Jen Sotolongo here from Long Haul Trekkers! We’re biking from Oslo to Istanbul with our dog Sora, and we’re having a blast! We’ve learned a lot along the way and have compiled 10 tips to help you plan a successful tour with your furry friend in tow.
Cycle touring with a dog certainly poses its challenges. In addition to voluntarily adding extra weight to an already heavy touring load, bringing a dog involves navigating a variety of transportation means (plane, train, subway, etc.), finding dog-friendly accommodation, ensuring your pup still receives her regular exercise and care on the road, and fulfilling international pet requirements for entry.
Despite the frequent obstacles we face by having Sora along on this journey, we have no regrets over our decision to bring her. She is by our side 24-hours a day and provides comfort when our battered bodies cannot handle another rotation of the pedals, lays by my side when I prepare dinner for the evening, and snuggles with us in the tent every morning before we begin our day.
Of course, traveling with a dog by bike is unusual and attracts quite a bit of attention. We are frequently stopped and asked how we travel with our dog. When perceived an adventure rather than a hindrance, cycle touring with a dog is entirely doable with relative ease.
Without further adieu, here are 10 tips for cycle touring with your dog:
1. Make the Trailer Cozy
Sora spends a lot of the day in her trailer, so we want to create a safe, comfortable space for her to watch the world go by. The Burley Tail Wagon offers her plenty of space to sit up, turn around, and fully extend with plenty of room for her gear (and sometime our excess).
While Sora took to her trailer immediately, some dogs may not enjoy sitting in a confined space at first. Reward your pup with treats and/or praise for hopping into the trailer. Make it cozy and familiar by placing a blanket or toy from home inside so that he feels safe. We line the bottom of Sora’s with her bed and place her food bag near the entry to act as a pillow.
2. Get the Stroller Attachment
After learning that airlines do no not charge for strollers checked at the gate days before our departure, we ordered the stroller attachment for the trailer right away. Slightly bulky, we discussed leaving the attachments behind in Oslo to be shipped to us at our final destination.
We opted to keep the attachments, which have proven essential to our journey. We use the stroller daily to wheel our gear under our tent each night, we pushed Sora around Berlin when she had to have emergency surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, and we use it daily as a drying rack for our clothes.
3. Sun and Rain
Though the trailer has rain covers and plenty of airflow, we’ve rigged up some rain and shade hacks using magnets to ensure optimal comfort, plus all of her gear stays dry.
Throughout our journey, we have encountered many (many) days of lots (and lots) of rain. We brought along an old tent footprint that we attach from the inside using magnets. Similarly, to shade Sora from the sun, we brought a white pillowcase that we attach in the same manner. We move the pillowcase depending on where the sun happens to be at a given time of day.
4. Keep a Separate Bag of Emergency Dog Food
We keep two bags of food for Sora: Her sack that can hold 64 ounces of food and then an emergency bag in a quart-size zip top bag that lets us know when we need to purchase food ASAP.
So far, we have experienced little trouble finding quality dog food for Sora during our journey. We simply look for pet stores when we visit larger cities and purchase the food in small quantities, generally 6-8lb bags. Most of the packaging contains ingredients listed in at least 10 different languages, including English, so I rarely have trouble reading labels.
5. Buy a Three-Person Tent
When we first began cycle touring, we not only had Sora, but also our late dog, Maxwell. All four of us crammed into a two-person tent. Dave and I slept with Maxwell in between us, breathing into our faces all night, while Sora slept in a corner at our feet, eventually spreading out over our legs during the night. We were all miserable.
We eventually decided on the Big Agnes Slater UL3+ Tent, which was the best gear decision we made. Dave and I each have our own space, Sora has plenty of room to lie out fully on her bed, and we even have availability to store our handlebar bags and dog food (which should always be kept inside. Trust us, we know how easily raccoons can sneak into your gear at night!).
Sora requires and is used to a lot of exercise. Dave and I trail run several days per week in our regular Portland lives, and Sora comes along. She has kept me company while training for the Mckenzie River 50K and ran along as a participant in the Peterson Ridge Rumble 20-miler in Sisters, OR. While her humans feel exhausted after these long runs, Sora whines to keep going.
To stave off boredom and prevent a poorly behaved pup, we ensure that Sora gets enough exercise. Because she is used to running long distances, we allow her to run up to 10K daily beside the bikes (we especially recommend this on hills). Dave uses the Kurgo Quantum Leash clipped around his waist to keep her nearby.
It can be a bit tricky to manage your pup while also ensuring you stay upright on your bike. We use the following method with Sora:
Front panniers can also act as bumpers once you get the hang of cycling with your dog running next to you.
Sora has her own water bottle and collapsible water bowl that we store in her trailer. We offer her water every time we stop and frequently when the weather is warm. Often Sora snubs the water we offer, so we either try to water nearby plants with her discards or pour it over her fur in hot weather.
8. Keeping your Pup Cool
Speaking of hot weather, we take off early in the morning in order to cycle during the coolest time of the day. When we cycle in the afternoon, we stop more often to give her water and keep a close eye on her panting to ensure that she’s not overheating.
Since dogs cool off by panting and don’t sweat like humans, we will either pour water over her and rub it into her fur, as mentioned above, or we find a lake or river where she can get her paws wet.
9. Tick Checks
At home in Oregon, Sora always seems to be the dog among our dog friends who evades the ticks. This has not been the case during our European bicycle adventure. After two months of wild camping, cycling through woods, and camping at lakes, we estimate that we have pulled some 30 ticks off of Sora.
After finding that first tick, we have integrated a nightly tick check on her (and ourselves) before bed. Our Berlin host suggested that we buy a tick removal lasso. A fish line hook loops around the entire tick and with a quick twist and pull, the tick is easily removed. We found ours at a pharmacist or you can find it online.
10. Bring a Small Towel
We received a small microfiber towel as a gift before our journey. It was too small for either of us to use, but was the perfect size for Sora. We wipe her paws off each night before she comes into the tent in attempt to keep the space clean and use it for wet weather or after swimming excursions.