Can you cycle with your anxious dog?

Maybe you're a fan of cycling who also loves dogs, like me.

Or, perhaps you are a dog lover who wants to start riding a bike?  You can put the two together and ride a bike with your dog, it makes you smile. 

Britons bought 60% more bikes in April as the nation turned to two-wheeled transport during the coronavirus lockdown. Biking with dogs can be great exercise and great fun, provided you are careful and well prepared.

I recently went camping in the New Forest with my husband and our dog Bella. We absolutely love exercise so we decided to take our bikes and invest in a good pet trailer for Bella. She does love to run but we also love to cycle so we decided the Burley pet trailer would be better for longer distances. It’s lightweight, folds flat for storage, and has a removable floor for cleaning.

Cycling with your dog means one of two things, either your dog is riding in a bike trailer or pet basket, or is running alongside your bike. The latter can be a great form of exercise for certain dogs. For smaller dogs or older dogs, it's best to stick with the bike trailer or basket. Either way, it's important to do this the right way.

Some dogs are not meant for running. Dogs with short muzzles, senior dogs, or small dogs are just not cut out for running. They can overheat or suffer from exhaustion, illness, or injury. Puppies and young dogs should not carry out such strenuous exercise until they are at least 18 months old as it can harm their musculoskeletal development. With senior dogs, they may find it difficult to run and possibly suffer from arthritis or other joint problems.

If you still want to take your dog along on your bike ride, you should get a bike trailer or a pet basket. Be sure to choose a trailer or basket that is large enough to give your dog some room to move around, but small enough that it won't fall out.

Be sure to introduce your dog to the basket or trailer using positive reinforcement. My dog Bella is an anxious dog so when we first built the trailer I put treats in it so she could jump in it and play “find it” for a positive experience. Then I attached her in the trailer for a few minutes, then let her out to lots of praise and more treats, it was similar to our muzzle training. The funny thing is the dog trailer is yellow and Bella being an anxious and reactive dog wears yellow when out in public so that people give her space. I did chuckle as we are always trying to raise awareness for our #dogsinyellow

Make sure the first few rides are slow and gentle. Also, make sure the basket or trailer is securely attached to your bike.

Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins. Endorphins play an important role in reducing stress and anxiety. Physical activity may help ward off mental health problems before they start. Additionally, research shows exercise can improve the symptoms of many existing mental illnesses.

I absolutely love being out on my bike with Bella and we have now built up to nearly 20 miles with lots more adventures planned.

Travelling with a dog, you make friends wherever you go.