Bikejor seems to be growing in popularity even more rapidly than canicross at the moment, and with so many people keen to get out and try something new with their dog, I thought I would write a few notes to help out the beginners.
Firstly – get yourself along to an event, or group, or chat with someone who has been participating in the sports for a number of years. As a retailer of bikejor equipment I have a duty to my customers to know a bit about the sport through my own personal experience, so I can advise you on kit from the perspective of having used it. I think it’s really important to be able to explain the different equipment having used it myself, so make sure you pick the brains of a number of people, to get a variety of opinions, to give yourself the best start in the sport.
Once you have an idea of the basics (the equipment you need, the training you need to do and an idea of where you will be training) you can get started with the voice commands (if you haven’t already) to teach your dog on the ground before you even think about attaching your dog to the bike. The main commands to teach are directions and a stop or steady, to ensure you can safely manouvere on your trails. I wrote a few words about beginning training here:
Choose a harness which is comfortable for your dog and doesn’t restrict movement in any way. Many dog sports harnesses can be used for all activities, so you may not necessarily need a new harness if you are already participating in some form of dog sport. If you do need any help or advice on selecting a harness for your dog, I have written a bit about this here:
When it comes to selecting a line for bikejor you will want one that has a strong bungee incorporated in it (for shock absorption) and is long enough to allow your dog to run clear of your front wheel. If you already canicross then you may find your line is a bit short for bikejor but you can always try it first to see what works for you. It is worth noting however that for some competions the minimum length of the line needs to be 2.5 metres. It is really important for the safety of both you and your dog that your line is attached to the main frame of your bike and NOT the handle bars or the end of a bikejor attachment. If the line is attached to the handle bars or even yourself, any sharp movement your dog may make will throw you off balance, and if attached to the end of a bikejor attachment, can cause the attachment to break off. In a worse case scenario, it can hit your dog as it tows the loose attachment behind it. To avoid this just follow the manufacturers advice and attach the line to the bike not the attachment itself.
Talking of the bikejor attachment, it is always worth having a look at the different options available before you purchase one for yourself, as they are all designed to do the same thing (help keep your line from dropping down onto the wheel) but each does this in a slightly different way. You may have an expensive mountain bike you don’t wish to damage the paintwork on (although with this sport always expect some damage to your bike!) or be limited by the type of frame your bike has. Again you can ask people in the sports as many have tried a variety before settling on one type and I have written about the types we sell at K9 Trail Time here:
A few other things to remember are:
Always be aware of keeping within a suitable environment and temperatures for bikejoring, your dog will potentially be working hard on the bike, so stick to nice grassy trails and tracks for their paws and don’t run your dog in high temperatures or high humidity
Be courteous to anyone you meet whilst out bikejoring, stop your dog and hold them back if you are unsure of their reaction to anything you come across
Wear a helmet and gloves yourself as a bare minimum of safety equipment, you won’t be much good to your dog with an injury!
Once you have done a bit of research and discovered a bit about what the sport involves, got your equipment and trained your voice commands, then the next step is to get out there and start having fun! Hopefully we’ll see you out on the trails at an event sometime soon…