People and 3 Legged Dogs

When I go out on walks, I do not see many three legged dogs around. Today, we are a lot more careful about dog breeding, and have made big advances in dog health-care.

As a result, three legged dogs are not very common, and they generally stand out.

Many people will feel sorry for a tripod dog, and want to console or hug her. Be ready to repeat your amputation story many many times.

Others will assume you are a bad dog owner, or think it is cruel to have a dog with three legs. People have difficulty dealing with disability, and sometimes, interacting with such people can be stressful and depressing.

In fact, interactions with people may be one of the more challenging aspects of living with a three legged dog.

There are generally four groups of people that I meet –

1. The Judge.

Judges automatically assume that the amputation is a horrible thing to do, and is somehow the fault of the current owner. These people will often give me dirty looks as I walk by, and whisper “irresponsible owner … from a car accident”.

I used to be bothered by this, but now I just ignore them.

Judges are only interested in seeing their own view of the world.

They assume the worst of others, so that they will feel better about themselves.

2. The Over-Sympathizers.

Over-sympathizers feel extreme pity for three legged dogs.

They generally think that amputation is not the right thing to do, because they feel three legged dogs have a sad, sad, life.

… are all common responses.

I personally do not mind over-sympathizers because they are willing to strike up a conversation, as well as give Shania some scratching and tummy rubs.

3. The Supporter

These are commonly people who have friends with three legged dogs, or who have had first hand experience with dog disability.

They know that tripod dogs have just as much fun as the next dog, and they usually offer support and useful advice on how to care for a tripod.

4. The Interested

Finally there are people who do not know much about three legged dogs, but are curious about them, and interested in hearing more about my experiences with Shania.

When I was considering amputation for Shania, I was also very confused, and did not know what quality of life she will have. However, my wonderful Siberian Husky has shown me that tripod dogs can get along very well, and lead a happy, active, rich life.

Some special care has to be taken in some areas, especially in foot care, and management of the environment (e.g. slippery surfaces). Overall, however, Shania is much easier to care for than my Shiba Inu, because she has such a happy and relaxed temperament.

No matter whom you meet, always remember that you made the right choice.

A three legged dog is just like any other dog – fun, loving, and full of surprises.

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  1. Crystal says

    I have a Tripod Chihuahua named Tia. Her front left leg was amputated due to a break that would mend. I try to treat her like I did when she had for legs but, I’m just so nervous that she will jump off the furniture or bed or out of my arms(which is what happened to cause her break). So I rarely let her sit with me on the couch to watch movies etc like we used to. I worry that it makes her feel unloved. I play with her in “her room” where she can’t jump or climb so its safe but I’d like her to be able to roam again. Any ideas how I can do this SAFELY and without my having a heart attack?

    • shibashake says

      With Shania, I train her *not* to get on furniture. As you say, dogs, especially 3 legged dogs can easily hurt themselves when jumping down from furniture or other raised surfaces.

      I make sure to be very consistent with the no-getting-on-furniture rule. I also sit and play with Shania on the floor, give her affection while she is on the floor, and make sure to reward her well for being calm and staying on the floor. I keep her very well supervised until I am very sure that she has learned the no-getting-on-furniture rule.

  2. says

    I would like to share my story about my young dog Jasmine whose fate could have been unknown.
    Jasmine is an Alaskan malamute which is a generally large breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) originally bred for use as a utilitarian dog and later an Alaskan sled dog. They are sometimes mistaken for a Siberian Husky due to colour and markings.
    She became a rescue dog after a member of public spotted that someone was trying to drown her in a bucket of water in the street, she only has three legs and we are not sure if she was born with three or she was attacked in her early days. We believe this is why they tried to kill her as she would not be worth as much with three legs instead of four.
    My assistant manager told me the back ground of Jasmine’s early days and explained that a member of his family was taking care of her in our local veterinary surgery, she was being bottle fed every hour and they were looking for a good home for her.
    I was instantly interested in giving her a good home after seeing pictures and listening to the horrific actions of others.
    I collected jasmine when she was five weeks old and I can honestly say I don’t regret anything, she lives a happy healthy life and gives me more love and affection than I could ever wish for.
    Jasmine is now 11 month old and growing very fast; she is such a family dog and loved by everyone who meets her.
    I have included a couple of pictures to show you my beautiful dog, now has such an interesting life and how that even though she is classed as disabled has become a valued member of my family.

    If you would like to see Jasmine growing up then please visit my website.

    Hope you enjoy!!

    • shibashake says

      Thanks for sharing Jasmine’s story and pictures with us! It is so good to look at pictures of a happy dog. Love the puppy pictures, and also the lake pictures.

      It is great to see that she has found a great home and family. Big hugs to Jasmine! πŸ˜€

  3. MamaSue says

    I rescued a 5 1/2 year old retired greyhound 4 1/2 years ago. He retired from the track at age 2 after a couple of serious injuries, and was in shelters for 3 1/2 years. (Poor boy.) When I brought him home, he fit right in with the 2 cats and other 2 dogs. He has been my perfect gentleman! Now, at age 10, he was diagnosed 3 weeks ago with early stage osteosarcoma in one front leg (after a nasty bone break). The leg would never have healed well, and the cancer would probably have spread faster if we tried to keep it, so I made the decision to amputate high, at his shoulder. Typical with greyhounds, he had a couple of post-op complications, but he is tough and determined to figure this out. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Cal is doing great! I’m getting him the Ruff Wear Web Master Halter to help him on his (now short) walks and with the stairs and getting out of the car. Nothing else I’ve tried works well for a front leg amputee greyhound (or other large chested, large breed dog). The physical therapy tips on the website have also been very helpful. Thanks for your story! God bless! Much love from Cal’s ‘MamaSue’

    • shibashake says

      Thanks for sharing Cal’s story with us. I am so glad that he has found such an awesome home. Do you have any pictures online? I would love to see Cal and his crew. πŸ˜€

      Big hugs to everyone!

  4. Alison says

    I have a Rhodesian Ridgeback (approx 47kg) who may need to have her back, right leg amputated in the next couple of weeks. However, I am extremley concerned due to her size. What are you opinons…do you believe larger dogs can still have good quality of life on three legs? The vet did mention she is a good candidate for amputation…however, I am not totally convinced.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Alison,

      I would check out the site. There are a fair number of people there who have gone through amputation with larger dog breeds. The community is very supportive and helpful.

      Getting a second opinion from another vet or specialist can also be helpful. That was what we did with Shania.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Catelyn,

      What an interesting project!

      Shania has many different gaits, and she moves better when she is going at a faster pace (e.g. running) than when she is walking slowly. Shania hops when she is walking, and her limp is most pronounced when she is going slowly.

      Here is an article on how dogs walk-

      Note that at any one time, they have 3 legs on the ground forming a triangle which gives them really good support. Three legged dogs do not have that, which is why they do not have as good support when they are walking. At most, they have 2 legs on the ground.

      Here is a youtube video showing a dog running in slow motion-

      Notice that at any one time, the dog only has one or two feet touching the ground. This is very different from when a dog is walking. When Shania is running, people often don’t even notice that she is missing a leg.

      There are many youtube videos of three legged dogs. Here is one with Jerry playing in slow motion. You can see how he moves his legs.

      I would visit Jerry’s site at It is a great place to get information on three legged dogs.

  5. says

    My Boy Sarge who is loved very much lost his left front leg to cancer on 1/4/13. I need to know what I can do to help my Boy recover. Can someone give me tips.
    Thank You

    • mildred says

      My dog Sadie lost one of her front legs last week (attacked by another dog). She is home now and sleeps a lot (it has only been 4 days since the surgery) but she is very willing to keep trying her normal routine. I will keep her quiet for a couple of weeks but I can already tell she will be ok… and, what luck, she still has horrible farts!

    • Anonymous says

      Hi Daniel
      We got our boy from dogs home 6 weeks after front leg amputation.
      He used to go so fast he stumbled and skidded on his not quite healed leg!
      My advice would be watch his diet, keep him slim. Let him be …. Lots of shorter walks on soft ground and no lead. Let him find his own pace. Take him out with his friends and watch him straighten up all alert and happy.
      Above all … Have fun and enjoy him.

  6. Lee Ann says

    After just one weekend with my newly-adopted Tripawed Cattle Dog/Husky mix, I’d already had enough. Now when people with any kind of rude attitude come up to me and say, “What happened to her leg?” I look down and gasp, “Oreo! What happened to your leg??!!” ba ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaa!

  7. Gina says

    Wow, it would never have occurred to me that people could be nasty about 3-legged dogs. Maybe you could shut them up with a variation of the joke that ends:

    So just how did your pig lose the leg?
    Well, it didn’t seem right to eat such an amazing animal all at once!


  8. BPS says

    Thanks so much for your articles! I will be adopting a three legged dog in a couple days and though I’ve fostered one before, I thought I needed to prepare myself again, particularly for what to expect from other people. We will be around a lot of children and teenagers, so it’ll take a lot of patience for us to not be bothered by them, I think. Again, thank you for this and all the other articles!

    • shibashake says

      I will be adopting a three legged dog in a couple days

      That is awesome! What kind of dog is she/he? Share some pictures with us when you can.

  9. Debbie Beasant says

    We have a lovely black silky cross retriever/ collie, Robbie, who was a stray and knocked down at 2 years old. The dogs home In Manchester amputated the injured front limb. He’s been with us ever since. He is 13 now and is such a special loyal gentle friend. Having said that loves to ‘muck in’ with doggy friends in woods. Miles better off the lead and at his own faster pace. Quite tricky just to let him be as he doesn’t seem to know his own limits when buddies round the corner and can still be very boisterous:) shorter walks now with lots of patience as he likes to sit and watch the world go by:) Weight always an issue as the less he does the less he should eat! Completely undemanding. Still goes up the stairs fast and down with a little more caution, ( unless postman arrives and then goes at 90 mph. ) We are moving to bungalow in a couple of weeks ( because I love the kitchen not because my heart is in my mouth when he comes down the stairs! ). Wish we could have the last 11 years all over again:)))

    • shibashake says

      unless postman arrives and then goes at 90 mph.


      because I love the kitchen not because my heart is in my mouth when he comes down the stairs!

      Yeah I know what you mean. I have installed a gate at the stairs so that we can control speed and traffic. Going to get a sofa-bed for downstairs soon.

      Wish we could have the last 11 years all over again:)))

      I very much wish that too! Shania is almost 6 now. The time just flew by so quickly – too quickly.

      Big hugs to Robbie! I think Shania would love to meet him. They have lots in common! πŸ˜€

  10. may26 says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. This was a very dificult decision we recently made for our puppy too. I was dreading running into people, nosy and judgemental people asking us why we took away her leg… But it didn’t occurr to me until I read this that some people might just be curious/interested or they might just want to offer some advice. We’ll see how it goes. Thank you, again! πŸ™‚

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I just ignore the nasty ones. They are unhappy and make a lot of noise, but there usually aren’t too many of them around – thank goodness! πŸ˜€

      Hugs to your puppy! Let us know how it goes.

  11. Farah Payton-Snider says

    Thank you for the helpful information on TriPawds!! We rescued a Rott Mix back in January that had been shot in the chest by a shotgun, and lost his front left leg as a result of his injuries. It was amazing how quickly he recovered and how resilient he was just a day after his amputation. Brutus is doing great now, is at a healthy weight and very playful. We’re still learning all about the proper care for him, but are so glad we saved him from what would have been certain death in a shelter.

    • shibashake says

      I am so glad to hear that Brutus found a good and happy home.

      Big hugs to Brutus and big hugs to you for saving a dog in need. Three big paws up! Shania also sends lots of licks! πŸ˜€

  12. Amanda says

    Hello, I have a question for you about 3 legged dogs. Our Siberian Husky delivered 9 puppies two weeks ago and two out of the nine were born with 3 legs and a stub. I could not put the babies down and he vet informed me that a dog can live on 3 legs. The mother is feeding her babies but I was wondering if you have a suggestion for us to help strengthen the two babies with 3 legs. One of the can use his leg a little but the other one is got a bone in it but it is kinda floppy. I have people who want these pups but I just want to make sure the are getting the right care for the strength of 3 legs. Please let me know you dog is beautiful!

    • shibashake says

      Hello Amanda,
      In such matters it is best to get advice from the vet.

      Shania had a very specific condition where her bones were misaligned. Therefore, we were able to try and realign the bones. However, the procedure did not work and we had to amputate in the end. The specialist recommended amputation for Shania because leaving a nub or a non-weight bearing leg may cause pain if she were to fall on it, and may hamper movement.

      Other than that the vet recommended that we keep her slim. This will help to reduce the amount of weight she has to carry on her three remaining legs and hopefully reduce joint stress.

      This is more on what I do with Shania-

      Big hugs to all your pups and an even bigger hug to mama dog.

  13. Whitney says

    Thank you for your articles… I am just now back from the vets after making the hard decision to amputate since our pup broke and almost impossible bone to fix . So thankful we did not have to put our sweet puppy down and that we had the option.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Whitney,
      Sorry to hear about the broken bone.

      Dogs are very resilient though, and puppies especially bounce back very quickly. Shania was out of it for only 1 day (the day of her amputation). The next day, she was up and about and ready for action! The most difficult part was keeping her calm until her stitches came out. πŸ˜€

      Big hugs to your pup. What is his/her name? Would love to see her so post some picture links when you have the time.

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