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Monday, July 6, 2009

Biking with Your Dog: Fun and Fitness for Both of You

Tanner Gets His Exercise
More Quickly with the Bike

Summer is a time when people all over my area get outdoors a lot in the evening. Afternoons swelter near 100 degrees, but early mornings are a wonderful time to bike with Tanner and Oliver.

Tanner and Oliver Concentrate Well

on the Bike's Direction

Until recently, I biked them both separately, but recently have found that they run very nicely together. The two dogs appear to enjoy the camaraderie of running alongside one another. Surprisingly, Oliver seems to think it is a race, and most often is in the lead. I guess youth is at his advantage.

Two Miles Means I Get a Good Workout Also,

Especially When I Bike Them Separately

Did you know that Tanner will soon be 3 years old? Ahh! My old man. It seems like just yesterday we brought him home. I really need to dig up those 35 mm. photos and scan them to share on this blog. One day.

Biking with Xena has ceased in recent months. I think, at her age, it is best not to encourage such an active form of exercise for long periods of time. She runs at the dog park, in short sprints. That's fine. But long rides might not be the best thing for her. I'm regretting now not getting photos of her when she biked with my kids years ago.

Biking your dog is really easy. I can give you a few tips, though, to help the dog adjust to this new form of exercise.

Oliver Thinks he's a Sled Dog

  1. Give him plenty of opportunities to be around the bike, before you use it WITH him. He'll need to be comfortable with its look and smell.
  2. Ride up and down your street on a few occasions, while he watches you. Be sure to put on your best air of confidence and authority. No silliness here. Your dog needs to feel confident that you know what you are doing.
  3. Use a harness on your dog, so that any pulling that might occur, is around his torso and shoulders.
  4. Before you take him out with the bike, make sure he has a good walk to tire his mind. He'll be less stressed by this new adventure if he is tired.
  5. When you're ready to try him out, harness him up with a 6 foot leash and walk him alongside the bike for a while, ignoring any anxiety that he expresses about being near rolling wheels. When you have done this long enough, he'll begin to trust that you have control of this contraption, and it is safe for him to be near it. You'll be able to tell when he relaxes and relinques control to you. He'll stop pulling away from the bike and just watch the tire for movement. That's normal. They have to know when to turn with the bike.
  6. When turning left, slow down a bit to allow your dog to keep up.
  7. When turning right, speed up to get ahead of him, so that after the turn he will end up beside you again.
  8. Finally, this may seem odd, but riding faster will engage your dog's concentration more thoroughly. This will keep him from thinking about any concerns he has--nerves, squirrels, other dogs that you pass. I have found with 3 dogs, that starting them at a fairly fast ride actually makes it easier for them to acclimate.

Tanner Slows Down as We Near the End:

Time for a Long Nap

If your dog is young enough and healthy enough for this activity, you will find it to be enjoyable for both of you. Ask your veterinarian for advice, if you have any concerns about age and health issues.

I recommend you ride inside a neighborhood, away from loud and busy traffic areas. One last bit of advice. Absolutely do not wrap the leash around your hand or wrist, if you are biking a mid to large sized dog. Hold it with your fingertips, so that if Fido darts, you can easily release the leash and collect him at his destination.

Has this been a problem for me? No. Tanner is about 60 pounds, and he has only darted once. He ran about 15 feet or so to greet a friend. After this, I began to scan ahead as we rode. When I see a dog, I begin using the "Leave It" command immediately and I speed up the ride to encourage more concentration. The extra focus and my commands seem to do the trick. It has never happened again, even this morning when we passed 3 of his favorite playmates walking together. I was proud of him!

I'd love to hear from you after you experiment with biking your dog. Comments? Hit the link under the post. I'll expect someone to tell me about a bike helmet, right? Yeah, I know. I just hate hat hair and sweat in this heat. Lousy excuse, right? You're right.


Wednesday's post is on a topic of interest to all who own small dogs. Sometimes they tend to take over our houses, claiming every inch of everything we own. While big dogs can do this more easily, we're suckers for the little guys. "Look honey, he's so cute on top of the kitchen table!" If this is an issue at your home, join me for a few tips on how to gradually reduce your dog's ownership of YOUR house, or prevent it altogether if you're working with a young puppy.


Richard Keatinge said...

The dog looks great, does he need a helmet? I doubt it, and I don't wear one either. The trouble with bike helmets is that the figures don't show that they work - helmet laws have stopped a lot of people cycling and have done nothing for head injury rates, see Robinson DL. No clear evidence from countries that have enforced the wearing of helmets. BMJ 2006;332: 722-5. It appears that helmets break easily, but don't absorb the impact, see the engineers quoted at A broken helmet has simply failed, and the widespread anecdotes on the theme of "a helmet saved my life" seem to owe more to wishful thinking than to science. As for "a car ran over my head", see the pro-helmet site; if a car goes over your head, I'm sorry to say you won't be sitting up and praising your helmet. The only known connection is that helmets have strangled a few young children who were wearing helmets while playing off their bicycles.

I no longer wear a helmet and haven't pressed them on my children. I do check that their brakes work and that they have a good idea of the rules of the road.

At my moderately advanced age it's far too dangerous not to cycle - regular cycling, Danish style, not too far, not too fast, nearly halves the death rate, see All-Cause Mortality Associated With Physical Activity During Leisure Time, Work, Sports, and Cycling to Work. Andersen et al, Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:1621-1628. Helmets have also strangled some young children who were wearing helmets while playing off their bicycles. Bicycling is good for health, but helmets don't seem to be.

Juliette said...

Biking with your dog is just great fun..Nice article - I use a Walkydog bike leash with my westie and have really got fit doing this.

Dog Activities said...

Great post! Been reading a lot about the best activities to do with my dog. Thanks for the info here!

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