“Dogs should be walking, not riding in a stroller!” That’s a proclamation I hear often when people see a dog peeking out of a pet stroller for the first time. And it’s true—dogs, like people, do need exercise. Most dogs enjoy long walks, hiking with their humans, going shopping with them where possible, and running and roughhousing at the dog park.
But what happens when your dog starts getting older and tires out halfway through your usual hike? Or your dog starts to lose vision or mobility and isn’t as active as he used to be? When he wants to join you for your power walk but can’t keep up with your pace? Do you leave him at home, knowing he’s unhappy that you’re going out without him?
That’s the time to start thinking about making accommodations for your dog, to make sure you both can continue to enjoy doing things together.
From carriers to strollers, the market is full of products to help you keep your dog with you anytime or all the time. Depending on where you want to go, what you want to do, your dog’s size and temperament, and any special needs he may have, there’s a solution out there that will keep your beloved sidekick close.
Let’s look at some of your options.
Carriers. If your dog is small enough for you to tote around, a carrier is a good choice. I prefer cross-body carriers, which are soft and lightweight, so you can wear them empty at the beginning of an outing and then put the dog in it when they get tired. The cross-body design distributes the weigh across your back instead of focusing it on one shoulder. And because they are crafted of soft fabrics, they cradle the dog as he leans into your body, helping him to feel safe and secure.
Backpacks. If you’re already used to wearing a backpack or just like the sound of it, this might be a good solution for you. But it’s critical that you train your dog to become accustomed to riding this way and that you ensure he is very secure in the backpack. Once he’s in place and you put the backpack on, you won’t be able to comfort or otherwise control the dog if he gets fidgety or tries to jump out.
Cycling. If your dog can no longer keep up running alongside your bicycle as you ride, consider adding a bike accessory that will allow him to ride with you. For small dogs, a basket that attaches to your handlebars will do the trick, and for big dogs, attach an enclosed trailer to the back of your bike.
Strollers. “Doggy limos,” as I call them, hold dogs from teacup to super sized— even dogs over 100 lb! You can also find strollers designed to accommodate multiple dogs so you can take your whole pack with you. Because strollers come in such a wide range of styles, features, and prices, you may want to consider the following when choosing the right one for you and your dog:
• Size of your dog. Check the weight limits on a stroller to make sure it can handle your dog. If it’s big enough for your dog’s body but not made to handle that weight, it will break down from repeated use. Also be sure that the bed of the stroller will accommodate your dog comfortably. For instance, if your dog has a long body, look for a stroller with a longer bed.
• Big dog strollers. They are designed with a low bed and a cover that lifts up so the dog can walk into it and you don’t have to lift them.
• One or multiple dogs. Consider the total weight of all dogs and how close they like to be to each other, then choose a stroller that will be comfortable and strong enough for all of them.
• Zipper or no zip. If you are transporting multiple dogs, not having a zipper to deal with is much easier. You won’t have to battle noses and paws while trying to close a zipper.
• Mesh front. Does the front mesh fold down into the bed or lift up into the cover? If the space is tight for your dog(s) you don’t want one that folds into the bed. It will take up space. Mesh that lifts up into the cover provides a lot more space.
• Where you are going? If you are hiking on rough terrain or jogging, you’ll want a stroller that is made for that activity. Some styles even have locking front wheels for rough terrain.
• Wheels: plastic or air wheels. Air wheels provide a softer ride, especially if you’re hiking or jogging. But, just like our cars, the summer heat will cause them to need more air regularly.
• One front wheel or two. I am often asked which is better, but it’s a personal choice. Some people think two front wheels are more stable, and some like the maneuverability of one front wheel. Try them both and see what you like.
• Parent tray. This is the tray where you put your water or coffee mug and your dog’s water, too. If this is important, be sure the stroller has one that is big and sturdy enough.
• Height of the handles. Try out the stroller before you buy to be sure the handles are at a comfortable height for you. If there are too low or too high, you or your back will tire quickly.
• Kick out. Again, by walking with different styles, you can be sure that you can comfortably walk without hitting the back wheels.
• Weight of the stroller. If you’re picking up the stroller and loading it into your car, be sure it’s not too heavy for you to lift.
• How small it folds up. You may love a big stroller but have a tiny trunk. Be sure the stroller will fit in your vehicle when it’s folded up.
With all these options to choose from, you should be able to find the right product that will allow you and your dog to enjoy adventures together for a long time.
Patt Savastano, MA, owner of Spoiled Dog Designs, designs and manufactures pet harnesses, clothing, and carriers. (760) 482-1877, spoileddogdesigns.com.