How to Ride a Bike with a Dog

two dogs sit facing camera. One dog is sitting inside a plastic laundry basket

By: Maria Schultz, Sup with Pup

This looks silly, I know. But before our Burley Tail Wagon arrived I started thinking about how I was going to introduce the dogs to it. Riley and Kona don’t like crates, and I’m thinking that a small enclosed space like the trailer might be a hard sell. Like any other project I tackle, I know I have to break things down into small pieces. So, I think – what are the most important basic things I need to teach my dogs?

  • I need to introduce the trailer in a super positive way
  • The dogs should hop into the trailer willingly
  • They should both sit or lay nicely
  • They need to stay in the trailer and not get out until I give the signal

Enter, the clothes basket!

dog sitting in laundry basket

The clothes basket is a familiar object to both dogs, and Kona used to sleep in one when she was a puppy (it was so darn cute). It’s also a semi-enclosed space that the dogs can get used to hoping in and out of. This simulation should help the dogs build some foundational skills that we can transfer to the Tail Wagon.

So, week one the dogs took turns sitting and staying in the clothes basket, getting in and out on command, and I was even able to drag Kona around the living room to introduce some movement. Riley on the other hand did not like the movement – he’s going to be my problem child! I’ll keep rewarding Riley for getting into the basket and keep moving it around little by little until he feels more secure.

As we work on training during week two, we’ll move exclusively to the trailer while I resist the temptation to take it outside for a spin. I really want the dogs to love this, so I’m planning to feed them meals in the trailer, get peanut butter filled KONGS in it, and maybe some hot dogs! The more I reinforce the trailer as a good safe place the easier the rest of the training should go.

two dogs, one sitting in pet bike trailer indoors and the other laying on a rug by the trailer
dog in bike trailer with kong toy

During our second week of training with the Burley Tail Wagon the dogs went in opposite directions. Kona progressed by leaps and bounds, and Riley took a few steps back.

Kona gladly hopped in on command, went into an immediate sit stay and held that stay until I released her. I introduced movement by using the stroller attachment and rolling her around the house. Again, it sounds silly, but gradual training has always worked for us.

Riley on the other hand, isn’t comfortable with the trailer moving. He demonstrated that when he jumped out as soon as I started rolling it. So in order to reinforce the trailer as a safe place I’ve been feeding him his meals in it and giving him peanut butter filled KONGS. I need to take this really slow with him. He’s an old dog and he’s become a bit stubborn about things as he’s aged, so I need to not push him.

dog licks KONG ball while sitting in pet bike trailer in living room
dog sitting in pet bike trailer on outdoor boardwalk path

After one week of clothes basket training, and one week of living room training, I felt confident that Kona was ready to ride with a bike. We decided to head out to Belle Isle State Park this past weekend for some test rides. It’s a beautiful park with paddling, camping, and super quiet roads for riding. As I unloaded the trailer Kona got excited and immediately hopped in it – a great sign! I attached my bike to the trailer, asked Kona to hop in, and walked the bike with her in it. We did one loop around the campsite while Kona got treats and praise the whole time. I parked the bike, unclipped the tailgate and Kona held her stay until I released her. This is something I’m really trying the stress with both dogs – unexpected exits from the trailer are not allowed!

After the success of Kona’s first ride, I decided to ride the bike for another loop. It was a success! Kona stayed in the trailer the whole time. She looked a little nervous a few times when she stood up instead of staying in a relaxed sit, but we kept her first ride short and sweet. It was awesome!

I was able to pedal her a total of about 5 miles this weekend in the trailer. Again I’m intentionally keeping the rides short so we can build up her comfort and confidence.

woman standing by a bike holding the handlebars. bike trailer attached with dog in trailer

I’ll keep working with Riley, to see if I can get him more comfortable with movement while I start working Kona up to some longer rides.

Here are a few things I learned this week that are important to share:

  1. I only let my dogs enter and exit the trailer from the rear. If they decided to bail from the front while the bike was in motion it would be disastrous.
  2. Riley is not as easy to train as he used to be. I’m confident he can do this – he’ll just take a lot longer than Kona.
  3. I put a dog bed inside the trailer, the familiar object seemed to really help Kona settle in.
  4. Having a spotter for your first ride is a good idea, just in case someone decides to bail!
  5. I should have practiced with the covers open and closed in the living room. Kona was a little unsure when I rolled the back cover down for our first ride, thankfully she got over it quickly with a handful of treats!