Updated: Oct 17, 2020
Eleven years ago, my senior German Shepherd, Woody, who had Degenerative Myelopathy, got a much-needed wheel cart.....and he hated it. 😕 It was a dreary Friday evening in mid-October when my husband and I drove two hours one way after work just to secure the wheel cart for him. I remember sitting in the truck thinking how desperate I was for Woody to take to the wheel cart, but unfortunately, he didn't. In fact, every time I put him in that cart, he wouldn't budge....and I mean 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 wheel cart, 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 had the need for a wheel cart 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 wheel cart for just about two months now and, I'm happy to say that he has taken to it very well. When Jared is in his wheel cart 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 wheel cart right way, if at all. Some dogs are scared of it and others might not have the strength to use it because they are too weak. Quite honestly, in my experience, if they are too weak there's no point in getting a wheel cart for them because it could do more harm than good. However, if the dog has the physical strength to get around in a wheel cart, there are a few things you, as a dog parent, can do to help your dog gain his mobility back by using a wheel cart.
Here are six tips to canine wheel cart success:
1) Make sure the cart is the appropriate size for your dog and fits correctly. We may come across a wheel cart for our dog via a friend of a friend, whose dog used it and no longer needs it. That's nice, but not all wheel carts are adjustable, and a correct fit for your dog is paramount. Not sure how to measure your dog for a wheel cart? Click on this link to find out how: https://handicappedpetscanada.com/measuring-for-your-dog-wheelchair/
2) Put your dog in the wheel cart correctly. 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 put the dog in a wheel cart. My tip is to get your dog a good harness, like Blue Dog Help Em Up Harness , or purchase a cart with a built-in harness. 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 wheel cart? Click on this link https://www.handicappedpets.com/large-dog-wheelchair-instructional-videos/
3) Allow your dog to get used to the wheel cart. Don't be fooled into thinking that once your dog is in the wheel cart correctly that's it. Your dog will most likely be confused, if not scared once he is in the cart. He will not understand what this new apparatus is that surrounds him, and he certainly won't comprehend that it is to benefit him. Let him get a feel for the wheel cart, just by standing in it, and taking some baby steps. Additionally, at first, only place him in the wheel cart 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 wheel cart 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 of him while holding the treat or toy for him to see. Just remember to not overdo it. Dogs tire easily when getting adjusted to being in a wheel cart.
5) Clear a path. This is an important but often overlooked factor in canine wheel cart success. In order for your dog to be able to maneuver the wheel cart effectively, he needs a clear and stable path. Whether he is 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 with any other dog training, offer lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Even if your dog takes a few steps in his new wheel cart, really turn on the "Good Boy" vibes so he knows he's doing a good job.
Where to purchase a wheel cart: https://amzn.to/3dAwrjP
Where to possibly rent a wheel cart: Gunnar's Wheels https://www.facebook.com/Gunnars-wheels-1155089164561706/
Best of luck and tell your pup I said hi!