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Riding a Motorcycle with your Dog!
This blog is going to cover everything I've learned about riding a motorcycle with your dog. I really like writing blogs that saves my readers money or time, since I've done a ton of research on this and purchased and tried lots of products, maybe I will save you some time. If you feel I have, leave a comment below and share this post!
First of all I never thought I was a little dog kinda guy until we got Pixel. We always had big dogs and as they started to get older we started looking for another dog. We found Pixel and we immediately fell in love with her. We think she is a Long Nosed Chihuahua, Rat Terrier Mix (in case you're wondering). You might be asking yourself, if we love her so much why would we put her on a motorcycle? Well trust me there are debates on the internet about this and certainly my own internal struggle with letting her ride or not. But if you only knew how much she truly loves riding, you could not deny her. She literally freaks out when she sees my Harley, demands to get on it and only shuts up when you put her on it. I actually think she needs the wind in her face as much as I do. I should point out that normally Pixel is kinda shy and timid and gets scared and starts to shake over random things, but not the bike, she's a natural.
I'm a bit of safety freak when it comes to gear for riding. No difference with the dog. Pixel only has one eye that works as you'll see in the pictures. One of our big dogs before they passed, bit her on accident and punctured her eye. She still has it, but it's blue and clouded over and 100% blind. So the first problem we had was we couldn't risk a bug or pebble taking out her remaining eye. So eyewear is a must. I would do this anyway (we do with our other dog Draper), but it's even more important in her case. We also have to worry about where she will ride on the bike and how do we make sure she can't jump out and hurt herself (she never tries to jump out, but your dog might).
One thing you won't see on the list is a helmet. After much research I can't find one that's worth a damn. I've read from many sources that it won't provide any real protection in the event of a crash. She also really really hates wearing it. Still trying to convince her because it might prevent a little rock or something from hitting her head. If I ever find a good one or you know of one, let me know and I'll post it!
1. Transporting your dog on the Motorcycle
Some people just let there dogs straddle the tank (not a fan, 0 safety), others use a chest harness and strap their dog right in front of them, some use a sidecar, or even a milk crate strapped to the back. I don't have any experience with any of those other than sometimes I'll give Pixel or Draper a ride down the street or in the parking lot while stuffed in the front of my coat. She loves riding that way too, (actually a lot). But for a longer ride, for her safety and mine, I've found another product I will share with you. It's called the Pixel Palace. Oops, I meant Pet Palace and it's made by a company called Kuryakyn. You might of already heard of them as they make tons of add-ons for motorcycles. I love their products.
Their website says: "Take your favorite four-legged family member on the road trip of a lifetime with the safest and most versatile motorcycle pet carrier available. Updated styling, amenities, plus additional ventilation and internal space for your fur baby make the Grand Pet Palace the ultimate home away from home for your pet. An internal frame with rigid structural support offers peace of mind knowing your pet is protected."
There is a strap on the inside that holds the dog in. Pixel likes to stand up and look around so we don't make it too short. So it is possible for her to jump out (not easily, but if she was determined she could) but she would still be strapped in, dangling off the side, but safe (I've tested this). Because of this, you wouldn't want to hook the strap to a collar or the dog could choke if you didn't notice immediately. My solution for this is a safety harness that I will discuss below. The Grand Pet Palace straps on to your luggage rack or seat and works excellent. By no fault of Kuryakyn, straps are a pain in the butt. So I have a solution for that too and we will talk about that next.
2. Mounting the Pet Palace on your Motorcycle (totally optional, but convenient)
Pixel looks at me with such excitement when I'm getting my gear on, expecting to ride, but man I hate hooking up those straps. She gets more time on the bike now that I found this solution to make mounting it super easy. It's from a company called RickRak.
Their website says: "The RickRak quick attach for the King H-D Detachable Two-Up luggage rack. No more straps or bungee cords needed!! You can now travel in style with your Street Glide or Roadglide and have a bag that actually looks good on your bike and yet has the room of a Tour-Pak. No need to spend a ton of money on a Tour-Pak anymore. Now when you get to your hotel after riding in you can just unclamp your bag, pop off your luggage rack and cruise in style all week and look cool doing it. RickRak.com has all the answers for your touring needs."
On my bike I have a luggage rack I purchased special for Fiona (that's my bikes name). It's sexier than stock. But it doesn't work with the RickRak. You may already have the luggage rack you need for the RickRak. Check their website for fitment details. What I needed was the King H-D Detachables Two-Up Luggage Rack (Harley Part #50300054A, cost is $239) so I could mount the RickRak to it and then just switch luggage racks whenever Pixel is coming for a ride.
They make one for tour packs as well and works for all kinds of bags. We implemented it with the Pet Palace!
3. Safety Harness
Pixel already had a harness for regular walks, it's fine for that. However, it only had one strap and you really couldn't pick her up by it because she could wiggle out. That could be disastrous if she were to jump out and had to hang there for a min while you pulled over. The harness we chose is another professional grade product called the Web Master Harness by Ruffwear.
Web Master Harness
Their website says: "The Ruffwear Web Master Harness is a secure, supportive, multi-use harness built for maneuvering and assisting dogs up and over obstacles as well as for designated working dogs. Thin, durable foam provides support without hindering range of motion and a platform for attaching patches and signage for working dogs. Five points of adjustment create a secure fit, while padded chest and belly straps make the Web Master comfortable for all-day wear. The preferred harness of many avalanche rescue dog programs, service dog handlers, and amputee dogs, the Web Master is a great collar alternative and ideal for hiking, scrambling, and mobility assistance."
I spent forever hunting for this. The main thing I was looking for was 3 straps, one across her breast bone, mid chest and belly. This keeps her totally secure and she doesn't even mind getting picked up by the handle because it's comfortable and supports her perfectly and keeps her level. The spot you would hook up the strap is secure and she could hang from it for a long time with no issue.
4. Protective Riding Goggles for your Dog
I have purchased about 5 different sets of goggles trying to find what's best for her. I'm going to list the two brands and models I chose that I feel are the real deal and I'll tell you which pair Pixel and I likes the best.
Rex Specs Dog Goggles (Our Personal Favorite)
Their website says: "Whether your dog is your working K9 partner, riding the wild roads in your motorcycle sidecar, hiking a mountain, or on a hunting excursion - Rex Specs K9 are the perfect goggles for your best friend."
We think they are right. These goggles meet my safety requirements and Pixels need for visibility and comfort. They are a bit expensive but the clear winner in our book. They are the same goggles used by professional working dogs but miniaturized. Pixel hardly ever tries to take them off, whereas she did more often with the Doggles.
Their website says: "20+ years of experience has made our Doggles ILS (Interchangeable Lens System) the very best in pet eyewear. For true eye protection or fashion, your pet deserves the very best. Doggles offer 100% UV protection, shatter-proof lenses, and anti-fog treatment on the inside of the lenses. Lenses on the ILS style are interchangeable and replaceable. This style is suited to all dog head shapes and sizes."
This statement is mostly true, other than we think the best ones are Rex Specs. However, these do work great and Pixel used them for a year. Clearly there is a huge price difference. If you are on a tight budget, this is the best choice. We keep them on the bike as a backup. I would get them and try them out and see if your dog likes them, who knows your dog might like these better. Lookalike fake versions are all over amazon and other sites. I recommend buying them directly from Doggles.
5. Style; a girl needs a leather vest right.. (totally optional, no safety feature, or is there?)
I've been hit driving down the road with random tiny objects like bugs and rocks. They hurt if you're not wearing your leathers. So maybe this does provide a little extra protection? One thing it does for sure is makes sure she is styling and representing, complete with patches. We think she looks pretty good. It's a size up so it fits over the harness, she doesn't always wear it (specially if it's hot out) but damn it's cute. This was actually pretty hard to find. In fact, I never found it online, we saw another couple who rode with their dog and they told us where they got it.
Leather (fake leather) Vest
We are still waiting for a center patch to come in, but obviously she is a Harley Rider and an American Legion Rider! Pixel has style, from her sweaters to her collars, her leashes, yep, spoiled to the bone. She definitely needed a leather vest. I know this is where a big guy like me goes off the deep end dressing up a little dog. I can't help it. I wuv her. (my wife makes me, do you believe that?)