I have a dog. Her name is Inca.
She is a working Lab who likes to run, A LOT.
I also have a romantic dream that she will be the perfect trail dog.
For the record, she isn’t yet but certainly showing some really promising signs. At 16 months, she is still very much a pup, so I can’t be too disappointed when she doesn’t do what I ask 😂.
How to train your dog to run with a bike
The reality is, any advice I can give on this blog comes with some caveats.
Firstly, as a Labrador, she is going to be easier to train than a lot of breeds. She is highly motivated by food and we had a year of training under our belts before I started to take her on the bike.
Also, I’m sure dog experts would say I’m talking rubbish but it works for me.
I started off on my gravel bike and with a lead.
We have some quiet fields about half a mile from my house, so I started by doing the same route again and again.
We would ride down to the field on the lead, then she has to run behind me once she is off the lead and we are away from the road.
Initially she was so excited she didn’t know what to do with herself! However, the first few rides were always the same. If she was behind and not in my way, we would ride for a bit, stop, and she would get a treat.
If she ran ahead, I slammed the brakes on, the fun stopped and was re-called.
I just repeated that until she realised that running ahead would be fruitless.
My only concession to this is on wide steep fire roads where I am going really slowly and she can potter about on the climb. I don’t let her go much further than 15-20 meters on these sections.
What commands do you use?
This is a personal one, but I tend to keep it simple.
“Here” (pointing) if she goes ahead and always on my left hand side.
“Behind me” when we are on single track.
“Stopping” before we get to the end of the trail. Mainly because she runs so close to my back wheel, she has run in to it a few times when I hit the brakes.
All the rest is encouragement when she has done what I asked her to and an annoyed voice if she buggers off to sniff out some pheasants or deer.
How far can you ride with a dog?
My initial loops were 3 miles with breaks. I tend to keep my speed down as Labs can end up with hip issues if you work them too hard, too young.
I have built things up to 8 miles on the mountain bike, but again I only go fast on the downhill tracks and she recovers when we stop or are climbing.
As a working Lab, she would keep running forever, but I think I’d be able to work her up to 10-12 miles with no problems. Other breeds will differ.
I also carry water with me as she gets a lot of dirt in her mouth, so she can at least drink and swill her mouth out, cool down etc. And of course, a bag of treats!
I’m hoping to make a video at some point our rides together but if you want to follow our journey more, you can see some instagram highlight stories here, or click on the post below to see her in action!