Can I Take My Dog on a Bike Ride?

Small dog sitting in front of an All-City Space Horse in a park at a stone bridge

This is the third in my car-free life series. I want to explore the topic of riding a bike with a dog. There’s a lot of controversy here, so I’m going to rely heavily on my own experience, but if you’re an avid bike-rider and absolute dog-lover like me then combining these two activities is everything.

If you’ve stumbled on this article first and are curious about how to live a car-free life or to have a dog and live car-free, those topics are also near and dear to my heart.

“OMG there’s a dog in a backpack!” “Look! Look at the pup in the bag” “I love your backpack!”

I would genuinely say few things give me as much joy as bringing my dog on a bike ride with me. The looks on the faces of the people we pass and the exclamations we hear. How much my friends enjoy riding with him. I am constantly asked where my dog is if I arrive without him for a bike ride. I mean… I devoted a whole episode of my podcast to talk to my bike dog inspiration, Priscilla and her owner Stacey!

Of course, a lot of questions float around when people hear that I take my dog on bike rides. Is is legal to ride a bike with a dog? Is cycling cruel with a dog? Has he ever had a “potty accident”? Does he wear a helmet? No, no, he would never, and he should… The topic of dogs and bikes has been hashed out in many a forum or comment section, let’s just stick to the reality of how to take your dog on a bike ride.

How do I Take My Dog on a Bike With Me?

There are a number of factors one should consider when choosing how to bring a dog along. For me, I live a predominantly car-free life by riding my bicycle everywhere year-round; weather be damned. How do I easily add a dog to that mix?

You’ll want to ask yourself a few questions. Will I bring my dog a lot of places or is this an occasional bike trip? How much does my dog weigh? What is my dog’s temperament? What type of biking am I trying to bring them to? What is my comfort level on my bike? Once you’ve thought through these questions, you can start to consider how cycling with your dog will work for you.

On-Bike Attachment

This is a great quick and easy option. And can be a front or rear design. The front dog bike basket is perfect for a small dog under 30 lbs. Depending on temperament and anxiety levels it can be good for you to keep an eye on them and for them to feel safe. I’ve even seen designs where you can add a top cage to fully enclose the dog.

Note that not all bike types will easily fit a basket, and the basket will likely be difficult to remove between rides. Of course, make sure to use a basket designed for dogs to keep your pet safe. You can put groceries in a (unoccupied) dog basket, but not a dog into a regular bike basket. Also, putting the weight in the front will change the way the bike handles and is better for shorter trips, so keep that in mind.

The rear basket is great for longer trips. Suitable for dogs approximately under 50 lbs (depending on your bike). The important factor here is making sure your dog is trained and secured as they are behind you and out of sight.

A final thought here would be a cargo bike with a front or rear bucket seat. Perfect for your kids and/or dogs!

A very happy dog hangs out in his rear bike basket on a community ride.

Biggest Pro: No real prep needed to get out the door and ride with your pup.

Biggest Con: It limits you to one bike (this may be a me problem since I currently have 5 bikes).

Dog Bike Trailer

This is the best option for bigger dogs or multiple dogs. This is probably one of the pricier options and trailers won’t fit every bike, so make sure you have a compatible system. However, you can probably use it with more than one bike. There are a number of dog specific trailers on the market, but I have also used a kids trailer in a pinch. As long as there is a good way to secure the dog so you don’t have to worry about them jumping out. When considering a trailer, think about how much your willing to pull and how far you are going. And check your local online marketplace/exchange forum for a used option.

Biggest Pro: It expands the type of dog you can bring (and now you have a trailer that you can put things like a music system in…)

Biggest Con: Trailers are hard for drivers to see! Use flags and be really cautious and conscientious!!

Bicycle Dog Carrier / Backpack

I may be biased but riding a bike with a dog in a backpack is definitely the most fun option! The doggie backpack is good option for smaller dogs. Most carriers are suitable for dogs under 30 lbs, although the two leading dog carriers (K9 Sport Sack and Little Chonk) both have options for big breeds. Just keep in mind, it’s not just the dogs comfort, but yours. My dog is 17 lbs and that feels heavy after a bit.

In a lot of ways the carrier can make the dog feel safest being close to you and having a great vantage point, but it also constrains them which means that you will need to stop every 45 minutes to an hour for a 15 minute break. There is a reason that you don’t see bike touring with a doggie backpack – instead using the trailer or rear basket, but it is perfect for the everyday commuter who is taking their pup around town, and can be used for intermediate rides with appropriate training and breaks.

I personally use the K9 Sport Sack, and have the Urban 2 and Air 2 models depending on our ride (Affiliate Code Alert: Use promo code WATSON10 for a discount on your next doggie backpack)!

Biggest Pro: Versatility to take this on any bike, and bonus points for being able to bring your dog other places they usually wouldn’t be allowed like the grocery store and metros. Perfect for traveling when you can’t leave your dog behind or don’t want to.

Biggest Con: There is a time limit before your shoulders and your dog both need a break.

Running a Dog Next to You With or Without a Biking Leash

Not all dogs will be a dog on a bike. Sometimes they will be a dog next to a bike! A high energy breed, or a breed built for running may enjoy running next to you. Depending where you ride and you dog’s training, the leash can be a great option for taking your dog out for a ride with you. When road cycling with a dog this can be a great option to keep the dog safe.

If you want to mountain bike with a dog, and you have built up the trust and proper training you can have the dog run the trails while you ride. I personally don’t have any experience with this, so please enjoy this article from Kaysee Armstrong around training your dog to run the trails and when it is appropriate to bring your dog with you.

Biggest Pro: Great exercise for your dog and you!

Biggest Con: Risk of the dog getting under a wheel or lost.


In researching this topic, I learned about a new, to me, sport. It’s called bikejoring, and it is a unique way to ride with your dog. It started as an off-season way to train sled dogs, and quickly grew into a European phenomenon. The sport requires a mountain bike and an appropriate rig for the dog. Bike riders take their dogs out on dirt trails and let the dog lead. This sport is quite popular in Europe, and is just starting to take hold in the US.

Biggest Pro: A truly unique way to interact with your dog.

Biggest Con: It’s a very niche sport and may be hard/expensive to get into.

Maybe I’ll sign my little sleigh dog up for bikejoring! It should be noted that it was an empty street, a minor downhill, and we only ran for a block – but he really loves it!

Ready to take your dog on a bike ride?

I love bringing my dog on bikes rides. Once you’ve assessed your needs and riding levels, go out and find out what all the fuss is about! Need more inspiration? Watch my dog, Watson, ride through the coolest places!

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