By Heather Pardon
If you’re a dog-owning cyclist (or a cyclist owned by a dog as the case may be), you have likely experienced a few pangs of guilt when venturing out for a ride without your pooch. A weekend pleasure ride can take you out of the house for a few hours, time that your pooch might have preferred that you spend in a rousing game of fetch. How can you balance your cycling needs and the needs of your canine companion? How can you ensure that you both get your exercise and spend time together?
I’ve often had to leave my Jack Russell Terrier at home while I headed out for a ride. It’s not easy to leave behind her cute, furry face, knowing that she also needs and enjoys her exercise as much as I do. I came up with the perfect solution recently, one that works for both of us even if it raises a few eyebrows along the way. I bought a tow-behind dog trailer for my bicycle. In the process I quickly learned that there are two distinct schools of thought on dog cycle trailers – the yays and the nays.
The nays thought I was bit nuts and wasting my money. Their argument is that dogs need exercise so why bother towing your dog behind your bicycle. The yays thought it was a fantastic way to include my dog in my cycling and enjoy an adventurous outing together.
So a word of caution if you’re considering buying a dog trailer, you will receive some comments about your additional wheels, some in favour and some not. I have found my new set of wheels an added benefit for a number of reasons:
▲ It allows me to bring along my dog, Daisy ‘Mo, for a guilt-free ride. I would prefer to thoroughly enjoy my ride rather than feeling that I have to rush home or cut my ride short in order to take my dog out.
▲ Daisy ‘Mo loves it!! She enjoys riding in the trailer and feeling the wind blow across her face. I make sure the experience is fun for her so we stop at parks en route to play ball or sometimes venture to a local hiking trail so she can go for a romp too. On our inaugural longer ride, we stopped at a friend’s house and she got to play in the pool! I make it fun and ensure we both get our exercise while out together.
▲ When we get home we’re both ready for a nap. After a long ride, I often come home tired, ready to relax and I’d rather come home with a tired dog than come home to a wired dog who’s ready for an energetic romp.
▲ Most cyclists I know are also environmentally conscious and appreciate reducing their carbon footprint. I’ve found my dog trailer to be very handy doing double duty as a cargo trailer for short trips to the grocery store and running other errands.
▲ Towing a dog and trailer behind your bike is going to change your ride. The added weight and rolling resistance will slow you down, particularly on the uphills, and change the handling of your bike. You will not accelerate as quickly from a stop position nor be able to take turns like a criterium racer, for example. While you will still get a great workout, it’s likely best to leave pooch at home if you’re planning an interval training day or anything along those lines.
▲ As always, keep safety in mind to protect you and your precious canine cargo. Be aware that you’ll be taking up a bit more space on the road and try to use bike paths whereever possible. A safety flag and reflective material on your trailer will alert vehicles to be aware and use caution.
▲ Train your dog to enjoy the trailer. It may not be love at first ride for your dog. Put some treats or your dog’s favourite toy, along with some water, in the trailer before its’ inaugural ride. Keep the first ride short, 5 or 10 minutes and give your dog plenty of encouragement and praise to make sure it’s a positive experience for your dog. Gradually increase the time and stop en route for a play break so that your dog associates the trailer with doggie fun.
▲ Carry food, treats and plenty of water for your pooch. Don’t take your dog out in extreme heat, while the trailer will allow air to breeze through it will not keep your dog cool enough on very hot days. And allow plenty of bathroom and play breaks for your dog so that they’re comfortable and having fun too.
If you’re looking for some dog-gone fun cycling and a way to balance your cycling time and your doggie time, a dog trailer may be the solution for you. I give my Burley Rover a “two thumbs up” and Daisy ‘Mo gives it a tail-wagging “woof, woof, woof!”.
Heather Pardon, avid cyclist and Founder of A Wild Daisy Adventureprises, publishes a popular inspirational blog about following your heart, which includes a chronicle of her own one-year adventure spent journeying across Canada in her daisy-themed RV, Miss Daisy, accompanied by her faithful hybrid bicycle, Miss Daisy Too. She is also a contributing author to the Canadian bestseller, “The Power of Women United” as well as writing articles for several other online forums including FengSHe.org, a site dedicated to bringing more balance and harmony into the world. Heather is a recipe contributor to the upcoming book, “Cooking With Sin”, a cookbook that pairs great recipes with great stories. She is also a Co-Founder of Just Say Yes!, a dynamic organization that creates inspired events designed to help others live their best lives.
Heather is an Author, Speaker, Coach, Certified Personal Trainer and Nanaimo Bar Fanatic. You can visit her website at www.wilddaisy.ca