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How to Use a Dog Lift Harness

A mobility sling or dog lift harness can be used to support a paralyzed pet or injured pet as they recover. A lifting harness is extremely beneficial for pets dealing with physical challenges. A dog lifting harness helps you to easily get your dog outside, allowing them to stay mobile and active. 

A support harness can be used to help your dog into your car, assist them up the stairs, and help bring them outside to relieve themselves. Bending down to lift your dog on your own leads to back pain and increases your risk of hurting yourself or your pet. A dog mobility harness is a safe way for you to lift and support your best friend.

The Different Types of Dog Lift Harness

full body lift harness for dog with Degenerative Myelopathy

There are different lifting harnesses that offer varying levels of support. Choosing the right harness for your dog means keeping in mind where they need the support most, how much support is needed, and are there any areas of their body that you should avoid placing pressure on?

Every dog requires a different type of support. Choosing the right lift harness depends on the nature of your dog’s injury as well as the location and severity of their leg weakness. Unsure of the right style harness for your dog? Speak to your veterinarian or rehab specialist, and they will guide you to the right harness for your dog.

Front Lift Harness for Dogs with Weak Front Legs

BuddyUp front harness for dogs with weak front legs

A front lifting harness lifts under a dog’s chest to support a pet with weak front legs. This style of dog harness is recommended for pets with shoulder, elbow, or carpal injuries, as well as nerve injuries in the neck. By providing front leg support, you can reduce the weight placed on your dog’s injured front leg, stabilize your pet and provide them the support they need to get around without slipping and falling. 

Dog Lift Harness for Back Legs

pup French Bull Dog getting up his front stairs with a dog rear support leash assisted by his pet parent

A rear lifting harness gently supports a pet’s hind legs, providing support under the abdomen or under the back legs to gently support a dog dealing with hind leg weakness or paralysis. Many canine mobility conditions start with hind leg weakness, such as degenerative myelopathy or IVDD. Rear leg injuries are also among the most common injuries in dogs, especially knee injuries, cruciate tears, and hip dysplasia. A towel can be used as an improvised sling. However, they can be hard to hold onto and tend to slip as you use them. A dog harness is designed with the comfort, support, and ease of use that you and your dog needs. 

A rear dog lift harness can be used for temporary support during post-operative recovery or on a permanent basis as an alternative to a dog wheelchair. For pets dealing with permanent mobility loss, choose a rear harness that’s compatible with a dog wheelchair. This will give you the ability to support your dog outside their cart as well as provide them with comfortable support in their wheelchair as well. 

Total Body Lift Harness or Sling

A full body support sling provides balanced support to a pet’s front and back legs. There are a few different options available for a full-body lifting harness. A support sling provides support in the center of your dog’s body. Slings are typically a lighter-weight harness option ideal for gently guiding your dog and helping them to maintain balance. A full-body harness provides lifting support from the chest, abdomen, and rear legs. This style of harness is best suited for dogs who need your support and to be gently lifted. An additional option is a combo harness, which is a front harness and a rear lift harness that work together. With handles on the front and rear harnesses, you are able to lift and support your dog. A combo harness gives you the most lifting support and allows you to safely lift your dog off the ground as needed. 

BuddyUp Harness provides lifting support for dog
BuddyUp Harness
dog rear lift harness
Warrior Rear Harness

How to Train Your Dog to Wear a Lifting Harness

A lift harness is, by design, simple to use. Helping your dog adjust to wearing the harness may be a bit of an adjustment. 

1. Make sure your dog is comfortable in their lift harness

The proper fit will go a long way to making your dog comfortable. Make sure that the dog lift harness is adjusted for a snug fit. When the harness is fitted correctly, there should be enough room for two fingers to fit between the harness and your dog. Too loose, and the harness may shift around. Too tight, and the harness may be uncomfortable, chafe, or even restrict your dog’s natural movement. Make sure that your dog can urinate and defecate cleanly while wearing the harness.

Remember, you also need to be comfortable with your dog’s harness. The harness handles should adjust so that you can lift and support your dog without straining your back or bending over. The best support harness for your dog will be comfortable for them to wear and easy for you to use.

2. Keep your dog relaxed

Try to keep your dog calm. Putting on and using a support harness should be a stress-free experience for everyone. If your dog can be easily startled by new things, give them time to get used to the harness. Let them sniff it and get used to being near it before they wear it. If there are harness clips or a touch fastener that makes noise, let them get used to the sound before you put the harness on your dog. 

3. Positive reinforcement

Create a positive association with the harness by using treats and a lot of praise. This keeps your dog calm and helps them to realize that their new harness is here to help them. While making the initial harness adjustments, it can be helpful to have someone at your dog’s head to help distract them and reassure them. It’s ok to stop and take a break if you need to.

4. Slowly Introduce the Harness to Your Dog

Senior boxer gets help getting into car with support harness

It can take time for your dog to adjust to the feel of their new harness. Give your dog the time they need to adjust to their new support harness. If your harness has multiple pieces, it’s ok to give your dog time to adjust to each new part of their harness. The first time you lift your dog’s new support harness, gently lift your dog. Remember, this is a new sensation for your dog. Go slowly and give them the time they need to adjust. Let them adjust to the feel of the support before you take your first step. Dogs that need to be fully supported may need time to be comfortable with the sensation of being lifted.

Most dogs will adjust to a harness quickly, and others need to take it slow. Be patient and take your time. Give your dog the time they need to be comfortable. Start with short walks and quick trips outside to give them time to adjust to the harness.

Once your dog is comfortable, you can begin using the harness for longer periods of time and help them navigate stairs.

Uses for a Dog Lift Harness or Paralyzed Dog Harness

Along with a dog wheelchair, a support harness is an easy way for pet parents to improve their paralyzed dog’s quality of life. Here are just a few benefits and uses of a support harness:

Get your dog outside quickly to pee and poop

A dog support harness is perfect for getting your dog outside quickly when they have to go. The harness is designed to fit your dog’s anatomy and allow your dog to relieve themselves cleanly. With your support, your dog can safely squat, maintaining their balance so they can pee and poop freely. 

Help your pet climb the stairs safely

Senior dogs and pets dealing with hind leg weakness struggle to climb the stairs on their own. A dog lift harness is a safe way for you to help your dog up and down the stairs, giving you the ability to safely control and support your dog as they navigate the stairs with your help.

Rehabilitation and physical therapy

Canine rehab therapy helps your dog to maintain its strength, build up muscle tone, improve its gait, and improve its balance issues. Many of their rehabilitation exercises will require them to stand and walk. A lifting harness can be incorporated into their structured exercise program, allowing them to safely perform each therapy session.

Dog Wheelchair Compatibility

Since wheelchair dogs need breaks from using their wheels, a harness is a great wheelchair alternative. Not only is a lift harness a great option to get a special needs dog outside quickly, but there are also other benefits as well. Additional benefits of a wheelchair compatible harness include:

  • Added comfort, depending on the breed and body type your dog may need different support than other pets.
  • The improved fit of the dog wheelchair. The right harness may make getting a perfectly adjusted cart easier.
  • Simplify the process of getting your dog in and out of their cart
  • Harness options available for a rear or full support dog wheelchair

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