4 Reasons Mountain Biking With Your Dog Isn't A Good Idea

mountain biking dog, Mountain biking tips, mountain biking with your dog, dogs and mountain biking, training dog to mountain bike
December 7th, 2018

Today's guest post is from Richard at The Dog Clinic. 


The joy of watching your dog sprint through forested singletrack as you follow on your mountain bike is hard to beat, and riding with your dog certainly can be enjoyable for both you and your pet.


Before you take the plunge and take your dog to the trails you may want to consider if it's right for your canine friend.  All dogs are different and it's up to you to make an informed decision if your dog can handle the demands of the trail. 


The problem is that the dangers often outweigh the benefits. Aside from the distress of a dog trying to keep up with its owner, riding on trails can be an unfair test of your pet’s stamina and obedience.   


With that in mind, here are four reasons you might want to reconsider taking a dog on your next mountain bike ride.


1. dogs don't have endless energy 

There's a misconception that the 'more exercise the better' when it comes to dogs. 


While there is some truth to this, dogs can't coast down a hill to conserve energy and their legs are much less efficient than a bike, so they need to work harder to cover the same distance. 


This can lead to an exhausted pooch.  Most dogs are fearful of being left behind by their owner, which often overrides tiredness. Their natural instinct is that let cannot get separated from the 'pack' any cost, so they'll always try to keep up, even when they have no stamina left. 


It's true that some breeds are better suited to long distance running than others. Dogs such as the Border Collie, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and Siberian Husky all have excellent stamina.  But asking most dogs to keep up with a bike over a long distance can be cruel.   If you want a dog to take to the trails, make sure you research possible breeds and understand what each dog is best suited for. 


2. a dog can be distracting

Mountain biking can be intense.   so it's important to give riding your full attention.   This is difficult if you have a dog scampering around the trail ahead.  When you're going at full speed, a small distraction can lead to a bad crash or accident - including right over your pet. 


Riding with a  dog can also distract your own progress.  Instead of having the freedom to tackle a trail at your pace, you need to concentrate on your dog's location and safety. You'll probably also need to cut rides a little shorter depending on your pet's fitness level. 


3. Trails aren't always safe for dogs 

Keeping your dog safe is much more difficult in the saddle than when walking.  Bikes, hikers, and sharp rocks can appear quickly, leaving you little time to react. 


Other dogs can also be a problem when riding. Many owners let their dog approach off-leash, often saying "don't worry, he's friendly."  This might be the case, but it's hard to know how two dogs are going to react when meeting on a trail. If you're riding, you may not have the option to put your dog on a leash. 


On the other hand,  riders and walkers may feel unsettled by your dog. Many trail users experience a slight anxiety when meeting an off-leash dog on a trail  - especially if the owner is on a bike without a quick way to regain control. 


There's also the biggest danger of all: your bike.  Some dogs are more aware of a bike than others, but a  lapse in concentration could lead to a serious collision. 


4. Riding isn't a replacement for a walk

Walking a dog isn't just about physical exercise. Dogs get mental stimulation from the smells and sounds of a walk, which is essential for their well-being. 


Unfortunately, there's no chance to explore these interesting smells when on a ride. Your dog is focused on keeping up with your bike, so may miss out on a big part of what makes a walk fun. 


My advice is to keep dog walks and trail riding separate, so both you and your dog gain the full benefits. 


if you're still going to ride with your dog...

If you're still determined to mountain bike with your dog, here are some tips for keeping you and your pet safe.

  • be honest about your dog's obedience

If your dog doesn't have a reliable recall,  avoid riding together until you've practiced. You need to know your dog will listen in any environment and situation. 

  • never attach a leash to your bike

Leashing a dog to your bike is a disaster waiting to happen.  Aside from being dangerous, if your dog suddenly pulls, it can also be hazardous for your pet if the leash gets caught in the spokes. 

  • build up slowly

Just like humans, dogs have a fitness level that can be improved with regular exercise. Don't expect your dog to cope with long rides straight away.  You should also watch your dog's body language and go at their pace, not yours. 

  • provide lots of water breaks

Dehydration and heat stroke are main concerns when riding with a dog. Bring a folding dog bowl and provide plenty of water breaks. 

  • watch for signs of tiredness

If your dog starts to lag behind, pant heavily or just seems less enthusiastic about the ride, he's probably getting tired.   As I mentioned, most dogs won't stop until they are at the point of exhaustion, so it's up to you to rest before your pet reaches that point. 

  • don't give your dog food immediately before, during or after a ride

Bloat is a serious condition caused by a dog's stomach twisting.  While the exact causes aren't always known, eating a meal up to an hour before or after exercise may be a contributing factor. 

  • avoid riding in extreme hot or cold weather

Cool temperatures and cloudy skies are the best weather for riding with a dog.  Never ride with a dog on hot days and be aware of icy ground in cold weather, as it can damage a dog's paws. 

  • make sure your dog wears an up-to-date collar and microchip

If you're on a trip, get a temporary tag with your hotel address and other contact details. You may also want to buy a canine GPS tracker for extra peace of mind, especially if your pet doesn't know the area. 


And of course,  make sure you clean up your dog's mess! 



For more tips on training your dog   for the mountain bike trails,  check out our article  "5 Tips for Training a Mountian Bike  Dog"


Riding with your dog can be a great way to spend time together and provide exercise and many dogs enjoy it (within reason).   There are specific hazards associated with mountain biking with your dog that you'll want to consider before hitting the trails.   If you still want to ride with your dog, make sure you follow the safety tips above and always be careful not to over-exert your pet. 


Happy riding! 


About the Author:   Richard is a canine expert and editor at the Dog Clinic.    When he's not writing or spending time with his dogs, he loves hiking and riding local trails.