Dogs love to run. Some breeds more than others, but dogs with a high energy level will especially benefit from a full out run. Not only do they get to stretch their legs, but their heart rate also increases in a way that just walking cannot accomplish for your dog.

Before you bring your dog into the picture make sure that you have a working bike with substantial brakes and tires. Be sure that you are comfortable starting and stopping at various speeds on your own first. I recommend mountain or mountain hybrid bikes to exercise your dog because they have sturdy tires and usually situate the rider in a more up-right position than a road bike. It’s a really good idea to wear a helmet when you ride with your dog–anything can happen, but even more unexpected things can take place when you’ve got two live beings in the mix instead of just one!

Let’s talk about a few bike attachments that can make bike riding with your dog a lot more safe than just holding the leash in one hand and trying to steer with the other hand.

The walky dog is a metal pole with spring and leash inside it. You attach the bolt directly to your bike and you can easily remove the pole from the bolt for potty stops. My husband and I bought one and we love it. You can hold on to the handlebars with both your own hands, it keeps the dog away from the tires, and requires very little training to use. There are a couple different models out there, but this was the one we went with:

http://www.amazon.com/WalkyDog-Hands-Bicycle-Dog-Leash/dp/B002MTOW7Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1268088336&sr=8-1

If you are really interested in starting to run your dog, check out Dog Powered Scooter. A much more expensive option, but pretty cool you must admit! They custom build a scooter and harness  for you and your dog/s. You don’t even have to push–the dogs can do all the work and you just get to enjoy the ride!

http://www.dogpoweredscooter.com

Check out this video of a dog powered scooter:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLq99tlUHOo

Now let’s get down to the “how”:

To teach your dog how to run next to a bike, start slowly. Your dog needs to know that it must stay on the right side of the bike and must not change sides or stop. Your dog must also maintain a healthy distance from the wheels. Lead your dog up to the right side of the bike and change sides so that the bike is in between you and your dog. Don’t get on your bike just yet. Start walking and practice stopping. Then add serpentines (move from the right side of the street, to the left side of the street, and back again) to teach your dog to move with the bicycle, but give the wheels the respect they deserve. After a training session or two of having your dog walk next to the bike, pick up the pace. Still refrain from hopping on the bike. Run with the bike in between you and your dog–practice those serpentines, stops and various speeds again. Make it fun, give your dog time to adjust to the bike’s movement. After another training session or two using these methods you are ready for the moment of truth. I recommend the first “real” bike ride with your dog to take place after you’ve already taken her on a walk. You don’t want her to get too excited and take off at top speed.

Remember to be careful. Take it slow–you set the pace, not your eager canine. Decide where you want to stop–don’t let her pull you over to whatever tree she wants. Pick your streets–sidewalks are appropriate in the suburbs, but I prefer to ride in a quiet street as it gives me more room. Better still is if you have access to well-groomed trail. A trail scenario is best for your dog’s joints.

I find it helpful to teach my dogs some commands when out on a bike ride. The four main ones I use are RIGHT, LEFT, WHOA (stop), and HIKE (pick up the pace). The best way to teach these command is by doing them. When you practice walking next to the bike, say the words as they happening and soon your dog will be anticipating your commands and doing them on her own. I should also mention the LEAVE IT command. The most dangerous times on your bike will be when you’re passing other dogs or a squirrel runs right in front of you. Teach your dog “leave it” by throwing a treat and rewarding when your dog ignores it. By doing so you will be much more safe on your bike travels!

Finally, don’t go far right away. Start with three or four blocks and build up from there. Your dog’s muscles need time to adjust to running (especially if you must run on pavement). If you go more than two miles, I suggest bringing some water with you to re-hydrate your dog especially if it’s over 70 degrees.

Happy riding!

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