Team story: Mountain biking with your dog by Ruth & Raphie
5 minute read
Where do you take Raphie biking? How do you find out the best places to go biking with your dog?
We take him all over, local trails, as well as some of the bigger bike parks like the Forest of Dean. It can be tricky finding the right place to go, you need to think about the trail difficulty – they’re all colour-coded so we pick an easier one like green or blue. Keep an eye out for how rocky it is because dogs can hurt their paws on the harder terrains. We always try to go places where it’s not too busy, and ones we’ve done before, so we know what the hazards are.
How did you train Raphie to join you when mountain biking? Any tips?
We started by going slowly along trails and praising him when he ran behind the bike. We then started to move onto bigger trails once he was following the bike regularly but to be honest it didn’t take much, he just loves following the bike.
It’s going to depend on the dog, so in an ideal world, your dog’s already going to have the basic commands down – sit, stay, lie down, heel or recall. The biggest part is always making sure they’re following properly and not wandering off. Then there’s whether they’re thrown off at all by the bike itself, so you can do some conditioning towards the bike if necessary. When it gets to the rides themselves, just make sure they’re behind you at all times, that way they’re out of the way of oncoming riders, or of walkers on the paths. If you have to stop every time to get them behind you, do! And use lots of treats to encourage them to stay there.
How long do you take him out for? And how often?
Usually around twice a week for two hours. At first, we started with just half an hour to build up his fitness and also to be careful to ease in his joints. It’s important to remember that dogs take a break when they need to, and whilst they can run for a while, you need to give them the opportunity for a break much more often than you will!
What do you like about biking with Raphie? Does Raphie like it too?
We absolutely love it and he does too. He gets to be in the woods for a couple of hours, it’s great exercise for him and also mentally stimulating which is important for his breed (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever). When he gets home, we give him a big treat then that’s him done for the day, he just curls up on the sofa and is one happy dog. One of the reasons we got his breed is that they love exercise and water, so it allows us to do all our favourite sports with him. It’s really important you match the breed to your lifestyle and he’s the perfect dog for us because they’re all his favourite things to do too.
You do need to be mindful of the breed you have, as some are better suited to it than others. Obviously, the working breeds are going to be much better at it, as they like the high exertion. But if they have a strong prey drive, they might get distracted by squirrels!
Are there any bits of kits you’d recommend buying or taking with you when biking with your dog?
Yes! We add bells to his harness, this allows us to check he’s still behind and hasn’t run off into the woods. A Go Pro has also been handy so we could look at his behaviour when training him but isn’t necessary.
I know some people use tracking tags, things like Airtags or GPS collars etc. You’ll need the usual suspects – poo bags, treats, a regular leash, a collar with proper identification and contact details on, etc. Then you’ll probably need the extra bits you take on outings, a water bottle, bowl, and a puppy first aid kit.
I know some people use kit to train the dogs at first, like a dog bike leash attachment, which usually sits as a bar underneath the seat, it comes out to a safe distance and attaches to a leash at the end. Quite often these have shock absorbers and a length of bungee leash, which gives you and the dog a bit of leeway as you move. You’ll also want to get a full harness rather than a simple collar, to avoid any danger of hurting the dog if an accident happens. Don’t attempt to hold the leash, or use a collar, as this will probably result in an accident. When it comes to kit, I’d say do your own research and use common sense.
Do you have any other advice for someone that wants to go biking with their dog?
Do it, it’s a great bonding exercise and the dog will love it. They’re also brilliant companions when out on your own. I’d say if you’re thinking of doing it, make sure you do all the research first. There can be a fair bit to it, and there’s loads of helpful guides online. Quite often it can take a bit of training to get going.
If you’re thinking of taking on the trails with your dog, it can be massively rewarding. Just make sure you’re doing your own research about the kit, the trails and the training! Mountain biking can be dangerous at the best of times, let alone with your treasured four-legged friend in tow!