Cycling With Your Dog Checklist: 10 questions to ask yourself BEFORE you set off
Running next to your bike can be a safe and easy way for your dog to obtain exercise. The smooth, steady motion ensures that your pooch enjoys a decent workout, without taxing his body too heavily. And, an added bonus: you arrive at your favourite walking spot far quicker! However, in some cases cycling with your dog is not to be recommended. So, before you and Fido both hit the road, first ask yourself the following questions:
1) Is my dog over 1.5 years of age?
It's not advisable to allow growing puppies and young dogs under 1.5 years of age run next to you on your bike. Their undeveloped muscles and joints simply cannot withstand the strain. A gentle walk on the lead or some play time in the park is the best way for young dogs to spend their energy.
2) Is my dog too old?
Dogs that are somewhat older and stiffer shouldn't accompany you on your bicycle ride. In fact, trotting next to your bike can be too much for any dog that isn't in peak condition.
3) Does my dog have a sufficiently athletic build?
Greyhounds, Shepherds, Dobermans, Vizslas, Weimaraners: all fine examples of athletic dogs that are comfortable running next to your bike. But, due to their restricted breathing, breeds with short noses, including the Bulldog, Pug or Shih Tzu, are not. Dogs with a non-athletic body, as well as smaller dogs, such as the Dachshund, Maltese and Chihuahua, will also find your cycling pace too fast and will quickly become exhausted. Stick to walking these breeds instead!
4) Does my dog have a clean bill of health?
Naturally, your dog should be in tip top condition! In other words: he shouldn't have any health problems, such as joint or back complaints.
5) Is my dog accustomed to this type of exercise?
You can't just embark on a lengthy bike ride without any prior training. You have to build up to it gradually. Begin by walking together with the bike. Once your dog is accustomed to this, try a short 1 minute cycle. Remember, your dog not only needs to learn how to run next to the bike; he must also build up sufficient stamina. So, always start slowly.
6) Have I considered the safety aspects?
Those cycling with their four legged friends must also consider other road users. This means that your dog must be fully under control at all times. You should ideally have your dog wear a harness, which is safer in the event that you need to perform an emergency stop. Always ensure that your dog is to your left, to protect him from traffic. You can secure your pooch using a standard lead, or alternatively purchase a special cycling leash that leaves your hands free for your handlebars. Again, you both need to get used to it. So, remember: start slowly and build up gradually!
7) Is it too warm?
Your dog's body temperature rises quickly in warm weather. The additional exertion can therefore cause him to overheat. Never contemplate cycling with your dog if the outside temperature is 21 degrees or more. Also be aware of the temperature of the ground, especially when cycling on asphalt or similar hard and dark surfaces. If you can't stand touching it for any length of time, your dog can't stand walking on it.
8) Empty stomach, empty bowels?
Only go cycling with your dog if he hasn't eaten within 2 hours. And make sure he's done all of his business before you jump on your bike. That way he can relax and enjoy!
9) Do I have enough water with me?
Take plenty of water for the road, so that your little champ can enjoy a refreshing drink whenever you stop. But don't let him empty an entire bowlful just before you set off again, as this may make him sick.
10) Slow down and smell the roses!
The final check: are you taking it easy? It's not a competition and neither you nor your hound are about to enter the Tour de France! Encourage him to trot gently at your side, rather than galloping like Red Rum. Providing you do it sensibly, a cycle ride with your faithful friend is not only fun; it's also healthy. But don't forget, dogs enjoy scurrying around, sniffing and playing outside too. So balance cycling activities with a good old fashioned walk, so that both you and your dog have time to smell the roses!