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Dogs can make the best mountain bike (and life!) companions. There’s nothing like seeing their silly smiles and tongue hanging out of their mouths as they race down the trail. But before you set out on your first few rides with your pup, there are a couple of important things you need to take into consideration to keep your dog safe and happy.
I’ve gone on a lot of rides with furry friends – both my own dogs and others – and in this post, I share my best tips for mountain biking with your pooch so you can have a blast together out on the trail.
Dedicated to Miss Aiko. I love you and miss you so much ❤️
1. Wait until they have a good grasp on basic commands
If your dog is still a puppy, it’s best to wait to take them out for mountain bike rides until they have a good grasp on the basic commands. They should:
- Know their name
- Respond to ‘come’
- Know how to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’
- Listen when you say ‘leave it’ or ‘no’
Being able to obey simple commands like these will not only help keep your pooch safe, but it’ll also (hopefully) prevent you from having to go on a wild dog chase.
2. Leave the other dogs at home (at first)
If you have another dog or your riding buddies have dogs, it’s best to leave them at home the first few times you take your mountain bike dog-in-training out for a ride.
This prevents your pup from getting distracted by other dogs and helps them learn the ways of the trail (like how to stay away from bike wheels).
Of course, once they have a few rides under their collar, dog-friendly rides are super fun!
3. Know your trail (& make sure dogs are allowed)
Just like it’s important for you to know the details of your ride for your own safety, it’s really important to know the trail/ride stats for your dog. Think about:
- How crowded will the trail be? Try to choose less crowded trails when you’re mountain biking with your dog
- Are dogs allowed off-leash? Or even, are dogs allowed at all?
- How long is your route? 10 miles may be fine for you, but is your dog in good enough shape to do that long of a ride?
- Is there water along the trail? If not, you’ll need to bring extra for your pup
4. Protect their paws
Just like our bare feet, dogs’ paws can get ripped and torn from rough terrain. If you ride on dirt trails, protecting their paws isn’t as big of a concern, but if you ride in an area with a lot of sharp rocks or rough sand, consider using a salve like Musher’s Secret to protect their paws.
Some dogs will need even more protection. Ruffwear makes these Grip Trex Dog Boots. Some dogs will tolerate them, others will not.
5. Pack doggie essentials
As you get ready for your ride, make sure you think about what your dog will need as well including:
- Extra water
- A collapsible bowl (some dogs will drink straight from your hydration pack hose)
- Tweezers if you’re riding in the desert
- Treats because dogs need snacks too!
- A leash – just bring one, you never know what situation you might end up in
- Pet medic – this med kit includes dog-friendly allergy medication, tweezers, a digital pet first aid guide, a slip leash, and assorted bandages and first aid supplies
6. Know potential dangers in your area
Before heading out on a ride, it’s a good idea to review what potentials dangers you could encounter such as:
- Cacti thorns
- Fumaroles (volcanic vents in the grounds. Dogs have died in these)
There may not be much you can do about preventing your dog from encountering these dangers, but at least you can have a plan for what to do if it happens.
7. Make sure your dog has tags & is up-to-date on vaccines
It’s important to make sure that your dog is registered (which can be done at the Town Clerk’s Office) and has up-to-date vaccines like rabies (which is required by law in most states).
Also, make sure they have tags or an ID with your phone number on their collar in case they get separated from you on the trail.
8. Clean up poop
Ok. I will be honest and say that I don’t typically clean up dog poop IF it’s done several feet off the trail. I will clean up dog poop if it’s on the trail or right next to it. It’s just common courtesy. No one wants to step in dog crap or scrape it out of their bike tires.
Also, please do not be that person who cleans up dog poop in a bag and then leaves it next to the trail 🤦♀️😡.
9. Consider using a tracking device
Lastly, you may want to consider using a tracking device. My brother and sister-in-law use Whistle to track their free-range dogs and it works pretty well. The little GPS device attaches to their collars and syncs to a phone app. You can see where they are so you can track them down if they run off during your ride.
A big downside to Whistle, though, is that it doesn’t work if there’s no cell service.
If it’s your first time taking your dog out on the trail, I hope these tips help you – and your dog – have an awesome ride. I love mountain biking with dogs and I hope you do too!
- 10 Tips for Recovering After Big Rides
- Mountain Biking Alone: 9 Tips for Staying Safe on the Trail
- 10 Helpful Mountain Bike Tips for Beginners
Do you mountain bike with your dog? What tips do you have to share? Leave a comment below!