Thanks to this forum, I was able to research what I needed about biking with my Vizsla.
Moscow is five years old, and his primary exercise is from long distance hiking every weekend. After obtaining some pretty severe injuries, illnesses, and surgeries, my doctors recommended biking as therapy. The problem is that I couldn't justify any form of exercise that didn't involve Moscow. Thanks to your extremely informative post Bodhi, I was able to research the various attachments and the local bicycle shop helped me with my decision.
I went with the Springer attachment which I ordered off of Backcountry K-9 since they were the only ones with it in stock at the time. I also ordered a harness from them, and I can't seem to get it to fit Moscow properly.
Since this forum was so helpful to me with my research, I am going to post about my experiences with the Springer attachment, in case it can be of use to anyone else out there.
Moscow is used to being off leash on hikes, and he is a puller (shame on me for never being consistent with him about that), so the thought of biking with him leashed to my bike was very frightening. He also has no recall skills. :-[ The other thing I should mention is that Moscow is on the large end of the Vizsla size scale. In addition to hiking, he fetches logs that weigh over 40 lbs from fast moving water for fun. He has a lot of upper body strength which equates to extremely powerful pulling.
The Springer for the most part works very well. It attaches to the seat post, and loops down to connect to a very heavy duty spring. The spring holds a plastic piece that you loop and tie a rope through. The other end of the rope has a plastic hook that you connect to the harness. The first thing that worried me was the plastic on two very crucial parts of the contraption. Because I live in the city, and even parks are too close to roads, I really feared Moscow breaking loose because of the "safety" plastic. Having used the attachment for some time, I can confidently say that Moscow's weight and pulling alone will not stress either. Other parts seem to give before the plastic when experiencing heavy pulling. That said, I can totally see how each plastic piece would work in the event he whipped around a pole and needed to be loose quickly. This has never happened to me, as Moscow has understands the concept of poles and direction.
The attachment can go either on the right or the left depending on how you install it. I have mine on the right to keep him away from oncoming bikes. Passing becomes a problem if the person(s) in front of you don't know you have company. Because of this, I tend to call "Wide pass on left!" before passing. Small issue, but worth mentioning.
For the first ride, I really thought this was going to be impossible. I hadn't mounted the bike before attaching him, and he kept jumping the back wheel of the bike and going on the wrong side without a way to get back. With every pull, he was able to completely twist the bike. It wasn't until I pulled him (for the umpteenth time) to the right side again, that I mounted the bike, and then the stability was no longer an issue.
Once mounted and rolling, it took all of 30 seconds for him to get the point. He started going parallel to the bike at a slow and steady pace. It wasn't long before I felt comfortable enough to pick up the speed, and of course THAT'S when he decided to make for a sign post to pee on it. He yanked so hard outward that it twisted my seat about an inch to the right. The fast application of the brakes and the heavy yank on his harness was enough to make him yelp out and develop a healthy fear of wandering off. The bike seat is very tight, so I had to undo the seat clamp to put it back in position. It's hard to express how much force goes into his pulls. I have to say that despite that, I have not once felt like the bike was going to give or fall, or lose balance. Once again, with this attachment, there are a lot of places that give before you completely crash.
After that things went well again. We passed several signposts, and then another dog. The other dog was another challenge. This time, he hopped the back wheel again, causing him to drag a couple feet before I completely stopped. No yelping that time, and no visible injury. That was enough to teach him not to do that again. The real test came when a deer darted out in front of us. He LOVES to chase anything from squirrels to bears, so I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the deer. Fortunately he didn't see it that time, and the rest of the trip was a success. On subsequent trips he HAS seen the deer, and with verbal guidance, he continued at the regular pace. Somewhat counter-intuitive, I've found that speeding up when he sees something he wants to go after works much better than slowing down. It forces him to focus on keeping the pace.
Now that I've been using the Springer for a month, I can definitely say it works well. I don't have anything to compare to, but overall, I'm quite satisfied. The seat issue rarely happens now that he understands what happens when biking. Unfortunately for me, biking with Moscow is not improving my own training because he feels obligated to pull the bike forward. I find myself using the pedals infrequently. The best part about the whole thing is how much it wears him out. Biking for 20 minutes is worth 2 hours of jogging in worn out Vizsla currency. As I type this, he's passed at my feet. I'm looking at getting the EzyDog harness mentioned in Bodhi's post.
To summarize, here are the pros and cons (in general, not in comparison to other attachments):
- [li]Stability - I've never once felt like I was going to lose control of the bike despite even the most intense pulls.[/li]
[li]Versatility - I can easily remove the attachment when I'm not using it. The clamp stays.[/li]
- [li]Risk of Injury to dog - With the Springer it is both possible for the dog to find a paw under the front wheel (hasn't happened to me yet - knock on wood) as well as behind the back wheel. [/li]
[li]Seat movement - Extremely heavy pulling rotates the seat enough to be annoying when it happens.[/li]
And finally as a word of caution to any V owners out there hoping to start biking with their dog: DO NOT BIKE WITH A DOG UNDER THE AGE OF TWO
. This method of exercise is extremely tiring to young developing joints. I was cautioned against simple basic jogging. Biking even at the lowest speeds is much more intense than jogging. It is probably okay for training in short sessions, but please resist the temptation to bike with a developing dog for any real length of time. My favorite method of exercise for V from puppyhood until two years old is swimming. It wears them out and puts very little stress on their joints.