As we dog owners know, life is better with your dog, especially when it comes to outdoor activities. And that goes for mountain biking too. If you like to get on a bike and ride the trails, your dog doesn't have to stay home — they can run along with you!
Of course, adding a mountain bike into the mix makes hitting the trails with your dog a little more complicated. That's why we talked to Erica Aarons, Rex Specs' Senior Digital Marketing Manager and dog mom to Maya, about her tips for mountain biking with dogs. Aarons has been mountain biking with her pup for over two years and has compiled her top tips for how to take your dog with you on your mountain biking adventure.
Training a Mountain Biking Trail Dog
"Training your dog to mountain bike with you really starts with basic obedience," says Aarons. Your dog needs to have good recall, know how to heel, sit, and have other basic obedience down.
Once your dog is rock solid on the basics, you can start to train trail etiquette and teach them how to behave around the bike. It's a good idea to start off teaching trail etiquette by hiking so you can concentrate specifically on that. Once you've covered the basic trail etiquette such as recall, staying close to you, getting off the trail, and how to behave around other hikers, dogs, and wild animals, you can introduce the bike.
To train your dog with the bike, your dog needs to follow behind you, not go in front of the bike, and keep a safe distance.
Make Sure Your Dog is Fit and Old Enough
On top of obedience training, you also need to think about physical training. Just like you need to train your own body for physical exercise and endurance, you have to do the same with your dogs. Make sure your dog is in good shape and isn't too young or too old to take on the physical strain of a long run.
You should hold off on the mountain biking until your dog is fully grown and their joints have matured. If you're unsure, check in with your vet to see whether your dog is physically up for the challenge.
Have the Right Gear for the Bike Ride and Your Dog
Yes, your dog needs gear for mountain biking! Okay, they probably don't need a helmet, but there are some essentials you'll want to bring.
Aarons always has Maya wear Rex Specs when they go riding to protect Maya's eyes.
"I'll feel rocks hit my feet while I'm riding," says Aarons. "knowing that Maya's right behind my back tire, I feel better knowing she has Rex Specs on so she doesn't get dust or rocks in her eyes."
Water and Water Bowl
Along with Rex Specs, Aarons always makes sure she has plenty of water and a bowl for Maya. (Some people teach their dogs to drink from a hydration pack, which can also double as a cool party trick.)
Aarons says, "we use the little Hydro Flask silicone boots that go under the water bottle as a water bowl."
Paw Salve and First Aid
Especially in the spring when your dog's paw pads are likely dry and less used to trail runs, it's fairly common for dogs to rip a paw pad. To help prevent this, Aarons uses a paw salve like Musher's Secret on Maya's paws to help hydrate, moisturize, and protect her pads.
"If paw pads do rip, give your dog a couple weeks to rest up," says Aarons.
Aarons also keeps a dog first aid kit in her car and takes along general first aid that would also work for dogs like gauze and vets wrap just in case.
Know Your Trail
Are dogs allowed on the trail? Does it allow off-leash dogs? Will there be water sources along the trail?
All these questions are important to know before you head out. You should know how long the trail is, the elevation gain, any water sources, and any potential dangers that might be on the trail.
Along with trail conditions, you'll want to check the weather to make sure it won't be too hot or too cold for your dog. If it's a warm day for you, remember that your dog is running hard and has a full coat of fur on. Be aware of your dog's limits and don't let them overheat.
Extra Safety Precautions for Mountain Biking with Your Pup
Along with your training and the safety gear we mentioned like Rex Specs and paw salve, there are a few other safety notes to consider when going on rides with your dog.
Take it Slow
Even if your dog is in great shape, it's still important to go slowly and work up to longer rides. Sure, some dogs will absolutely knock out 10 miles, no problem. But that doesn't mean every dog can and you can bet they didn't start out on 10 miles right off the bat.
"We aren't really taking Maya on rides much longer than five or six miles tops," says Aarons.
Take it slow and keep an eye on your pup - if they look tired, slow down and give them some time to rest.
Bring Enough Water
We've said it once, but we'll say it again: BRING. ENOUGH. WATER! "Your dog needs a lot of water when they're running, so you have to prepare accordingly," says Aarons.
Bikes and leashes are not a good combination. Your dog could pull you and your bike off balance; the leash could snag on a branch or rock and yank both you and your dog; or the leash could get tangled in the bike. Basically, your dog is going to need to be off-leash (and requires all the off-leash training and recall we mentioned earlier).
Finally, have fun with your furry friend on the trail. This should be a good experience for both rider and dog, so grab your Rex Specs and your bike and go have a great time! Then tag us in your adventure on Instagram 😉