Q: I often see people bicycling with their dogs running alongside them. Is that a good way to exercise dogs?

A: Letting a dog run alongside a bike can be a great way for a dog to get exercise, if it’s in good shape.

Before you decide to bike with your dog, take it in for a checkup with your vet. If your dog is overweight, you may want to find another exercise, because running can be hard on its joints. And biking is definitely not something to do with a puppy whose growth plates haven’t closed yet. However, if you have a dog that loves to run and has an excess of energy, you have yourself the makings of a good bicycling companion.

Make sure your dog responds to the cues “sit,” “leave it” and “heel.” Start slowly, and gradually build up speed and distance. Keep your dog at a trot, not a run. Make sure it’s not overheating; take a break if it’s panting hard, slowing down, trying to run toward shade or wanting to lie down. Bring along water and offer it frequently.

Schedule rides for when it’s cool. Avoid busy streets, and make sure your dog wears a flashing collar or orange safety vest. Don’t use an extendible leash or carry the leash in your hand; both can lead to a wreck. Consider buying an attachment for your bike that keeps your dog alongside it and unable to run off after a bird or squirrel.

Skip this type of exercise if you have a bulldog or other flat-faced breed or mix.

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