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Training Your Pet to Use a Dog Wheelchair

by Olivia Sutton

Caring for a canine charge is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever enjoy. Especially since few things come close to the affection your pet will shower you with in response to all the love you show it, and those priceless moments of mischief when it will do its very best to outwit you. No wonder watching them struggle with illness can be quite difficult. Conditions such as age-related issues, which  remind  us that our beloved pets are getting older, or even neurological or spinal problems can be the most worrisome of all. 

But one of the best things we can do is remain positive and encourage them to adjust to any changes that they encounter. And today, we shall be taking a look at one of them: training your furry friend to use a dog wheelchair.

Conditions Under Which Dogs Require Wheelchairs

As pets age, they tend to suffer from joint problems as well as neurological disorders. Quite often, their breed, their immediate parentage as well as their lifestyle does play a role in whether or not they may be affected by such health issues. An example is hip dysplasia which can be pretty common in big breeds, such as Saint Bernards, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers – however, contrary to popular belief, it’s also a health condition which can affect dogs of any age, including smaller breeds, too. Other ailments which may result in a dog needing a wheelchair include:

ACL Injuries

Most dogs which will get operated on in their lifetime will do so due to injuries in this category. And they’re right behind hip dysplasia in terms of joint problems which canines face. They’re caused by a progressive weakening of the cruciate ligament until it simply gives way without any excessive pressure being applied to it.

Symptoms include:

  • A clicking sound when walking
  • An inability to bend the knees
  • Swollen knees
  • Lameness

Arthritis

A relatively common canine condition, arthritis is caused by the cartilage in a joint getting gradually worn down due to disease, aging or simply excessive activity. As a result, the affected joint becomes inflamed limiting the ability of the affected pet to be able to use it with ease.

Symptoms include:

  • Unwillingness to be touched
  • Unwillingness to engage in energetic games
  • Moodiness
  • Stiffness in limbs

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Your pet’s backbone is made of several interlocking small bones called vertebrae which are separated from each other by miniature cushions. However these discs may burst or even swell and poke its spinal cord giving rise to an extremely painful and debilitating condition – IVDD.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain in hind legs
  • A decrease in appetite
  • A reluctance to engage in energetic activity
  • Spasms along neck and back

Restoring Your Pet’s Independence

Most pet owners who introduce their pets to a dog wheelchair often speak of the joy their furry friends feel whenever they discover they won’t have to endure a lengthy period of convalescence confined to one spot. They can take care of their hygiene habits, give into temptation and sneak tasty morsels from their other furry housemates’ bowls and run about in the sunshine.

If you’re a pet owner who has read such dog wheelchair reviews, you certainly want the same for your pet, too. But getting there may require loads of encouragement, patience and treats on your part, although the end result will certainly be worth it. Here are a number of important steps you will need to take to ensure your pet gains the confidence it needs to use its wheelchair with ease and get to explore the world on its own terms once again.

Start Gradually

Certain experts recommend getting your pet used to the sight of their wheelchair by bringing it along when you go out for a stroll at their favorite spot. At some point, you can then put them in it and let them try it out. It’s worth noting that you should ensure the harnesses feel comfortable so that your pet won’t have any misgivings about the new device. A reward in the form of a tasty titbit will do rather nicely as a means of encouraging them to associate it with a rather pleasant experience.

Always Practice in Open Spaces

Practicing in a spacious environment while getting your pet used to its new mobility device is highly recommended. This is because training your pet in confined quarters will not only make it uncomfortable for the both of you but may also increase the risk of mishaps occurring. Open spaces on the other hand  will not only make your pet more comfortable but will also  keep the likelihood of any bumps or scrapes  to a minimum.

Encourage Your Pet to Practice

One of the best means of doing so is by fitting your pet to its wheelchair and holding a tasty treat. Once your dog approaches, simply move back slightly, so your pet has to move closer to get to the treat. Once you’ve given in and let it wolf it down, you will need to repeat the exercise so that moving around with the device becomes second nature to your furry friend.

Important Points

Selecting a Dog Wheelchair

Do:

  • Select a high quality wheelchair, i.e. one with the following qualities:
  • Light weight, rust-resistant frame
  • Robust all-terrain wheels
  • Adjustable straps and harnesses
  • Ideal for hygiene purposes
  • Is easy to store and transport
  • Is suitable for frequent cleaning
  • Measure your pet carefully according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Take note of the manufacturer’s return policy in the event of your pet not being able to use the product
  • Select a product which will provide the appropriate support 

Training Your Pet to Use a Wheelchair

DO

  • Stock up on loads of their favorite treats
  • Use a great deal of positive reinforcement
  • Be consistent 

DON’T

  • Raise your voice at your pet
  • Leave your pet with the harness on for extended periods of time
  • Ignore any signs of discomfort your pet shows when using its wheelchair

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