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"Six Tips For Canine Wheelchair Success"

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Eleven years ago, my senior German Shepherd, Woody, who had Degenerative Myelopathy, got a much-needed canine wheelchair.....and he hated it. 😕


It was a dreary Friday evening in mid-October when my husband and I made a four-hour round trip after work to secure the canine wheelchair for him. I remember sitting in the truck thinking how desperate I was for Woody to take to the canine wheelchair, but unfortunately, he didn't. In fact, every time I put him in the canine wheelchair, he wouldn't budge....and I mean, he wouldn't budge.


Woody was a stubborn old furry boy, to say the least, and no matter how much or how hard we tried to get him to adapt to that canine wheelchair, Woody was like, "No way. No, how...it's not happening!" Looking back, I can see that he was too far gone for something like that, but I had to try.


Since Woody, we've needed a canine wheelchair here at the sanctuary several times over. In fact, Jared, a 10-year-old German Shepherd sanctuary resident with Degenerative Myelopathy, has been in a canine wheelchair for just about two months now at the time of this blog post. I'm happy to say that he has taken to it very well. When Jared is in his canine wheelchair, he cruses all over the sanctuary grounds with ease, just like he did before being debilitated by Degenerative Myelopathy.


That's great news for him (and my back), but like Woody, not all dogs take to a canine wheelchair immediately, if at all.


Some dogs are scared of it, and others might not have the strength to use it because they are too weak. In my experience, if they are too weak, there's no point in getting a canine wheelchair for them because it could do more harm than good. However, if the dog has the physical strength to get around in a canine wheelchair, there are a few things you, as a dog parent, can do to help your dog gain some freedom by using a canine wheelchair.


Here are six tips for canine wheelchair success:


1) Make sure the cart is the appropriate size for your dog and fits correctly.

You may come across a canine wheelchair for our dog via a friend of a friend whose dog used it and no longer needs it. That's nice, but not all canine wheelchairs are adjustable, and a correct fit for your dog is paramount.


Not sure how to measure your dog for a canine wheelchair?


Click on this link to find out how:


2) Correctly placing your dog in the canine wheelchair.

This part can be a challenge because, more times than not, the dog can't support his back end. This can be an even bigger challenge if you are by yourself trying to do this without help from another person.


My tip is to get your dog a good harness, like Blue Dog Help Em Up Harness , or purchase a canine wheelchair with a built-in harness like https://www.handicappedpets.com/adjustable-dog-wheelchairs/.

This will save him unnecessary stress and your back unnecessary pain.


To give your dog the best chance of taking to the wheel cart, he must be comfortable in it. Not sure how to put your dog in a canine wheelchair?


3) Allow your dog to get used to the wheel cart.

Don't be fooled into thinking that once your dog is in the canine wheelchair correctly, that's it. Your dog will most likely be confused, if not scared, once he is actually in the canine wheelchair. He will not understand what this new apparatus is that surrounds him, and he certainly won't comprehend that it is to benefit him. So help him get a feel for the canine wheelchair by letting him stand in it and take some baby steps.


Moreover, at first, only place him in the canine wheelchair for short periods of time several times a day, then as he gets more comfortable, put him in it for longer periods of time.


4) Entice your dog to walk in the canine wheelchair by using high-value treats or a coveted toy.

If your dog is overcome with uncertainty or fear, entice him to walk a little bit by using high-value treats....something he really likes. Give him a little nibble of turkey or show him his favorite toy, and then move forward a few steps while holding out the toy or treat for him to see. You can also put a leash on him and walk alongside him while holding the treat or toy for him to see.

Just remember not to overdo it. Dogs tire easily when getting adjusted to being in a canine wheelchair.


5) Clear a path.

This is an important but often overlooked factor in canine wheelchair success.


For your dog to maneuver the canine wheelchair effectively, he needs a clear and stable path. Whether inside or outside, he can't be in a space too small where he is constantly bumping into things such as tables and chairs or firepits and sheds. He also needs to be on a surface with traction, so no slippery surfaces or hillsides that may cause him to flip and tumble.


6) Give lots of praise.

Like any other dog training, offer lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Even if your dog takes a few steps in his new canine wheelchair, really turn on the "Good Boy" vibes, so he knows he's doing a good job.



Resources:


Best of luck, and tell your pup I said hi!

Dawn




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