Cycling with your Dobermann (Or any medium/large breed dog really)
Need to give your dobermann more exercise and get fitter yourself?
If you're a Dobermann owner you will be more than aware of their need for exercise, after all if you don't give them enough they will let you know. A dobey should have at least 2 hours of physical exercise a day which may include walking on the lead, running or even training such as obedience or agility. It's very important that your boy or girl receives at least this much exercise as they are extremely active creatures and will soon tire of lying around the house all day - possibly leading to bad behaviour.
As a dobey owner I pride myself on the fact I spend plenty of time exercising my boy and fulfilling his needs. Both my partner and myself enjoy seeing him running through the local fields often accelerating up to full speed simply because, well, he wants to! The Dobermann is a very fast dog and our boy has been known to hang on the shirt tails of the odd Greyhound (OK after tiring them out a bit - he has much more stamina than a greyhound) and as said above will run flat out just for the fun of it.
So then, what happens if like me you start to suffer from foot/ankle related problems and long walks two or three times a day become painful and difficult? There's always the pain killers I guess but I prefer not to use too many of these.
However, as I suffer from repeatedly tearing the tendons in my ankles AND heel problems AND broke a bone in my foot (Whilst training in Agility I might add) which still gives me problems, too many long walks can be an issue - Particularly when I walk a couple of miles AWAY from home and then have to hobble the whole couple of miles or so home on painful feet/ankles where every step is agony.
Well, I found an answer that works for me - Cycling. "Cycling with your dog? Sounds dangerous!", Some of you may say. Well, in certain circumstances you may be correct, but with the correct equipment and a little thought it needn't be. In fact it can be a very fun and rewarding way of exercising both yourself and your beloved Dobe without any associated foot pain.
Things that might help
So want to know more?
Dogs feet are maybe not as tough as you may think and if you cycle with your four legged friend caution must be taken. But they run around all day on them don't they? you may well say. Of course they do, but not in general for long periods of time nor do they generally run down tarmac/asphalt/concrete roads or pavements.
In particular you should be very careful where a young dog is concerned as their pads are still very soft. In fact I wouldn't personally recommend cycling with a dog younger than 18 months old - particularly a Doberman as their joints need to develop and strengthen before ANY hard exercise is subjected upon them. I built up my boys exercise regime from 10 minutes physical exercise a day to 2 hours a day over a period of about 16 months slowly increasing the amount of time he exercised by the week.
As stated above the pads need to get used to pounding the hard surfaces of roads and pavements gradually if this is the sort of place you will be cycling and MUST be checked after every ride. If at any stage you see cracking or splitting of the pads please cease all future rides until they have healed 100%. Then you may start again. In some countries - particularly the US doggy boots are available and may be a good option if you wish to ride purely on hard surfaces or in areas where there may be sharp gravel (better off avoiding this type of cycling really though). Also you can get paw waxes from your local or online petshop which may help keep the paws in good condition.
I prefer personally to cycle on grass or tracks with a grassy verge as much as possible and usually only venture onto tarmac, concrete etc. for a couple of minutes whilst moving between parks or travelling down the quarter mile to our local field.
Riding along with your dog lead in your hand whilst grasping the handlebars is put quite simply, dangerous - I found this out myself when cycling round a local park one day, Lexx (my boy) decided to take off after a squirrel, yanking the handlebars to the right and throwing me to the ground OUCH!
There are a couple of things that I have tried quite successfully since. The first is using a long training lead of the type which has several clips at varying intervals down it. This allowed me to clip one end halfway down and loop this part over my shoulder, with the other end clipped to the dog collar - a video of this can be seen below
This method was short lived as my boy took it upon himself to chew through the lead! So as I couldn't find another one locally I searched the internet and game up with a great gadget just for people like me. Basically, it's an atatchment that bolts onto your seat stem and has a u shaped bar with a spring on the end which attaches to your dogs collar by means of a short nylon lead. There are several versions available on the market but I could only comment on the one I purchased - the "Trixie Biker set Deluxe". Personally I think this is a great piece of kit which keeps your dog away from the pedals, stops it from running round the front of the bike and offers a bit of shock absorption if your dog makes a run for a squirrel!.
Cycling with your beloved dobey should be undertaken by firstly getting the dog used to the bike. As with all new things your boy/girl may approach this new fangled machine with caution at first, but it should be quite easy to get them used to just coming to you whilst you sit astride the bike - Do not try cycling with your dog until you are sure it is comfortable with being around the bike or you may frighten him/her putting them off for good.
After you have accustomed the dog to the presence of the cycle you can start to take short walks with them maybe whilst sitting on the saddle and pushing along with your feet or even just walking your bike with you. Once the dog is accustomed to this you should start to take small rides of maybe 2-5 minutes at a very slow speed - so the dog is little more than walking alongside you, gradually you can increase the speed and distance over a few weeks.
Remember, dogs do not generally run for long distances so keep it at a speed where your furry friend is pretty much just trotting comfortably alongside you. Short bursts of speed are acceptable but if your dog starts to lag behind at ANY speed SLOW DOWN or STOP - remember this is supposed to be a fun way to exercise both yourself and your dog and running it to death is not fun - YOUR DOGS HEALTH AND WELL BEING is the most important thing here and must be in the forefront of your mind at all times. Take regular breaks and carry a water bottle and bowl (the plastic collapsible ones are great here). Please remember when giving your Doberman a drink to only offer SMALL amounts at any one time (this goes for before, during or directly after any rigorous exercise not just cycling) as dobes and most other deep chested dogs can easily bloat (a deadly condition). Also, please be sensible where temperature is concerned, early mornings and late evenings are best in the summer when the temperature is lower - if you are thinking of cycling on tarmac/asphalt/concrete DO NOT take your dog out in hot weather as these surfaces can be very hot and lead to your beloved's pads heating up to an intolerable temperature and cause cracking and splitting.
In short Cycling with your Doberman can be fun and great exercise for both yourself and your dog - please just use caution and common sense remembering always that your dog is the most important thing.
Thanks for reading
Brendan Roberts (Doberdog)