Training a dog to use a dog trailer is a serious and important task for safe bike commuting.
Well, we are no longer trying to train Honey to be a bike commuter! In April 2022 I decided I wanted to become an electric bike commuter. Ultimately I wanted to “ditch the car” and not have any reliance on it. This included taking Honey on bike adventures. Unfortunately, I did not follow the steps (I can almost hear our dog trainers voice in my head) and Honey will not be bike commuting. Here are the lessons I have learned along the way:
- Know your dogs personality – we knew Honey had a hard time in cars. A moving “crate” certainly would have some challenges and we did. She has been trained to “follow” me on my mountain bike so I had some hope she was not scared of bikes.
- Find commands your dog is familiar with – Honey has a command “up” to go up on pillows, stairs, rocks etc. this did transfer well to the dog trailer (for loading).
- Take it slow, I mean really slow – we rushed putting Honey in the dog trailer and lead to fear and anxiety with it.
- Take a few weeks with the dog trailer in your living room – we mounted Honey’s dog trailer with the wheels off on some pillows, and would feed her dinner in it. While we made progress it was slow and inefficient.
- Add the wheels sooner than later – on our PetSafe trailer (easy to use, and nice model by the way) when we put the wheels on (1.5 months into training) it was like starting over again. Honey would dart around the room to get away from it.
- Make it a daily habit – Honey did make some improvements with loading the trailer for treats when we incorporated it into her daily “training” for treats. I noticed however when we slipped a day or two it was like starting over again.
- Wheel it around the house – ok, so we never got to this stage but from the research I have found it is essential so the dog is familiar with the movement.
- Naps + treats – just like crate training, the dog trailer needs to become a safe place. Familiar blankets and treat time will help.
- Use the leash – there is an internal leash, make sure your dog is acclimated and used to it inside before your first ride. On the one ride Honey and I did she did not wear it, the second time I put it on her and I believe it spooked her.
- Make sure your dog has an ok relationship with bikes – Honey is ok with bikes! I do know dogs who are not, spend some time walking your dog on leash with the bike, and eventually walk next to bike trailer before your first adventure.
While bike trailering is not in Honey’s journey – I will continue to mountain bike with her. I have recognized that it will never be “fun” for us to “load up the dog trailer” and it will always be a battle. I want my time with her to be fun and relaxed. Do I believe at this point we could safely bike commute with her – yes. I think the two months of training we did would allow us to be safe – but not fun.
Do you have a dog trailer – what was your experience like? On a side note I did end up using her trailer for grocery shopping and hauling – and it worked splendidly.
If you are in the market for dog trailers I love my PetSafe (I purchased used, it is the Chewy brand) and found many others on ebay: Pet Trailers.
Happy biking & trailering! Emily & Honey