We all love our furry friends and the joy they bring to our rides.
Nothing like a well trained trail dog to add smiles to a mountain bikers face.
We love watching them do belly scrub jumps, taking berms at full speed, choosing the occasional trail short cut, or that waggy tail that indicates their level of enjoyment on their run.
Here are a few tips to having an enjoyable time with your furry trail buddy
Choose the right breed for your activity level.
Try to choose a breed that's high energy. Sheep herding breeds, Retrievers, Pointer, and other working breeds can make great trail dogs. Even mutts from your local shelter too!, but make sure that you choose ones with longer legs (imagine running as a short legged Dachshund - short strides and not alot of belly clearance) and try to avoid short nosed breeds with breathing issues like pugs and bulldogs.
Start them young
Start with short hikes when they get the all-clear for vaccinations from the vet, then closer to a year before they can go on longer distances.
On the leash first (then graduate to off-leash)
Be aware that some trail areas require dogs to be on leash at all times. No one wants a dog crisscrossing or going after rider ankles on a ride. Be in control with your dog on-leash before moving on to off-leash adventures.
Short rides first
Have your dog feel comfortable with being on leash while you ride alongside them and also have yourself familiar holding onto your grips and leash with a dog possibly pulling. Build up from a 20min ride to an hour ride so you and your dog get accustomed to the experience of riding together.
Dogs don't have build in bottle cages or a hydration pack. Wearing a fur coat and doing cardio isn't fun. Teach your dog to drink out of a hydration pack or keep a collapsible bowl in your pack for them to drink from. Use common sense and stop to drink occasionally and based on the level of activity.
Speed is not the goal
They can't coast on rides like we do on their bikes. They are on their legs the whole ride. Give them a break, read their body language as the ride progresses; they're just happy to be outside with their favorite human.
Incorporate an extra rider when training permits
We all want to share the experience with our fur partner with other human riders. Build in an additional riding partner as your dog gets used to bikes. Ask permission from your human partner about having an additional fur partner coming along.
Praise your buddy
Dogs love positive reinforcement; tell them they're doing a great job!
Not for you, for your dog! They like the massages and stretches like we do to recover after a long ride.
Give it time
Ensure that you and the dog are comfortable with off-leash adventures on foot before getting on the bike. Take your time and build up to the longer rides - their joints and muscles will thank you.
TRAIL DOGS FEATURED
Sky, Ukee, Kaland, Zeus, Pickles & Blue
Photo credits: @braydenrastad, @stoow, @probablyinthewoods, @_stevemoreau, @lexi_smyth, @billyadamsonmtb, @stevetan