The word ‘biker’ often brings to mind the image of a hairy, leather-clad rider, perched on the seat of a revving motorcycle. In this case, however, the riders that we’re meeting today are the dawgs of the riding world – literally speaking, yes, they’re actually dogs on hogs! It might come as a surprise to some pet lovers, but the canine bike-riding phenomenon is nothing new – in fact, bikers have been taking their pooches along for the ride for decades. If you’re a fan of cruising the open road, why not bring your favorite furry friend along?
Getting started isn’t as tricky as you might think, either. For starters, you’ll need the right gear to keep both you and your pup safe. If your pup is small to medium size, find a carrier that fits both your dog and your bike – they should have enough room to shift around slightly and stretch, but shouldn`t be able to jump off or move around much more than that. One of the best products out there for biker pups is called the Beast Rider – it`s a leather motorcycle riding seat system for your dog that has a built-in harness system to keep your canine sidekick secure, and a warm lining to keep them snug on those chilly riding days. The Beast Rider can be secured right behind you on the passenger seat (though for larger dogs, a sidecar might be more comfortable). A set of dog goggles to protect your pup`s eyes (Doggles or K-Noggles work well) and a helmet for your `ruff` rider are other vital pieces of equipment that your pup will need to ride safely.
Next, before you even consider heading out, you need to take the time to get your dog used to the carrier, the protective gear, the noise of the bike, and finally, the sensation of motion – these experiences are all going to be very different than riding in a car! Start by putting the carrier inside, and let your pup sniff it, explore it, jump in and out of it. Put treats in it, or even feed your pup in it, so that they begin to see the carrier in a positive light and come to associate it with good things happening. You can do the same with the helmet and goggles, too.
When your dog is comfortable with the carrier, move it outside and place it on your parked bike. Over the next few weeks, do short practice sessions, placing your pup in the carrier, strapping them in, rewarding them, and then letting them out (all while the bike is off). Then you can gradually increase the amount of time your pup is sitting in the carrier for each practice session.
Now comes the noisy part. If your pup isn`t used to the sound of the bike being on, you might want to start with them sitting some distance away – or even in the house! (This is where having another biker friend around is handy) Turn your bike on, and reward your dog with lots of small tasty treats for calm behavior. Gradually move closer to the bike with your dog over following practice sessions as your pup becomes comfortable with the noise, rewarding them often for showing interest in the bike and staying calm. Go at your pup`s own pace – never force them to move beyond their comfort level, or you might just create a lifelong fear! Once your dog seems oblivious to the sound of the engine, you can put them in the carrier, strap them in, and turn the bike on – but make sure you keep those rewards coming so they know that sitting on the bike is a good thing! Finally, when you and your canine co-pilot are good to go, start with short rides and slow speeds, working up to longer rides as you`re both ready.
There are some great resources for riders who want to take their furry family members out on two wheels, too. Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club International (www.bikerdogsmc.org) is an online portal for Biker Dogs and their human Guardians to connect with each other. The club has members in countries all over the world, including the USA, Canada, the UK, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Russia, and provides badges and local club organization information. For those who want to meet other mutt-loving bikers and their doggie pals, the club`s North California branch even has an annual Biker Dog Run, too!
There are lots of famous biker dudes, dudettes and dogs online as well who blog about their adventures on the road. One celebrated riding canine is Chopper the Biker Dog (www.chopperthebikerdog.com) – a bold Boston Terrier who not only rides with his pup parent, but is also a local celebrity with his very own customized Harley, and a certified therapy dog who visits to nursing homes and hospitals. He still works hard to keep up his biker reputation, however – he`s been pulled over by the San Diego Police, and once chased Tiger Woods across a golf course!
Finally, for those who would rather admire the bikes from afar, or who prefer to keep their paws on the pavement, there`s always the option to live the dream vicariously. Check out the feature `Sit Stay Ride` – a documentary about dogs who ride in sidecars – to get your fix of high-speed cruising without the need for a helmet.
Now that you know the basics of what it takes to ride with your pup, you can consider cruising off into the sunset together. After all, who better to share the adventure of the open road with than your very best furry friend?