One of our greatest delights while cycle touring is passively listening to the comments people make as we whizz past.
“Look! They’re carrying their baby!”
“Oh, they brought their kid!”
“There’s a baby inside their trailer!”
When we stop and tell them that we have a dog, not a baby, they don’t believe us. So we show them.
To witness the shock that overcomes their faces is reason alone to cycle with a dog.
Yes, cycle touring with a dog certainly poses its challenges. We voluntarily added additional weight to an already heavy touring load, finding dog-friendly accommodation can be cumbersome, we have to visit many, many vets to obtain travel documents, and we wouldn’t have our tour any other way.
Despite the frequent obstacles we face by having Sora along on this journey, we have no regrets over our decision to bring her. She is by our side 24-hours a day and provides comfort when our battered bodies cannot handle another rotation of the pedals, she lays by my side when I prepare dinner each evening, and squishes in between us each morning in the tent before we begin our day.
Of course, traveling with a dog by bike is unusual and attracts quite a bit of attention. We are frequently stopped and asked how we travel with our dog. When perceived an an adventure rather than a hinderance, a cycle tour with a dog is entirely doable with relative ease.
Below, we offer some tips we’ve learned during over a year of cycle touring with a dog.
Adopt a Cute Adventure Dog
Once you have said cute adventure dog, make sure she’s a good fit for travel. If your pup is high energy and you won’t be cycling on car-free paths, then she may not be a good fit for this type of adventure. Sora spends a lot of the day in her trailer (with many frequent breaks), and as a 12-year-old senior, the lifestyle suits her well. We travel to a new place every few days, so your dog must be comfortable moving around to new surroundings regularly.
Before taking off on a longterm cycle tour with your dog, get her used to her touring set up – whether in a trailer or basket or some other carrying device, make sure your dog feels comfortable in this space, as she will travel inside for several hours.
While Sora took to her trailer immediately, some dogs may not enjoy sitting in a confined space at first. If your dog has a lot of energy, either make your trips shorter or have your dog run alongside, if it’s safe, to help her burn some energy while you ride.
Reward your pup with treats and/or praise for hopping into the trailer. Make it cozy and familiar by placing a blanket or toy from home inside so that she feels safe. We line the bottom of Sora’s with her bed.
As far as trailers go, we love the Burley Tail Wagon or the Burley D’lite. The Tail Wagon is specially designed for dogs, so Sora has plenty of space to sit up, turn around, and fully extend with additional of room for her gear (and sometimes even our excess). The D’Lite is designed for children, but the seats are removable and it works great with a pet (or a kid and a pet!). We opted for the D’Lite in South America because it has suspension and we knew we’d be traveling along many unpaved roads.
See our complete review of the Burley Tail Wagon.
Get a Three-Person Tent
When we first began cycle touring, we not only had Sora, but also our late dog, Maxwell. All four of us crammed into a two-person tent. Dave and I slept with Maxwell in between us, breathing horriful breath (yep, I made up a word there, his breath was that stank) into our faces all night, while Sora slept in a corner at our feet, eventually spreading out over our legs as the evening wore on. We were all miserable.
As we updated our gear for this trip, at the top of our list was a three-person tent. Even with one less dog, Sora takes up as much space as a human. Dave and I each have our own space, Sora has plenty of room to lay out fully on her bed, and we even have availability to store our handlebar bags and toiletries.
Bring a Small Towel
We brought along small microfiber towel to wipe Sora’s paws off each night before she comes into the tent in attempt to keep the space clean. We also use it to dry her of after wet weather or swimming excursions.
Sora has her own water bottle and water bowl that we store in her trailer. We offer her water every time we stop and more frequently when the weather is warm. We love the Zippy Bowl, as it compacts into a small size and easily fits into the pocket of her trailer, it clips to her leash or our belt loops, so we can bring it along when we’re exploring cities.
Keeping your Pup Cool
When the weather gets hot, we leave early and cycle late in order to take advantage of the cooler morning temps, however, we inevitably find ourselves pedaling in the heat of the afternoon more often than we’d like. We keep a close eye on Sora’s panting level. If she is panting continuously, we stop more often to give her water and ensure that she’s not overheating.
Dogs cool off by panting and sweat through their paws, so we will either we find a lake or river where she can get her paws wet, or we use a Ruffwear Swamp Cooler. Sora hates sitting on a wet bed, so we make sure to squeeze out as much water as we can before we put it on her.
We carry a food bag to contain Sora’s dog food. When we stop in larger cities, we purchase three-kilogram bags of food and stay topped off to ensure we never run out. While we can’t always find the best quality food on the road, we purchase the best that we can find. Often veterinarians sell the best quality food, though finding high quality food is rare in many parts of the world.
With the abundance of street dogs and other critters roaming around at night, we snap Sora’s food to a high tree branch or store it inside her trailer overnight.
With cycle touring taking up so much of our days and because the roads are often unsafe for Sora to run alongside, we always make sure to give her a walk in the morning before we leave or in the evening after we settle for the day. We also give her several shorter breaks during the day.
When we cycle on paths or on very low traffic roads, we allow her to run up to 15km alongside the bikes (we especially recommend this on hills!). We love the Kurgo Springback Lite Leash and K9 Excursion Running belt. It’s short enough to prevent her from pulling or running ahead of the front wheel and keeps her in line. Sora also loves it and becomes excited when we pull it out, as she knows that she’ll be running.
Just like we bring a first-aid kit for the humans, we also include items that will help Sora out when she needs medical attention. We make sure to bring children’s Benedryl, a tick removal tool, and veterinary paper work in a sealed waterproof bag. You can find a complete list for items to include in a first aid kit for dogs here.
For long-term trips, we along bring grooming tools like nail clippers, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a Furminator.