For many mountain bikers, their dog is their best riding buddy. Not only do they provide companionship on long solo rides, but they also help to keep riders safe by alerting them to potential hazards. However, mountain biking with a dog can present some challenges. For example, dogs can easily overheat on strenuous rides, so it’s important to make sure they have plenty of water and shade. In addition, dogs can be unpredictable, so it’s important to give them plenty of space when passing and make sure they are under control at all times. With a little preparation and caution, mountain biking with a dog can be a fun and rewarding experience for both rider and pup.
Train your dog off-leash
One essential piece of training to successfully mountain bike with your trail dog is to make sure they can obey simple commands while off leash. You should be able to give a command, such as “heel” or “stay,” and your dog should respond accordingly. If your dog does not have a good off-leash recall (coming when called), mountain biking together is not going to be enjoyable for either of you.
Start on easy trails
You and your pup are both new to this, so it’s important to start slow and easy. Look for flat, wide trails with little to no obstacles. You want to be able to concentrate on riding and steering while your dog gets used to running alongside you and being in close proximity to the bike (but not too close).
Train your dog to follow down the trail behind you to avoid accidentally running over your dog. If your dog is in front of you and your dog stops suddenly, you may not be able to stop in time on your mountain bike to avoid a collision.
Once you both feel comfortable on easy trails, you can start to venture onto more technical terrain.
Know the area you are going
You should know the area well including any dangers that may be in the area. Many mountain bike trails have rocks or cliff faces that can be dangerous for your dog, especially if they are chasing you down the trail at full speed. It is important to know what sort of terrain is in the area so that you can keep yourself and your dog safe as you go mountain biking together.
If you are exploring a new area with your dog, make sure to take it slow at first and identify any potential dangers on the trail before you go full speed and try to set a new strava record.
Take frequent breaks, especially on the downhill
Modern mountain bikes are designed to be very efficient. They have incredible gearing to climb steep inclines with ease. They have large wheels and long travel suspension to descend at breakneck speeds. My dog will follow me anywhere when I am on my bike. He trots alongside me as we climb up the hill and then barrels down after me when I descend.
It is important to remember that while dogs love chasing you while you are riding your bike, they do get tired and need frequent rest periods. I make sure to take a break at least every 30 minutes when we are mountain biking together. This allows my dog time to drink water and rest in the shade. I also make sure to go slower on the downhill so that my dog can keep up and not overheat.
Make sure to pack enough water for you and your dog. It is also a helpful tool to buy a collapsible bowl for your dog to drink from. We love ours because it allows our dog to drink more water while out on the trails than he can from our hands or from the bottle.
Watch out for other wildlife
Wildlife can be amazing to see when riding mountain bikes. I have seen many different types of wildlife while out mountain biking. Our area has quite a lot of moose and we also get the occasional black bear or mountain lion.
While it may be tempting to let your dog chase after the wildlife, it is important to remember that your dog is part of the wildlife too. If you are in an area with bears or other predators, it is best to keep your dog close to you and under control.
Large animals such as bears, moose, and even elk and deer can be dangerous if your dog gets too close. This is another reason it is essential to train your dog off leash and make sure they have excellent recall. It can literally save your dog’s life when you are out in the woods.
Check your dog for ticks after the ride
Ticks are tiny parasites that attach themselves to animals (including humans) and suck their blood. Ticks can transmit diseases to both you and your dog, so it is important to check your dog for ticks after a ride.
To check your dog for ticks, simply run your hands over their fur, paying close attention to their head, neck, and feet. If you find a tick, carefully remove it with tweezers. If you are unsure how to remove a tick, consult your veterinarian.
You can also medicate your dog so that ticks fall right out of them. My dog has very long hair at times and it can be difficult to find ticks in his long poodle hair. The medication has been amazing for us because we know that even if he gets a tick on him, it won’t stick.
Make sure your dog is properly socialized
There are many mountain bikers that ride with dogs. This means that while you are out for a ride with your dog, you are likely to run into other riders that also have dogs.
It is important to make sure that your dog is properly socialized before taking them out mountain biking. This includes getting them used to other dogs, people, and animals.
One great way to socialize your dog in preparation for going on the trail is to take them to places where there are lots of people and other dogs to interact with. Dog parks are a great place to go in order for your dog to get used to playing with and being around other dogs.
My dog loves meeting new friends on the trail and does not have issues when we come across other dogs or people. When he was a puppy we made sure to take him everywhere we went. We practiced his commands in many different social situations, especially with distractions such as people, other dogs, and other animals.
If you are unsure about your dog’s socialization skills keep practicing in controlled environments where you know you have full control over your dog. The trails can be a fun and exciting place for your dog but if they do not do well off leash with other dogs or people then it may not be safe to take your dog on the trail. If you are having difficulty properly socializing your dog it is best to consult a professional or take them to a socialization class.
Mountain biking with a dog can be an amazing experience. It is important to remember to start slow, take breaks often, and know the area well before taking your dog out mountain biking with you. With a little preparation, you and your pup will be able to enjoy many great adventures together.