I never had a dog until I was 39 and met Michaela who I married two years later. She moved in with me and brought her big dog called Jamie (you’re right if you guess he was named after the chef), and this is how my dog relationship began. After some difficulties early on, I found out that this American Pitbull and Braque d’Auvergne hunting Snoopy cross-breed is a marathon runner among dogs. Going with me on MTB rides is his second favourite thing next to roasted chicken, and this is what I have learned about it.
He covers a bigger radius running with the bike
While Yorkshire Terriers or French Bulldogs might be happy observing the planet from their couch, other dogs’ lives consist of permanent explorations. My dog is Elon Musk on four legs. When I invite him to join me for a bike trip, his exploring radius grows remarkably, giving him an explosion of new experiences, tastes, and smells to discover, and new poles to pee on.
He craves for speed
Every dog is different. Some prefer roaming through the park at a speed of a senior, giving an occasional bark to lazy pigeons. My dog either sleeps or runs, there’s nothing in between. Since walking seems to be of no use, adjusting his pace to that of a bike is the best fun any pointer has experienced since the invention of the fox.
He never lets you out of his sight
As the only thing you and your dog do outside of your flat is walking in the park (or riding a bike together), in my secret theory all dogs believe that if you leave them home, you do it to cheat on them with some other dog. That explains why they’re sniffing at you so suspiciously every time you return home. So when you take your dog for a ride, they keep you ultimately under control and leave no room for jealousy.
He can help you when you’re in need
If I crash and remain lying unconscious in a puddle of blood, I can still believe that my dog will run around half of the world to get help (even if it was in the form of a roasted sausage or a piece of rotten cake).
And he’s always eager to go
I’m afraid something bad could happen to my hyperactive dog in the traffic, so I only take him out for the MTB trips in the countryside. I have no clue how he learned this, but my dog can always tell if I want to do some road biking (which means staying home for him) or if I want to go for a MTB ride, which is time for him to join. As soon as I grab my MTB helmet, he starts dancing and whining for unspeakable joy. From the sounds he produces I assume he even likes biking more than food, which, as every dog owner will confirm, is something beyond comprehension. On the other hand, leaving him behind closed door is one of the saddest events in the history of relationships between humans and dogs, which is why my road bike days are extremely rare.)
How to arrange a dog-friendly trip
Get to the destination by car
If possible, I try to avoid traffic to reduce the risk of accident to the minimum. After picking the destination on a map, I cram my dog and bike into the car and drive to the countryside where my four-legged friend can run freely without fear of getting harmed. That’s why I always drive a wagon car of the Skoda Octavia Combi size.
Set the right speed
Even though some breeds seem to have fun running at bike speed for hours, it is you who should control the pace and duration of the trip because dogs would run to absolute exhaustion, which might even have fatal consequences. Therefore, I take breaks at least every twenty minutes so the dog can catch his breath, sniff around and take a rest.
Bring extra water just for the dog
While humans sweat to regulate their body temperature, dogs lack this ability, which is why they need to cool down either by immersing into water or by having permanent water supply. That’s why I never leave home without an extra-large bottle of water and a plastic bowl, which I fish out of my bag every time we stop. Any occasion to swim or at least stick paws into soothing mud is always appreciated, though. The same goes for food or treats that keep the dog fit and motivated.
Consider surface quality
I also try to take into consideration the fact that while my speed increases with surface quality because of reduced rolling resistance, my dog still runs on his bare pads. Moreover, running on hard surfaces like tarmac or concrete might become painful after a while, ending with sore paws and distaste to join you for the next bike trip. With this in mind, I prefer soft forest trails to fireroads.
Special note: Despite any effort, not every dog has the potential to become a cycling mate. If you want your dog to join you, start with short distances and slow pace. Avoid busy roads. Use training treats to train your dog to run alongside your bike as if you trained him to stay at your side. You can even use the same command. That way you can guide him safely away from the scene if another dog shows up.