Riding With Your Dog

Going two-up with man's best friend

Something about the freedom of the road and the companionship of a dog just feels right. I have been riding with my dog since I adopted him as a tiny little pup about three years ago, and he has gotten darn good at it. Here are some of the things I have learned that might make it a little easier if you want to try taking your four-legged companion out on your two-wheeled adventures!

motorcycle mutt
My road partner, Rollie on the 2016 Road GlideMorgan Gales

Tips on Starting
If you have never done it before, starting to ride a motorcycle with your dog can be a real challenge.

Know your dog. If you think "Man, I don't think ol' spot would be able to do that," then it might not be the best idea to try. While there is a lot of appeal to having your dog on the trip with you, their safety should come first.

Start with the bike off. You might find it's best to not even have to bike running at first while you get the dog up on the bike. You can put your pup in riding position and gently wobble the bike back and forth to get the dog used to having to balance then reward your pup with a treat for doing a good job. If your dog seems eager to jump off the bike and run away, it's probably not quite ready to go out riding. Once your dog gets comfortable on the bike, you can try starting it with the pup already in position. This will avoid having to approach the bike once it is on and loud while letting the dog stay in an area it is now hopefully comfortable with.

Roll very slowly. Rolling motion is going to feel very different from rocking the bike back and forth in your driveway. Start at a speed that won't injure your dog if it gets scared and tries to hop off. You can increase speed as you and the dog become more comfortable together, eventually going out on normal rides at higher speeds. I can take my pup on the highway with me now, and we have done as much as 600 miles in a day.

Having a smaller dog, around 17 pounds, I have always been lucky enough to have him fit neatly in my jacket. Maybe it's because we have done this since he was much smaller and he got used to it, but he seems incredibly comfortable and quickly adjusts to getting settled in. Keeping my dog close to my body helps keep him calm, and means that I can feel all of his movements if he starts getting squirmy and has to go to the bathroom.

There are tons of other products designed to keep your dog secure on the bike while also giving them a little space to tuck away if they need to get out of the wind. I haven't tested these out but know if I tried this with my dog after years of riding in my jacket, he would just try to climb up in there.

I recently asked a police officer what he thought about riding with your pet, and he said he thought it was great as long as "the load is secured," and the animal isn't at risk of flying off, which seems obvious.

motorcycle dog
Rollie all tucked into my jacket and ready to go!Morgan Gales

We here at Cruiser gear up before every ride and, loving our pets, want to keep them just as safe. Luckily there are a handful of products out there to keep your pup sitting pretty and safe on the ride.

While pet helmets seem to be 99% stylistic, we don't hate the idea of something extra protecting that little K-9 brain. I guess the added benefit of your pup looking like a biker badass won't hurt either.

Eye protection is, in my opinion, the most important part of the dog's get-up. Leaning their faces into the wind, they catch a ton of dust and debris while riding, and covering up their peepers is a must. I have been using Doggles (I know, the name kills me) for a couple years now and they've held up pretty well. The straps stay on his head well and don't move around in the wind.

If you keep the dog in your jacket or somewhere close to your body, insulation might not be as important, but if your dog is in a carrier or a sidecar it can get real chilly out there in the wind. Yes, your dog's coat is meant to provide a certain amount of insulation but definitely not at 60 mph. Every pet store has a few options of things that could work. I found a quilted jacket that Velcros on the belly for $20 at Petsmart for when we go on REALLY cold trips and the jacket just won't cut it. If you need help picking one out... HERE is a pretty epic example.

If you want to try to ride with your dog, it can be a lot of fun and a great activity for the two of you to do together, but there is a high risk and you should pay utmost attention to your dogs safety, making sure you're both completely ready before attempting riding out on the road.