Since we recently ran a dog bike basket article for pint-sized pooches, we thought we should also cover a convenient form of transportation for your bigger furry buddy – bike trailers!
I have used these trailers myself while fostering a few different senior or disabled dogs for dog rescues, and they are fantastic in terms of convenience and practicality.
Even better, they’ll allow you to give your dog a happier life by allowing him to spend a lot more time with you. Bike trailers seem like a strange concept to many people – if you have a large dog, why not just allow him to run free next to your bike?
Surely, he can keep up? While many large dogs can keep up to a bike, at least for a few miles, there are several reasons why having a bike trailer may be a smarter, safer and more practical option.
Keep reading to find out some of the many reasons why you might need a bike trailer.
Why would I want to buy a bike trailer?
Your dog is suffering from an illness, an injury or a degenerative disease
Using a trailer with any large dog makes life much easier, more convenient, and more fun. However, if you have an ill, injured, or disabled dog, you can dramatically improve her well-being by taking her out in the bike trailer to see and smell the world around her.
It is common for many young and active large dogs to suffer ligament and joint tears (like an ACL tear) that often requires months of crate confinement to heal.
These naturally energetic breeds often go stir crazy with pent up energy but have no way to let it out. A great solution to this problem is using a bike trailer!
This way you’re still following your vet’s bed-rest orders, but your dog can blow off some steam and calm down as she takes in the sights, sounds and smells of the world passing by from the safe confinement of a bike trailer.
Your dog is a senior and wants to enjoy his golden years by your side
Another great use for bike trailers is for taking your loyal senior dog out to enjoy his golden years to the fullest. For these dogs, getting around is slower and more painful for them than it used to be, but they’re not ready to give up their daily walks with you just yet.
Many owners report handling this stage of their dog’s life much more easily by getting a bike trailer that converts to a dog stroller. This way, their dog can still enjoy the walks, runs and bike rides with you that they used to, but when they become tired, they can hope into the bike trailer/stroller and you can keep on going as you always have together for all those years.
You want to take your puppy or new rescue dog to fun new places
Young dogs, as much as seniors, still want and need both socialization and exercise, but they often run out of energy before you do.
Even more important than your puppy becoming tired quickly, is the fact that young dogs and some rescue dogs are often untrained and likely to pull you into traffic or cause a dangerous accident when they see another dog they want to say hi to, or a squirrel they want to chase.
By putting your puppy in the bike trailer, you greatly increase the number of different fun places you and your dog can go walking together, while still ensuring both their safety and yours.
Without a bike trailer you can still go to different places in a car, but if you are trying to reduce your environmental footprint, don’t own a car or have a license, or are trying to get more exercise yourself – a bike trailer is a much better option to transport you and your pooch.
Bike trailers offer the best of both worlds as they don’t require any special training to use other than getting your dog used to being a calm pet passenger.
You dream of taking your active dog on a long-distance bike tour
If you’ve always dreamed of traveling the country (or even another country) by bike but have questioned the feasibility of bringing your furry friend along for such an epic adventure – a bike trailer is the solution.
Most owners have found that the average fit and active dog can handle running next to a bike for about 3 km a day, maybe more if you split the sessions up, your dog is very active, and he isn’t running mostly on pavement.
Regardless, the average fit and active human can bike between 40 -60km per day in an average day of riding – meaning that bringing your large dog on long term trips can feel impossible because he would become tired long before your ready to pitch your tent for the night.
By spending a bit of time and effort acclimatizing your dog to the bike trailer along with a good quality bike leash (such as this one), your canine friend can accompany you on your next long-term cycling adventure.
Let Fido run next to your bike until he’s tired and then its into the dog bike trailer for a rest while you keep right on going! Having your friend cuddle with you while you sleep out under the stars and sip your morning coffee in the wilderness will make you so happy you were able to bring him along!
Now that we’ve determined that some of the many reasons why getting a bike trailer could make your life easier and more fun, let’s talk about how to choose the right bike trailer for you and your k9’s unique needs.
The Best Dog Bike Trailers
Now that you are starting to think that a trailer could be a great, fun option for you, let’s look at some of the best options out there on the market right now.
Here we have given you an extensive list of our top 4 bike trailers for 2020, with the pros and cons of each, so you know you are making a well-informed choice.
The DoggyRide Novel Bike Trailer
The DoggyRide Novel Bike Trailer for Pets is our number one choice for a good reason. Although this trailer is the best overall choice, it is especially excellent for those who frequently take long bike trips or have a senior or disabled large dog.
This is the trailer of a company that started in the Netherlands in 2003 called “Dutch Dog”. This amazing trailer comes standard with many accessories that other trailers lack, including a roof rack, lots of storage space, and a 2-inch-thick memory foam pet bed.
The frame of this dog trailer is lightweight at 34 pounds but still made of strong aluminum alloy which can hold dogs up to 110 pounds and up to 26 inches at the shoulder.
Additionally, this trailer has 20-inch wheels that reviewers say are sturdy and well-designed. This company has truly thought of everything as there is also an option to purchase a hitch adapter to allow this bike trailer to fit even specialty bikes that most other trailers will not accommodate.
Also Read: Best Dog Bike Accessories
~ Pros ~
Great for camping – has a roof rack that doubles as a dog crate!
This trailer is built to last and made with the serious biker and outdoor adventurer in mind. Amazon reviewers suggest that the cargo roof rack on top of the DoggyRide is great for camping and road trips as it allows you to store up to about 12 pounds of gear on top of the trailer.
Additionally, this one folds quickly and easily with the removal of one pin. When you’re ready to set up your tent for the night, you can rest assured that your dog will be able to sleep comfortably in the trailer as his own snug little tent due to its removable kickstand legs – no need to pack his regular crate!
Can be used in the rain and has the option to convert to a stroller
If you and your dog are on a longer trip together and it starts to rain, the DoggyRide has you covered with an additional clear plastic UV guard and rain cover you can purchase that fits the trailer perfectly.
This cover slips on and off easily with no buckles, zippers, or buttons. It also has open flaps on the side to ensure your dog still receives good air circulation into the cabin.
Once you arrive at your destination, you may need the ability to transport your elderly or disabled dog around more easily on foot. Once again, the folks at DoggyRide have considered this important customer need and have created an optional kit that can be purchased to transform the DoggyRide from a bike trailer into a walking or jogging stroller.
Ride with complete comfort and safety
This bike trailer is one of the only ones on the market that comes standard with a 2-inch-thick memory foam pet bed inside the cabin making it an excellent choice for older, ill, injured, or disabled pets.
The inside of the cabin comes with the safety leash strap and reviewers say this trailer is roomy even for large and chubby dogs. This trailer comes with a rear storage pouch and a water bottle pocket, giving you lots of space to store your buddy’s stuff.
More importantly than anything else, this trailer meets or exceeds the high standards of the ASTM safety standard. The ASTM stands for the American Society for Testing and Materials and they address and test for potential safety issues such as structural integrity, rollover resistance, visibility, restraint system strength, use of non-toxic chemicals in production and final product and much more.
These standards are very important and although almost all child bike trailers meet the standards, not all dog bike trailers do.
Will not tip during loading and unloading
A frequent complaint of many Amazon reviewers with most bike trailers is that the trailer will often tip when biking up or down hills, or especially while loading or unloading dogs over 50-60 pounds.
In an attempt to resolve this problem, manufacturers of this bike trailer included a kickstand that can be folded out to stabilize the trailer while an older or larger dog is entering or exiting it from the rear.
This has made this trailer substantially safer and easier to use, as getting your dog into the trailer while it is not attached to the bike is often a challenge.
Some Amazon reviewers have noted however that the kickstand does not lock, so if you have a very large dog or a fragile senior dog it is best to place wood blocks or bricks behind the kickstand while loading or unloading your dog in order to ensure it stays sturdily in one place.
~ Cons ~
The reality is that you get what you pay for when it comes to many things, and a dog bike trailer is no exception. Although the price of this trailer is certainly steep, we feel that given the high safety standards, value-added features, comforts, ease of loading and unloading your dog, and storage this trailer is worth every penny of its hefty price tag.
Hard to assemble
The only downfall about this great dog bike carrier other than the price is that Amazon reviewers noted that the fabric cover and roof rack were initially difficult to attach to the frame during installation and that the directions for assembly could’ve been a bit more clear.
However, almost everyone noted that once the bike trailer was assembled and ready to go, there really were no negatives to this fine product.
PetSafe Solvit HoundAbout Aluminum or Steel Bicycle Trailer
Coming in at second place, the PetSafe Solvit HoundAbout Aluminum or Steel Bicycle Trailer, is a fantastic option if you are looking for a high-quality product at a slightly more affordable price than the DoggyRide.
This bike trailer comes in two sizes and two colors. The medium is red and grey and the large is navy and grey. Both bike trailers will support a 110-pound dog when used as a bike trailer and a 75-pound dog when used as a stroller.
The difference between the two sizes is merely the dimensions of the interior cabin, and reviewers suggest it’s a good idea to size up as these brands trailers tend to fit on the small side.
Regardless of the size you choose, both have a low, wide, wheel-base that makes loading your dog from the bike trailer a breeze.
Finally, this bike trailer features real reflectors for added safety as well as an adjustable safety leash to choose how much freedom your furry friend can handle without attempting an escape to chase that squirrel running past your bike!
~ Pros ~
Made by a reliable US company that offers a 1-year warranty
This is another premium product made by Petsafe, a reputable US manufacturer that has been making quality pet products since 1991. Although reviewers note that this bike trailer is easy to install and put together if you do have problems the company is very accommodating and easy to contact: 1-845-3270.
You can call them 6 days a week or use their online web-based chat service for assistance. In addition to their helpful customer service, this company also offers customers a one-year warranty against any material defects or workmanship errors.
Lightweight and Portable
This trailer only weighs 30 pounds if it is purchased with an aluminum frame, although if you can handle the extra weight behind you while biking and you have a larger and heavier dog, reviewers note the optional steel frame is stronger and more durable.
Reviewers note that you’ll have no problem maneuvering and steering this sturdy trailer as its hitch and tires are noted as being good quality. Additionally, reviewers note this trailer is very easy to fold for quick storage as well as being reasonably easy to reassemble again for use.
Easy to keep clean and good for all weather conditions
If you have a cream-colored dog who seems to find every mud puddle to roll in, this trailer might be for you. It features a removable and washable inner and outer liner, as well as a waterproof floorboard.
This trailer also gives you many options for biking in different weather. Its front door is black mesh – along with its rear door – to increase airflow in the cabin, but the front door also has an optional waterproof plastic door to protect your dog from mud and road grit flying into the cabin while you’re biking in the rain.
On nice sunny days, you have the option of opening the sunroof so your dog can poke her head out the top and enjoy the sunshine and the scenery.
~ Cons ~
Flooring is not firm enough for older dogs and those with mobility issues
If you have a senior dog or a dog with wobbly back legs or other mobility-related conditions, it might be best to choose a different bike trailer.
Reviewers note that one downfall of this bike trailer is that its floor needs to be firmer so that older and unstable dogs feel more comfortable and safe getting into and out of the carrier, as well as moving around in the carrier while it is in use.
Due to the more unstable flooring of this carrier, there is a chance that it will tip forward or backward, so if you stop on a hill and happen to have a dog who doesn’t want to sit or lay still in the carrier while you’re using it, you might want to pass on this one.
Long story short, this carrier is best for dogs who are willing to sit or lay in it calmly during use and for somewhat smaller, younger, and more mobile dogs.
Not much storage space
If you and your dog frequently need to pack a lot of gear on your bike trips together, this bike trailer is probably not the best bet for you.
Although it does have exterior storage pockets, reviewers state that these pockets are quite small and will not allow you to pack much more than a leash, a collapsible food bowl, and maybe a small snack for Fido.
If you and your dog travel light, the other great features of this carrier should outweigh this small flaw.
Rage Powersports PT-20304-B Blue 2-in-1 Pull-Behind Dog Bike Carrier
Next up is the Rage Powersports PT-20304-B Blue 2-in-1 Pull-Behind Dog Bike Carrier. Considering the more affordable price point of this trailer, it encompasses quite a few positive attributes that make it worthy of its third-place spot on our list for the best bike trailers of 2020.
This trailer comes in a nice medium blue and grey color and the manufacturer offers customers a one-year limited warranty on defects and workmanship issues.
This bike trailer’s large wheels are capable of handling sidewalks, pavements, pebble trails, and even trimmed grass fields. This carrier features clear plastic rolldown window covers for rides where it might rain and lots of mesh panels for maximum airflow and visibility for your pooch.
~ Pros ~
Universal bike hitch to fit most bikes
The fantastic thing about the power sport is that it features a universal bike hitch that will fit most types and styles of bikes between 24 and 28 inches in height.
This means that even if you’re a weekend warrior who is into triathlons or bike racing it likely that this carrier will still be able to adapt to your bike – meaning that during your relaxing off time, you and your dog can still take a leisurely ride around the neighborhood.
Can hold even very large dogs
Often the owners of Newfoundland’s, Bernese Mountain dogs, Rottweilers, and other large and stocky breed dogs lament that they cannot find bike trailers large enough to accommodate their dogs.
This is unfortunate as these large breeds take up to two years to fully mature and stop growing, meaning that it is often not possible to safely allow them to run next to a bicycle for an extended period of time, less the owner risk creating future joint problems and ligament tears.
Additionally, when these breeds get older it can be very challenging to take them for walks since they may tire when you are far from home, making it a real struggle to figure out how to get them back home.
With this bike trailer, these problems disappear as it can accommodate dogs up to 130 pounds! Even better, this bike trailer converts to be a stroller as well, and although the weight limit is not as high, it is still capable of holding a dog up to 85 pounds while functioning as a stroller.
This is a much better weight range as both a bike trailer and a stroller than most other options available.
Easy to assemble and hitch to a bike
If you are someone who struggles with putting together IKEA furniture, this is the dog bike trailer for you! Reviewers have noted how easy this trailer is to set up as well as to attach to your bike. As a bonus, this trailer collapses and folds very easily, making transporting it in the car quick and easy.
~ Cons ~
Have a tall and lean dog? This one won’t work
Although the high weight limit on this trailer means that it works great for even very large dogs, reviewers have noted that the weight of your dog is not the only relevant factor of whether it will fit easily in this carrier and be comfortable.
Reviewers have noted that tall lean dogs – such as Dobermans, Greyhounds or Great Danes are not likely to be as comfortable in this trailer as stockier or shorter breeds.
Additionally, one reviewer noted that tall dogs can make this carrier in particular prone to flipping or falling over on tight turns unless a dog of this body type is sitting or lying calmly in the carrier. Overall, if you have a tall dog or a particularly active dog, this carrier may not be the best for you.
Trailer is very heavy
Weighing in at 43 pounds when empty, this trailer is not for those who are new to biking or are otherwise unable to physically handle the weight of this trailer plus their dog.
It is important to note that although reviewers do not mention that this carrier is difficult to steer or maneuver, it is still important to remember that pulling a carrier of this weight along with a large dog will impact a rider’s ease of movement and turning capacity.
Make sure you slow down going up and down hills and make wide, slow turns while using this carrier.
Schwinn Rascal Pet Trailer
Last but not least we have the Schwinn Rascal Pet Trailer. This trailer is for those who may be unsure whether their dog will like riding in a bike trailer and to just want to try out a more budget-conscious option.
Although this bike trailer is our most affordable option, it is still high quality and safe choice with several great features for you and your dog to enjoy. This trailer comes in bright orange with black trim and includes a large orange safety flag. These two features of this product increase its visibility and increase you and your dog’s safety.
This trailer is very easy to clean, and its entire outer liner is machine washable. It features an adjustable safety leash and reviewers note that it is very easy to maneuver and that it turns well even on busy and narrow city streets.
~ Pros ~
Universal coupler attaches to many types of bikes
Unlike many other bike trailers, this trailer features a universal coupler making it able to attach to a variety of different bikes easily and quickly. This means that even if you have a nonstandard bike, you will still be able to use the Schwinn Rascal.
Even better, if you would like to be able to switch the bike carrier between your bike and friends or partners, the manufacturer offers the option to buy a second angled coupler directly from them so that hooking this bike trailer to a second bike is a breeze.
Very lightweight and packable
At only 26 pounds this bike trailer is the lightest one on our list of the best bike trailers for 2018. This means that a rider does not need to be as physically fit to manage to tow their dog in this carrier.
Alternatively, for a more fit rider, the lightweight frame of this bike trailer offers the option to carry an additional 12lbs of gear and supplies on top of the carrier or inside the cabin with a small to medium size dog.
Made by a reputable and well-known cycling products company
One of the best things about this trailer that a seasoned cyclist would see right away is that it is made by a reliable company that has been making quality biking products since 1895.
This company has been operating for such a long time due to its reputation for making and selling some of the best biking products available today.
~ Cons ~
Want to use it as a bike trailer and a stroller? Don’t pick this one
Considering this product is made by a company that focuses solely on producing high-quality cycling products, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the drawbacks of this bike trailer is that it does not function in any other capacity.
Although some other trailers on the market can be used as a stroller and/or a dog crate, this item can only be used as a bike trailer and should not be purchased by those seeking a multiuse item.
What’s that Smell…
An unusual critique of this trailer is that, surprisingly, many reviewers noted that when they first received the product and unpacked it from its box it had quite a bad plastic-chemical smell.
Some reviewers complained that despite washing the inside rubber mat, this smell remained on the product for several months. However, other reviewers noted that the smell quickly dissipated after only one or two rides.
Ultimately, it will depend upon the sensitivity of you and your dog’s sniffers as to whether this issue is relevant to you.
Dogs over 50lbs won’t fit
The only other critique we have about this carrier is that large dog owners will not find it very useful, as dogs over 50-pounds won’t fit in this carrier. As reviewers have noted, the fabric of this carrier is quite thin so you would be ill-advised to attempt to transport your extra-large pooch in this carrier.
The quality of the hitch where the bike and the bike trailer connect is of critical importance to ensure your dog stays connected securely to your bike. Good dog trailers (like the ones on this list) have good quality metal hardware, not plastic, combined with a hitch safety strap.
This strap helps keep your dog safely inside the cab where he belongs and doesn’t allow him to jump or fall out.
One great way to ensure that your trailer is of top-of-the-line quality is to check whether or not it meets or exceeds the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards.
These standards are a seal of approval from a third-party association outside the company manufacturers that the trailer in question is safe and well made.
How do I choose the right bike trailer for me?
Cab Size, comfort, and quality compared with dog size and breed needs
Trailer cab size and comfort are of paramount importance considering how much time your dog will spend riding in the bike trailer. What is the quality of the flooring of the trailer you are looking at, is it flimsy or firm?
Flimsy flooring may save you some money and it might be ok for a smaller dog or a younger healthier dog. For a heavier dog, one the won’t lie or sit calmly in the trailer, or one with joint issues, it’s best to pick a trailer with very supportive flooring. How much airflow does the trailer offer your dog?
This is very important if you live in a very hot or cold place, or if you have a short-faced breed like a pug or a bulldog, as these guys can get overheated very quickly.
Finally, you should think about your dog’s height, weight and overall shape (stocky vs lean), as all trailers have a weight limit and some fit certain body types well, but not others.
Other Things to Consider: Trailer weight and ease of steering and maneuvering
Whether you’re just getting into (or back into) cycling, or you’re a seasoned road warrior, knowing how much weight you can pull behind you while biking is important for both you and your dog’s safety. All bike trailers have different weights when they are empty.
How much a trailer weighs depends largely on whether they are made with a plastic, aluminum or steel frame, as frame type is also by and large the strongest determining factor of how much weight that trailer can safely hold.
In general, aluminum frame trailers will be lighter but more prone to breaking under stress and heavy use. Steel frame trailers are heavier but more reliable if you plan to use the trailer very frequently or for long-distance rides.
We do not recommend plastic frames overall for any size of dog – especially those over 25lbs – as they are usually too flimsy to be fully safe.
If you are worried about how much extra weight you can physically manage, or if you have a medium to large dog, an aluminum frame might be the best option for you. If your dog is extra-large, over 80lbs, it would be ideal to get a steel frame bike trailer.
Although they are heavier to tow, models with a steel frame are safer for very large dog owners because they are sturdier and less likely to snap or wear out and they also usually provide a firmer trailer floor for your pooch to ride on.
Of course, no matter what type of trailer you choose, you want to ensure that it offers a smooth ride for you and your dog. Look for trailers that can handle the type of trips you want to take.
For leisurely rides around your paved suburban streets and to your local park, you can likely get away with a simpler and more economical model.
If you plan to take your dog farther afield or on uneven ground like grass, trails or gravel, a more upscale model with better turning capacity and reduced risk of tipping when rounding tight turns and riding up and down hills is important.
To ensure that you avoid these problems, look for bike trailers that offer ABS (automatic braking systems) and a low, wide wheelbase.
Having ABS will allow you to tackle riding downhill much more safely, and a low wheelbase means a lower center of gravity and less risk of the carrier rolling when you are rounding a tight turn while towing it.
Ease of portability and whether or not the trailer is multi-use
Next, you need to ask yourself how important it is to you that the bike trailer is light and easy to transport while your dog isn’t in it. Most bike trailers collapse for storage, but how neatly, tightly and easily a bike trailer is able to pack up varies widely.
Another question to ask is whether or not you and Fido need your bike trailer to double as a stroller and/or a pet bed, or whether you only need it to function as a bike trailer.
If you don’t need anything but a bike trailer, you can save a considerable amount of money by opting to purchase a single-use model.
However, if you are willing to shell out more cash for a multi-use trailer, it’s important to do your homework and get a model that works just as well when it is a stroller or a dog crate, as it does in its original role as a bike trailer.
Ease of entry and exit and ability to keep the trailer clean
Finally, you need to ask yourself how important it is for you to be able to easily clean the inside and outside of the trailer, as well as how easy it is for your large dog to enter and exit the trailer with ease, comfort, and safety. These factors are quite personal.
If you own a short-haired dog, live in a region with mild and dry weather and/or your dog is young and healthy, it may not matter to you if your trailer is easy to clean or if it tips forward or backward slightly when your dog is getting in or out.
If you don’t mind these slight flaws, you will be able to purchase a trailer that’s still great in most other ways for a much more economical price.
However, other owners might really need and want a bike trailer that is a cinch to clean (some even have machine washable covers and dog mats!) and will be very stable and sturdy while their dog is getting in or out.
Owners of: senior dogs, disabled dogs, dogs with degenerative diseases, very large dogs, dogs that have long hair and owners who live in areas with a lot of rain will find a non-tipping and easy to clean trailer essential.
How can I train my dog to love riding in my new bike trailer?
Now that you have chosen the right bike trailer for you and your dog’s needs, its time for your first ride together!
If you’re like most dog owners, you may think that taking your dog for a bike ride is as simple as hooking up the trailer, loading your dog in, and setting off together.
People often imagine that they will bike merrily along while their dog sits calming looking out the window and behaves perfectly – enjoying the ride.
While it is true that some owners may luck out and have really easy-going dogs who adapt quickly and easily to riding in the bike trailer, the reality is that many dogs may feel uneasy about it, and a few may even be utterly terrified.
What is so scary about the trailer? Understanding fear in dogs
Yes, it is frustrating to buy a trailer and be excited to use it only to discover your dog wants nothing to do with it! If your dog is terrified of the bike trailer, impatiently shoving him or her into it and thinking “oh, they’ll get over it”, is not going to work.
Even if you manage to get your dog into the trailer this way, they will resist you more and more every time and hate the trailer more and more each time if this is the attitude that you have towards them.
Even though YOU may not feel there is anything to fear about the bike trailer, dismissing your dog’s fears WILL make things worse. In fact, with most dogs, it will also damage your relationship with your dog as they will feel they can’t trust you to respect them or care enough to understand when they are afraid.
Not sure how your dog is feeling? Check the chart below. Dogs talk with their bodies, and it is important for us to know what they are trying to communicate if we want to work with them to do the things we want them to do.
Think about it this way, if you’re afraid of heights and I’m not – wouldn’t you find it rude and insensitive if I forced you to go skydiving with me? I’m certain that even if I managed to pressure you into it, it is unlikely you’d be going willingly.
Now, imagine I’ve bullied you into going and that we have just boarded the plane and that you are sweating, wringing your hands and telling me “I really hate heights, I don’t want to do this”. In response, I turn to you, roll my eyes, and insist that skydiving is safe, fun and that you’re overeating and being a stupid crybaby.
I doubt you would be jumping out of that plane! Even if you did, it’s very likely that you would avoid my phone calls in the future (thinking me extremely rude), and never go skydiving again!
This scenario is exactly how our dogs feel when we ignore their feelings (demonstrated through body language) and force them into situations that make them uncomfortable.
Overall, our dogs look to us to protect them and they see us as leaders and the providers of resources – and a good leader doesn’t force compliance, they encourage and support to build their team’s confidence. Just like in the workforce, employees want to work for a boss that believes in them and supports them, and our dogs are no different.
Also, just like an employee, dogs want to know that they will be fairly compensated if their boss is asking them to do a task that feels intimidating or difficult. For human’s compensation for work is money, but for dogs it is food.
Now that you know a bit more about fear in dogs, keep reading to learn the best way to use food to help dogs work through a fear (Bonus: these tips will also work to help your dog become less fearful of many other objects or situations as well – especially crate training!).
Follow our tips below before you hesitate to buy a trailer for fear your dog may hate it (or before you return the one you already purchased!)
Steps to train your dog to love the bike trailer:
- Get some really delicious treats that your dog loves and normally doesn’t get. Remember our skydiving example above? What if instead of forcing you to go as in the previous example, I invited you and then I offered you $100? What about $1000? $10,000? How much money you would need to go with me would depend on how afraid you are of heights, how much you need or want the money, and how much you trust me and my judgment to keep you safe.
- Dogs are exactly the same way in that each one is an individual and what works for one may not work for another. The quality of the treats you need depends on two things: how picky of an eater your dog is, and how afraid he is of the bike trailer.The higher value the treat, the more we can ask of the dog because of their willingness to work to get it is higher.If you have a mildly afraid lab, you might be fine training her with some dry dog cookies, but if you have a picky poodle who is petrified of the dog trailer– you’re going to need to seriously step it up in the treat department! You need high-value treats! This means any treat that YOUR particular dog really loves! Suggestions for treats that many dogs LOVE
- Small cubes of cheese
- Sliced up hot dogs
- Deli meat or roasted chicken
- Dried beef liver treats
- Dried salmon or some other smelly fish treat
- Moist, soft dog treats with a lot of meat in them
- Pair the feared item (the bike trailer) with the tasty food treats as well as your dog’s meals. Don’t give these treats to them anywhere but near the bike trailer. For this step, you are going to feed your dog treats simply for getting as close to the bike trailer as they are freely willing to on their own.It is essential that you stay calm, supportive, and positive when you are pairing the food with the trailer.Again, if I want you to come skydiving with me, encouraging you, telling you that your awesome and brave, and cheering you on is going to work way better then physically forcing you or yelling at you until you submit and reluctantly come with me.Similarly, don’t force or drag your dog into the bike trailer and don’t yell at them, this won’t work. Just simply stand near the trailer and offer them the treats.Encourage and lure them to get as close to the trailer as you can without forcing them. If they sniff the trailer, reward this behavior with food.This is known as desensitization training, and it works by slowly teaching your dog that may be the bike trailer is actually not so bad because when they are near it they get delicious food that is only available in the presence of the bike trailer.
To speed up this process even more, also feed your dog all their meals as close to the bike trailer as they are willing to go. This further reinforces that the best part of their day (which is meal time for most dogs) involves the bike trailer.
Practice this as much and as often as you can, the more you do it, the faster your dog will come to understand that the bike trailer isn’t scary!
- Slowly use the food treats to bring your dog closer and closer to the trailer until you can get them to willingly sit in the stationary trailer that is zipped up. It is essential that you stabilize the trailer under some bricks or something else very sturdy in the beginning, so it doesn’t rock up and downwhile your still nervous dog is trying to get in it. If this happens, it will frustrate you and scare your dog – thus setting back your training, so make sure you prevent it!After you have ensured your trailer is stable, start feeding your dog his treats and meals with his head in the trailer, then his front foot, both front feet, standing in the trailer, etc.Next, get your dog to the point where they can remain calm while the trailer is zipped up. This works best by starting with zipping it up only while they are eating dinner inside it at first, and then unzipping it and allowing them to leave when they are done.Many dogs have learned to hate and fear confinement from being forced in crates with no training and then trapped in them for hours with no way out. Don’t skip this step because it can be dangerous to you and your dog.If you go out biking and your dog is constantly moving around in the trailer because she feels stressed from being confined, it can unbalance your bike and cause tipping, crashes, and other accidents.
Again, it is important that you are calm, patient, supportive, and encouraging throughout this process and that you allow your dog to set the pace.
Just like people, all dogs are unique, and some are naturally more cautious and fearful then others and they take longer to warm up to new things.
Eventually, if you keep at it, you will get to the point where your dog will enter the trailer willingly and stay in there without trying to escape. Once you’re are at this stage, its time for the next part – moving the trailer.
- Once your dog will sit or lay in the trailer willingly while it is zipped up, its time to start walking your bike around slowly while towing your dog in the trailer. At first, simply remove the stabilizers and get your dog accustomed to the tipping motion of the trailer using the methods outlined above with treats and praise.Once your dog can tolerate the tipping of the trailer when it is hitched to your bike, start walking slowly forward while giving your dog verbal praise the whole time for remaining calm. Stop walking after only about 10 seconds and go back to give your dog some treats.Continue this process by slowly extending the amount of walking time until you can walk for five or ten straight minutes and your dog can remain calm. Once you’re at this stage, it is time for the final stage, riding your bike with the trailer attached.
- Once your dog can remain calm while you walk your bike around while they are in the zipped-up trailer and it is attached to your bike, it’s time to start riding! This final step really works best if someone else assists you in your training sessions.The reason for this is that it is slow and somewhat irritating to get on and off your bike every 10 seconds or 30 seconds, in the beginning, to reward your dog while you are trying to bike with them in the trailer.Although it can be done, it is much easier to just ride in a big circle and simply stop frequently and have someone else (who is not on a bike) give the food treats to your dog while you continue to verbally praise your dog.As with the walking, increase the time your dog will tolerate being towed in the trailer until you can tow them for 10 – 15 mins without issue.
- How to fade the use of food treats from training: solidify that the bike trailer is awesome and exciting by using it to take your dog to places they love! If you use treats to get your dog to love the trailer, how do you stop using treats every time?While it is fine to continue to use treats and food to reinforce that the bike trailer is a positive thing (and you should continue to randomly/occasionally give treats while they are in it forever) if you want to move away from having to use treats every time, you need to transition to a different reward, not just not give any reinforcement at all. To ensure that your dog continues to see the bike trailer as a good thing, use the environment and other non-food things your dogs love and associate those fun things WITH the bike trailer.For example, if you use the bike trailer to go to the dog park, the beach, a friend’s house that your dog loves, or to a local park to play fetch, your dog will quickly realize that getting in the bike trailer means going on a fun outing with you and they will start to eagerly await you getting it out with bright eyes and a wagging tail.Although this may seem extensive, it really isn’t as you will be rewarded with a calm and well-behaved companion for all your bike trips. If you take the time to train your dog properly in the beginning, you will build a stronger bond with your dog as well as having a dog who jumps into the trailer, ready and eager to go on rides with you – just like you imagined.
Well, that concludes our comprehensive guide to choosing the best dog bike trailer for you, as well as our opinion of the best dog bike trailers for 2020 to suit every canine duo and every budget.
We hope that you have found this review useful and that you are now more well-informed of the various options available to include your dog on your next cycling adventure!