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Are you captivated by Wallace and Gromit?
That red motorbike and sidecar with Gromit riding shotgun is something once seen, never forgotten.
A sidecar often attracts attention on the road, and how much more so with a pooch for a passenger! If bikes are your preferred transport and you have a passion for sidecars, then you'll want to share the experience with your best buddy. Plus, it's a fun way of getting around, so why not enjoy being different and go biking with your best buddy.
If you do decide to go down the route of having a canine co-pilot, as well as training him to be happy in the sidecar, also spare a thought for his safety. A pair of safety goggles is a good idea to protect his eyes from road grit, while a crash-test approved safety harness is also a must.
Training a dog to ride in a sidecar is about the dog having fun and being relaxed whilst traveling. Don't make the mistake of forcing the dog into the vehicle and strapping him in as a means of stopping him escaping. If you do that, the chances are the dog will be terrified and become increasingly resentful of getting into the sidecar.
The aim is to teach the dog that a sidecar is a safe place to be and nice things happens when inside it. Then the dog will willingly get inside and enjoy his road trips, which makes it fun for everyone.
You will need:
- A motorbike and sidecar
- A quiet spot to park the bike
- Super-scrumptious treats
- A dog bowl and food
- A canine safety harness
- Doggie safety goggles.
You can train a dog of any age to be confident in a sidecar. If you have a puppy, get ahead of the game by introducing the sidecar early as part of his socialization. Puppies are particularly open to learning new experiences, so feeding him in the sidecar will get you a long way to having an adult dog that's comfortable riding on the open road.
The Sidecar = Treats Method
Understand the idea
With the sidecar stationary, you help the dog 'discover' it, with the help of a trail of treats. The dog learns to associate the sidecar with tasty snacks and is happy to hop in.
Lay a trail of treats
The dog will feel less pressured if he discovers the joy of sitting in the sidecar for himself. Park the sidecar combo in a quiet place, such as a driveway or garage. Choose a high value treat the dog really enjoys, such as slivers of chicken or ham. Lay a trail of morsels for the dog to follow.
Put treats in the sidecar
Place some treats within easy reach inside the sidecar. Lay the trail so they lead to these treats. Patiently encourage him to find the treats and climb into the sidecar to eat them.
Reward him in the sidecar
With the dog willingly getting into the parked sidecar, praise and reward him while he's inside. Hold his attention with treats in the hand, and make him wait to receive. You are teaching him that the sidecar is a good place to be so that he readily gets in without fear or anxiety.
Feed meals in the sidecar
To reinforce the message, feed him meals in the sidecar. Then he will jump in eagerly in anticipation of his next meal. Praise him while he eats his food. Once the dog is readily getting in and sitting nicely, you are ready to move onto the Moving Sidecar Method.
The Moving Sidecar Method
Understand the idea
So far, the dog has been getting used to a parked vehicle with the engine off. Now it's time to slowly get him used to engine noise and being comfortable inside the moving sidecar.
Switch on the ignition
Once the dog is comfortable with the sidecar, you can introduce the extra elements of noise and then movement. A noisy, smelly engine is unsettling for a dog, so allow him to get used to this before putting him in the sidecar.
Build his confidence
With the engine running, lay a trail of treats around the vehicle. Don't necessarily expect the dog to approach closely, the aim is to have the dog relaxed in the general area first.
Take things slowly
Gauge the dog's reaction. If he is very fearful and reluctant to approach, gauge the distance at which he is relaxed. Offer him treats on this spot. Now take a step closer and reward him. Gradually, close the distance between you and the bike, all the time rewarding boldness. If may be necessary to return many times to this step, in order to bolster his bravery and help him understand there's nothing to be fearful of.
Feed In the sidecar
With the engine on, encourage the dog to sit in the sidecar for treats and his meals. When the dog understands good things happen in the sidecar he will start to ignore the noise and vibration to hop right on in.
Slow rides on the road
And finally, once the dog is comfortable in the sidecar with the engine running, roll the bike forward a little. Moving at a walking pace, allow the dog to get used to the motion. Over several sessions build up the speed.
The What NOT to Do Method
Never punish the dog
If the dog is reluctant to get into the sidecar, or once placed inside jumps straight out, then NEVER punish him. Instead, ask yourself how you can make the sidecar more attractive to him and reward any boldness the dog shows in approaching. Be prepared for this to take a while.
Do NOT force the dog
Never force the dog into the sidecar against his will. If he doesn't want to get in, the chances are he lacks confidence or is fearful about the sidecar. Forcing him inside will stress him and make the anxiety worse rather than better.
Do NOT restrain the Dog by the Neck
Avoid fastening the dog's collar to an anchor point in the sidecar. Braking forces and acceleration may jolt the dog's neck and injure it. A better option is a crash-test approved travel harness, clipped into the seatbelt anchor.
Do NOT speed
Your dog doesn't yet know how to anticipate corners or brace for bumps in the road. Keep your speed right down, so as to give him time to adjust to the jolts and jostling. Also, by keeping the speed down he is less likely to injure himself if he did try to jump out.
Do NOT overwhelm the dog
Many dogs take to sidecar travel and love it. However, some do not. If your dog dislikes the motion or noise of a sidecar then chalk it up to experience and know that it's not for him. Only pursue having a canine passenger if the dog is enjoying the experience.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 10/18/2017, edited: 01/08/2021