If you are the type of person who wakes up in the morning, comes home from work at night, or sets the alarm on the weekends and wonders, “what mountain trail can I ride today?” and “what trail will my dog enjoy?” Yes, some dogs thrive on being mountain bike trail dogs.
A mountain bike trail dog is one who:
Is well-trained enough for his safety, your safety, and the safety of others on the trail
A breed suited for trail runs.
If you love to take on a mountain bike trail and want to bring your canine companion along with you – we say, let’s get biking! If you have always wanted to have a furry companion along with you, you need to set aside time to work with your pup to train her and to ensure it is safe and enjoyable for both of you.
We urge you to talk with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is healthy enough to run a trail. Depending on the size, age, and breed of your dog, you may need to ease into the trail runs. Also, if you have a young, large-breed dog your vet may recommend waiting until your pup is at least eight months old.
Here are five tips to train your mountain bike trail dog.
1.Train your dog while they’re still young
Start your pup young (depending on your vet’s recommendation). If you have an older dog or are adopting an older dog, there is no reason he can’t become a mountain trail dog, but you will need to ease an older dog into that level of activity and the terrains upon which you will be trekking. Keep your dog on a leash until you are certain she won’t get spooked and bolt into the underbrush or the path of another rider. Use positive reinforcement training when working with your pup; reward them with treats and praise. Teach your dog what to do if you’re separated on the trail. If you’re separated you both need to not panic and your dog needs to be trained to listen for your voice or to a unique whistle he has been trained to respond to.
2. Good hydration is key
Make sure your dog knows how to drink from a hydration pack or a collapsible bowl. This may seem like a little thing to train, but some dogs are fearful of the collapsible bowl or hydration packs. You need to ensure your dog is staying hydrated no matter the weather, but especially on warm days. A “hot day” may be subjective, but you need to be aware of days that are too hot and humid for your dog to safely accompany you.
3. Try short rides first
Take your dog on short rides when you’re on the bike and he is on a leash. An untrained leashed dog could be dangerous – if he gets scared he may run off and pull you over, or get tangled in the tires or pedals. Get him acclimated to the bike first. Let him see it, sniff it, and listen to the sounds the tires make. Attach the leash to a hook on a chest strap in the middle of your chest; when you do that your dog is pulling at your center of gravity and you may be able to stay upright if he pulls. Walk alongside the bike at first, then get on and ride slowly gauging his ability to keep up and be calm.
4. Upgrade to off-leash (and reward heavily for good behavior!)
After your dog is accustomed to running alongside you and being leashed, you can head into the woods and your favorite trail and take him off-leash. Try to find a time and place that the trail will be as deserted as possible. Start slowly and call to your pup. Reward her for staying behind you – you don’t want him running alongside you or in front of you – for safety’s sake.
5. Don’t worry about speed yet
Don’t worry about the speed of the ride as much as the length and “complexity” of the ride. Will he need to be jumping over logs or scurrying under? What are the levels of incline and what is the terrain? Consider all of these to determine the wear and tear your pup may get on his hips and joints. Keep in mind that if you’re on a bike for twenty miles, it’s easier for you than it is for your dog who is running the entire time.
On any mountain bike ride with your dog, take frequent rest, water, and snack breaks. Keep heaping positive praise upon her during the trail ride. Once the ride is over, give your dog a massage or even let him take a short swim or lie down in a pool to help soothe his muscles and joints.
If you notice your pup is limping or is having a hard time keeping up, stop immediately. It may be necessary to walk the trail back to the starting point to prevent any further injury to your dog. It may also require a call to your veterinarian to ensure your pup hasn’t suffered any permanent injury; he may just need a few days to rest before you hit the trails again!
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.