Saturday, July 30, 2011

Paws and Pedals

Lowcountry Dog Magazine
by Leah Nicole Hawkins on Thursday, July 21st, 2011 at 9:18am

As we all learned from Roger in the 1996 release of 101 Dalmatians, sometimes tying your dog to the handlebars of your bicycle by its leash is not always a brilliant idea. While well-behaved dogs may be good to take on a refreshing bike ride, for the rest of us whose dogs tend to stop and sniff every tree or joyously lunge after just about anything that moves, having a dog tied to our bikes just doesn’t seem to work. However, there is hope for those who fall into the latter of the two categories. We compiled a list of products specifically designed to allow dogs to run beside their owner’s bikes in complete safety and comfort.

The WalkyDog Bike Leash is one such product. It is a metal rod that attaches to the bike just below the seat. The length of the rod allows the dog to run clear of the wheels and pedals of the bike, lessening the chances of injury to both the bike rider and the dog. The dog’s leash is connected to a patented spring within the rod that counterbalances the pull of the dog against the bike, allowing the rider to move with ease without having to account for the weight and movements of the canine. Although the length of the leash can be adjusted depending on the height of the dog, the product is recommended for dogs over a year old or at least twenty pounds. Leads can be extended up to twelve inches, however, if this is not enough, it is also possible to purchase a cord of a custom length or simply buy a cord at a hardware store. You can find this item online priced from $52 down to $39.95.

For large dogs with exceptionally powerful pulling ability, the Bike Tow Leash is sometimes a viable option. It performs the same function as the WalkyDog, but is specifically designed for dogs who would otherwise be a hazard to tie to a bicycle. The curved design of this leash absorbs the power of the dog, allowing the biker to ride in comfort. It can be found online for $150.

And don’t forget accessories! There is paw-pad protection wax and Ruff Wear Skyliner Dog Boots, shoes designed to allow dogs to cross abrasive, hot, or other potentially harmful surfaces in comfort. And don’t forget to bring along water! One neat product is the Gulpy Pet Water Dispenser. This convenient water dispenser has a clip, which allows it to be easily attached to the belt or pants, but is also the right size to fit in bicycle water bottle holders. An outer shell flips down to become a trough that holds water when the bottle is tipped upside down. The list price for this item is $15.

Of course, before using any of these items, it is important to make sure your dog is properly trained to run beside a bike. For this, it is important to first instill proper lead etiquette in your dog. Make sure that he or she behaves properly when walking normally on a leash. Your dog must know that they cannot pull away or run wherever they please when on the leash.

The first step in teaching your dog to run beside your bicycle is to introduce them to the bike itself. Roll it slowly toward him or her so that they can observe it and become familiar with it. If your dog shows any hostility toward your bike, stop them immediately. When your dog has become comfortable with the bike, leash the dog and have him stand on one side while you support the bike on the other. Begin walking slowly and continue until your dog is content.

The next step is to find a quiet place with minimal traffic and people. Throw a leg over the bike and continue walking with the bike between your legs. When you are confident that your dog is calm, sit down on the seat and begin to pedal gently. Try to keep the same pace as your dog has become used to it and a sudden increase in speed may make him or her nervous. After your dog becomes comfortable with you riding the bike, increase the pace as you see fit, though try to keep to low-traffic areas for the first few rides. You may also implement commands later in the training such as “stop” by saying the command and gently pulling on the leash while you slow down. Other commands such as “left” or “right” may also be helpful in ensuring that your dog stays clear of the wheels when you are turning. Lastly, remember to praise and encourage your dog when they perform well. This will reinforce their positive feelings in relation to the bike.

A bike ride is a good way to get exercise both for you and your dog, but remember that safety always comes first. If you take your dog out with you when you ride, be sure to have plenty of water for both of you and stay away from high-traffic areas where your dog may spook and put both him/her and you in danger. No matter how well trained a dog is, they can still be frightened by a loud noise or sudden appearance. Try to take your dog out in the morning or late afternoon when the temperature isn’t as hot. Use the proper equipment if you plan to have your dog run beside you on the bike and always remember that the key to success and safety in that situation is for you to maintain a calm, positive attitude.

Some of these products (or ones like them) can be found locally in outdoor shops such as Half Moon Outfitters, The Outdoor Shoppe and The Bicycle Shoppe.

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