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Have you been looking for a new and interesting way to exercise your dog? You might be a good candidate for bikejoring. Read on to learn about what bikejoring is and how you can get started.
What is bikejoring?
Active Dog Sports describes bikejoring as “similar to traditional mushing on a sled except it’s with a bike.” Essentially, one dog or a team of dogs are leashed to a bike (with a person riding it), and they pull the bike like a sled.
The exact origins of bikejoring are not known, and we aren’t sure what time period bikejoring grew out of. However, we do know that it was born out of traditional dog sled mushing. It is thought that skijoring, in which a person on skis is pulled by a dog (in the snow), came out of dog sled mushing, and that bikejoring came after skijoring.
Why is it called bikejoring?
“Bikejoring” is a bike-centric version of the word “skikjøring,” which is a Norweigeian term meaning “ski driving.”
Popularity of bikejoring
It’s tough to say exactly how popular bikejoring is, but the sport, which was already well-established in Europe, has been gaining popularity in the US since about 2010. There are more and more bikejoring race events happening in the U.S. every year!
Is bikejoring for me?
Bikejoring is definitely a “high adrenaline” sport, and is probably not for everyone—it’s a more intense sport than many other outdoor dog exercise activities! But if you like high adrenaline activities and your dog loves running and pulling objects, bikejoring might be a good option to consider.
Bikejoring does involve some level of difficulty, as it involves new experiences and training for you and your dog. You’ll need to start slow and teach them some basic cues before you jump on your bike. Active Dog Sports has a great list of basic cues to teach your dog in the beginning stages of bikejoring.
What kind of dogs enjoy bikejoring?
First, let’s start with what dogs should not participate in bikejoring:
- Puppies (their bones are still growing)
- Small breeds
- Senior dogs who have mobility issues
Now onto dogs who are likely to enjoy bikejoring:
- Athletic dogs that love running
- Dogs that are bred for mushing, like Siberian Huskies
- Dogs that enjoy pulling things (you might have to test this out if you’re not sure
All of these dogs should be medium or large breeds, weighing 35 pounds or more.
Make sure to take your dog to the vet for a checkup before getting started—you’ll want to make sure your dog is healthy and does not have any hidden issues that could make bikejoring too stressful on his body.
Is bikejoring dangerous?
Bikejoring is inherently dangerous. Although there are plenty of ways to take precautions, the sport itself involves attaching a dog to a bike, which itself contains many moving parts.
You also need to consider the weather and the type of ground you’re on. Bikejoring is an intense workout for your dog. It should not be done in hot weather, and you should always provide your dog with plenty of fresh water. You should never do bikejoring on pavement, as it can be tough on your dog’s joints. You must also be diligent about checking your dog’s paw pads to make sure they have not sustained any injuries or “blown a pad,” meaning the skin is ripped from the bottom of their paws because of an abrasive surface.
Additionally, even if you train your dog well, there may be things and people on trails that are beyond your control. Be aware of the possibility that you may encounter unleashed dogs, squirrels, or small children.
Is bikejoring ethical?
You may have heard the many allegations of cruelty in the Iditarod, a famous sled dog race in Alaska. This may make you wonder whether there are ethics concerns around bikejoring as well, since it’s also a “mushing” sport.
While ethics around dog sports can be tricky, the concerns around the Iditarod largely stem from the conditions that the dogs are kept in. Additionally, the Iditarod is a 1,000-mile race, an extremely long distance to force a dog to run.
Since bikejoring is only between you and your dog, it is up to you to make the conditions humane. Some people may believe it is inherently unethical to have your dog pull you. But if you don’t believe the act is inherently unethical, it’s up to you to make it humane and enjoyable for your dog. You should only try bikejoring if you truly believe your dog is the type who would enjoy it, and then, you must check in with your dog frequently to see how they are feeling. If they give any indications of discomfort or just don’t seem “into it,” then bikejoring is not for your dog, and you should stop immediately.
How to get started with bikejoring
Bike and bike accessories: If you have a mountain bike, it’s probably good enough to start bikejoring with (you don’t need to buy a special bike). Take it into a bike shop to have it tuned up before you get started. You’ll also need a bike helmet for yourself. Make sure it fits properly and adjust straps, etc as needed. Goggles (for yourself) are also a good idea, as dirt and gravel can fly at your face during bikejoring. You’ll also need bike mirrors for safety. Lastly, you’ll want to purchase side bags for your bike to keep water and safety gear in.
Gangline: A gangline attaches the dog to the bike. K9TrailTime has some helpful tips on choosing a gangline.
Harness: Most dog sports harnesses can be used for any sporting activity, so you don’t necessarily have to purchase a special bikejoring harness. The harness should be comfortable for your dog, and should not restrict their movement in any way. K9TrailTime also has more information on choosing a good harness.
Protective dog booties: Optional but a good idea for keeping your dog’s paws safe. (If your dog does not regularly wear foot coverings, you will have to take some time to get them used to the booties.)
The above equipment is for beginners who are getting started with one dog (rather than multiple dogs). If you add another dog or want to become more advanced, you might need additional equipment. Check out Active Dog Sports’ bikejoring gear checklist for more information.
You can choose to train your dog yourself, or you can hire a trainer for help. (The AKC has a great article about how to find a qualified trainer.) As mentioned above, Active Dog Sports has a great list of basic bikejoring cues to teach your dog. You’ll need to start teaching your dog these cues while walking, before adding the bike. Make sure your dog is very comfortable with everything they’ve learned before getting them started with the bike.
Safety and health
- Never run on pavement, as it’s bad for your dogs’ joints (and gets too hot in warm weather)
- Only bikejor in areas that are appropriate, such as trails with relatively few other people and animals
- Always carry a first aid kit with you (you can create one with supplies for both you and your dog)
- Always carry plenty of water for both you and your dog, as well as snacks if you’re going to be out for a long time
- Do not bikejor in hot weather, as it is strenuous exercise for your dog and you do not want them to overheat
- Always hold bike handlebars with both hands, and only use the hind brake while riding—using the front brake can cause you to flip over.
- Never overexert your dog, and always stop if they seem tired or overheated.
A good source is the United States Federation of Sleddog Sports, which can teach you about bikejoring as well as other mushing sports. The Northwest Sled Dog Association is a helpful resource as well, as is K9 Scooters Northwest. (Both are based in the Northwest but have information that’s helpful to anyone.)
The AKC also recommends seeing if you have an established bikejoring club in your area—if you’re interested in advancing to races, a club can provide you with information on how to get started.
Trainer that reviewed this article
There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers. The trainers that review our content are reviewed by other trainers to ensure that we have the best quality filters on our content.
This is the trainer that reviewed this article:
Olivia Peterson, CCS
Owner – Sound Connection Dog Training
WSU Bachelors in Animal Science Business Management
Northwest School of Canine Studies (NWSCS) Certification