(as seen in Pet Connection Magazine)
Biking or scootering with your dog actively engages both of you in a fun sport. You train your dog to run out in front of the bike, wearing a special type of harness, while the dog is keeping a tight line and helping pull the bike along. Most dogs relish this type of activity where they are allowed to pull and run. Pull training clinics are offered throughout the region, which will help you and your dog gain the basics for this sport, but are not really necessary to get started. What is important is having a dog that likes to run in harness. Otherwise, find a different sport for your dog.
The equipment needed for this sport includes a bike, or a scooter, a helmet, a harness for the dog, and a 6' line with bungee, water for the dog, and perhaps a bootie for the dog in case of foot injury. The items for the dog are available from a variety of outfitters which make products for the pulling dog.
Dogs learn commands for turning, stopping, and ignoring distractions. They learn to stay focused on their job, and develop a more inquisitive and confident nature, as they get out and about in the world. The working dog builds his brain and his body as his skill in this sport increases. The relationship between dog and owner expands as they learn to run together.
Begin by taking the dog out on a short run, which might be a half a mile, perhaps 10 minutes or so. Always bring your dog back with gas in the tank, and with energy left to burn. Neither dog nor human enjoys working past their limit, coming in exhausted, and in the dog's case, overheated. Overheating is of the greatest concern in this sport. Overheating can take place even on a cold day. Hydrating the dog an hour before they go out is the best thing you can do to help avoid overheating. This is done by adding something tasty to a cup, or two, of water (depending on the dog's size). This is called baiting the water. Also, keep a close eye on the temperature and the humidity. Dogs can overheat easily at 50 degrees.
The bikejoring adventure begins at home as you gather the equipment needed. Do not feed prior to a run. Once you arrive at your staging area, you will perhaps tie out your dog, while getting your equipment together. Practice courtesy at all times, keeping your dog on leash, picking up poop, and staying out of the way of other bicyclists and walkers.
Next, attach your line to the bike. Some outfitters sell devices to hold the line above the front wheel to help avoid running over the line, which will bring the dog to an abrupt stop, and can cause a crash. Constant vigilance is required in this sport. Now, put the harness on your dog, check the fit, and see that all is well. Lock your car, tell the dog to hike, and off you go for your fun run.
With a bike, you can help your dog by pedaling along, but a strong pulling dog will pull a scooter, and with these you have a much lower center of gravity making it is easier to get out of potential crashes. Keep an eye on your dog and on distractions as you roll along. Do not OVERTALK to the dog. Use your commands sparingly. If the dog is performing well, let him do his job. Enjoy quiet time together as you roll along. It is up to the rider to become aware of the nuances of the dog's behavior, to watch the gait, and the body language. Dogs prefer running on a trail compared to a wide-open area. Wooded or paved, off road, or urban will all work. A well-trained bike or scooter dog can negotiate most environments. The dog is trained for attentiveness, calmness and enjoyment. Offer water mid run. At the completion of the run, offer water, food, and “job well done!”
Dogs of all sizes and breeds can enjoy this sport.
Northwest Sled Dog Association (NWSDA) and K9scootersNW are full of fun loving folks who love to scooter and bike with their dogs. You can find NWSDA on the web and both Clubs are on Facebook. K9scootersNW offers a titling program for the scooter and bike dog.