how to... bike
I love biking. Mountain biking, road biking, leisurely biking...I love it. Don't get me wrong mountain biking still scares me but I like it when I have finished. We knew that when we picked a breed of dog we needed one that could run for miles and keep up without breaking too much of a sweat. Enter the Vizsla. With all my activities I don't want to mislead you and make you think I only started doing them because of Pepper and thought it would be a fun challenge. I have been doing these sports for years so it was really important to me to try my best to incorporate Pepper into them. The challenge was how to make a human activity, dog friendly.
I started biking with her when she was 6 months old. Not properly biking, just peddling at a walking/trot pace for 5 minutes at a time up and down the path. It is really important that you don't bike for long distances with your dog before they are 18 months because they are still growing making it potentially harmful on your dog's joints if you over exercise them too soon. That's why I just wanted to get her used to the sound of a bike, the speed of a bike, the shape of a bike... She needed to understand how it worked and what she had to do when we were on it. Quite quickly she realised that she couldn't get in the way of the wheels as she would get a little carpet burn from the tyre. It didn't put her off the activity, she just knew that from then on she follows the bike or runs beside it.
When she was 18 months I would take her out for 20 minute rides but have lots of intervals making the ride an hour long. It is really important to give your dog plenty of breaks and water along the ride as they burn a lot of energy. All the time I would praise and encourage her which motivated her to want to run with me. Now when she sees the bikes she gets very excited as she associates this with a rewards. I feel guilty getting the road bikes out as she gets all excited and unfortunately she can't come too (sadly Pepper hasn't learnt the Highway Code yet)!
As time went on and I consistently saw a positive reaction from the rides I would increase them and introduce her to more mountain bike trails and trail centres which are perfect on a quiet day. The more technically challenging they are for you, the slower you go so your dog can keep up, cut corners and get ahead. As your dog's confidence grows you can give them permission to run ahead making it a fun way for you to try and improve your fitness level by keeping up! Now Pepper is two we can go up to 15 miles with her and possibly more, I just haven't chosen to push it yet.
So to summarise:
Expose your dog to the bike in the garden so they aren't afraid of it
At a young age (6 months ish) let them walk alongside you going up and down the path with it (no more than 5 minutes)
Reward and praise them as you go so they associate this as a positive activity
You set the rules, if they run ahead before you feel they are ready and have commanded them then remind them to heal
Build up distances over time, don't rush it
The best places to take them are trail centres (not in busy times) road so they can run safely off lead
Enjoy it...if you don't enjoy it, then don't expect your dog to