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If you ride with your dog you should read the excellent article by Mark Peterson at the bottom of this page.
Yarrow and Kirby
Yarrow Leading the way
Ride with your Dog? Save your dog.
As mountain biking grows in popularity it is only natural that we want to share the experience with our K-nine friends. It is important to remember that bicycles are still the most efficient form of transportation known to man. A dog is no match for a bike. Sadly, some dog owners have found out the hard way, losing their hound to heat exhaustion, over exertion or bloat (inverted stomach). Literally riding a dog to death is unfortunate reality. The same scenario has happened with long distance runners too. Here are some tips to keep you and your K-nine buddy riding for years to come.
1. Be aware of the breed of your dog and their biological make-up. Obviously a St. Bernard or Mastiff is not a long distance dog. Neither are retrievers and other "hunting" dogs. Some individuals within a breed do ok AFTER they have attained a good fitness level. But just like us, if they have been on the couch all winter they will need to work up to any distance rides too. Good breeds for riding are Shepard types that have been bred for the all day round up affairs. This would include breeds like Blue Heelers & Australian Shepard. Also, especially in spring heavier coated breeds have not lost all of their winter coat, furthering the chances of heat exhaustion. The first unseasonably warm days of the year are the ones presenting the biggest danger.
2. Riding with your dog should be just that, a ride with your dog. A training ride for your fitness level is absolutely the wrong ride to take your dog on. Just as you wouldn't take your child on the epic death march from hell, your dog shouldn't be expected to endure it either. It is important to be aware of your dog and their disposition at all times while on the ride.
3. Do not allow your dog to eat large amount of dry kibble or drink large quantities of water during or before vigorous exercise. This especially important with larger breeds. The K-nine stomach is shaped like an upside down boda bag (remember high school ski bus?). When it becomes top heavy, vigorous exercise may cause it to invert thus causing a bowel obstruction and death. This is commonly known as Bloat and the only remedy is surgery to physically return the stomach to its proper position. Obviously, this would be tough to accomplish on the side of your favorite single track. Keep your dog hydrated just like you should hydrate yourself with small quantities of water at frequent intervals.
4. Be able to recognize the warning signs of over exertion/heat exhaustion. Dogs will literally follow you to their death. On warm days Fido is best left at home in the shade. They will continue to run till they collapse of exhaustion or heat stroke and by then it is too late. Rarely will a dog sit down and hang out while it waits for its heart rate monitor to get out of the red zone! If your dog is 100's of yards behind you on the descent you are riding too fast. If your dog's head begins to drop down below shoulder level your dog has hit the RED ZONE. Dogs being predatory by nature will keep their heads up as long as they are physically able. If your dog is dragging tongue with its head down STOP and give them a long rest. They are on the verge of heat exhaustion. The most prudent action would be to get them into the shade. Cool them down with water from a stream or your own water supply. Then walk NOT ride with them back to car, resting as necessary.
5. Get them to the VET. Heat exhaustion, bloat & over exertion can ONLY be effectively treated at the veterinarians office. If your dog is exhibiting any unusual or suspect behavior call your vet, ask questions and get them there if need be. In many cases time is of the essence. The $60.00 vet check up is well worth them money, not only for peace of mind, but may very well save their life.
6. Don't be afraid to spread the word. Yes, sometimes someone may give you the sideways glance, but just as we encourage you to inform fellow users about trail etiquette, we encourage you do the same for dog and bike safety. The unfortunate souls who have had to endure the death of their dog really just didn't know. Magazines love to do articles on dogs and bikes but don't list the precautions that should be observed. This gives the false impression that any dog can do any ride in any condition. Not much has been done to educate mountain bikers about dog and bike safety so every bit helps.
Soooo all of this being said as long as the proper precautions are observed riding with your hound can be a great way to share the trail experience with your k-nine friend. Have a great, fun and safe ride with your hound of choice.
Cheers,Marko Mark Peterson,