A Beginner’s Guide to Bikejoring (and Scooterjoring) with Your Dog
Dogs love to be active and play outside–preferably with you. Bikejoring is perfect for the dog(s) who runs faster and/or has more energy than you.
Note: This unit has been designed to follow Unit 1.2 Canicross and is not written to stand alone.
Bikejoring and Scooterjoring are similar to dog sledding except instead of a sled, the driver uses a bike or a scooter. A single dog or a team of dogs may be used. The dogs pull the bike and its rider down a path. Bikejoring and scooterjoring can be done competitively or leisurely.
For the purpose of this article, the term bikejoring and scooterjoring will be used interchangeable. They are that similar!
Who Can Do It?
Like canicross, bikejoring is perfect for all ages. Any healthy dog can bikejor! The most common question we get is “Is my dog big enough to bikejor?” and the answer is YES! Even small dogs can pull a bike because the rider helps them by pedalling. However, you should always adjust the pace to your dog’s abilities and let him/her decide the speed.
There is also the option of running your dog beside the bike, just for exercise and not having them pull. This is called “BikeWYD” (“Bike With Your Dog”), and for this you’d need a “side attachment.” While some don’t, we recommend training commands even if you only plan on BikeWYD, as commands help keep you safer and help you control the dog. We do not recommend BikeWYD if your dog is going to pull as side attachments can’t handle the extreme pressures that an experienced dog can produce – we’ve seen pretty much every brand fail, and often the dog is injured in the process.
If you have already purchased the gear for canicross, you will already have a harness for your dog and a towline. In addition, you will need:
- A Bike or Scooter: Any decent bike with GOOD brakes will suffice. Mountain bike tires are best for stability, especially off road. There are now many models of scooters built for a dog to pull. Be sure to attach the line to the STEM of bike/scooter, never to the handlebars, and never run a dog just by holding a leash in your hand. This is a recipe for disaster.
- An Antenna: Also called a “noodle” or “gangline elevator,” this is a flexible device that keeps the line from tangling in the front wheel. There are numerous versions available, links to all of these can be found in the Supplies file. Some are expensive, but you can make your own cheaply with just a pool noodle or PVC pipe (instructions in the Supplies file). Although training “Line Out” should prevent the danger of your line entangling in the wheel, there is always the unexpected, so an antenna is a good precaution. Do not be tempted to connect your towline to the antenna – it is not designed to withstand the extreme force of well trained team.
- A Helmet: Protect your brain pan! It is not unusual for teams to go 20-30 mph – a wipeout can be quite serious!
Bike antennas do not have to be expensive, this one was made with PVC pipe, eyelet screw, carabiners, and poly rope.
Photo courtesy of Kelly Blatz.
If you read through Unit 1:2, you are in luck! The commands used in bikejoring are the same! Now is a good time to go back and make sure your dog is competent at command. Many drivers start by hooking the dog to themselves as they did in canicross, and then walking the bike beside the rider. This helps the dog adjust to the sounds and movements of the bike following behind them. Once your dog is able to follow your directions, you can hook them to the bike.
Just like canicross, off road is best for your dog. In addition, it is important to verify legality. Many places do not permit dog powered sports (excluding canicross which is generally permitted). In addition, some places permit bikejoring (or do not expressly ban bikejoring) BUT do not allow dogs to be on towlines longer than 6′. Check the files location for a list of places where dog powered sports are permitted.
Taking Care of Your Dog (and Yourself!)
Bikejoring is often more work for the dog than the driver. Many drivers pack extra water and dog dishes to make sure the dog stays hydrated. Other helpful gear includes goggles and gloves for the rider and dog booties.
Most drivers adhere to the rule of 120: if temperature and humidity is higher than 120, they do not bikejor with their dogs. This may seem especially restrictive in the hot summer months depending on the breed. You may see events held unusually early in the morning or late in the evening to ensure cool temps. Do pay attention to your dog – a dog’s tolerance will vary depending on many factors such as age, fitness level, and breed.
Let’s Get Social!
Bikejoring is even better with friends! Many dogs especially enjoy having another dog team to chase.
There are many dog powered clubs across The United States that you can join. Here in Minnesota, we connect with friends from our Facebook group Twin Cities Dog Powered Sports. We always welcome new members and have lots of information for newcomers no matter where you live. Interested in racing? There are a variety of trail races, dog-friendly road races, and virtual races for you and your dog to participate in!
TCDPS traffic jam! Photo courtesy of Scott Broberg.
Unit 1: Intro to Dog Powered Sports