It might have happened as the result of your pet running out in front of a car. It might have happened as the result of your dog running too quickly or turning too sharply and suffering leg or hip injury as a consequence. It might have happened not as the result of anyone big accident, but simply due to old age or a predisposition to leg and hip injuries. There is any number of reasons that your pet may now be in need of a dog wheelchair.
The big question before you now is, how are you going to help your dog get acclimated to this new normal?
After all, whether they’ll be using the wheelchair for the short or long term, they’ll need to get used to it. That said, this can be easier said than done, especially for older dogs who have become set in their ways. Dogs may understand that they are hurt and need help, but may not understand what this wheelchair is or that it’s necessary to regain mobility.
That’s why, as a dog owner with mobility issues, you’ll want to take these steps to help your dog get used to their new wheelchair.
1. Short vs. Long-Term Wheelchairs
First thing’s first – you’ll want to be aware of whether the wheelchair in question is for short or long-term use. If it’s the former, you only have to get your dog to tolerate it for as long as its physical therapy or other underlying purpose is served.
If it’s the latter, however, you’ll need to make sure that your dog is more lastingly acclimated to the wheelchair, and that means allowing it to forge positive associations with the wheelchair.
2. Let Them Sniff and Taste It
A great deal of dogs’ understanding of and experience with the world comes from their sense of smell and taste. As such, if dogs are going to get used to a wheelchair, they’ll need to get used to it by smelling and tasting it so as to become used to it via their most important senses.
Of course, this means making sure that the wheelchair smells and tastes “good” from a dog’s perspective. That might mean eliminating or covering up some harsher scents. For example, if the wheelchair in question smells strongly of rubber or has a harsh ironized scent, your dog many not like it, and who could blame him? To dogs, those harsh scents are warning signs, and without you to guide them and make them understand that this thing will actually help them, they’ll naturally default to viewing them as strange at best and distasteful or even dangerous at worst.
3. Positive Reinforcement
Your dog looks to you for guidance, and never more so than in a vulnerable time such as this. You thus want to make sure to provide your dog with plenty of positive reinforcement when it approaches the wheelchair. Use a kind, soft, higher tone of voice, and commend your dog warmly as it approaches and sniffs the wheelchair.
4. Gradual Acclimation
You’ll want to continue that positive reinforcement as you strap the wheelchair on around your dog’s body, which the first time around should be done gradually and with the utmost care. You don’t want to startle your dog, which may happen if you suddenly force some strange new device around its body. Go slow, and give your dog positive reinforcement as you hook it around the waist. If your dog is startled, stop and pet and soothe it, ensuring that your dog is at ease before starting again.
Do not force the wheelchair on your dog, as this may simply cause it to react negatively towards and ultimately reject the wheelchair.
5. Get the Right Fit
You’ll also want to make sure that the wheelchair fits your dog snugly enough to remain in place while remaining loose enough to afford plenty of comforts. Getting the size of your dog’s wheelchair is important, so you’ll want to consult your veterinarian as well as size guides to make sure you’re getting one which is the right size for your dog. In addition, you’ll want to make sure that the wheels attached to the unit are large enough to support your dog without being so large as to obstruct its ability to walk naturally.
6. Give Rewards
Last but not least, as your dog starts becoming acclimated to and starts using your wheelchair, give it small rewards, such as a treat, or even better, a dog chew toy. This can help solidify the positive associations you are trying to build between your dog and the wheelchair and put them at ease. Giving your pup a reward after you have put the wheelchair on can incentivize it to allow you to hook it on in the future.
With these steps, you’ll be able to get your dog used to its new wheelchair and improve its mobility.
There are many reasons to give an older dog another great home in the latter years of their life. Make a difference by getting and caring for a senior dog today.
Author’s BIO: Lori Wade is a journalist from Louisville. She is a content writer who has experience in small editions, Lori is now engaged in news and conceptual articles on the topic of pet care and veterinary. You can find her on LinkedIn.