How to Train Your Dog to Ride in a Bike Trailer

How to Train Your Dog to Ride in a Bike Trailer
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-4 Weeks
Fun training category iconFun

Introduction

If you have been out on the bike trails around your home recently, you are sure to have seen all the pooches sitting comfortably in a trailer being towed behind their owner's bike. While this might seem to be a bit on the "cute" side, when you take a look at the big picture, it can be a great way to take your pup along with you for the ride. Cycling is a great sport and very good for your health, but if you stop along the way and let your pup get out to run beside you, it can be great for his health too.

Dogs love to be out in the fresh air with their owners; they love to run, walk, jump and play. But often the distances you travel on your bike would simply be too much for your pup to handle. Can you imagine trying to make your dog run or walk the 20 miles you have planned for your next ride? It would not only be exhausting, it would destroy his pads and feet. A dog bike trailer offers you the perfect solution to the problem and gives you and your pup a chance to enjoy the great outdoors together. 

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Defining Tasks

The basic concept is to train your pup to enjoy riding in a doggy bike carrier (note that these are very similar to those used to carry small children). This should be a lot of fun for both of you and once your pup gets used to the trailer, he will soon be begging you to go for a ride every chance he gets. Imagine how much fun the two of you can have when you put your pup in the trailer and head out to the local dog park.

Be sure you get a trailer made for dogs, these are made from materials that are much easier to clean than those made for children. Many come with a removable washable floor pan that can be rinsed out with a hose. This can come in really handy if you go for a ride on days when the play area is muddy or if your pup happens to have an "accident" while you are going down the trail. 

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Getting Started

It doesn't take much to train your dog to ride in a bike trailer beyond having the desire to take him with you whenever you have a chance to get out and go for a bike ride. You will, of course, need a few treats, a doggy bike trailer, and time to go out for a ride. The more time you can take to go for a ride, the faster your pup will master this relatively simple and fun activity.

Always remember that training like this should be fun. If your pup seems nervous or scared, let him take all the time he needs to get used to the trailer before proceeding. If you try to push too hard, your pup may balk at the idea and never want to go for a ride with you. Should this happen, you may ruin any chance at going for fun rides together. 

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The Starting Inside Method

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1

Build it inside

Start by assembling the trailer without the wheels and set it in a convenient place in your home where your pup can see it, sniff it, get in and out of it, and basically just get used to it.

2

If he won't go in

If your pup won't go inside the trailer, try tossing his favorite toys or a treat inside and give him plenty of time to decide when he goes in. Once he goes in, be sure praise him and give him more treats.

3

Moving on out

Once your pup is used to his new trailer, go ahead and take it outside and put the wheels on it. Then hitch the trailer to your bike.

4

Getting him in the trailer

Call your pup and tell him to get in the trailer. If he doesn't, try the toy or treat again. Have him repeat going in and out several times until he has become thoroughly used to doing so.

5

Secure and ready to go

Once he is used to getting in and out of the trailer, connect his leash to the internal loop fastener. Close the door and open the rollback top so he can stand up and see what's going on.

6

Go for a short ride

Your first ride with your pup should be a nice short one that lets both of you get used to the whole thing. Keep the ride nice and slow and avoid anything that might jostle your pup such as potholes, curbs, and rough roads.

7

Extend the ride

Extend the length of your rides each time you go out until you can go anywhere with your pup in the trailer and both of you are having fun going wherever you please.

The Lay Down Method

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Set up

Set up your pup's bike trailer in a spot where it can set for a few days, like the corner of your living room.

2

Using a treat

Using one of your pup's favorite treats, lure him into the trailer. If he hops right back out, that's okay. Most dogs are not happy at first-- the trailer can make them feel trapped. If he stays in the trailer, give him a treat and plenty of praise. If he hops out, repeat this process until you can get him to go into the trailer easily.

3

Command words

You can use a command word like "in" for this or you may want to teach your pup to get in the trailer when you say "wanna go for a bike ride?", it's up to you.

4

Make it comfy

Make the inside of the trailer comfortable for your pup by adding a blanket or pillow and repeat the training process adding the command to 'lay down'.

5

Pull the trailer

Start getting your pup used to the moving trailer by pulling it around the yard before you hitch it up to your bike. Then attach the bike and walk it around the yard. Finally, once your pup is used the motion, hop on your bike and go for a short, slow ride. Once he is used to all of this, you can take him out for your next real bike ride and both of you should have a blast.

The Introduction Method

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Start the introductions

Start by bringing the trailer into the house and introducing your dog to it. Let him sniff it, look at it, get in and out of it-- use treats if needed. The more he gets used to it now, the easier it will be to get him in it outside.

2

Meet my bike

Hook the trailer and bike together and then bring your dog over to the combination, let him walk around and get used to the whole setup.

3

In the trailer

Have your dog get into the trailer, secure his leash, and zip up the doors. Make sure any vents or screened windows are open, so he gets plenty of fresh air. If he starts to get upset, take him out and go back through the whole getting used to it process again.

4

Go for a walk

Don't just hop on your bike and start pedaling away. Instead, walk the bike slowly while giving your dog plenty of praise. Stop and give him treats frequently and heap on the praise.

5

Slow ride, take it easy

Next, it's time to go for a ride. Start out nice and slow, allowing your pup to get used to the increase in speed. Do a few turns, try a few bumps, maybe even a few obstacles, constantly checking to make sure your pup is okay.

6

Add speed slowly

Slowly build up your riding speed, adding in a few distractions along the way until you and your pup can go anywhere you want and have a great time.

By PB Getz

Published: 10/23/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Mila

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Belgian Shepherd

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Five Months

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Question

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Hey there, we have difficulties driven Mila in a Bike Trailer. Before we bought the trailer, we had her in the front basket and she was happy in it. Now she got too big for that. The trips are often through the woods where we sometimes let her run beside the bike for a short while. The problem is, that she loves to run even more than to drive. So now, every time we drive in the woods, she starts to cry and bark because she wants to run. We tried the following: - Ignoring and reinforcing when she is quite - Using a bone in the trailer that she is busy. Nothing worked. :(

Aug. 2, 2022

Mila's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would start by teaching pup "Quiet" and "Down". Quiet method for teaching Quiet: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark I would recruit a second person to help you train ideally so one person can move the bike and the other person run along side to instruct pup and reward them. Start by simply teaching Down and Quiet at home without involving the trailer yet (pup may already know Down). Next, practice Down and Quiet in the trailer with treats with the trailer just sitting still while pup stays inside. Next, while Mila is in the trailer, you can instruct pup to be Quiet, and the second person can reward with a small treat passed to pup while they are in the trailer if they stay quiet as you move the bike and attached trailer. Freeze dried liver tends to be easy to eat and digest and highly motivating. When pup continues crying or stops but starts immediately again, then you can interrupt the crying like James does in the third training video I liked below. The video shows a dog in a crate instead of a trailer but addressing the barking in a crate versus a trailer should be very similar since both are confined spaces and pup is barking to protest the confined space. Ideally, all of this would be done with the help of a professional trainer who has experience with this tool and this type of arousal though. For the purpose of desensitizing pup to the trailer, you will need to work pup up to trips in the trailer again very slowly, otherwise pup might be too stimulated and excited to succeed at first. You want trailer rides to become boring in the end - not something pup dreads but also not something where pup is allowed to work themselves up to such a high level of arousal without interruption. Interrupting pup early in their arousal during the ride, when pup is still in a state of mind to learn will probably be far more effective than waiting until pup is super worked up before correcting, which is another reason why I recommend starting with pup just being in the trailer still and quiet at first - to keep their arousal low at first. To properly fit an e-collar, check out this video on their use and fit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Training: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3j882MAYDU Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 2, 2022

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Teddy

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Staffy

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2 Years

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Teddy is dog reactive. Isn’t vocal but if a dog gets within a short distance he will whimper and strain at the very end of the lead. We are trying to deter with treats but he zones us out. Can you recommend any other way of breaking his fixed focus

June 2, 2021

Teddy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ailene, If pup aggressive toward other dogs? If so, I would see if there is a G.R.O.W.L. class you can drive within driving distance of you. Those classes are designed for dog reactive/aggressive dogs, and all the dogs wear basket muzzles in class and through structured obedience and intensive socialization the dogs are worked through their reactivity. If pup is not aggressive, but simply overly excited or reactive, check out the Passing Approach method. I would not make your goal for the dogs to meet in your case, but simply recruit friends with well mannered dog, or work with a trainer and their dog, to do the passes at a far enough distance pup can succeed repeatedly. The repeats and control over the distance help the other dog become boring, so that with repetition and structured obedience incorporated, pup is less excited about the dog, opposed to passing lots of different dogs. As pup responds more calmly and ignore the other dog, you can then reward that calm body language and focus on you. This needs to be practiced with lots of different dogs, working around just one dog at a time until pup is good passing that dog, before starting over again with another dog - so pup learns how to associate dogs in general with their new calmness and focus on you, instead of being good around just the one other dog you practiced around. For this reason, it can be easier to work with a training group that has access to multiple well mannered dogs, like the trainers' dogs. Be sure to ask about access to other dogs and how many for training sessions with any trainer you pursue. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 2, 2021


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