Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Most people do not think about dogs when I mention motorcycles. However, in the area where I live, there are only few cars. And, those who do not ride horses almost always have bikes. Most of them are small, at least compared to the motorcycles in the U.S. and Europe, and the majority of them have a milk basket tied on the back luggage rack to carry dogs when out hunting, when driving cattle, or when heading into town to see the vet.
If you have the right breed, and you go about it correctly, having your dog ride in your motorcycle with you can work. In fact, it is a lot of fun. But, what kind of dog should you look for if you want a riding companion?
Types of Dogs That Do Well Riding Motorcycles
- Small breed
- Easy to socialize
- Easy to train
Do Dogs Enjoy Motorcycle Rides?
No matter how carefully you choose your puppy, and how slowly you introduce him to your motorcycle, you will find that there are dogs out there that do not want to ride. I mainly use my motorcycle for driving on the beach when I want to go to the northern part of the island, and when I have tried to give my Pitbull a ride, she does not like it. She will run alongside, but even when tired, will not accept a ride. (I will stop after a while and let her rest. Maybe she has already figured me out, and knows that I am not going to abandon her at home or drive away and leave her).
If we were going on an all-day ride, and I added a sidecar to make her ride more stable, I think she would learn to accept the bike. When we get to the northernmost part of the beach, my Pitbull still has the energy to run home, but my Schnauzer is happy to jump on the bike for the ride home.
The Best Dog Breeds for Bikers
- Shih Tzu
My first choice for a dog to accompany you on bike rides would definitely be the sweet, little white Bichon. They are calm dogs, very affectionate, very sociable and open to meeting new people.
The Bichon is bred to have a normal facial structure and will do well in the wind. Some of them have ear problems, and some vets will recommend that they not be allowed to drive in a car with their head hanging out the window. A motorcycle would be even worse.
The coat on the Bichon may not mat up as much as the silkier breeds that do not shed much but I would still recommend keeping the hair short. Ask for a puppy cut when you take your dog in to see the groomer.
This little dog is almost perfect for a motorcycle. They are almost always calm—a great trait to have when some trucker blasts his horn when passing you. Almost all the dogs I have come across over the years are also very sociable, a great trait to have when meeting new people during a rally.
There are a few health issues to keep in mind, like with most small dog breeds. Protect your dog's eyes by using goggles and if the dog is an open mouth breather he is a lot more prone to dental disease and will need his teeth brushed daily and cleaned by the vet regularly. None of their problems will affect your bike ride.
About the only thing I do not like about Shih Tzu's out on a bike is their hair. If it is long it does tend to get matted, but this can be taken care of easily enough by taking him to the groomer and asking for a “puppy cut.” (This will need to be done about every 6 weeks.)
If you want to keep your Shih Tzu long, I recommend keeping him off your motorcycle.
Pugs are another breed that do well on bikes. They are calmer than a lot of other dogs, do not need much in the way of exercise, and when socialized, are very easy to get along with.
These little dogs have protruding eyes, so always make sure that your dog is used to wearing goggles before going on a trip or even a ride around the block. Since Pugs have flat faces and are prone to some breathing problems, they are not the best choice for a dog if you like to ride in the desert or if you go camping in a hot isolated area.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Another very affectionate breed, probably even more than the Bichon, Cavs are gentle dogs and if you end up with one you will find that the dog is almost always willing to spend time with you, especially on a bike.
Cavs have some health issues. You need to be careful of his eyes and always be sure to use goggles when out for a ride.
They do not tend to mat up like some of the finer-haired dogs but you do need to take a brush with you on a trip so that you can groom the dog each evening. If you are not willing to spend the time brushing this dog, get a short-haired dog like a Pug.
This breed of dog can still be hard to find in some areas but if you are willing to look around you will find that they make a great biking companion. They are not large enough to need a sidecar, but they are not tiny either (about 5-7 kilos or 12-15 pounds). They are friendly, pretty easy to socialized, and good natured enough to put up with long trips.
Like some of the long-haired dog breeds, they can have a pretty fine coat and it can get matted on a long ride. I recommend that you keep the coat clipped close (a puppy cut) and, just like with all dog breeds, you carry a brush with you and groom your Havanese each evening.
Although these dogs are tiny, and may be too delicate for some situations, they are great slackers, and will calmly sit on the gas tank of your bike for hundreds of miles. (Well, at least until the next rest stop.)
They also have long very fine fur, get matts easily, and need to be kept clipped close. That is okay, though, since they are cute long or short.
These dogs are known to be feisty but are usually calm around their owners. I do not think they are as sociable as a Bichon or Shih Tzu, so you may find yourself warning off a bunch of people who want to pet him. It really depends on how much you socialize your puppy during the sensitive socialization period, so if you take your puppy out a lot he will most likely be fine with strangers.
Yorkies do not shed much but they do have a pretty fine coat that can get matted if it is not taken care of. Keep your dog clipped short, brush him every day, and carefully comb out any matts as soon as they start. (Be sure to remember that fine hair under the ears.)
What About Motorcycles and Big Dogs?
All suggestions, no matter how helpful, do not hold true 100% of the time. I think that the best dogs for a motorcycle ride are small—those that can sit on the gas tank or on the seat in back. If you want a big dog, however, I think you should go for it.
However, if you are willing to have a sidecar, or are willing to pull a trailer, there is nothing wrong with having a larger dog breed. If you do not have a sidecar, a big dog might have some balance issues, which is why I think my Pitbull does not like to ride my motorcycle. Some of the same safety “rules” apply, such as goggles and harnesses.
If you already have a dog, even if he is larger than those I recommend, give him a chance and see if he likes going out on the bike with you. I would recommend taking it slow and practicing by driving around in an empty parking lot or field so that your dog can adapt to the strange noise and feelings.
Almost all of us who ride motorcycles have had at least one accident along the way. Most people drive cars, and when a car pulls out in front of you and you are not able to stop in time, there will be an accident. In a car, it might not be that serious an issue. On a bike, you are not protected by all that sheet metal and a huge engine so more injuries happen.
It can be even worse for a small dog. No matter what you do there are no guarantees, there are ways you can make your motorcycle trip safer for your dog:
- Goggles: These are vital so get your dog used to them early.
- Harness: There are a lot of choices. I think the best thing for a small dog is a full body harness with a short leash (about 6 inches) that attaches to the drivers belt loop. The dog sits on the gas tank. (Never use a regular collar instead of a harness. There is the chance that your dog will become hung up and choke out if you lay your bike down.)
- Jacket: This depends on the weather, and even a good jacket will not prevent broken bones. A jacket can protect your dog from some soft tissue injuries, however, and anyone who has ever dealt with road rash can appreciate that.
- Head gear: Not all dogs will accept a helmet but even a little homemade leather cap might prevent some soft tissue injuries. One of my neighbors made a “helmet” with the bottom of a PET bottle. It may not do much but it will help.
I want my dogs to enjoy the quality of their lives. Would they be safer if I left them at home every time I rode up the beach to check on something? Probably. Would they be happier? No. This is one reason we humans ride motorcycles instead of being locked in a cage.
Dogs are social animals. They want to be with you. Best of all? It feels great to be out with your dog.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 07, 2020:
Serenity--do you know of any actual cases? (No, not just an old dog that goes deaf, and also rides with his owner. I mean a young dog that develops deafness early.)
Thanks for leaving that interesting comment. I hope to hear back from you.
Serenity Oakes on September 06, 2020:
My biggest concern is heating protection, since their ears are very sensitive to noise I don’t want to make my pup go deaf early but we are avid riders so plan to get her used to it as soon as we get her.
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 21, 2019:
Hello, Dr.Mark, honestly, I have not. But we ride along with them in cars and walk them during early morning jogging routine. Thank you, and have a nice time dogging.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 21, 2019:
Miebakagh, have you seen many motorcyclists riding with their dogs where you live?
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 20, 2019:
Hi, Dr.Mark, thanks for sharing.