Tips to Help Your Dog Get Used to a Dog Wheelchair

Get a Dog Used to Their New Wheelchair

As faithful family members that give us unconditional love, dogs deserve to be loved, cherished and respected, regardless of any disabilities they might be dealing with. If your canine best friend is dealing with mobility issues, a wheelchair gives them the ability to thrive. Here are some tips to help your dog get used to a dog wheelchair.

Getting your dog used to dog wheelchair

Disabled GSD Wheelchair Tika

Getting your dog used to a dog wheelchair is usually easy — it may take moments for your dog to realize he can run again. Sometimes, though, there is an adjustment period.

Dog wheelchairs give pets the mobility they need to live active, healthy, and happy lives. The dog uses their front legs to move about, play and explore. They can go to the bathroom in a wheelchair. The back legs lightly touch the ground in the wheelchair or can be safely held up by stirrups.

What type of mobility issues are aided by dog carts?

Dog wheelchairs can help dogs with health issues that include:

  • Neurological Problems
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Degenerative Myelopathy
  • IVDD
  • Paralysis
  • Amputations
  • Spinal Problems
  • Surgery Recovery
  • Weakness in the limbs

Whether or not a dog can benefit from using a wheelchair depends on the severity and nature of the disability.

Learn More: Is My Dog Ready for a Wheelchair?

Adjusting to the wheelchair

Most dogs enjoy the freedom that a wheelchair provides and quickly adapt to life on wheels. Sometimes it can take longer, and in these cases training might be needed to help the dog adjust.

Chocolate Lab in a Wheelchair

In some cases, the personality or age of the dog can end up causing them to be leery of the wheelchair. Some dogs are put off by the sounds the wheelchair makes, also troubled if it gets hung up on furniture. Most adapt to the wheelchair eventually but some just need extra TLC to get through the process. The best results will come from you being patient, reassuring, and calm.

Sometimes the dog may be having trouble trouble getting used to the wheelchair because it is uncomfortable. Usually, a few simple adjustments is all it takes for a more comfortable fit. This is the reason why it’s important to have a fully adjustable wheelchair. The Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair is the only wheelchair that adjusts easily in length, width, height, and wheel angle.

Not sure if your dog’s Walkin’ Wheels is adjusted correctly? Contact our Wheelchair Experts at 1-888-253-0777

Make the Wheelchair a Positive Experience

When starting this process we suggest that you use the dog’s favorite treats to reward your dog for walking forward during the training process. It’s a good idea to work with the dog while they’re hungry. They’ll be more eager to pay attention if it means getting a treat as a reward. Following are some tips that can help get a dog ready for a wheelchair. Work with them in short sessions (5 to 10 minutes), several times a day, giving the dog rest periods between sessions.

If your pet isn’t food motivated, find out what does motivate them. A favorite toy or even encouragement from their favorite person may be all they need.

Tip: Stay Calm. If you’re feeling stressed, you’re dog may become anxious. If you feel frustrated, take a break and try again later.

Let Your Pet Get Comfortable Around the Wheelchair

Snap the wheels into the frame and leave it out in the open, letting your dog smell it, touch it and get used to it being there. Keep the assembled wheelchair in a place your dog feels safe and comfortable. By keeping the wheelchair somewhere easily accessible to your pet, it will allow them to get comfortable with it on their terms.

Put on the harness

Once the dog is feels at ease around the wheelchair, put the front harness on him or her – this may take them a bit to get used to. If your dog is timid or shy, give it time and move at their pace. Let them adjust to the feel of the harness and the sounds it makes when you click it into place. Harness fit is important! Make sure the harness is adjusted correctly, a well fitting harness will be more comfortable and put your dog at ease!

Add the rest of the wheelchair parts

Once the dog seems comfortable with the harness, attempt to put him or her into the dog wheelchair. Comfort the dog as you do so and offer treats as a positive connection.  Next, hold the treats at their nose level. Give them several, then move away a bit, holding the treat reward out in front of you. In most cases the dog will start to walk toward you for the treat. Encourage the dog with positive praise. Most pets pick up on their owners cues, if you have a positive attitude and are excited for them at every stage, your dog will get excited!

Many veterinarians in the US and around the world are actively recommending and using dog wheelchairs for their patients. They can be used to help recovery from surgery, get exercise and build muscle mass. They can also be used for long-term, extended use. Once your dog gets used his or her dog wheelchair, it becomes a simple part his a happy, healthy life.


To check if you have adjusted the Walkin’ Wheels correctly on your pet, go to the How to Adjust Your Walkin’ Wheels Dog Wheelchair blog post.


See All Walkin' Pets Products Noodster Wheelchair Buynow

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33 thoughts on “Tips to Help Your Dog Get Used to a Dog Wheelchair

  1. Are dogs able to lie down with the device on, and then get up to a standing position with it on or does it need to go on and off each time?

    1. There are many veterinarians and rehab clinics that will fit a dog – can you tell me what city/state you are in so I can research that for you?

    1. Yes – there are videos on our website. If your dog is in a large wheelchair, go to: http://www.handicappedpets.com/large-dog-wheelchair-instructional-videos The part about how to get your dog into the wheelchair and tips on getting the dog used to it starts at about 6:50. If your dog is in a different size, go to our website on the Dog Wheelchair tab and there is a whole pull-down menu of instructional videos that you can choose from. I hope that helps!

  2. My 13 yr old dog seems to just do ok in the wheelchair if I have a leash on him. Should I also try to have him in the wheelchair in our house at times to help him get used to using it?

    1. Every dog adapts to the wheelchair at their own speed. You can most certainly use the wheelchair in the house — no need for a leash, as he cannot go too far. If you would like, you can email photos of your dog in the wheelchair to our wheelchair specialist and she can check the adjustments to make sure he is as comfortable as possible: helpme@walkinpets.com

  3. Thank you for the post! For dogs that are more fearful, a more step-by-step approach will be helpful. I’ve been working with my malamute for 3 weeks to get her into the wheels, and we are still using them in limited amounts in the backyard until she builds more confidence with them.

    She has degenerative neuropathy (unknown cause), and as it progresses she has become more fearful of closed in spaces and things around her hindquarters. Knowing this, I started a desensitization training program with her before ever thinking of sticking her right into the wheels!

    How we got her through this with positive reinforcement and confidence building: At first I had her just touch the different parts of the wheels as separate objects. This took about four separate training sessions: the first session was just touching the poles with her nose, completely separated from the wheels or frame. She got comfortable with that pretty quickly, but didn’t like the noise. We took two sessions for this first step – if your dog isn’t comfortable that fast then keep repeating this training until they are. Next we had her touch the wheel as a separate item. When she was OK with that I assembled the wheels and we simply set her food bowl down in between the two long posts, so she had to put her head in between them and approach the wheels. We did this for every meal for two weeks.

    Luckily she is already used to wearing harnesses, so I did not need to desensitize her to the harness or rear quarters sling, since it fits in a similar way to her Help ’em Up harness. If your dog has never been in harness, desensitize them to it in steps as well.

    After that, I started moving the wheels while she was eating – this was backwards to how she is supposed to wear it, but got her used to the wheels moving and the sound they make (a week of that). It worked for he because her fear is based on her hindquarters, so the wheels close to her front half wasn’t as threatening.

    Here I made a mistake and jumped ahead too far – I put her in the wheels too soon. She had a LOT of stress signals, so I backed up to feeding meals in between the wheels and started training to pull something behind her in the hopes it would smooth out the fear around her hindquarters. To do that, we put the harness on her and attached a regular leash with one of her stuffed toys on the other end, so she got used to something dragging behind her (two days to get mostly over that – I mean, she IS a malamute, this is what they are bred for).

    THEN we both went outside and I dragged the wheels around like I was wearing them and asked her to heel with me around the yard, with lots of treats (once). The second time I upped the ante and had her drag the toy on a leash while heeling (once).

    She was OK with all of that, and then we placed her back into the wheels. She is doing much better! There is some stress behavior when first getting into them, which goes away after having her perform some tricks (touch my hand, find it, etc). She has been in the wheels twice now, and I’m building up duration in the back yard before we go on a “walk”. Her body isn’t used to the way it moves with the support, so I’m careful to avoid injury or muscle strain.

    I hope this helps some other dog owners!

    1. Thank you so much for this very helpful comment! I’m sure it will help others who have dogs that are more fearful. Thank you!

  4. I have 2 basic questions:

    . How is he gonna poop if part of the device stands right on the direction of the anus? It’s gonna be all dirty with poop…

    . He arches his back when he poops… Will he have flexibility to do that movement having all that stuff on his back?

    Thank you.

    1. Dogs are able to both urinate and defecate while in the wheelchair! The way the leg rings (rear support) are designed, there is nothing in the way of the anus. When he defecates, gravity takes over and there are no issues. He will also still be able to arch his back. There is nothing on the wheelchair that would not allow this. Here is a video of a Boxer showing how easy it is for dogs to relieve themselves:
      https://youtu.be/IRj6SMqXnL4

  5. The love of my life, Charlotte (French bulldog) has gone from some difficulty walking with her hip dysplasia & spinal cord involvement to barely able to stand. She’s 10, and has a rough go the last 2 years, so I’m left with the dilemma, do I spend a small fortune on a wheelchair if she’s got a limited time left? If I could find a good used one or rent one, I wouldn’t think twice.

  6. For Vanessa R Blackstone, I hope this comment reaches you. First, thanks for the tips on working with you pup to adjust to the wheels. We are starting our shopping for them.
    The main reason for the comment is to ask about the un-diagnosed DN. If you don’t mind, we would appreciate knowing what part of the country, and if your pup had a DNA test.
    Our 9 year old Tibetan Terrier, male, has sever inflammation of the spinal cord sheath. Two neurologists/neurosurgeons have looked at the MRI results, and the surgical results. All pathology is negative. he lost mobility of his hind legs, some reflexive action, but getting worse. Thanks in advance for any information you might share.
    Bill

    1. The Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair is designed to help your dog to get the exercise they need. It is designed to be used for times of activity under supervision; if your dog needs to lay down or take a break, they will need to be removed from the wheelchair. We do not recommend leaving your dog in the wheelchair all day or night for their safety and comfort.

  7. Hi, we just got this for our old boy…. he is having issues rolling backwards all the time. Are there any techniques we could use to stop this happening?

    1. This is very normal for the dog to go backwards first because it is easier for them, especially for certain breeds, like Corgis or Boxers. Dogs typically use their rear legs to move forward and their front legs to stop, so making the transition to move forward with the front legs can take a bit of time for some dogs — but when they make that transition, it’s like it clicks, and then it becomes second nature. Try to get the dog to move forward by offering good treats, if he’s food motivated. You can also help your dog make the transition by gently leading him forward by holding on to the back of the front harness, or gently pushing on the back of the wheelchair frame. He WILL make this transition and be happy for it, but it can take a little time and patience, especially for an older dog. There is also the possibility that the fitting needs to be tweaked. You can email photos or videos to HelpMe@WalkinPets.com and one of our wheelchair experts will advise you of any changes that might be made to make your dog more comfortable.

  8. Will the wheelchair work for a cat? He suffered an injury To his back. Had surgery but I know it w may take weeks or months for recovery. He may even be paralyzed for life but vet says he should recover. I try to gently use a little physical manipulation of his legs , stretches and bends to keep them somewhat useable. My thoughts are that it may help with recovery if the wheelchair would prove useful.

    1. Hi Debbie! Yes the Walkin’ Wheels will work for a cat and the wheelchair is a great way for your cat to continue to get exercise. We have seen success with paralyzed animals using the wheelchair as a rehab tool, and successfully rehabilitate their rear legs. Please call our Customer Service department at 888-253-0777, we would be happy to help your cat get the right wheelchair.

  9. Recognizing my dog won’t be able to lie down, what are some guidelines for the typical lengths of time a wheelchair should be used at a time?

    1. Hi Eddie,

      Every dog is going to be different and the length of time they should spend in the wheelchair will vary depending on their condition and activity level. As your dog first gets their wheelchair, we recommend using it for a shorter length of time at first. Even if your dog takes to their wheelchair immediately and starts running around, your dog will tire. Watch your dog for signs of being tired, their first time in their Walkin’ Wheels will probably be the first time they’ve been able to exercise in a long time. They will need to build up their endurance. Every dog is different, the Walkin’ Wheels is designed to help your dog get their exercise, when they show signs of being tired or ready to rest than I would take your dog out of their wheelchair. If you have any questions, please call our Customer Care Team at 888-253-0777, we’re happy to help answer any questions you may have.

  10. Hi: Is it possible for dog to be fitted and wheelchair purchased locally at your Amherst NH location? We are within an hour of you.

    1. Hi Alan,

      We are happy to do a wheelchair fitting with you at our Amherst location. We just ask that you please contact our Wheelchair Specialists at 888-253-0777 to set up a time for them to meet with you. We look forward to seeing you!

  11. How does this work for a female dog to use the bathroom. Watched the video of a boxer, but it was a male. A female dog has to squat to pee…..

    1. Hi Carl,

      That’s a great question, it’s just as easy for a female dog to relieve themselves while in their Walkin’ Wheels as it is for a male dog. Follow this link to see a female going potty while in her wheelchair: https://youtu.be/fCukendNcxc

  12. Is this a good solution for pups that are battling knee injuries? My 9 year old shepherd mix tore her acl (right leg) over the weekend and unfortunately has an arthritic left hind leg too. We have been using a support sling to help her move around and she adjusted great, within 24 hours she was getting around the house and yard. Do you think she would be a good candidate for a cart?

    1. Hi Teresa,

      We have had great success with dog’s using the Walkin’ Wheels for ACL recovery as well as for arthritis. Even dog’s who are walking around on all fours can benefit from using a wheelchair. The wheelchair supports them from underneath taking weight and stress off the bad/injured leg allowing them to continue to exercise. With less stress and pressure put on injured legs getting around becomes easier and your dog can continue to get the exercise she so desperately needs. As your dog ages, she may need to rely on a wheelchair full time if her arthritis and right knee worsen, starting when she’s a bit younger will help her to get used to the wheelchair.

      If you have any other questions, please call our Customer Care team at 888-253-0777 we’re always happy to help. Good luck with your pup!
      Thank you,

      Jennifer

  13. Please tell me what could be the solution if the only solution for the dogs illness is the wheelchair and the dog is used to life outside? We work more than half of the day. Practically there is no one who could be with the dog to supervise her and to take care of her while she is using the wheelchair during that period of the day.
    We are desparate to find the solution. Beside that dog has the opstipation and can not controle her bladder unfortunatelly.
    Please let me know what is ypur opinion on this matter.
    Thank you.
    Kind regards,Una.

    1. Hi Una,

      Please call our Wheelchair Experts at 888-253-0777, they would be happy to answer any questions you may have about your dog using our Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair. We have many working dogs and “outdoor” dogs who use our wheelchair, give us a call and we can answer all of your questions.

  14. We are planning on getting a dog soon, she happens to be in a wheelchair. Is it harder to train the dog to do its business outside?

    1. Hi Zoe,

      That’s wonderful news, congratulations on your new pup! Wheelchair dogs are no different to train than any other dog, if she’s new to her wheelchair she may need a little encouragement from you just to let her know that it’s ok for her to go potty while in her wheelchair. Bring treats and give her a lot of praise, she should have no problem at all. If you have any questions, give us a call at 888-253-0777, we’re always happy to help!

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