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Getting your dog a wheelchair will change their life forever. Along with assisting your dog to walk and run, their new cart vastly improves both their physical and mental health. Increasing strength, and stamina, while keeping your dog mobile are just a few of the benefits of a dog wheelchair. Keeping your special needs pet active means a longer and healthier life. But how do you get your dog used to their new wheelchair? A stubborn personality or fear of the unknown may make your pet hesitant to take their first steps; here’s everything you need to know about helping your dog adjust to their new wheelchair.
Let Them Get Acquainted with Their Cart
As a Pet Parent, you have spent countless hours making sure you researched and chose the best wheelchair for your best friend. Buying a wheelchair was the right decision for you and your pet, but it can take time for your dog to understand what their new wheels are for. Just like anything new, your dog may require a little dog wheelchair training to help them adjust to their new cart.
Your dog’s wheelchair will allow them to live an active and healthier life – but now we need to get them to understand what a difference their new wheels can make!
Some pets may need time to adjust to their wheelchair being around. Place the wheelchair in a room where your pet is comfortable and let them investigate it on their own. For skittish dogs, consider rewarding them with a treat when they go up to it or sniff it. This helps them to form a positive association with their new wheelchair. Some dogs require more time than others to get used to the wheelchair being around. Be patient and give your dog all the time they need to feel comfortable.
Stay calm and slowly introduce your dog to their wheelchair. Understand that this can be stressful for both you and your pet; if at any time you feel yourself becoming frustrated, take a step back and take a break. Your dog will pick up on your anxiety, take a break, and return to it later once everyone is more relaxed. Getting your dog up on its feet and walking should be a fun experience for both of you.
Choose the right location for that first wheelchair walk. Make sure your dog tries their wheelchair for the first time, somewhere where they feel comfortable and safe. Begin in a wide, open space so your dog can adjust to their wheelchair and how it feels without worrying about bumping into anything.
Take It One Step at a Time
The first time your dog runs in their wheelchair is exciting, but remember to pace yourself (and your dog!) Please don’t overdo it the first time your dog walks in their new wheelchair. This is likely the first time your dog has been able to exercise on its own in a long time. Begin with short periods of time; even dogs that take to the wheelchair right away will tire quickly. Understanding your dog’s limitations, even a few small steps in your backyard is a massive accomplishment for them. Don’t expect them to be able to go on a long walk their first time out.
Take it slow and let them walk for a few minutes at a time, so they don’t get too tired. Five to ten minutes is perfect for their first time in their wheelchair. Slowly build up the amount of time they’re in their canine mobility cart by adding a few minutes to each walk. This will help them slowly build up their stamina and strength.
Encourage Them to Move
Ideally, your dog should always associate their wheelchair with a positive experience. Encourage your dog with lots of praise as they take their first steps. Some dogs are highly motivated by food; bring treats along with you on your walk. If your dog isn’t a fan of treats, try their favorite toy or bring their favorite person or dog with them for their first walk.
Every milestone should be celebrated along the way. Your dog may not realize that it’s ok for them to relieve themselves while using their wheelchair. Here are a few things you can do to encourage them to do their business:
If your dog has a long tail, lift and drape it over the back bar of their cart. This gets it out of the way and makes it easier for them to poop.
Bring them to their favorite potty spot. Not only will this encourage them to go, but it will make them more comfortable.
Praise and give them lots of treats when they relieve themselves to reinforce their actions.
Get the Right Fit
Getting the right fit for your dog’s wheelchair will help make them comfortable and encourage them to keep moving. But, how do you know if your dog’s wheelchair is adjusted correctly? A few minor tweaks can make a world of difference and help make your dog even more comfortable in their new wheels.
What you should check:
Is the knuckle in line with the hip? When adjusted correctly, the wheelchair knuckle should be in the center of your dog’s hip.
Are the side extender bars too long or too short? The side extender should end behind your pet’s shoulder blade. If it’s too short, your dog may look squished or have a curve to its spine. Your dog’s back should be straight.
Does the side extender run parallel to the ground? The extender should draw a straight line through the center of your dog’s body. If not, you may need to adjust the front harness a bit. For side extenders angling upwards, loosen the blue strap and tighten the red strap. For side extenders pointing downwards, loosen the red strap and tighten the blue strap.
Check the wheelchair height; your dog’s toe pads should just be touching the ground.
Wheelchair width: as a general rule of thumb, your dog’s cart should be set to the widest part of their body, which is usually their chest.