I’m Thinking of Biking with my Dog, So Now What? – Part 3 / Teaching Commands

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Now that we’ve covered some of the equipment you’ll need to get started, time to get on the bike and go! Not quite.  Before you hop on the bike with your dog, you will want to master some basic commands.  This way, when you are riding full speed and need your dog to avoid an obstacle, i.e. a pedestrian, you will have some confidence knowing you have verbal control over your dog.

In my experience, there are 4 basic commands you’ll want to teach your dog before you get going: Left, Right Stop, Go.  You don’t need to use these exact words as the commands, but pick something that works for you and stick with it.  I personally use Left, Right, Stop, and OK.  I have also incorporated “slow” and “leave it” which helps me have even more control over her when we need to slow down or when she sees a squirrel.  If you are really serious about bikjoring or mushing in the future, and were thinking about doing it competitively, you might want use the traditional commands that most mushers have used for 100’s of years.

The most common commands for a dog team are:
•  Hike!: Get moving (“Mush” and “All Right” are sometimes also used).
•  Kissing sound: Speed up, faster.
•  Gee!: Turn to the right.
•  Haw!: Turn to the left.
•  Easy!: Slow down.
•  Whoa: Stop.
•  On By!: Pass another team or other distraction.

Like I said above, the words that you’re using don’t matter much, as long as they’re consistent and they don’t get confused with words that you use on a daily basis, which might confuse them and make the training process take longer.

I am by no means a professional trainer, so take my advice for what it is, a novice Bikejorer that self trained his dog.  If you’re thinking of doing this professionally, I recommend getting the book below. It will go into more details than you probably care to know about the sport, and how to train your dog professionally.

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So, with that said, here’s how I trained my dog to ride on a bike either pulling or side-by-side.

  1. Start by using the commands on your daily walks with your dog.  Every time you turn a corner, use the corresponding “left” or “right” command.  After doing this for about 2 weeks consistently, Sierra, my Husky, was able to start anticipating which way to go before we turned.  When she did, I gave her a treat.  After another week or two she was consistently turning on command. During that same period, every time we approached a driveway or intersection, I would tell her to “stop” and when we crossed I would say “ok”.  These commands took about the same amount of time for her to learn.  Within a month of doing this on walks, she had the commands down, no treats needed, which gave me the confidence to start on the bike.  If you want to accelerate the process, you can do multiple quick walks a few times a day to speed up the learning process.
  2. Once you have the commands down while walking with your dog, the next step is to start getting her used to the harness and bike.  If your dog hasn’t worn a harness before, I suggest incorporating the harness into her normal walks so she is learning the commands with the harness on.  This way, when you get on the bike for the first time, she is comfortable with the harness and commands, it will make the first couple rides a lot smoother.  To get your dog used to the harness, like everything with a dog, I recommend starting slow.  It’s much easier to take a few days working your dog up to liking the harness, than to have to undo the fear they might have after forcing it on and hoping for the best. To start, first show your dog the harness, let him sniff it, and give him a treat after he does.  After a few rounds of this, make your dog put his head through the harness in order to reach the treat you are holding on the other side.  This way, your dog will be comfortable with the harness going over their head, because they now have a positive association with it.  Once your dog is comfortable with the harness over their head, gently clip the harness and let your dog wear it for a few minutes, and then take it off, and give a treat.  Gradually repeat this over the next few days and keep it on longer and longer each time.  Once they’re all good with that, you can start using it on your walks.
  3. Time to get on the bike! Just like when you were learning to drive a car for the first time, I recommend finding a very low traffic area that has places to practice your turns, stoping, and starting.  I also recommend making sure it has very low pedestrian traffic.  You don’t want to start off your first bike ride with an injured, law suit happy, bystander.  If you plan on letting your dog pull you, start by giving her the “go” command and try to match her pace as she starts.  You will really want to take your time and watch her closely.  Some dogs might just see a giant two wheel monster chasing them when they look back, so they try to run faster, and unlike chasing the elusive magic dragon, the bike will catch her if she decides to stop in a panic.  Make sure you regulate the speed the first couple outings to avoid this situation.  Even if your dog is pulling like crazy, make sure you are riding the brakes so you’re traveling at a safe speed. As you both get more comfortable with each other and the commands, you can slowly go faster and faster until you get so close to light speed that only the physics of the universe will be able to slow you down.

Tips – (learn from my mistakes)

  • Every time you get close to a pole, tree, pedestrian, or some other unmovable object which could possibly get in-between you and your dog, SLOW DOWN and pull your dog close to you.  The two times I flipped over my handle bars were both from Sierra going on one side of a tree/pole and myself going on the other.  Not a fun experience for anyone involved.  For more details on this, see my previous posts on biking.
  • Use your bike bell/horn every time you get close to a pedestrian.  Even if the person is out of the way, they can always decide to step right in front of you if they don’t hear you coming.  It also prevents them from jumping in shock when they first see your dog in their peripheral vision.
  • Take it easy the first few times you go out.  Your dog will be working a lot harder than you, make sure you always remember this.  They will need breaks and especially water much more frequently than you.
  • If it’s warm out, skip the bike.  If you wouldn’t want to put a jacket on an run a few miles in the current weather, wait until the evening when it cools down to take her out.  Especially in the middle of summer, it can often be too hot to safely bike your dog.  I never go out if it’s over 75 degrees with my Husky.
  • Look out for small critters running around the area.  Depending on your dog’s prey drive, a rabbit or squirrel running out in front of your dog could lead to something akin to Mr. Toads Wild Ride.

What Gear Should you Bring While Hiking with a Dog?

Updated May 2018

I wanted to do a quick write-up on all of the gear that Sierra, our dog, currently uses when we go on our hiking trips.  Just like you have probably heard about being prepared yourself before going out into nature, it’s just as important for your dog to be prepared as well.  This is not an all-inclusive list of everything you will need while hiking, because each hike is unique and requires different equipment based on length, terrain, weather, and much more.  However, everything on this list has been a huge help for us, and will hopefully give you some ideas on what to look for, so you too can be prepared before you go outdoors with your dog. Continue reading →

Big Bear Dog Friendly Activities

As a follow up to the Big Bear camping blog, this one will go into more details about some of the activities that are available for you and your dog when vacationing in Big Bear.  Some of these can be done year around, others like boating, will be season dependent.  I will continue to add to this post as I visit Big Bear over this next year, but for now, here are a few activities that I can recommend.

Boating with your dog

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Camping in Big Bear With Your Dog

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When you first think of Big Bear, most people immediately picture one thing, snow.  I am hear to tell you that you need to look at Big Bear for much more than your annual ski trip. Big Bear offers year round outdoor adventures, for you and your dog, and over the last two years, I have found some great campsites out there.  I don’t know what has stopped me from camping up here frequently in the past, but I have been up to Big Bear a few times in the last two years, and I must stay, there is something for every type of camper.  The campgrounds range from sites with potable water and outhouses, to the more primitive, Yellow Post sites, which only have a fire ring and a table.  So whatever adventure you’re in the mood for, Big Bear probably has it.

Now, even though some sites are available year round, in my opinion, the best time to camp in Big Bear would be either late spring, or early fall.  During these times, temperatures are in the 70’s during the day, and 40’s at night, and oh ya, no snow! This is perfect weather for almost all outdoor activities, including my favorite, hiking. Speaking of, All Trails has a great list of some of the most popular hikes in the area, all of which should be dog friendly, here is a link…All Trails Big Bear.  In a soon to be released post, I will review one of the hikes we went on, as well as some other activities do do while at the lake.  So now let’s get to actual campgrounds…

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Is Joshua Tree Dog Friendly?

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The short answer is the same as most national parks, which is, not really.  We do, however, go here about twice a year with Sierra because it’s conveniently located about 2 hours from Orange County and still makes for a nice weekend get away.  As long as you go into the park with the expectation of just hanging out around the campground and relaxing for the weekend, you can make it into a worth while trip for you and your dog.

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Summer Lake Tahoe Trip

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It’s been a while since my last post but I wanted to get this one out before the end of the year. Over the summer, we took a camping trip to Lake Tahoe with Sierra. First things first, if you enjoy camping with your dog, Tahoe needs to be at the top of your list of places to go in California. There are trails, two dog beaches, rafting adventures, and dog friendly restaurants everywhere. Most of the trails are dog friendly and there are so many to choose from, you will never be able to get to them all. They range from easy to difficult, which means there is something for every type of hike you are in the mood for. Some trails require a leash but others allow your well-trained dog to wander off leash to explore. The two beaches are on opposite sides of the lake, so you are never too far from one. The restaurants that are dog friendly have patio seating and some even provide doggie menus as well. We were even able to go river rafting with Sierra, which was one of the highlights of the trip and the whole Tahoe experience wouldn’t have been the same without her. As anyone who has a Husky, or any other high energy dog knows, they are almost impossible to tire out. This was the first trip where I think we actually accomplished this seemingly impossible feat. I couldn’t believe it. There are so many options for dog friendly activities in Tahoe, you could spend all summer here and still barely scratch the surface. In this blog, I will go into detail about everything we were able to cram into the 1 week we spent there.

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Trabuco Canyon Trail

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Over the last weekend we completed our latest dog friendly hike.  This was, by far, the most scenic and secluded trail that we have hiked so far and it was located off of Trabuco Creek Road in Trabuco Canyon, CA.  There are a few different trails here, but we chose a decent 5.4 mile out and back trail called Trabuco Canyon Trail.  Now, before we get to the actual hike, there are a few things you need to know to prepare for this hike.

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