Taking a Dog on a Bicycle Tour

“You’re taking your dog bicycle touring?”

We get asked that question a lot.  And yes, we are taking our dog bicycle touring.  I know it seems crazy, and – for the record – I want to make it clear the dog was John’s idea.  John and the kids actually wanted to get a dog down in Mexico last year and I managed to hold them off for a while anyway.  I mean – who in their right mind would get a dog when they are about to take off for a 2 ½ year bike trip?

In my quest to convince John it’s impossible (and quite possibly – insane) to carry a dog to Argentina, I actually managed to convince myself that it’s quite possible.  I’m not totally convinced about the sane part of the equation yet – but I’m convinced it’s possible.

As I researched I found a number of important facts, some of which I’ve used in planning so far, and others I’ve stashed in the back of my mind to draw upon once we are on the road.  In no particular order – here is a bunch of what I’ve learned.

  • A dog will drink more water on the road than at home, but will eat about the same amount.
    I’ve got a special corner of Dash’s basket set aside where his water bottle will go.  I’ll plan on giving him water each time we stop, which means at least every hour.
  • A dog needs shade when it’s hot and warmth when it’s cold.
     I’ll be carrying two sweaters (one wool, one acrylic) that I can layer on him as needed.  I’ve also got his sleeping bag/blanket made for him to snuggle into when it’s cold.  I have a sunshade designed but not made yet – I’ll get it made in the next month or so.
  • A very small dog is best on the handlebars, a bit bigger dog does best on the rear rack, and even bigger dogs need to go in a trailer.
    Ideally I would have Dash on my handlebars so I could keep an eye on him all the time.  However, I’m not sure I want 12 pounds moving around on my steering wheel.  Having him on my rear rack is the next best thing – I’ll be able to keep an eye on him in my rear view mirror and can reach back to check on him frequently.  If he needs something, he can tell me easily.
    A frequent question we get is, “Why not in a trailer?”  There are a couple of reasons for that.  One is the distance from me and the fact that I wouldn’t be able to see or touch him as I’m riding.  The other, and perhaps major, reason is that he is simply too light.  Twelve pounds simply isn’t enough to hold a trailer down and he would be bouncing all over.  Most people who carry their dogs in a trailer have larger (30 – 50 pound) dogs, which is enough weight to keep the trailer down.  Twelve pounds just won’t do it.  The other problem with a trailer is that it is so close to the hot pavement, the dog can overheat too easily.  Having Dash up on my rack will eliminate that problem.
  • A dog should be chained in at all times.
    My goal is for Dash to be able to move as much as possible, but not be able to get out of his basket to chase random squirrels.  His chain is connected to two sides of the basket and the loop he is hooked on to can “float” on the chain.  He can move as much as he wants and can get his paws up on the side of the basket – but can’t get one centimeter farther.  If, somehow, Dash managed to get out of his basket, he will be hooked in with a harness rather than a collar so he won’t strangle himself.

Here are pics of Dash in his little Dashmobile – he’s pretty darn cute!

The good news is that we aren’t the first ones to do this.  Maybe we are the first ones to cycle the entire Pan-American Highway with a pet, but not the first to tour on bikes with them.

Dylan and Cheri Harris carried a cat from Colombia to Argentina on their bikes.

Jodi and Scott toured the mountains of California with their 55-pound dog, Djengo.

Hank tours with not one, but two, dogs on the back of his bike!

Jenia has loads of fun touring with her 17-pound Jack Russell terrier named Lucy.

Bob cycled 2400 miles with his chocolate lab, Brandy.

The Reverend Cindy Morgan cycled 500 miles with her 70-pound service dog.

Diana and Zeke decided they wanted to do something special for their 50th Anniversary, but didn’t want to leave their miniature poodle, Lexus, behind.

Cabell and his dog, Coltrane, pedaled across the USA on the American Discovery Trail in 2006.

This guy took his dog touring in New Zealand in a special basket on his XtraCycle.

I haven’t read this book since I don’t speak French, but I’ve heard it’s wonderful.  It’s about a man who cycled through Russia, Alaska, and Canada with his dog – in winter!

Travelling Two have a podcast of an interview with a Dutch couple touring Italy with their dog, Hunter.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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10 Responses to Taking a Dog on a Bicycle Tour

  1. Heather June 26, 2008 at 3:29 pm #

    I am planning on doing a cross country trip with my “very thin” great dane this fall. I am working on making a custom trailer to accomadate him. He is only 115 lbs. Do you think it sounds crazy? You mentioned that the trailer gets to hot so close to the ground?? I guess I did not think through that one fully!! I will figure out something, he is my theropy dog (cant leave him behind) Any advice would be great! Thanks

  2. nancy June 28, 2008 at 12:05 am #

    Carrying 115 pounds will be tough – but I’m sure it’s doable. I would imagine a great dane would be able to walk beside you on the uphill portions, so you wouldn’t have to haul him for those parts. I would say just “go” and figure it out as you go – that’s what we generally do! And HAVE FUN!!!!

  3. Matt October 5, 2008 at 8:29 pm #

    How did the trip go? I am considering biking from Pittsburgh to DC with my 120 lbs Swiss Mt Dog.

  4. Natalie Perzylo April 12, 2009 at 8:16 pm #

    I have been looking at your site, and pictures, but i can’t see the dog. Where’s the dog??

  5. nancy April 13, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    In the end, Dash did not go with us. We had everything ready to go and we were all looking forward to traveling with him. then one evening he wandered off while I was working on the bike and was hit by a car. We all miss him tremendously and still wish he was here.

  6. Pam June 10, 2009 at 8:57 am #

    Does any one know how the laws of quarantine work in the countries of Mexico and South America? I would like to take my RV down the Pan Am highway.

  7. nancy June 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm #

    From what we’ve been able to find out, the only country that is a problem for animals is Chile – it’s doable, but more of a hassle to get all the documentation. The other countries pose no problem at all.

  8. Fin December 3, 2009 at 5:42 am #

    One more tour to add to the list. My girlfriend and I have travelled 17,000 kms/10,000 miles so far around Europe with a 40kg/90lbs Husky/Retriever/Grizzly Bear cross, and a 15kg/30lbs Portuguese Podengo.

    And here’s another couple touring with their dog Rambo in South America. I asked them if they had any trouble crossing borders:
    “The only border, where they really checked papers and bags was from Argentina entering Chile. For all the other countries (including French Guyana, which in theory is Europe…) we had our papers ready (vaccinations and a paper from the vet, that the dog is healthy), but nobody cared.”

  9. Laura May 18, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    If my dog was a Great Dane I would get him to help me haul the load – there is no such thing as a free bowl of dog food!

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