A Novel Way to Help Your Older or Injured Dog Be With You
Just because your dog may be older, injured or have mobility issues - or can't walk long distances in warmer temperatures, like with bulldogs & pups - it doesn't mean he doesn't want to be with you...
Senior dogs and dogs with injuries or mobility problems may enjoy going for “walks” outdoors in a stroller
Strollers can also be useful for dogs that can’t walk long distances in warmer temperatures, such as bulldogs and pugs, or for use around town, popping into dog-friendly shops or restaurants
There’s a good chance your dog hasn’t encountered a dog stroller before, so the first step is allowing your dog to see the stroller and sniff it
If your dog seems nervous, don’t force them to go near the stroller or get into it; give your dog more time to adjust before moving on to the next step
For extra incentive, you can add a few treats to the stroller or offer them a favorite chew toy or food-stuffed toy, especially when you’re planning a longer stroll
Be sure to properly secure your dog in the stroller using a harness clip before you take off on your adventure
Even dogs that enjoy the stroller should be given an opportunity to get out and stretch their legs on your route, including ample time to stop and sniff
As dogs get older, they require special care and attention. Mobility issues are common in senior pets, which means your pup may find it difficult to go up and down stairs or even walk around the block like they used to. But this doesn’t mean that they’re destined for a life spent on the couch.
Senior dogs still need exercise, and ensuring your pet continues to walk and exercise as much as possible can help to prevent muscle atrophy. You’ll need to watch them carefully for signs of pain and adjust your walks depending on your dog’s abilities. If they get to the point where walking is no longer an option, a stroller can be used to give your dog many of the benefits of a walk outdoors, even if their legs can no longer keep up with the task.
Remember that dogs “see” the world via their noses. So spending time on a walk will give your dog new sights and sniffs to enjoy. This mental stimulation is critical for aging pets and will only benefit their cognitive, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Strollers can also be useful for dogs with injuries or mobility problems, as well as those that can’t walk long distances in warmer temperatures, such as bulldogs and pugs. If your dog enjoys going about town with you, you may also find that a doggy stroller is useful for perusing dog-friendly shops and restaurants.
Patience Is Key
Remember when your dog was a puppy or you took them for their first ride in a car? They may have been nervous, reluctant or fearful at this unfamiliar endeavor. Riding in a stroller is no different, in that you’ll need to start slowly, gradually introducing your dog to this new contraption.
There’s a good chance your dog hasn’t encountered a dog stroller before, so the first step is allowing your dog to see the stroller and sniff it. Once they’re comfortable with its presence, lock the wheels to prevent any unintentional movement, and bring your dog toward the stroller while it’s parked.1 A few healthy treats can reinforce to your pup that the stroller is something positive worthy of being explored.
If your dog seems nervous, don’t force them to go near the stroller or get into it. Give your dog more time to adjust before moving on to the next step.
Getting Moving in Your Stroller
Once your dog is confident around the parked stroller, try pushing it around the room while your pup watches. If they seem comfortable and calm, you can place them inside, but don’t move just yet. Give your dog a chance to get used to the stroller in a fixed position, then, once they’re comfortable, try going for a very short stroll around your family room or backyard.
For extra incentive, you can add a few treats to the stroller or offer them a favorite chew toy or food-stuffed toy, especially when you’re planning a longer stroll. Be sure to properly secure your dog in the stroller before you take off on your adventure. Some strollers for dogs have a place to clip a leash. You’ll want to use a properly fitting harness — not a collar — to secure the leash to in order to prevent a choking hazard if your dog tries to jump out of the stroller.
If you think your dog will try to jump for the stroller, you may want to opt for a variety with a mesh covering to keep your pet more secure. When you first set out, keep the stroll brief, gradually adding more time as your dog adjusts. While some dogs love going for rides in a stroller, others may not.
If your dog continues to display signs of fear, anxiety or stress in the stroller, even after you’ve used positive reinforcement training and gradual introductions, they may prefer to keep their feet on the ground. Remember, too, that physical activity is key to keeping your dog in shape as they age, so don’t replace their daily exercise with a stroller walk unnecessarily.
Alternatively, take the stroller with you and let your dog walk as far as they comfortably can. When they need some assistance, you can put them in the stroller for the rest of the journey. Even dogs that enjoy the stroller should be given an opportunity to get out and stretch their legs on your route, including ample time to stop and sniff.
It should be noted that cats, too, may enjoy going for walks outdoors in a stroller. The process for getting them used to it is similar to that of dogs, but be aware that your cat may try to jump out of the stroller if it doesn’t have a mesh canopy. As with dogs, if your cat seems stressed out by being in a stroller, a walk using a harness and leash, or a romp in a catio, may be a better option.
Healthypets Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Dr. Karen Becker cannot answer specific questions about your pet's medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship. Your pet's medical protocol should be given by your holistic veterinarian.