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Cycle Touring with Your Dog

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Cycle touring with a dog certainly poses its challenges. In addition to voluntarily adding extra weight to an already heavy touring load, bringing a dog involves navigating a variety of transportation means (plane, train, subway, etc.), finding dog-friendly accommodations, ensuring your pup still receives her regular exercise and care on the road, and fulfilling international pet requirements for entry.

Despite the frequent obstacles we face by having Sora along on this journey, we have no regrets over our decision to bring her. She is by our side 24-hours a day and provides comfort when our battered bodies cannot handle another rotation of the pedals, lays by my side when I prepare dinner for the evening, and snuggles with us in the tent every morning before we begin our day.

Of course, traveling with a dog by bike is unusual and attracts quite a bit of attention. We are frequently stopped and asked how we travel with our dog. When perceived as an adventure rather than a hindrance, cycle touring with a dog is entirely doable with relative ease.

Below, we offer some tips we’ve learned over a year of cycle touring with your dog.

Make your dog’s trailer or transportation carrier is cozy

Sora spends a lot of the day in her trailer, so we want to create a safe, comfortable space for her to watch the world go by. We use Burley’s Tail Wagon, which offers her plenty of space to sit up, turn around, and fully extend with ample room for her gear (food, leash, water bowl, etc).

While Sora took to her trailer immediately, some dogs may not enjoy sitting in a confined space at first. Reward your pup with treats and/or praise for hopping into the trailer. Make it a comfortable and familiar space by placing a blanket or toy from home inside so that he feels safe. Consider rewarding your dog for staying in the trailer or travel space with some more positive reinforcement.

We line the bottom of Sora’s with her Kurgo Loft Wander Dog Travel Bed, which fits just about perfectly and we place her food bag near the entry to act as a pillow. Though the trailer has two partial rain covers and plenty of airflow with open mesh sides, we’ve connected makeshift rain and shade attachments using magnets to ensure optimal comfort, plus all of her gear stays dry.

Get the Stroller Attachment

After learning that airlines do no not charge for strollers checked at the gate days before our departure, we ordered the stroller attachment for the trailer right away. Slightly bulky, we discussed leaving the attachments behind in Oslo to be shipped to us at our final destination. We opted to keep the attachments, which have proven essential to our journey. We use the stroller daily to wheel our gear under our tent each night, we pushed Sora around in Berlin when she had to have emergency surgery, and we use it daily as a drying rack for our clothes.

Keep a separate bag of emergency dog food.

We keep two bags of food for Sora: Her Kibble Carrier that can hold 64 oz of food and an emergency bag in a quart-size zip top bag that lets us know when we need to purchase food ASAP.

So far, we have experienced little trouble finding quality dog food for Sora during our journey. We simply look for pet stores when we visit larger cities and purchase the food in small quantities, generally 4-5kg bags. Most of the packaging contains ingredients listed in at least 10 different languages, including English, so we rarely have trouble reading labels.

Buy a Three-Person Tent

When we first began cycle touring, we not only had Sora, but also our late dog, Maxwell. We crammed all four of us into a two-person tent. Dave and I slept with Maxwell in between us, breathing into our faces all night, while Sora slept in a corner at our feet, eventually spreading out over our legs during the night. We were all miserable.

Purchasing a three-person tent was the best gear decision we made. Dave and I each have our own space, Sora has plenty of room to lie out fully on her bed, and we even have availability to store our handlebar bags and dog food (which should always be kept inside. Trust us, we know how easily raccoons can sneak into your gear at night!).

Exercise

Sora requires and is used to a lot of exercise. Dave and I trail run several days per week in our regular Portland lives, and Sora comes along. She has kept me company while training for a 50K and ran along as a participant in the Peterson Ridge Rumble 20-miler in Sisters, OR. While her humans feel exhausted after these long runs, Sora wants to keep going.

To stave-off boredom and prevent a poorly behaved pup, we ensure that Sora gets enough exercise. Because she is used to running long distances, we allow her to run up to 10K daily beside the bikes (we especially recommend this on hills). Dave uses the Kurgo Quantum Leash clipped around his waist to keep her nearby.

Cycling with a dog attached to you can be a bit tricky and takes some practice. We use the following method with Sora:

  • We give her food reward once Sora is leashed up to indicate that this is a positive activity.
  • Before beginning, we tell Sora to sit just behind the rider, parallel to the rear wheel to show that the human is the one in charge.
  • Create a command that lets your dog know when it’s time to run. We use “let’s go running!”
  • When Sora is doing well, we reward her vocally and often.
  • If she goes in front of Dave or his wheel, he quickly tugs the leash as a correction and communicates where she should be with the command “this way.”

Front panniers can also act as bumpers once you get the hang of cycling with your dog running next to you.

Water

Sora has her own water bottle and collapsible water bowl that we store in her trailer. We offer her water every time we stop and frequently when the weather is warm. The Zippy Bowl is great for travel as it compacts into a small size and easily fits into the pocket of her trailer, it also clips to the leash or belt hook, so we can bring it along on rest days when we’re exploring cities, and it dries quickly.

Often Sora snubs the water we offer, so we either try to water nearby plants with her discards or pour it over her fur in hot weather to cool her down.

Once you get the hang of managing your pup during our cycle travels, it just becomes part of the adventure. We couldn’t imagine this trip without Sora.

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