as well...just trying to switch up our routine.

posted by The ____ of Justice to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
FYI: we also live in a neighborhood with little to no traffic and zero hills.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 10:58 PM on January 9, 2011

I'd use the bike leash, running over a dog on a bike can be pretty expensive.

The most important thing about biking with dogs is to go slow. Dogs are not designed to sprint along at bike speeds for a long period, it's bad for their joints especially on hard surfaces. If they are trotting or loping (slow running) you're fine, if they are fast-running you need to slow down. 99% of people I see biking with their dogs are going too fast.
posted by fshgrl at 11:12 PM on January 9, 2011

The only person I know that tried to bike with a leashed dog got only about 100 yards before the dog was injured in the most painful way you can imagine -- foot in the spokes. The owner went over the handlebars, and while the dog managed to live a very long, happy life afterward, every time he rolled over to get his belly rubbed, you could see the wicked surgery scar running down his leg.

I wouldn't try biking with a dog without some unusual leash arrangement that kept the dog close without getting anywhere near the wheels. Like attaching the leash to an arm that kept the dog at arm's length, so to speak.

I just wouldn't do it all, honestly. Sorry!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:13 PM on January 9, 2011

Thanks for the responses so far. Fshgrl--I see you asked a similar question a year or so ago. How did bicycling with your dog go?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 11:39 PM on January 9, 2011

Good! She likes it though I mostly bike with her at a place she can run off leash. When I bike with her on the bike path I use a harness and have her run in front of the bike. She's already trained to do that so its easier than trying to get her to run alongside. She's pretty smart though and not prone to stopping suddenly so ymmv.
posted by fshgrl at 11:44 PM on January 9, 2011

I have a neighbour who regularly takes his husky out on a bike - a larger and pullier dog than yours to be sure - but this page on how to train your husky to be leashed to a bike might help you too.
posted by rongorongo at 2:02 AM on January 10, 2011

It doesn't answer you question, so I'll keep this brief - whenever I've heard the topic come up in (UK) doggy circles in the past, the consensus has always been anti bike walking. Partly for the reason Cool Papa Bell mentions, and partly because of the risk of the dog pulling you over.

Can I suggest looking at getting or making some wheel disks? They won't reduce your risk, but they will reduce risk of harm to your pet.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 4:40 AM on January 10, 2011

I've just started doing this with my whippet crosses [who weigh 10kgs] in the last few months! They LOVE it! As soon as I get my bike out, they go nuts with happy. They love to pull me up hills and if I venture off lead, they heel as well as they would when walking next to me.

As fshgrl says, you have to go slow. Even racing dogs like my whippets don't need a high speed. I tried one dog on each side with a proper leash system but it was a disaster with bike lane bollards etc. Plus they prefer to run next to each other. I walked them next to the bike for a few days, then got riding n kept the leads in my hand for a week or so. I learned that it was better to keep them hooked on the handlebar attachment and use my hands to hover over the brakes. I know there's a lot of worry at first about wheels etc, but you just need to be mindfully riding slowly and attentive to the dogs. This involves practice in safe parks and simple tracks for several weeks. We practised on dog park lawns when it was empty.

Now, we go for fairly long rides in doggie terms - 3 - 5 kms, maybe stopping for a coffee n rest half way. They get into a zen like pacing next to the bike like they've hit the right stride. Something they'll never have with me just walking them.

This is a different experience to bike-riding for fun. This is part of your dog/s exercise regiment. I see it like horse training or human weight training/cardio, where you use a variety of methods to maintain fitness and strength. The dogs have the opportunity to run as fast as they like whilst still being under control and not off lead. Sometimes it is not easy to give opportunities for them to run when you have so many areas that insist on leashed dogs. It's not fixated throwing of frisbees or chasing other dogs, it's disciplined exercise. My dogs need to run fast, walking serenely next to me is not a viable option. I think the bike riding has made them a lot happier. It's like they've found their job in life, to haul me around and run along next to me. They respond to verbal instructions really well, just as they would when I am walking them. Once or twice the younger one runs in front of the wheel, and a quick, terse 'heel' gets him back in line. I know what to look for. I vary speed to keep them attentive too, they've got to be listening to me and not just running like crazy wherever they want.

Cats and birds, other dogs etc can be a problem. You must be alert ALL the time to all these little things that you would ignore when riding alone. I think it makes bike-riding better for me - I get enjoyment out of concentrated attunement with neighbourhood details like that.

I know it seems like a crazy idea with all those spokes etc but even with my weak-brained whippets, they adapt to things and it can bring a lot of pleasure.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:07 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Should I just go about hanging on to them by hand?

I got hurt doing that with my obedient, reasonably well-trained dog dashing after a ground squirrel. It didn't take much of a tug to move the handlebars enough to put my face painfully and bloodily in the fence. If it had happened on a road instead of a foot/bike path I'd probably be dead. Now I only bike where the dog can be off-leash.

I saw someone bicycling who had their mid-size dog attached via a bracket-like device to attach to the seat post which holds a special leash that incorporates a breakaway. It seemed a great idea but I haven't found one to buy.
posted by anadem at 7:29 AM on January 10, 2011

I've run with both of my ~20 lb dogs before, but biking with them seemed like a very bad idea with not even the remotest hope of recovering lateral stability on a bike should one of them jump at the end of the leash at an oblique angle, no matter where the leash is tethered. Also, how do you turn moving on a bike with a dog unless you pretty much stop, or you've got sled dog commands working with them?

That said, I was going to say that it might just be my dogs (anadem's anecdote supports this), but they're both rabid (not literally) small animal chasers but they don't get distracted by anything while we're running. They're in roving pack mode and are busy surveying their domain, I guess. YMMV it seems.
posted by cmoj at 11:57 AM on January 10, 2011

Eh, I don't think this is a terrible idea, but I live in a town where people are weird about bikes and dogs. Anyway, when I looked into biking with my 13 pound dog a year or so ago, there was one bike-dog-leash that was sorta u-shaped and seemed to be a better fit for smaller dogs. I think this would be fine if you are thinking about going for a slow ride around the neighborhood to get Fido some exercise. I'd suggest starting out slowly, one dog at a time, and just seeing how it goes. And I can't imagine how this would be worse than holding the leash, which does seem like a recipe for disaster. The bike-dog-leash I saw had a quick release so that if something weird happens, the dog can get away from you and not be stuck to the bike.

Another option for one small dog: lash a milk crate or other basket to the back of your bike (on a pannier rack) and leash him/her in. This is how I carry my dog around sometimes. I have to keep the leash short--he's been known to jump out--but he does love it. It's like a car ride but better! I've done this to take him to, for example, a further away dog park.

Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 1:54 PM on January 10, 2011

you might also look at for ideas & stories. They have a specific category for biking with pets.
posted by jaimystery at 1:56 PM on January 10, 2011

Wow, thanks for the answers everyone.

Seems like people either love or hate the biking-with-dog idea. At the moment I feel the positives outweigh the risks.

I'm going to get a bike leash and adjust it, and just take it slow with the little ones. Slow as in, my dogs are barely trotting, much less running.

We went out yesterday. Started teaching go left and go right. Good times.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:23 AM on January 12, 2011

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