Do you have an energetic dog that needs lots of exercise, or are looking for a way to spend more time.. and wear out... with your athletic dog.
I might just have a solution for you. Mountain Biking… with your dog!!
Mountain biking is the extremely popular sport these day. Mountain bikes are specially designed to enhance performance in rough terrain. Yep, it may take a little practice and time but what a great way for you both to get some extreme exercise, enjoy the great outdoors and spend some time together.
You can see how much fun Ruby the Hungarian Visla is having here with Tom from Flat Out Cycles:
Which dog breeds are suited to running long distance?
All dogs are different and while some are suited to sitting on laps, others are right at home running and running and running some more. There are many breeds and mixed breeds that are suited but here is a list of breeds commonly known to be suited for running long distances. Dogtime provides a short description of each breed’s characteristics.
1. Australian Shepherd
According to the Australian Shepherd was originally bred to herd livestock and remains a working dog at heart. They are happiest when they are working but also make a wonderful family companion. Their intelligence and energy needs to be channeled into dog sports or activities.
2. Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky has a thick coat with beautiful markings and usually have blue eyes which is suited to cold climates. They are an athletic, intelligent dog which can be independent and challenging for first-time dog owners. They are also very friendly and affections towards people and other dogs. The excellent sled dog breed can run for miles and miles but be careful in warmer climates as they tend to overheat.
3. Alaskan Malamute
The Alaskan Malamute is a powerful dog with a sturdy body built for stamina and strength. This intelligent canine needs a job and consistent leadership to avoid becoming bored or challenging to handle. With their thick coats, the malamute can tolerate cold climates but also had a large amount of shedding.
4. Border Collie
The Border Collie is a fantastic herding dog, bred to gather and control sheep. They are known for their intense stare with which he controls his flock. They have unlimited energy and stamina. They are highly trainable and intelligent and excels in sports including obedience, flyball, agility, tracking, and flying disc competitions.
5. German Shepherd
The German Shepherd Dog is an intelligent and capable working dog with unmatched devotion and courage. They can be trained to do almost anything including guiding and assistance work for the handicapped, police and military service, herding, search and rescue, drug detection, competitive obedience and, last but not least, faithful companion.
6. Rhodesian Ridgeback
This dog breed was created to be a versatile hunter and guard dog. He’s smart but sometimes stubborn, with a moderate energy level and an easy-care coat. They love exercise but also quite affectionate.
Originally bred as a gundog to handle big game like deer and bear in Germany. They are an elegant but demanding dogs but can make a great family dog if well exercised. They will run forever and overheating is minimised due to their short coat.
Bred to “point” birds and small game such as rabbits, the Pointer is a versatile field dog and exceptional family dog. They excels in the field, the show ring, agility to obedience. Energetic and fun-loving, he’s well suited to active homes where he’ll be a member of the family.
When can I start actively running my puppy
If you have a puppy, take it slow. According to Vetstreet, eight months of age is about the earliest you should let your dog start running, and even then, start with only very short distances. It is best to wait until they are at least one and if you have a large or giant breed of puppy, their bones and joints mature more slowly than those of smaller dogs, so best wait a little longer. Don’t push your dog too far too early. Give your dog time to grow and mature before running longer distances.
How to start taking your dog mountain biking.
Once you determine whether you dog is suited to running long distances or you want to give it a try with your dog. Time and training is the key. Introduce your dog to a bike slowly. Here are some steps to take:
1. Introduction to the bike.
Don’t scare your dog with the bike or you may ruin your chances of your dog ever becoming comfortable. Sacred Rides suggests that you lay your bike down in the yard or driveway and let you dog interact with it. Lots of sniffing and playing around the bike. Try putting treats around the bike and let your dog get comfortable around it. Progress to pushing your bike around the yard so that you dog learns to be comfortable around a moving bike. This may take a week or two.
2. Take your dog walking with the bike
Dogs love two things, being with you and going for a walk outside. Combine these two and add a bike. Your dog will get used to the bike being around you. Start by taking your dog walking on the leash while you push your bike. This will get your dog used to the bike’s movement and noises. Have your dog positioned behind and to the side of you so that you all don’t get caught up while riding together. Practice keeping a safe distance from each other.
3. Start with short rides on-leash
As your dog gradually get comfortable with the bike, take short rides together. Still using the leash so that you dog learns to stay with you and stay in the correct position. Choose a quiet place without cars, a local park or sport centre and practice riding slowly. When riding with your dog on leash make sure to just hold the leash loose in your hand. Don’t wrap it around your wrist because if the dog pulls or get’s distracted they can pull you off the bike
How to start riding off-leash?
Before you take a dog out loose on a trail, make sure your dog has the obedience fundamentals (come, sit, stay) down pat. If they don’t, your dog will quickly annoy other riders and in many cases will take off after them.
Keep your dog on a leash and heeling close to you so that they learn to stay near. Once they become comfortable with this and learn the local surroundings, let them off leash.
It very important to be able to control your dog off leash before going riding. Watch your dog's position relative to the bike when riding off lead, and make sure your dog stays in proximity but not too close. Train your dog to respond to a command when he is too close to the bike so that he will run further to the side.
Make sure you always carry food rewards or some sort of bribe like your dog's favourite ball or toy to provide enough motivation to lure your pooch away from distractions.
In this video, you can see the position that Ari, the Labradoodle has while trail riding in Northeast Woods, Vancouver Island, BC. Canada.
Where to mountain bike with your dog?
Many mountain biking areas are in mountains, (of course), forests, state or national parks or large tracts of private land. Before mountain biking with your dog, check first to make sure that you dog is allowed in the area. Dogs are sometimes prohibited from entering many national or state parks or sometimes special permissions may be required to enter. If in doubt check with your local council or authority for areas to take your dog riding or find a friend that will allow you to use their property
Always be a responsible dog owner when out riding, remove your dog’s poop from the track so that others don’t have to ride through it and get splattered.
Mountain biking with Derek Gehl?
Although comfortable on a paddle board, mountain biking is not something that Tiger enjoys so I recently asked for advice from mountain biking enthusiast, Derek Gehl from Entrepreneur Ignited about his experience with mountain biking with his dog. Derek is a keen mountain biker and spends his spare time taking his dogs riding in the mountains close to Vancouver, Canada.
Derek's current best friend is Sebastian the 8 year old black German Shepherd. Before him Derek had a Golden Retriever named Cyber who also love to mountain bike. I recently asked Derek what his biggest tips are for learning to mountain biking with dogs.
This is Sebastian after a big ride in the mountains.
1. Running too early
"The biggest mistake I see people making is they get a puppy and immediately start taking them out for longer rides which is too hard on the growing joints. Until your dog is one years old and finished growing you should not be taking them for long, hard runs or you can damage their joints, hips, etc."
2. Dogs not suited to running
Run your dog according to the breeds athleticism. Some breeds can run/trot for hours, others not so much. If you buy dog with the intention of riding with it, make sure you choose an appropriate breed.
3. Build up the distance
If your dog is not out running consistently, don’t simply take it out for a massive ride without building them up to it, especially as they get older. They are just like us… if we have not been training and then try and run a marathon it ain’t gonna go well!
4. Take lots of water
Make sure they have access to water. The hotter it is the more water they need. When I am riding in a really dry hot area I’ve taught my dog to share water out of my camel bak. I squirt it into his mouth.
5. Know when to stop
If you are planning on doing long, fast XC rides with very few breaks, leave the dog at home. To expect any dog to maintain a fast pace for 20km+ is not realistic and although they will try it will not be good for them. I like taking my dog on trail rides where there are long slow climbs to big big, technical downhills. This gives them lots of breaks and a really slow pace on the way up and on technical trails.
I asked Derek how he trained his dog to not run in front of him on the trail so that they don't get tangles up and both end up injured.
“If I am pedalling slowly I don’t mind them running around but when I am going fast/downhill I trained both of my dogs to stick right behind me. This avoids collisions and crashes with your pooch. In order to train them to do this I made them wait and them call them to follow me. When they would get in front of the bike I would nudge them with my front tire lightly which was enough to startle them. My German Shepherd picked it up pretty quickly. The Golden Retriever and I had some serious crashes before he figured it out. Eventually they both loved to run behind the bike trying to keep up.
Planning your ride
Looking after your dog’s health is your first priority. Always assess where you are going to ride. Take note of roads and tracks, other vehicle or motorbikes riders. Will your dog get distracted. How well trained is your dog in recall. Can you call your dog back to you if they get excited or frightened?
What is the terrain like? Can it damage your dog’s paws. Is it hard or soft or is it hot or is there frozen ground? When exercising your dog in harsh conditions, consider doggy booties. Some dogs will run with doggy boots, other dogs will not like them on their paws. They are worth a try if you need to protect your dog’s paws.
If your dog gets injured, stop! Always keep an eye on your dog during the ride and if you see that something is not right, then attend to your dog and inspect your dog’s paws or legs for any injury.
What gear do I need to go mountain biking with my dog?
Derek has put together a list of must-have items that he takes with him on rides with his dog. You can see Derek and Sebastian here packing up after a well deserved rest on the trail.
1. Nylon Leash
While training, use a leash that is at least 6’. This will keep your dog close enough but give your dog room to move around. For a leash that is strong, durable, washable try one like this:
Especially important if you are still training your dog. A treat bag filled with tasty treats will help you keep doggy on track, literally!
3. Hydration System
Make sure your dog is hydrated and take a large hydration pack, preferable over 3 litres. Allow one with plenty of room for snacks and doggy poo bags.
4. Bear Bell
When you are riding in bear country this is important! In Australia, the Koala Bears aren't too much of a concern..... maybe for the Drop Bears though.
5. Collar Light
If I you are riding in the evening or low light put a light on the dogs collar that flashes making it easier to see you dog amongst the shadows. You may also try a glow in the dark collar.
6. Poop bags
Always pick up after your dog. No one wants to be riding through poop on the track.
Training a trail dog takes time, but if done well, you’ll always have a riding buddy and you’ll both have a lot of fun on the track. Make sure you reward your dog with lots of praise and most of all have fun!
Now for some more inspiration, see Tom and Ruby's mountain biking adventures: