Riding a bike through forests and down mountains is exhilarating, but it’s even better if you can share the experience with your best friend. Mountain biking with your dog gives you the chance to explore new places, feel the adrenaline pumping and do something truly unique together. But before you strap Fido’s water bowl to your bike, know that you should be prepared for a long trail ahead. As with most extreme sports, practice and patience are key. We spoke to trailblazer Tom Wragg from the UK, who documents his outdoor adventures with his pup, Ruby, on Instagram @rubythetraildog.
“It’s important to wait until a dog is fully grown before any trail-running,” said Tom. “[Ruby] didn’t start on the trails until she was 12 months old, and from there, we built up very slowly.”
Your pooch being the right age doesn’t immediately qualify her for trail-running. Before you bike with your bud, ensure you take the following steps.
Prepare Before You Pedal
Your pup’s shots should be up to date before you even think about hitting the trails, as she’ll be exposed to all kinds of critters that could carry harmful diseases. Flea and tick prevention are the obvious precautions, but you should also be ready to combat more unusual diseases like rabies and distemper. Depending on where you ride, she might run into deer, skunks and porcupines along the way. Even plants, such as cacti and thorny underbrush, could cause your dog some issues. Pack a Pet First Aid Kit to treat her for any cuts or scrapes.
Get Fido Acclimated
Once your canine is protected against the most common perils of the outdoors, it’s time to begin trail-specific dog training. First, get her used to bikes as early as possible.
“I owned a bike shop so Ruby was always around bikes, and it was clear from the beginning that they excited her,” said Tom.
Don’t just break out your new bike in the woods and expect Fido to know what he’s doing. Take him out on short rides with a leash at first. This will train your dog to follow you as pack leader.
“It’s important that people start out with their dog behind the bike and build it up slowly until they both feel comfortable,” explained Tom.
Before you let him run off leash, your good boy must be under voice command. The last thing you want is your dog bolting ahead, stopping for a bathroom break on a tight bend and surprising you as you come around the corner at top speed. Also keep an eye on the rules and regulations. Not all trails are pet friendly, and many of those that are may also be open to hikers. You don’t want to find your pooch hurtling toward a family on a leisurely stroll. Check the trail, walk it first and make sure it’s safe for everyone before you release your hound.
If you’re looking for some additional expert advice on getting started, check out this video from Tom, Ruby and Bikeradar.
In new surroundings, your canine companion probably won’t stray too far, but anything can happen when you’re off road. He should be wearing his sturdiest collar and tag with contact information and vaccination details attached just in case. Dogs who run at high speeds past low branches or bushes might lose tags along the way. To prevent this, invest in a collar like this one, which has your pet’s details printed on the buckle. For dusk riders, an LED light can help illuminate your pooch on the trail.
Before you venture off the beaten path, teach your pup a magic word. It doesn’t have to be “abracadabra,” but it should be a word you rarely use. Use it around your home and give your dog a treat when she comes to you after hearing it. In case you really can’t locate your speedy partner in the wilderness, she’ll know to come back no matter what if she hears the magic word.
Pack the Right Gear
Bring along enough food, water and supplies for both of you. Remember, your furry friend will be expending more energy than usual and will need extra calories. Keep an eye on the weather, too. Dogs can overheat easily in the sun and sometimes don’t let us know when they’re too tired to carry on. Pack a water bottle that can easily hook onto your bike, like the Gulpy Pet Water Dispenser, and take regular breaks to hydrate your pup and let him catch his breath.
You also need to bring along some off-road gear for Fido. While he’s zooming along at top speed, he might not even realize if he sustains an injury to his paws. One way to prevent him hurting those pads is by using a wax, such as Musher’s Secret, which helps protect paws against high heat, cold temperatures, sand and salt. It’s the perfect addition for dogs with a need for speed. For a pair of boots that are just as fashionable as they are protective, check out Grip Trex from Ruffwear. And finally, if you’re biking in cold weather, keep your pooch as snug as you will be with a performance-fit winter coat like this one.
Last but not least, don’t forget the waste bags. Not only do we have a responsibility to our dogs on the trails, but also to the environment. There’s no poop fairy, so it’s important to remember to pick up after your dog even in the woods. When it rains, waste flows into rivers and streams, damaging local wildlife and ecosystems.
Know Where to Go
Dog owners know there are few places where their pups can run wild without a leash. You need to find trails that accept your bike and your furry athlete.
“Thankfully, virtually all the trails in the UK are dog-friendly. The more technical they are, the more fun it is for her. I’d say our favorite is Glentress in Scotland,” said Tom.
Here are a few additional pet-friendly trails around the world where you and Fido can enjoy this extreme sport:
- Great Escape Bike Trail is one of many gorgeous and remote mountain biking trails in Moab, UT.
- Flume Trail is a moderately difficult and varied trail in Nevada’s backcountry.
- The aptly named Cannock Chase - Follow The Dog trail sweeps through the trees in the countryside near England’s second city, Birmingham.
- For a chilled out mountain bike ride, Maah Daah Hey spans 144 miles and offers great views of North Dakota’s scenic countryside.
- In the Dog Mountain Bike Trail is one of Victoria, Australia’s best kept secrets. It can get hairy as it’s unsanctioned, but that shouldn’t be anything Fido isn’t used to!