Bailey is a three-year-old male Golden Retriever. Since a puppy he has been living with his best friend, Susan, in a town on the Atlantic coast of the United States. Bailey is always up for hitting the road with Susan and trying new things for fun under the great big sky. Bailey and Susan have many friends – canine and human.
Bailey Begins Biking
I didn't really know, or care, about the contraption standing by the door in the hall. I just know that Susan would come downstairs every afternoon, wearing a silly hat, and slip the thing quietly out the door. She'd come back an hour later breathing rather heavily and her aroma somewhat enhanced. That bicycle is now one of the most important, and most fun, aspects of my life.
I see Dr. B at a nearby animal clinic about every six months for a check-up. Winter had passed and summer was some months away. Susan caught me off guard when she took me to see Dr. B in April. I like Dr. B, but she sure is nosy. During that visit she inquired about my age and then stretched me out and checked every one of my bone joints and vertebrae.
She was nattering on about how younger dogs shouldn't do really strenuous exercise until their bones are fully developed. At least she acknowledged that I was mature and able to handle exertion beyond daily walks and romping in the backyard. I do love to run, so that sounded good.
One day soon after the vet visit, Susan came downstairs wearing her funny hat. Instead of slipping silently out the door, she put my harness and leash on me and somewhat clumsily led me outdoors along with the contraption. By now I know enough about bikes to talk about the experience intelligently.
Susan, myself, and the bike plopped down in the middle of the front lawn. She spun one of the pedals, directing my attention, and put treats down next to the spinning object. She turned the bike over and repeated her actions with the other pedal. She praised me for not being intimidated.
Then she lifted the bike and spun the front wheel. She directed my attention to it, gave me treats, and praised me for not being apprehensive. Then she spun the back wheel. It made a very odd rapid clicking sound that alarmed me. I backed off, but Susan spun the wheel again and offered me treats and praise.
She then laid the bike back down and started putting treats on the struts, wheels, and handlebars of the bike. I was beginning to think that bikes were nothing more than elaborate dinner plates. Susan encouraged me constantly. Any fear I had of the strange thing melted away.
Walking the Bike
After all that, Susan acted like we were going to take one of our regular walks. Only this time we had the bike between us. I like to be next to Susan when we walk; I even know how to heel. This hunk of metal between us was a bit unnerving. Every so often we would change sides, but she continued to offer me treats and praise.
While walking through our quiet neighborhood, things got a bit more complicated. Susan did some odd things and started using words I'd never really heard before.
As we were walking forward, Susan kept repeating the word “straight”. Then she turned the front wheel in front of me and started saying, “Left, left.” We did this a few times and then she put me on the other side, turning the front wheel in front of me and saying, “Right, right.”
After I got used to those moves, she pulled another. Turning the wheel sharply, she would say “round, round” as we did a complete u-turn. I soon learned that “round” meant to go in the opposite direction, either from the left or the right. We were building on the “left” and “right” movements.
The day wasn't over. While repeating these words and movements, Susan was leading me up into the hills, away from town, to a place I'd never been before. Among the rocks and the trees, we came to rest near a hard-dirt trailway. Susan laid her bike against a tree stump and sat down, me by her side.
Suddenly along came a bike with a human astride. Loping along beside was a most elegant lady greyhound seeming to have the time of her life. I barked greetings at them exuberantly. Soon after, a slower biker with a big beagle alongside came by. The beagle was trotting, looking around, and the human was pedaling somewhat slowly. They were a beautiful, laid-back team. I barked happily at them as well.
The dogs running beside their best friends on bikes seemed to be having loads of fun. Susan and I headed back home. We continued our “lefts” and “rights” and “rounds” with the bike between us. Much as I wanted her to, Susan never really got on the bike that afternoon.
We just walked and got more comfortable with the new words and movements – and the bike. The following day would be a lot more challenging. I would learn some new words such as “slow” and “stop” and “go”. And I would become accustomed to some new equipment.
Bailey's Beginner Biking Bits:
- Veterinarians should check the health of a dog before any unusual physical exertion.
- Dogs should be fully developed before enduring physical challenges such as biking.
- Dogs under 25 pounds or those with short legs or short snouts cannot be good run-along biking partners. (They can still go biking! More on this later.)
- Sturdy harnesses, not collars, are necessary for biking dogs.
- Start dog-biking training on a quiet road or a similarly calm place.
- Companions should help pets become at ease with a bike and its parts.
- Teach the dog basic bicycle maneuvers and commands before attempting a run-along.
- While becoming a biking dog, a companion should lavish the dog with praise and treats during the learning processes mentioned above.
- Exposure to other biking dogs and their companions can be beneficial. Observing is learning and fun is contagious.
Follow Bailey's upcoming adventures.....and share your pet biking adventures with us!
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