Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dogs and Bikes

"If your dog was a kid, she'd be heavily medicated"- My friend Kathleen, a high school teacher, said this about Scout last night. Yes- she's nuts. Yes, sometimes she does get medicated. Yes, I have learned how to use exercise to wear her out and keep her under control. Riding the bike with her running along side me has turned out to be the best solution.

First, let me issue a disclaimer. Riding a bicycle with a dog is inherently dangerous. Dogs are unpredictable, squirrels are everywhere, and both you and your mutt could get seriously injured doing this. That being said, I ride with my dog almost every day. For me it's a calculated risk based on several factors. If any of these things do not apply to you or your dog, you're on your own...

1. Scout is very athletic. She's a border collie/greyhound mix. Her cardiovascular system can sustain long distance running. Maybe consult your vet if you have an overweight dog.
2. We only ride on residential streets with low car traffic. I would never do this on a bike path or a busy road.
3. We use a contraption called the "Gentle Leader" so she can't pull.
4. Scout never gets in front of the bike. She is literally on a tight leash.
5. I am always looking out for cars, dogs, kids etc who might cause problems. When in doubt, just stop!
6. Scout is not scared of bikes. She doesn't mind being right next to me.
7. Scout is lightweight (40 lbs) and cannot overpower me.

Now that I've made this seem scary enough for you to think twice, i'll tell you why it's so awesome. In about 30 minutes I can turn my completely hyperactive dog into a relaxed normal dog AND pick up groceries for dinner.

So, if you think you might want to give this a try. Here's how to do it.

First, make sure your dog isn't frightened of the bike. If you can straddle your top tube holding the leash fairly close and he/she isn't freaked out that's good.

Second, pick a safe place to give this a try. I chose to use the baseball field at the end of my street. That way if we crashed it was soft and there were no cars to worry about.

I loop the leash around my waist, but depending on your size/comfort with having the dog that close you can tie it to your belt etc. I much prefer this to holding the leash or attaching it to your bike. The dog is now attached to your center of gravity. I prefer to ride with the dog on my right side, that way she's between me and the curb rather than on the traffic side when cars pass.

Once you can do this in a straight line you need to work on turning. With the dog on the right side, left turns are easy. I use my right hand to give a little tug sometime but it's not totally necessary. Right turns are a little more tricky. I slow down considerably and use my right hand to pull the leash away from me and the bike. Scout knows by now this means right turn and she stays inside of my track.

Well, It's time for me to go take Scout for a ride. Let me know if you have any questions!

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