Mountain biking with your dog can be great fun. But you need to know the right way to do it. Plus you need to know what you should avoid as well in order to avoid any mistakes. I have collected together the most important tips you need to know.
1. Use a dog biking leash
The main purpose of a dog biking leash is to keep you dog at the side of your mountain bike or slightly behind it. This will prevent your dog from being able to run ahead of your front wheel which can cause you and your dog to get into an accident. Plus it will stop your dog from getting mixed up with the back wheel where he could get hurt.
Dog bike leashes also have a special feature which allows them to absorb shock. Maybe your dog sees a chipmunk, squirrel, or bird and wants to chase after it. If that happens then there will be a sharp pull on the leash by your dog. The leash will absorb this pulling force so your bike is not effected by it.
2. Be the pack leader
Your dog needs a leader and that has to be you, otherwise your dog may lead you. Ride your mountain bike confidently. When you do this you will be claiming your bike and the area around it as yours. Your dog will then learn to respect your bike and that space he is in.
He will know what is required of him as he follows your confident commands. You will tell when to stop and when to go. You will tell him when to turn right and when to turn left. This will make you the alpha dog, the leader of your pack.
3. Ride with a trail dog
There are some dogs which are great to go mountain biking with and other which are not so good. You want to going mountain biking with a high energy dog. These types of dogs need a lot of exercise, a 30 minute walk is not going to be enough.
Some of these dogs are, the Alaskan Malamute, Australian Shepard, American Foxhound, Australian Cattle Dog, Belgian Shepherd, Border Collie, Bouvier des Flandres, Dalmatian, English Shepherd, German Longhaired Pointer, Karelian Bear Dog, Leonberger, Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever, Siberian Husky, and the Weimaraner.
4. Don’t mountain bike with the wrong dog
Some types of dogs are just not made for high energy adventures on the mountain. The Pug, Chow Chow, Boston Terrier, and Bulldog are not made for running around. They have a tough time of increasing their panting rate.
The Shih Tzu, Papillon, and the Pekingese have been breeded down from larger dogs. They are low energy dogs and are better as companions and friends that you carry around. A Basset Hound is not good for high energy mountain biking. It is more of a slow tracker.
Very large dogs are not so good either. The Newfoundland dog from Canada is quite heavy. The Saint Bernard from Switzerland is a search and rescue dog. It is tall and heavy.
5. Use the right type of mountain bike
If you are going to go and mountain bike with your dog, use a hardtail. A hardtail has suspension for the rear of the bike but not the front of the bike. This will give you better forward motion when biking with your dog. Trails which are flatter and not as rough are better for your dog.
If you are going to ride on rougher terrain then a full suspension bike would be better. It will absorb the impact from small rocks, logs, and branches. With rougher terrain, increased stability is more important than forward movement, and it is better for your pet.
6. Size your bike right for you and your dog
The most important sizing factor is the stand over height. This is how much space there is between the straight top tube and your crotch when you are standing over it. In case your dog pulls you off balance and you need to stop quickly you can put both feet on the ground and stand will still maintaining control of your bike without hitting the top straight bar.
When you are seated on your saddle, there should be a slight bend in your knee when you are at the bottom of the pedal stroke. This will allow you to maintain a powerful smooth pedal stroke which increases the stability of your bike while moving forward.
7. Use a bike rack and pannier
Because you are going to be riding off-road with your dog that means you will be carrying extra gear. If you store and carry everything in a backpack on your back this may cause you to be off balance. It also may cause you to have a sore back and get saddle sores.
Using a bike rack and a pannier is better because you can get to what you need easier and faster. Plus it helps to keep your center of gravity low and makes your mountain bike more stable. Panniers make your bike your balanced and you can organize how you want to carry your gear so you can find things more easily.
8. Have a mountain bike repair kit
Anytime you break down on the trail it is no fun. But it will be even less fun if you break down with your dog. Because then you have to keep watching him while you fix your bike. Having the right things in your repair kit will make the whole process easier and faster.
Make sure you have tire levers, a pump, and a spare tube. Bring a patch kit and a multi-tool for tightening and loosening nuts and bolts. Try to assemble your repair kit so that it can be carried in one of the panniers on your bike. Your dog will thank you for being prepared.
9. Use a bell
In some areas the law requires that your bike have a bell. Also a bell will help to warn other riders that you are approaching with your dog. This is important because most mountain bikers will not expect to see other mountain bikers riding with their dog on the trail. Unless that particular trail is known for that.
If you are going to pass another rider, you should ring your bell and then say passing on your left. This will give the rider in front of you some warning. Try to leave a lot of space between you and the rider as you pass by. This will also give them more time to notice your dog.
10. Know your bike handling skills
There are certain bike handling skills you need to know if you are going to bike with your dog off-road. You should be able to ride in a straight line and pick the best straight line to ride on the trail. Riding in a straight lines shows you are properly balanced on your bike which is important for your dog as he will be trotting along side with you.
Shoulder checking is important because you need to know what is going on to the side of you and to the back of you. You should be able to shoulder check your left side as well as your right side for your dog while you maintain a straight line as you pedal.
Signaling while riding with one hand on the handlebars. This skill is more for road biking but can be applied to mountain biking.
The universal signals are:
- Left turn: left arm out straight to the side
- Right turn: left arm out and then straight up at the elbow 90 degree angle
- Alternate right turn signal: right arm out straight to the side
- Stop: left arm out, and then straight down at the elbow 90 degree angle
After you have signaled place both hands on handlebars, then shoulder check, then make your turn. To practice do this: shoulder check, signal, shoulder check, then turn.
Turning smoothly is very important when biking with your dog especially when you are toward the same side as your dog. Make sure you are aware of where your dog is when you are turning and give your dog notice beforehand. You will need to teach him commands in order to do this.
Braking slowly and smoothly. Give yourself enough room to brake slowly. If you break to fast or suddenly your dog will continue to go forward and the leash will pull on your bike as he goes by. Also leave a lot of room between you and any other bikers. Always warn your dog ahead of time with a command of what you are going to do.
11. Shift gears steadily and gradually
- Shifting at a steady even pace will help your dog to travel with you smoothly.
- Stay seated and pedal in a forward direction when shifting
- Reduce pedal power when shifting.
- Before you stop, shift into a low, easy gear.
- Use lower gears to go up hills. Shift down before going up the hill.
- On level ground, use a gear that gives you a fast but comfortable spin.
- Shift into a higher, harder gear, if you begin to pedal too fast.
- When using a higher gear, don’t push so hard and pedal slowly. This can strain your lower back and knees.
12. Don’t use your dog leash these 3 ways
- Don’t tie your dog to the handlebars of the bike using a regular leash. A regular leash will not absorb any impact your bike receives if your dog pulls on the leash. You may get pulled off your bike if this happens.
- Don’t put the leash around your wrist and then put both of your hands on the handlebars. As you ride you will feel the leash pulling on your wrist. This is annoying and makes for a very rough ride. Also, your hand may be pulled off the handlebars.
- Don’t put the leash around one hand and then ride your bike with only the other hand on the handlebars. Riding your mountain bike with one hand is not very stable and you lose handlebar control and stability.
13. Use an active wear harness for your dog
There are many different types of harnesses, but the best one for dog biking is an active wear harness. These harnesses are designed to handle tough weather conditions. You can adjust them in a few ways so your dog is most comfortable.
Choose a harness which has EVA, also known as ethylene vinyl acetate. This is a foam rubber used to pad sports equipment. It is used in the chest plate of a dog’s harness and will conform to the shape of the dog’s chest making it more comfortable.
14. Don’t leave your dog connected to the mountain bike
While you are riding on the trail your dog will eventually need to use the bathroom. He will probably not do this if he is still attached to your bike. Using an extra regular leash, talk your dog for a short walk so he can do his business in the woods off the trail.
15. Bring poop bags
No one wants to ride through poop, so let’s keep the trail and forest clean by using poop bags when we ride with our dog. There are a few different kinds such as biodegradable, scented poop bags, and regular ones.
It is also a good idea to bring one trash bag because depending how long your ride is, your dog may need to go more than once. Then you can put all the poop bags in a trash bag and through it away.
16. Bring a dog water bottle
Dogs need to stay hydrated, especially high energy dogs that go mountain biking with you. Be sure to bring along a dog water bottle. Have a schedule of when you want to stop so your dog can drink water.
A dog water bottle is great because it has a special dispenser which is attached to the bottle. Just squeeze the water into the dispenser and your dog will be able to easily drink it up. This also helps you to control how much your dog will drink instead of him gulping down lots of water from a stream.
17. Use a reflective collar and leash
Biking at night is great fun, but can also be risky. If you are going night riding with your dog make sure he is outfitted with a reflective collar and leash. There are small night lights you can attach to a dog collar, and collars which have there own lights. Other riders won’t normally expect you to be riding with your dog at night so make sure you and your dog are prepared.
18. Use paw pad protection wax or boots
Whether you are biking on a dirt trail, gravel, going through mud, over rocks, or through the snow you will be fine. But your dog is traveling on his paws while you are on tires. Protect your dogs paws by getting him some dog paw boots.
If your dog is going to go biking with you often then paw boots will not help to condition his paws. To toughen up your dogs paws gradually put paw pad protection wax on his paws. Then over time you can use it less and less as his paws get tougher.
19. Don’t go riding if it is too hot
Veterinarians recommend not taking your dog for a walk if the temperature is 60 degrees or higher. So going biking with your dog should be done in even lower temperatures. Dogs are very susceptible to dehydration and preventing it be it happens is most important.
These next 4 tips are about turning your dog into a biker dog, if you have never biked with your dog before.
20. Getting to know your bike and the bike leash
Before your dog will go biking with you, he needs to get to know and be comfortable with your bike and the bike leash. Allow your dog to sniff and investigate your bike, especially if it is new. Leave your bike in a location where your dog can go to it easily and see it.
You are probably going to have a new dog biking leash, let your dog sniff it and get used to it. It should become a recognizable object after a little time. Introduce it to your dog everyday. Eventually your dog will make friends with your bike and the bike leash.
21. Take a walk with your bike and dog attached to bike leash
After your dog is comfortable with your bike and the bike leash its time to take a walk. Walk with your bike and attache your dog to the bike leash. Take a walk when it is not busy outside, it should be calm and peaceful. You don’t want your dog distracted and excited, so he associates that with your bike and bike leash.
Take a walk in the suburbs or in a park. Place your bike between you and your dog. Walk slowly and confidently, take wide turns. Walk for around 15 minutes then come back the way you came so your dog will be familiar with the location.
Be sure to praise your dog for doing a good job walking with you and the mountain bike. You can set up a schedule to make this same walk at the same time each day for the next couple of days. Your dog will see this as routine eventually.
22. Go for a short ride with your dog
Once you notice your dog seems relaxed and comfortable taking a walk with you and the bike it is time to ride your bike with your dog. Begin as you would your regular walk, at the same time and location so everything seems normal to your dog.
Then as you are walking for a minute or two sit on your bike seat and pedal slowly. Do this gradually first, you may want to put only one foot on a pedal and push off with the other foot from the ground. Then eventually get up on your bike seat.
Pedal slowly for 5 to 10 minutes at first. If you need to stop or turn do this slowly so your dog has enough time to know what you are doing. Keep going until you get to your turn around point. At this point get off your bike and walk back with your dog. This is so your dog can return to a familiar state. Always praise your dog after.
23. After the ride, pay attention to your dog
Once you and your dog are finished with your ride you should monitor how your dog is doing. He should be a little tired but not too much. He should be panting a little but not too much. If he is thirsty just give him a little water, drinking too much water at once is not good.
If your dog seems too tired and too hot then you know you did too much. Your next bike ride should be shorter and less intense. You want to build things up gradually. This happens properly by you monitoring how your dog is after every ride.
24. Don’t bike downhill with your dog
Mountain biking can be fun and challenging if you are somewhat of an experienced mountain biker. But it is a whole other story when it comes to biking downhill with your dog. Your dog will have greater momentum going forward. He may get ahead of you and may pull you downhill which could cause an accident.
Your dog’s joints will experience and suffer from greater impact by running downhill. If you can find another trail to go on which is flatter, do that. Otherwise it would be better for your dog if you would get off your bike and walk down the hill.
25. Use directional commands
When training your dog for mountain biking use directional commands. This will stabilize you as the leader and cause your dog to feel more confident when biking with you. By telling your dog what to do you are giving him a job and responsibility.
This will enable both of you to work together as a team. It will stimulate your dog both mentally and physically. Your entire biking experience with your dog will operate much more smoothly and efficiently.
Use your bike to help you give directional commands. If you say let’s go and your dog does not move, then get on your bike and start pedaling as you give the command. Keep saying let’s go as you pedal.
If you say turn left and he does not turn left then use the bike to guide him to turn left. Don’t use the bike to pull or force him to turn left. He should see the bike as a partner and not a competitor or as a punishment.
26. Only talk to your dog when giving commands
It is not a good idea to talk to your dog while biking as a friend because then he won’t take you seriously when you give a command. Or if you talk a lot he may tune you out after a while, he won’t then pay attention when you do give a command.
He should know that when you speak he should listen. This can only happen when you only speak to him when giving an instruction. Be sure to speak loudly, clearly and firmly, but do not yell. Be sure to praise him after following important commands but not all the time. You want your praises to mean something.
27. Give consistent commands and follow through
Use the same words when giving instructions. If you want to stop and you say stop, keep using the word stop. Don’t say stop one time and then another time use whoa for stop. Plus he will learn your instructions faster if you stay consistent with the words you use.
Make sure you follow through with your commands. If you say let’s go, make sure that you do go, if not then your dog will get confused. Give your dog a single command at a time and allow him time to perform the instruction.
28. Make a dog first aid kit
Having a pet first aid kit is very important if anything happens. Making one specifically for your dog is a great idea. If your dog is in pain he might instinctively snap, so having a homemade muzzle is helpful to keep his mouth closed while you treat him.
- Before you treat your dog you should put on a light pair of plastic gloves. This will help to prevent yourself from getting any infection or germs from your dog.
- To take away foreign objects in your dog use tweezers or pliers. For cutting tape of clipping hair, use scissors. Have a tick remover tool, and a toenail trimmer.
- To clean wounds and give medicine, use an eyedropper. Plus have a rectal thermometer handy to check if he is overheated. 102F is normal temperature for a dog.
- Always have gauze for bandaging and to stop bleeding. For dressings, use Telfa Pads, and Vet Wrap to be used over the gauze. Plus, to clean wounds use non-stinging antiseptic spray.
- Some other items to have in your dog first aid kit are, sterile eye wash, antihistamine tablets, veterinary antibiotic ointment, lubricating jelly, and hydrogen peroxide.
Last but not least is bring a first aid manual so you know what to do. You should read it first a few times so you have a good idea of what to do. Everything in your first aid kit should go into a strong plastic container with a handle and have a latch for opening and closing it.