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Paws & Pedals: Dogs and Bike Safety



June is Pet Emergency Preparedness Month! In honor of this, we will be providing tips and tricks to keep your dogs safe during the summer months. One of the more overlooked aspects of pet safety is desensitizing our dogs to potentially frightening experiences, such as bikes. 


When I got my border collie puppy in November, he was considered a winter puppy and because of this, he wasn’t exposed to these experiences that he would be seeing during the summer. I remember when the first day of warm weather was upon us, we headed to the park, where Soap saw a bike for the first time. He was terrified! He immediately wanted to go back to the car and was looking at me as if the world was ending. I knew then that we had to put in the work. A couple months later and with a lot of training and dedication, Soap can pass by a bike in close proximity now without caring about them. 


Here are some essential tips I did to keep Soap safe as he learned the ins and outs of bikes at parks!


First, being prepared is key. You want to make sure that your dog’s identification tags and microchips are up-to-date with all current contact information. In situations where your pup is scared, they may flee from the scene out of fear. Therefore, ensuring everything is up to date is a game changer and that way you can reunite with your pup once they are found.


Desensitizing dogs to bikes can be tricky, but it is important to introduce it to them slowly. Start in a controlled environment where you are able to keep a distance away from the bike and use positive reinforcement techniques, like treats and praise to associate bikes with a positive reward. Gradually increase exposure and distance, allowing your pup to become accustomed to the sight and sound of the bikes passing by.

 

When encountering bikes, you will want to keep your dog on leash at all times. This will provide you with control and can prevent your dog from chasing after or reacting fearfully to passing bikes. Pay close attention to their body language, signs of fear or anxiety can include flattened ears, tucked tail, raised hackles and cowering. If your dog begins to display these signs, calmly redirect their attention to something else and begin to create distance.

 

Put in the work! Desensitization takes time and patience, but seeing your pup flourish in new environments is well worth the training. Don’t get discouraged if you find you and your pup taking a step back sometimes, it’s all a part of the learning process.


There are cases where dogs may exhibit extreme fear or aggression towards bikes despite consistent desensitization training. If this may be the case for your pup, we recommend seeking guidance from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. Working with them one on one can help with personalized strategies and techniques.




Pictured: Trainer Kennedy, CPDT-KA working with Finnegan on outdoor and bike desensitization

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