Dog bike trailer purchasing advice: how to choose the right product
- The most important facts in brief
- A bicycle dog trailer allows dog owners to take their pet on bicycle tours in nature.
- Special attention should be paid to safety features such as the visibility of the trailer or the absence of harmful substances.
- Features such as a padded undersurface, suspension and a window ensure a comfortable ride.
- The dog trailer should be of a suitable size as well as have sufficient maximum load capacity.
- Some models can be converted for jogging.
Leave no pack member behind
Dogs need a lot of exercise. Young, athletic animals in particular hardly ever get tired. You could probably let a hunting dog romp around all day without interruption. But not all dogs are agile or healthy. For some, a short walk is enough to get some exercise and a little sniffing. Very few manage to run alongside the bike for hours on end. Nevertheless, you don’t have to exclude your dog from the bike ride. After all, dogs always want to be with their pack, if possible.
A bicycle dog trailer allows you to take your dog with you wherever you go, whether to the vet or on a day out. Even if the dog is capable of keeping up with your cycling pace, it is not advisable to let it run alongside on a leash, especially in the city, for safety reasons. If your dog is too restless and energetic, but you prefer to transport him in the dog trailer, all you have to do is give him a good workout before the trip – afterwards he will probably sit in it voluntarily.
A dog trailer consists of these components
Bicycle dog trailers are attached to the rear axle of the bicycle with a drawbar, at the end of which a coupling is attached – more rarely to the seat tube or luggage rack. The trailers themselves consist of a metal frame with two wheels. A tarpaulin made of plastic is stretched over the frame, which is equipped with transparent windows and openings so that the dog can look out or even stick its head out. The number of openings varies depending on the model. Bicycle dog trailers come in different sizes. Some models can be folded or converted for jogging.
Small dog, small money
For a very small dog, such as a Chihuahua, Pekinese or Miniature Spitz, a bicycle basket is sufficient. It is cheaper, easy to mount, does not weigh much and you can keep an eye on your dog at all times while riding.
Safety in road traffic
When you take your dog trailer out on the road, safety is paramount. On the one hand, the trailer must be clearly visible to other road users, and on the other hand, the dog itself must not be exposed to any dangers in it.
A TÜV seal ensures that the bicycle dog trailer you have chosen is really roadworthy. The trailer should also be tested for harmful substances, which can be recognised by a GS seal, for example. After all, dogs love to explore their surroundings with their tongues and snouts. It is therefore to be expected that they will lick the tarpaulin from time to time, which could be harmful to their health if the plastic used contains harmful substances.
Visibility is usually ensured by three devices: Reflectors ensure that the light of other road users is reflected. A rear light, for example, allows car drivers to see the rear end of the trailer. After all, they should not only see the bicycle, but also the trailer, as it extends the vehicle and may require braking sooner behind it. A flag makes the somewhat flatter trailer visible to larger road users such as trucks.
A dog is most likely to enjoy the ride if it can stick its head out from time to time. However, there is a risk that it might jump off during the ride. To avoid this, bicycle dog trailers are often equipped with a safety leash. This limits the dog’s movements in such a way that it cannot leave the trailer but can move freely inside it. When the dog is attached to the safety leash, it is especially important that windows and entrances are closed. If the dog does manage to get out, the safety leash will be its undoing, dragging it behind you by the neck.
Protection from the weather and foreign objects
It is also essential to protect the dog from the weather. On the one hand, the tarp must be water-repellent or waterproof so that the dog does not get wet in the rain. It is even more important that the inside remains shady. After all, dogs don’t cope well with extreme heat and constant UV radiation because they can’t cool themselves down with sweat. Last but not least, an insect screen is an advantage. If a fly flies into your dog’s mouth, it is not so dramatic, but a bee or wasp is. Such insects are especially dangerous for your dog if they get into his mouth, which often happens because dogs do not perceive them as a danger but rather as toys or prey.
As the load increases, you must adjust your braking behaviour, i.e. brake earlier and more smoothly, partly because of the increased weight and partly because the dog is not strapped in. Ideally, the trailer itself has a brake. Special attention should be paid to this in the case of heavy models for larger dogs. With lighter trailers for small dogs, brakes are not absolutely necessary.
Other buying criteria
However, safety is not the only important purchase criterion for bicycle dog trailers. The means of transport should also guarantee the dog’s comfort. The trailer must also be the right size so that it can actually carry the dog’s weight.
If the dog has positive associations with the dog trailer, he will be happy to climb in and look forward to or enjoy the ride. Therefore, the bicycle dog trailer must ensure a certain level of comfort for the pet. An anti-slip mat, ideally with padding, ensures that the dog has a stable surface to sit or lie on while riding.
One of the most important features is a window with a zipper from which the dog can stick its head out while driving. It should be installed in the upper and front part of the trailer so that the dog can look in the direction of travel and keep an eye on its driving master or mistress. The window also serves to ventilate the interior. It is ideal if there is a possibility to look out in every direction, be it an insect screen or a transparent plastic cover, so that the dog does not feel constricted.
To ensure the smoothest possible ride, the bicycle dog trailer needs suspension, especially on forest paths or cobblestones. However, not every model has suspension, as this would make the trailer more expensive. If you mainly ride on flat roads, suspension is not absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, to prevent uncomfortable jerking, it is advisable to let some air out of the tyres. This will make riding a little more difficult, but a not too full pneumatic tyre will provide some suspension.
The dog must fit in the dog trailer in such a way that it can sit comfortably in it. If the dog is not yet full-grown and you know approximately how big it will be, it is advisable to buy a trailer for the full-grown dog so that you do not need a new one after a few months – trailers are not exactly cheap, after all.
The size specifications of dog trailers usually indicate the inside dimensions. The height and length of the trailer are particularly important, as the dog must be able to sit and lie upright. The height of the trailer should therefore roughly correspond to the size of the dog. It should not be too high, because then the dog might not be able to look out of the window. In order for the dog to lie comfortably, the dog trailer must be the length of the dog plus about half the length of the legs. A little more space won’t hurt. You should pay attention to the width mainly if you are riding on very narrow cycle paths and fear that the trailer is too wide. Some manufacturers produce their trailers in standard sizes, for example S, M, L or XL. However, there is no uniform regulation in this regard.
Bicycle dog trailers weigh between 9 and 20 kilograms, depending on size and material. However, their load capacity is much more important. For safety reasons, this must not be exceeded. The manufacturer’s specifications refer to the total weight of the trailer and dog. To find out how much load the trailer has to carry, you have to subtract its own weight from its load capacity value. The remaining weight must be at least equal to the weight of your dog. Some manufacturers make it a little easier for users by specifying the maximum load.
Again, this depends on whether the dog is full-grown. Commonly, trailers have a maximum load of 25 kilograms for small dogs, 40 kilograms for medium-sized dogs and 60 kilograms for large dogs. However, it is best to do the math yourself.
The material of the trailer is relevant in two respects, firstly for the tarpaulin and secondly for the frame. In general, make sure that the quality of workmanship is high, as dogs like to explore their surroundings by nibbling, licking or stomping on something. If there are already cracks or other defects, the dog could quickly damage the inside.
The frame of a bicycle dog trailer must be robust and stable. For this reason, metal is used in its manufacture, steel or aluminium to be precise. Aluminium is the more common construction material because it is lighter. However, it has a shorter lifespan. Steel is very stable and cheap, but it is heavy and requires a lot of maintenance. Without proper care, rust would form sooner or later.
The walls and roof of the dog trailer consist of a tarpaulin. This is made of polyester or nylon. Pay particular attention to the quality of workmanship, as a poor-quality model can quickly develop tears or other damage. The material protects against water and UV radiation. The tarpaulins are often partly equipped with mesh fabric or an insect screen so that the interior is well ventilated but insects remain outside.
Bicycle dog trailer tyres are mostly pneumatic tyres and usually have a diameter of 12, 16 or 20 centimetres. The larger the diameter, the less resistance there is, which makes riding easier. In the city on flat roads, riding is easy even with smaller tyres. In the countryside, where there are many forest or field paths, large tyres are advisable.
Assembling a dog trailer is usually easy and can be done by a single person. Instructions should be included to make assembly easier. In most cases, the vehicle can be assembled without tools, as the frame has snap-in and click mechanisms. The connection to the bicycle is made by a drawbar – usually on the left side – which is attached to the rear axle of the bicycle by means of a coupling. A strap hanging from the drawbar is tied around the frame of the bicycle so that if the drawbar or coupling breaks, the trailer still remains connected to the bicycle.
Transport and functionality
A foldable trailer is easy to store or transport. For example, it can be taken along in the car or train and used on the bike tour at the holiday destination. Extra compartments inside and outside the trailer are also useful. These offer further storage options, for example for shopping. Some models can even be converted for jogging. In this case, a third tyre and a handle for pushing are mounted at the front, similar to a pram.
How to get the dog used to the trailer
Very few dogs get into the trailer as soon as they see it. As a rule, you first have to get your dog used to the new means of transport. This is best done gradually: Let the dog explore the trailer in peace – preferably in an already familiar environment. Place treats inside the trailer or give the dog a few when it is sitting or lying down. This way, the dog forms positive associations with being in the dog trailer. Move the trailer a little by hand so that the dog gets used to being transported in it. Now you can attach the trailer to the bicycle and use it. However, it is advisable to do a few short test rides before you go on a longer bike ride so that you are also sure that the dog can really cope with it.