- Paws to the Floor: Run Fido Run
- Baskets and Carriers for Small Dogs
- Choosing a Two Wheel Dog Trailer
- Airline Kennels and Trailers
- Customise a Trailer: One and Two Wheel Options
- Longtail Cargo Bicycles
- Dogs on Three Wheels
- Tips for Dogs on Wheels
Paws to the Floor
Cycling is a great way for both you and your dog to get exercise, especially for hyper-active dogs held back by a boring old walk. But holding a leash while cycling is potentially dangerous: one sudden jolt towards a cat or a squirrel and you might be toppling over. Are there safer alternatives?
Yes! If your dog is well trained and can run off-leash that is great for safe, car free areas. But if your dog has a mind of their own, or traffic is involved, then attaching them to your ride is the way to go. All of those moving legs, paws, wheels and pedals may sound like a recipe for an accident, but with the right setup it is a very safe and fun way to exercise your dog and get from A to B.
While custom attachments can be setup (particularly for trailers, longtail bikes and tricycles rather than normal bicycles), using a specialised bike/dog leash is the safest option. The leash will keep a safe distance between your bike and your dog, protecting your dog from pedals, wheels and traffic. Coiled springs act as shock absorbers, so most of the force is taken out of an unexpected tug.
Here are some links to the most popular bike/dog leashes:
For those who have an energetic pulling breed like a Husky or a Staffordshire Terrier that just loves to run, then you might be interested in going without pedals altogether. Pawtrekker (dealers in Europe and North America) www.pawtrekker.com offer purpose built scooters where the dogs are harnessed and attached in front, very much like sledding. In fact sledders, aka ‘mushers’, use the scooter as a way of conditioning and training sled dogs all year round. ‘Peddling’, or pushing off with your foot helps out your dog out and simulates the actual peddling on a dog sled, without needing to be anywhere near the Arctic. The scooters can be setup with disc brakes, full suspension, and studded tires (for use in snow), and can be easily folded for convenient transport.
It is easy to get swept up in the excitement of your dog running beside you, propelling you even faster along a trail, but keep a few things in mind:
- A dog has a mind of its own and a sprint can turn into a squat in an instant. Start off slow and ease them into things until you develop an understanding of each other.
- Bring water and a bowl along for your dog, and keep them well hydrated
- Hot, rough or asphalt roads may be abrasive to their paw pads. Where possible ride on trails or close to grassy or sandy road edges. Otherwise slow down or try booties or “paw wax,” which is designed to be a light, non-obtrusive layer on the paws to protect them from heat and sharp objects.
- Not every dog has the stamina of a husky or the persistence of a border collie, and not every dog is capable of running a marathon. But fear not, help is on hand. Things have come a long way since Toto went for a bike ride in the Wizard of Oz. Continue to read about getting paws on wheels…
Smaller dogs (under 25 lbs/11kg) are easy and fun to transport on a bike and for those not wanting to custom build, luxurious off the shelf options are available. They usually attach either to the handlebars or fasten to the top of a back rack.
Here are some links to the most popular baskets and carriers:
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Choosing a Two Wheel Dog Trailer
For dogs that need a bit more leg room, specialized dog trailers are the most popular choice. A dog trailer is basically a more doggy-fied spin on a child trailer, distinguished by its flat, reinforced base. However unlike child trailers where the child sits strapped up on the axle, a dog sits or lays down differently and can even move around, affecting stability and tip-ability.
- Size & weight: Check the maximum weight capacity and internal dimensions of the trailer. Your dog must be able to sit, stand, turn around and curl up comfortably. The bigger the dog the lower the centre of gravity and the wider the wheelbase should be.
- Intended use: Is it for occasional weekend use, trail riding or long distance touring? This will dictate how much money you are willing to spend, and what features are most important to you.
- Brand reputation: Choose a reputable company with solid experience in making bicycle trailers.
- Safety Standards: Does the trailer meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards or in Europe TUV/GS safety standards?
- Frame warranty: Warranty length is a good indication of quality and warranties vary from 30 days to a lifetime.
- Frame design: For increased stability, dogs over 80 lbs are best suited to a trailer with a low center of gravity and wide wheel base. A perimeter frame (frame section that extends around the wheel) adds more width to a trailer which may limit access, but makes it stronger and prevents the wheel from snagging on, or banging into obstacles. Some folding trailer mechanisms trade off on the stability of the frame. If you are going trail riding, check there will be high enough clearance for getting over bumpy terrain.
- Safety features: Is there a way to safely secure your dog in the trailer? Is there a hitch safety strap? Is there a way to safely separate your dog and cargo? Cycling with extra weight means you will pick up extra speed going downhill. If you plan on cycling hilly terrain with heavy loads, you may want to consider a trailer with an automatic braking system (offered by Cycletote and Tony’s Trailers).
- Wheels: Spoked alloy wheels are higher quality than plastic wheels, and larger wheels will be smoother over bumps than smaller wheels. If you are interested in long tours, regular 26”/28” sized bicycle wheels might be handy, as you won’t have to double up on spare parts (see CycleTote trailers).
- Access: How easily can your dog get in and out? Does the trailer need to fit through a doorway, and will it be able to? Do you have the option of completely enclosing your dog, while providing adequate ventilation and an opening for tall dogs to poke their head out?
- Cleaning & Storage: Does it have a removable floor for easy cleaning? How easily can it be folded for transport or storage? Can it be used as a pet kennel? For those pet owners who already own an airline kennel, Tony’s Trailers and CycleTote offer a frame/kennel combo solution.
Here are some links to the most popular dog trailers:
Burley (USA) www.burley.com
Croozer (Germany) www.croozerdesigns.com
CycleTote (USA) www.cycletote.com
Doggy Ride (USA/Holland ) www.doggyride.com
Equinox Trailers (USA) www.equinoxtrailers.com
PETEGO (USA) www.petego.com
SOLVIT (USA) www.solvitproducts.com
WIKE (Canada) www.wicycle.com
Here are a few things to keep in mind about two wheel trailers:
- Compared to a single wheel trailer a cargo bike, a two wheel trailer will distribute much of the cargo weight between the wheels, reducing burden on your bicycle.
- Towing a lightly loaded bike trailer on flat ground is nearly the same as riding without one. You’ll notice the extra weight when accelerating or decelerating, but the bike will handle pretty much the same as it always does.
- With suitably low gears, cycling up most road grades is feasible, especially as you build your strength with time and practice. And remember, a hill is a good opportunity for your dog to be able to trot at a slower pace beside the bike.
- You will lose your zippiness on a trailer. You will be slower to start and slower to cross streets.
- Two wheel trailers can flip on bumpy ground. Go slower around corners and on rocky trails.
- Muddy, boggy, dirt and gravel roads, combined with extra wheels makes it feel like twice the effort for half the speed.
- A two wheel trailer will be wider, making it more awkward to navigate around barriers and ride narrow trails.
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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: An Airline Kennel on Wheels
Why let the kennel gather dust when you can put it to use? For those pet owners who already own a plastic airline kennel, Tony’s Trailers in Canada, CycleTote in the USA, and UK based Carry Freedom offer a solution. These companies offer basic trailer frames sized to fit many standard kennel sizes. Customised options are also available. One drawback of an airline kennel is restricted vision and airflow.
Here are some links to the most popular airline kennel dog trailers:
Customise a Single Wheel Trailer
Single wheel trailers are great for narrow roads and trails, and with suspension can perform well off-road. They have a low center of gravity, and handle well on downhills and bends. Be wary though, when you lean into a corner the trailer and your dog will lean too. Another thing to be wary of is bike wobble if your dog is moving around a lot.
Here are some links to the most popular single wheel dog trailers:
Customise a Two Wheel Trailer
Two wheel cargo trailers can also be adapted for the four-legged kind. Just make sure you have a way to harness them in, and some sort of guard in place to keep your dog from getting their nose or tail into the wheel spokes!
Here are some links for customising a two wheel trailer:
If you want extra carrying capacity without the extra wheels and the rolling resistance of a trailer or tricycle, a long tail cargo bicycle may appeal to you. Put simply, a bigger behind on your bicycle allows for a bigger basket or crate, and a bigger dog. Think a tandem bicycle made for one set of pedals.
The advantages are large bags for storing odds and ends and increased capacity for carrying awkward loads from boxes, to guitars, to surfboards, to pets. After a brief adjustment period, riding one becomes smooth and second nature, just like a normal bike.
Here are some links to the most popular longtail cargo bikes:
Check out Cyclorama for other types of load carrying bikes.
If you already own a bicycle and don’t want to part, then Xtracycle offers a bolt-on ‘free-radical’ kit which can be retro fitted onto most bicycles. This basically means adding a frame extension and a longer chain to lengthen the wheel base of your average bike by shifting your rear wheel back 15 inches. Voila! A longtail is born. A range of accessories are available to suit all kinds of setups.
Tricycles are more than just training wheels on a children’s bike. These days they are high-tech transporters for hauling heavy loads in practical ways. Sure, trikes are expensive. Sure, trikes are heavy. But not as heavy and not as expensive as a car, and loads more fun and eco-friendly. The extra weight does limit their use in hilly regions, but some models like the Kangaroo and Christiania trikes can be fitted with an electric motor for a helping hand. Steering the models with two front wheels feels a little wacky at first, but with some practice you’ll be nimble in no time.
Here are some links to the most popular trikes:
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Once you have picked your ride of choice, here are a few tips for easing your dog into life on wheels:
- Start with shorter trips to somewhere fun and make it a positive experience. Reward your dog with some treats. Add a favourite blanket. Don’t take them to the vet on their first trip!
- Your dog may appear a little uncertain at first, but should learn to lie down and relax with time.
- Make sure your pet is harnessed in safely: allow as much movement as possible, without compromising safety.
- If your dog is behind you, consider using a mirror that you can position to keep an eye on them
- Try and avoid temperature extremes. If your dog is sitting still they may become colder than you. Provide blankets and clothing if necessary. Avoid running your dogs too much in hot weather. Provide plenty of water.
- Dogs, much like people, have their own personalities and rates of adjusting to different challenges. Have some patience and a desire to tinker to make small improvements along the way.
So, as you can see riding a bike aint’ necessarily what it used to be. With all the cargo hauling options out there, more and more people are taking to their pedals, and finding less and less reason for heading to the gas station. Why not let your dog join in on the fun? From the smallest Chihuahua to the greatest of Great Danes, there is room on board for everybody. Combining paws and pedals is guaranteed to add more smiles per mile to everyone’s day