Trail Dogs are a growing phenomenon in the the cycling community, but what are they?
It may seem blindingly obvious, but if you’re a roadie like us then you may not be familiar with the concept.
However, if you’re a mountain biker who regularly visits trails, you may have spotted a few riders with their furry friends in pursuit.
These are referred to as Trail Dogs.
And I want one.
Are trail dogs exclusive to mountain biking?
No, trail dogs are not.
Adventure Dogs is generally the term used to refer to these companions, but I’m sure you can figure out why MTB riders call them Trail Dogs. Some examples of these activities include:
- Outdoor swimming
- Rock climbing
Of course, your dog was made to be outside and so can accompany you on virtually any adventure you put your mind to. But it’s always important to put the health and welfare of your animal before anything else.
Why are trail dogs so popular?
Apart from the enjoyment of spending time with your best friend, there are numerous ways your pets benefit from the experience.
The two most prominent of these will be the health and social aspects of activities they’re involved in.
The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on its breed, age, size, and health condition. Vets recommend that your dog participates in between 30 minutes and 2 hours of physical and mental stimulation a day.
Although, breeds that were historically bred for hunting or labour will need more exercise than others, e.g. Labradors, German Shepherds, Pointers, etc.
Keeping your own fitness in mind; taking Fido out on a ride (or whatever activity you enjoy) kills two birds with one stone
Canines are highly social animals, and require intellectual and emotional engagement on top of their fitness needs. They’re driven and motivated by positive contact with familiar individuals, whilst social isolation will have the opposite effect on them.
As social learners, they are constantly being shaped by their environment and by those who share it.
Therefore, the kind of associative learning that takes place during these activities will yield positive changes to the behaviour and personality of your pal.
What makes the perfect MTB trail dog?
Perfection is a difficult state to achieve, but in truth there are only four basic foundations for a happy and healthy Trail Dog.
And let’s be honest, a happy and healthy dog is the perfect dog.
1. Proximity Awareness
Firstly, your companion will have to be able to stay close to you.
This should remain true in whatever kind of activity you both take part in, but is especially important for those involving bikes.
This also means that your dog will have to maintain a high average speed, whilst also being capable of evaluating the changing environment around them.
- You may lose your dog.
2. Respectful of Wildlife (and other people)
It can be difficult to train dogs to ignore wildlife, as most are naturally curious.
But the last thing you need is for your buddy to shoot off after an animal whilst you’re out together.
The ability to ignore wildlife will come from thorough training, but will ultimately be worth it.
- You may lose your dog.
- Your dog may be harmed.
3. Danger Awareness
Your companion needs to be aware of bikes, and other vehicles, passing in all directions.
Not only this, but they will have to learn to ignore them.
- Your dog may be harmed.
- It may cause injury to others.
Finally, is the physical ability of your dog.
They will need good endurance and be able to maintain high speeds, depending on the activity.
You will also need a good knowledge of what your dog is already capable of, and what level it could achieve.
- You may cause short and/or long term injuries to your dog.
Supporting your trail dog
- Hydration: Always keep your dog hydrated, which means bringing plenty of water.
- Ability: Stay within the realms of your dog’s ability and training. Try to introduce new aspects or environments slowly.
- Route Planning: Alter the route before or during the ride to avoid potential problems. Not all trails are dog friendly.
- Hazard Awareness: You’re responsible for both your own and your dog’s safety. Be extra vigilant of hazards that can affect either of you.
What makes a dog unsuitable to be a Trail Dog?
There are a few things that would make a dog unsuitable to be a trail/ adventure dog.
These would concern the dog’s body shape, physiology, and any tendency to develop joint problems.
A few people may disagree with body shape effecting the dog’s capability, as breeds like Beagles and Jack Russells are popular choices of adventure dog.
However, it’s always best to consult a vet on what your dogs may be capable of.
If you’re searching for a trail dog currently, Pet Breeds offers a great platform for comparing them.
They consider all aspects of a breeds history, physiology, energy level, personality, compatibility with children and other dogs, shedding, and maintenance.
If you’re interested in such a platform, please follow this link for more information.
Great breeds for MTB trail dogs or adventure dogs
There’s no one perfect breed for adventure, as all dogs yearn for activity.
However, some dogs are more suitable for more intense excursions as they were bred for specific purposes.
Here’s a short list of breeds (or species) that would have very little trouble keeping up:
Australian Cattle Dog: Easy to Train | Very Active
Australian Shepherd: Moderately Easy Training | Very Active | Agile | Adapted for Steeper Inclines and Rocks
Bernese Mountain Dog: Easy to Train | Semi-Active | Difficulty Building Endurance | Able to Carry Small Pack | Great in Cold Weather | May Struggle in Heat
Brittany: Easy to Train | Very Active | High Independence Level | Very Social
Collies: Easy to Train | Moderately Active | (Border Collies are better suited to Extended Activities)
English Springer Spaniel: Easy to train | Very Active | Adaptable | Independent | Very Social
German Shorthaired Pointer: Easy to Train | Very Active | Independent
Labradors: Easy to Train | Very Active | Great Swimmers | Tendency to Gain Weight without Regular Exercise | Susceptible to Hip Dysplasia and Arthritis
Rhodesian Ridgeback: Moderately Easy Training | Moderately Active | Adapted to Dry and Heat
Siberian Husky: Moderately Easy Training | Very Active | Adapted to the Cold | May Struggle in Heat | Able to Carry Small Packs
Vizsla: Easy to Train | Very Active | Great Swimmers | Susceptible to the Cold
Weimaraner: Easy to Train | Very Active
The only question now is; when can I have one?
Not done reading yet? Check out our article on how long it takes to cycle 10 miles.