Walking with a 3 Legged Dog

Walking a three legged dog on a leash, can sometimes be a challenge.

Three legged dogs find it easier to walk at a faster pace, and may have difficulty making quick or sharp turns.

They also have less balance, and are more prone to falling down.

1. A Harness Can Provide Support

Using a harness can give our three legged dog more support, when we are out on a walk. I found this to be especially helpful, in the beginning.

We can also use the harness to quickly and safely turn, restrain, or move our dog. This is useful to stop a tripod dog from running ahead, and to get her safely away from dangerous objects, for example broken glass.

I was using the Ruffwear Web Master Harness on Shania, and it worked out well. It is strong, provides good back support, and has fleece material over the leg straps, so that they do not overly chafe her at the joints.

However, this harness may limit air flow during hot days, and cause the dog to heat up more easily.

Another weakness of using a harness is that it gives the dog a lot of pulling power. Shania has very strong prey-drive, so it was very difficult to control her pulling, whenever she spotted a squirrel, cat, or deer. For leash training exercises, I find that it is more effective to use a thick, no-slip collar.

2. How to Stop Pulling

Being a Siberian Husky, Shania does a fair amount of pulling during walks. To stop her from pulling, I have tried using the Gentle Leader head halti.

The halti works well in controlling the direction of her head, and redirecting her away from undesirable objects and situations. However, Shania really dislikes wearing it, and she will occasionally plop down on the ground in passive protest. It is difficult to get her up again, by just using the head collar.

The same applies when she decides to hang back, dig in, and not move forward. For dealing with these situations, I usually have Shania’s collar or harness on, in addition to the halti.

Also note that the head collar is not a long-term solution. It does not train our dog not to pull, but just prevents the pulling. Once we remove the halti, our dog will likely start to pull again.

To train Shania not to pull, I use a combination of hand-targeting and treating, when she is voluntarily walking by my side. If she starts to pull, I first give her a verbal warning to slow down. If she does not listen, then I stop her, make her do a Sit and Wait, re-target her on my hand, and then move on. When I am using a collar instead of a harness, I sometimes use my hand to hold back her chest. This gives her more support, during a forced stop.

Some trainers suggest doing a 180-turn-around, to stop pulling. This does not work as well with three legged dogs, because forcing them to turn quickly may cause them to fall, and place undue stress on their feet. When I need to turn or change direction, I make sure to do it slowly, and at a pace that Shania is comfortable with. It is also possible to use leash-jerks to discourage pulling, but I no longer use aversive techniques for a variety of reasons.

Nowadays, I almost always use a flat collar while walking Shania. She is better at walking now, and although she still pulls when she sees a squirrel or other prey, she will usually stop when I tell her to. I use the Premier Nylon Martingale Collar, which works very well for preventing collar escapes. It is also nice and thick, which helps to distribute the force around the neck, when a dog pulls.

Shania seems most comfortable with just a flat-collar.

3. Short Walks and Rest

Three legged dogs tire more easily, so take them for short but more frequent walks. During longer walks, make sure to stop often (in a shady spot if possible), provide plenty of water, and keep our dog cool.

Three legged dogs will take some time to build up their walking stamina, so start with brief walks, and increase the distance slowly.

Stairs, uneven ground, and raised surfaces, may be difficult to navigate, so be patient, and provide help as necessary.

4. Protect Our 3 Legged Dog

Three legged dogs may feel more vulnerable in the presence of new dogs. When threatened, there are four possible dog responses – fight, flight, freeze, or appease. Conditions are often fluid, and a dog may decide to change from one strategy to another.

My Husky Shania deals with unknown dogs, mostly through appeasement. She will roll onto her side or back, and offer them her tummy. Sometimes, when there are highly active dogs nearby, she will choose to run away.

It is important to step in, and protect our three legged dog from unwanted attention.

Sometimes, I bring Shania to a dog playgroup. When there are overly hyper dogs about, I step in and body block them away from Shania. In this way, she does not have to deal with stressful situations alone. If necessary, I do the same when she meets new dogs during walks. By keeping things positive, she will hopefully gain more confidence, and feel more comfortable when interacting with her dog friends.

Be vigilant and keep bad social experiences from occurring, as that may cause our three legged dog to become fearful. This may ultimately lead to dog aggression, depression, or other dog behavioral problems.

In fact I would step in and protect any of my dogs from rude dogs and rude people, although I have to admit that I am more protective over Shania.

If we have multiple dogs, be aware of how the whole pack acts in the presence of unfamiliar visitors. The rest of the pack may feel the need to protect their more vulnerable sibling, and become aggressive to other dogs.

My Shiba Inu is very protective of Shania. I always supervise very closely when introducing them to new dogs. Usually, I keep Shiba on a lead, and let Shania interact with the new dog first. Once they are getting along fine, I let Shiba loose, and continue with close supervision. If Shiba displays any aggressive behavior, play stops, and he goes on a mini time-out. What the whole pack should understand, is that we are in charge of their safety, and we do the protecting when it is needed.

5. Socialize Our 3 Legged Dog

Note that three legged dogs may feel more vulnerable, and may be more fearful of new things.

It is important to socialize our dog to as many new experiences (garbage truck, umbrella, all types of people) as we can, so that she gains confidence, and is less likely to show fear aggression.

Let our three legged dog approach new experiences at her own pace, and make sure to reward and praise her well for taking small steps.

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  1. Vicki says

    Hi I’ so thankful for your blog. I have a 2yr old whippet who unfortunately had to have his front left leg amputated only a week ago. He has amazed me with how well he has coped and straight after the accident was up and moving around on his 3 legs and by the second day was jumping up on furniture etc.
    The main reason for contacting you is because prior to the above, we were very active with long walks (between 1 -2 hours twice a day)and running. I have been taking Toby for short and frequent walks (at most 15mins) but Toby always seems to want to keep going and I’m not sure what to do? Should I continue as is and just make walks a little longer as the weeks progress or should I actually increase our walks now? Any advice greatly received

    • shibashake says

      I would consult with your vet on this. With Shania, we had to keep her on the quiet side until her stitches came out.

      After that, it was a matter of observing her, and making sure she doesn’t overdo it. Young dogs tend to bounce back really fast, but in Shania’s case, she is also not great at judging her own limits. Therefore, I watch her carefully and adjust our activity accordingly. I tend to err on the safe-side, and if I am unsure about anything, I consult with our vet. The good news is that young dogs also heal quickly, so with Shania, we didn’t really have any problems early on.

      As she got older though, we got a lot more careful about limiting her activity.

      Big hugs to Toby. 😀

  2. keith says

    have you ever had problems with muscle spasm and pain in the rear legs. My Lakeland lost his front right leg in an accident 3 yrs ago he is now almost 5 , having increasing problems with pain due to spasm in his rear right leg

    • shibashake says

      I haven’t seen any muscle spasms with Shania’s rear legs although there is some occasional trembling.

      The biggest thing with Shania is making sure she doesn’t overly stress any of her legs. For example, she still likes to lift her leg during pee-ing, so I either support her on one side when she does this, or I stop her from doing it. I also no longer let her go up and down stairs, and we limit the amount of hill work that we do. I also limit how fast she goes and I manage greetings very carefully so she does not get over-excited.

      Have you been to the tripawds.com site? There may be people there who have been through this with their dog. What does your vet say? It may also be useful to visit with a specialist.

  3. Magda says

    Hi there! Your blog has been a big help for me and my tripawd, Benji. Benji had his front left leg amputated before we adopted him, and since then we’ve been trying to find him a sturdy harness. With the Ruffwear Web Master Harness, do you find that it slips or rotates due to the missing front limb?? Thats the issue we’ve had with any harness we’ve tried in the past.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Magda,
      The Ruffwear harness has quite a lot of material, so it stayed in place pretty well for Shania. However, all that extra material also limits air flow, and is probably more constraining, so Shania didn’t enjoy wearing it for too long. Shania has a thick double coat though.

  4. Ashley C says

    I LOVE THIS SITE!! and you have a wonderful dog family…. I have a 2 y/o german spitz klein, Curry, he is a front left leg amputee, this is such a cute site, thank you for sharing with us!

    • Ashley C says

      also, do you ever have an issue with when they play too much and they sit and you can see the front paw shake a little from pressure/ being tired?

      what can be done about this?

    • shibashake says

      With Shania, I have noticed that one of her back legs sometimes shakes when she is over-excited. I have not noticed her front leg shaking.

      I try to manage her carefully during play-time and not let her overdo it. I throw in many play-breaks to manage her excitement level, and I do not allow my other dogs to overwhelm her, jump on her, hump her, etc.

      When I play with her, I also have strict play rules and structure so that she doesn’t overly stress herself and does not get over-excited. When she is over-excited, she often goes into super charged running mode, and she is not very careful with her own safety. Therefore, I try to make sure she doesn’t get to that point. Prevention is best with her.

      If I miss something, and she goes into her running mode, I try to get her to stop right away by calling her to me and giving her the Sit command. I use very high priority food rewards for this. She is very food focused, so those usually work well with her. Then, I get her to do some other commands, e.g. Look, Down, to get her to refocus on me and to calm down. Her leg stops shaking after she relaxes and calms down. I make sure she rests a good long while after that.

      Shania is a go-go-go girl, and she often leaps before looks, so I try to be the one that “looks” for her. 😀

      Big hugs to Curry!

    • Christine says

      Hello I was just surfing and saw your cute page!
      We also have a three legged, front amputee husky. He is doing very well but a specialist taught me about the importance of preventing the carpus from hyperextension. Apparently this is a typical problem for front amputees. Check out orthopets.com – they can custom make an articulating carpal brace for your husky to support the carpus and prevent injury and arthritis. Our tripod loves his brace and it is a relief to know that he has some support on that leg. Apparently it is not such a problem for back amputees since the front end manages most of the dogs weight. Anyhoo, I hope you and Shania are doing well. Feel free to email me if you have questions or want to see a picture of our “bionic” husky.


  5. eriin! says

    This has helped me a lot quite a bit, about two days ago my four month old bug ( boston terrier/pug) had her front left amputated, ite been har on the both of us, I originally rescued her from a drug house, someone bought her and I stopped to check in on my friends mom as j do time to time and saw the condition and amount of drugs being smoked around 4week olds and we each grabbed a puppy left and reported them. She was doing amazing when I got a call from my roommates saying something was wrong and to come home from work right away. She had a fall (my guess is exploring jumping from furniture to furniture cuz she had recently learned she could do and thought was so cool lol) she is getting back to her cuddly loving self but I am worried to not only her but us adapting aswell…trying to keep her from pushing to far is what I am scared of and I dont know how to make such a happy and care free hyper puppy slow down and relax, its heart breaking. Your storey an all the comments here have really helped to inspire, I have had some nasty comments about spending 2000 on such a young puppy. She is my baby money has no limit as long as she is happy and healthy. But I worry because she has been threw so much.

    • shibashake says

      I was also very worried with Shania, but she has adapted really well. She does need closer supervision, and I train her not to get on furniture. She is a go-go-go girl who tends to “leap before she looks” 😀 , so I am very strict with her about safety rules.

      During the training period, I keep her in a safe enclosure or crate if I am unable to supervise. I only gave her unsupervised freedom when I was very very sure of her training and behavior.

      I also have clear play-rules and interaction rules for my other dogs so that they do not accidentally hurt Shania.

      More things that help with Shania-

      Big hugs to your furry girl!

    • Mistie says

      You know what? I dislike people who judge us who would do anything for our animals. They are just like children to us! We have the awesome stuff, sweetest 12 year old Dorky (dachshund/yorkie) named Bruiser who is a trip and. He is a front leg amputee. He had an injury at about 2 years old. Over the years we have spent about $10,000.00 on him. I have gotten many people ask me how on earth I could spend so much money on a dumb dog. Alot of people say they would’ve just put him to sleep. Some people are so insensitive. Bruiser is my baby. I would do anything for him!

  6. Sheryl T. says

    My 8year old 73 lb. Labradoodle had his left front leg amputated this morning due to cancer. I have been so worried about how he will adapt, but reading your articles has given me much inspiration. Thank you so much!

    • shibashake says

      Thank you. Btw. have you been to the tripawds.com site? They have a lot of useful articles there and a very supportive and helpful community.

      Big hugs to your boy!

    • Shelly says

      How is your baby doing now that it’s been over a week? My 6 year old bulldog has her front leg amputation surgery on Wednesday due to Osteosarcoma.

  7. sarah says

    I just adopted a 2 year old, 3 legged black lab from the shelter-her temperament is incredible and she loves absolutely everyone. The biggest question I have is how much to walk her. She has so much will that I worry her drive is bigger than her ability…Are we talking a .5 mile walk or could she do a 2 mile walk–is that something she can aspire to? Also, we live up a flight of stairs so I am fearful of her stressing her one back leg out. The vet says she needs about 8 pounds added to her. She lost her leg as a puppy when she was attacked by another dog. Her owner went to jail and never had anyone come to take care of her. I have 3 kids who are loving the heck out of her. We named her Nia, which means purpose 🙂 Thank you for all the info you have on here I need as much as I can to help her stay strong and capable!

    • shibashake says

      Congratulations on your new furry family member! I am so glad that Nia has found such a wonderful home. 😀

      In terms of the length of walks, I slowly built it up with Shania. I started with shorter but more frequent walks, and I build up from there. I make sure not to let her go too fast, as she has sprained her leg before from going too fast. My vet says that a slow jog is best, so we now do a slow jog or a fast walk. I don’t hurry her, but I do slow her down when she is going too fast.

      We went on longer walks when Shania was younger. Now she is over 6 years old, so I do maybe a couple of longer walks in the week and the rest are shorter walks. Sometimes, a family member will drop us farther away (by car), so we can explore more and only need to make a one way trip home. It also depends on weather, because when it gets hot, Shania doesn’t really like going too far. I observe her closely and adjust our walks accordingly.

      Big hugs to Nia! I would love to see her pictures, so please post us a link when you can.

    • Dave says

      I have an older arthritic dog and my apt is 43 steps from the ground level. I put a good harness on him and going up and going down, I pull up with a leash connected to the ring of the harness, or sometimes I grab underneath the ring on the harness itself, taking some of the weight off of his joints. Hope that helps…


  8. Kenzee says

    I am so glad that I found this inspiring blog. I have a 12 week old siberian husky named koda. About three weeks ago we had a very unfortunate accident when he jumped out of my boyfriends mothers car. The injury he faced is called brachial plexus in his right front paw/leg. The first two vets that we saw told us without hesitation that we would have to amputate. With koda being so young I as him mom didn’t want to resort to that so quickly. We came upon a vet that gave us a ray of hope and that week we started koda on laser therapy to try and get the nerves back working since they were all damaged. This seemed hopeful for koda for he was doing great with the treatments and at home we were doing our own therapy such as moving exercises and water therapy. We seemed so hopeful and thought he was doing great!! On Friday though April 9th we took koda in because his shoulder was really swollen. The vets took him back for X-rays and came back with not so hopeful news. The first vet that we took koda to the day of the accident did X-rays but did not notice two fractures in kodas leg. One in which on his growth plate in his shoulder and the other in his lower leg. The fracture in the lower part of his leg was their biggest fear. Since koda is so young he is growing at a rapid rate. The bone adjacent to the fractured bone is growing while the fractured bone is not. This would eventually cause the limb to deform as koda grows. The vets at this point gave us two options. The first option go through surgeries to get the fractured bone up to speed with the other. (Numerous surgeries through out growth) still without knowing if in the end he would get feeling back in his leg/paw at all. Or option two amputation. Knowing that we had hard decisions to make my boyfriend and I knew that we had to think for koda and what would be best for him. Without knowing if koda would get feeling back in his leg after all of these surgeries we restored to amputation. Even though it was the last thing we wanted for our little guy. Knowing that koda may not still get feeling in his leg we knew that having the amputation sooner than later would be best for koda. On July 7th koda goes in to be neutered and at that time we will go fourth with amputation. Though it has been the hardest decision I know that koda will still live a full filled and happy life. He is the sweetest little pup and so full of energy and personality despite his rough patch.
    Thank you for sharing all your stories on shania. They have really given me more hope and a better understanding on tripod dogs!

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, it was a very tough decision for us as well with Shania.

      Shania is now over 6 years old and she is still very much on the go! The hardest part in caring for her is in restricting her Sibey penchant to leap first and look later. She thinks she is invulnerable. One of my neighbors, who is her cookie friend, joked that we should make her a superhero cape. 😀

      He is the sweetest little pup and so full of energy and personality despite his rough patch.

      Haha, yeah Sibes really are amazing. Big hugs to Koda! Shania sends her love and super Husky kisses.

  9. Erik says

    Thanks for the informative article and for not giving up on your dog. We are considering adding a tripod to our pack and my only real concern is our high activity level, which would mean that he would often have to stay home. 🙁

  10. Britt says

    Hi Shiba, just letting you know your blog has been a massive help! I recently adopted a cattle dog cross from the local shelter, missing a front leg just like Shania. He is energetic, playful and very sweet – but sometime he gets a little too playful with his mouth. Thats the first thing that I wanted to ask – when I go outside to play and things aren’t moving fast enough for him, he barks in frustration and will jump and try to bite me, when he does succeed he will grip on to my forearm and pull. I’ve tried ignoring this, but when he is so hyped up he will simply come around and bite me from behind! I don’t want to engage him and make noise but he will also just not let go of my arm! The second thing i wanted to ask you that is much more relevant to this article is about your walks with Shania. My dog is walked daily and sometimes more than once and also receives at least 15 minutes of play time (mainly fetch). However, on our walks I find he is frequently stopping. I recently purchased the ruff wear harness that I now attach the leash to which does help controlling him and his pulling but I find the longer time passes the more he stops on people’s front lawns and lies down when walked. It is very difficult to try and coax him to get back up again, treats do not work to help him get up and he is very stubborn. The harness has helped this somewhat with the handle. However, I would like it that he would be able to get up on his own and not stop as frequently. I know that 3 legged dogs need rests on walks but it sometimes happens on 15 minute walks possibly about 15 or more times! I also bring water for him and constantly offer it. I’m wondering if this is normal? Someone said it may be puppy defiance as he is only 1 year old and had very very basic training when adopted from the pound. Thankyou so much for your very helpful articles – I don’t think I would have been so convinced to adopt him without the help of your experience with Shania 🙂

    • shibashake says

      Congratulations on your new furry family member! Shania gives lots of licks and three big paws up for helping a dog in need. 😀

      In terms of the jumping, I try to have very clear play rules for my dog. If she jumps or bites on me, I no-mark right away and tell her what to do instead, e.g. Sit. If she sits, then I make sure to reward her well with food and most importantly, more play. If she continues, then play stops, and I withdraw my attention. If she escalates her behavior, then I calmly say timeout and put her briefly in a safe timeout area. More on what I do for jumping and biting.

      Puppies often start jumping and biting when they get over-excited. Another thing that helps with my dog is to manage her level of excitement. I do this by throwing in many play-breaks. I play a very short while, then we have a very short obedience break with fun movement commands and very good food rewards, then we do another short play session and so on. I adjust the time for each based on the behavior of my dog. In this way, I try to set her up for success, and make it less likely for her to lose control of herself.

      As for stopping during walks, that can be a tough one with Shania. Sometimes she stops because she is tired, sometimes she just wants to enjoy the outdoors, sometimes there may be a physical issue, and sometimes it may be in protest of something.

      When it is in protest, there is something that she wants to do but can’t. For example, she may want to go to a certain area or want to keep going. If I stop her, she may just plop down in protest. Usually she gets up after a little while and tries to keep going in the same direction. If I stop her, she may plop down again in protest. If I am *sure* that it is a “protest-stop”, then I usually prevent her from plopping down, I turn her around by supporting her chest with my hand and using that to turn her around, then we move along.

      However, Shania *does* like to stop and watch people, or just hang-out during our walks. She really enjoys doing this so I bring along my iPhone and read while she does her people, squirrel, or cat watching. 😀 There are a lot more interesting things happening outside and more interesting smells, so she likes lying on the sidewalk or under a tree.

      Each dog is different though, so I try to observe closely and adapt my training methods to suit each dog.

      Hope this helps. Big hugs to your boy!

  11. Grace says

    This is very helpful! I am looking for a chihuahua to adopt, I do not want to buy one from a breeder or a store, as there are too many as it is. I found the dog I want desperately near my location, and she has had one leg amputated due to an infection from a car accident. I did not know if she would be able to do all the things regular dogs do, but this website showed me that tripod dogs can do anything a regular dog can do! Thank you so much.

  12. TIjana says

    Hey Shania and her mum!

    What a beautful looking dog you have.. she is amazing! :o)

    I just wanted to ask you a quick questions about the RuffWear Harness.

    My beautiful Rotty Spike recently lost his front right leg to cancer and I am not having alot of luck finding a harness to stay on. Not that he cares… he just loves his walks. hehe.

    I had a quick google of them, but thought I would check if you would recommend one?



    • shibashake says

      Hello Tijana,

      The RuffWear harness stayed on well for Shania (Siberian Husky – medium sized, between 40-45 pounds). I mostly used it at the beginning, soon after her amputation.

      The one issue that we had was that Shania has really thick fur, so having all that material on her body got uncomfortable for her, especially during hot weather. However, all that material is necessary to keep the harness in place.

      Once Shania no longer needed the extra support, I switched to a thick no-slip collar, which works well for our walks.

      Glad to hear that Spike is doing well and enjoying his walks. Big hugs! 😀

  13. Debra Dorey says

    My son has a tripod husky she was born with the cord around her leg so she has what we call a chicken wing, our problem is her back legs and hips are not good she is in so much pain and she yelps when she walks and her back leg looks twisted, the problem that they are having is they don’t have the money to help her with her hip replacement or what ever may be needed, she has had a hard time walking since birth but needs more care, where can a person get some help financially for a dog, they may have to put her down as she is in so much pain, please help if you can, the person who had the dog should never have offered it to anyone and taken care of it themselves so now were faced with this problem , there is also two little girls who love this dog and want to see her well. please what can they do?

    • shibashake says

      With Shania, I first took her to a vet and then a specialist to see the extent of the damage and to get a list of possible options. The specialist was really good about evaluating Shania’s condition, and he gave us several options with associated costs, and future quality of life.

      Once we had that, we could decide what was best for Shania, and then we addressed the associated financial costs. In this way, we have a clearer dollar cost figure, and the hospital we went to helped us out some, friends helped us out some, and so did relatives. Another possibility is to go to an SPCA clinic. Our local SPCA had a vet clinic with very reasonable prices, and they were also very willing to help out people with medical costs for their pet. Many hospitals also allow us to pay in installments.

      Another possibility is to get some added help from local rescues, or even from online rescues (e.g. through Facebook).

      But first, I would get a better understanding of the damage, and the options for reconstructive surgery.

  14. emma says

    hi there, im in the uk and ive sadly just lost one of my best friends my lilly dog she left her 3 legged brother behind and we are now trying to get him out and about to keep his mind active and his body healthy. im glad i came across your site its fantastic and very helpful. im always worried his other legs would suffer if i walked him and i now know its safe to just like any other dogs. thank you i wish you well

  15. Cameron says

    Thank you for all the great advice.

    My boyfriend and I recently adopted a 1 year old 3 legged dog in Thailand. Your advice is extremely helpful but I’m curious if its entirely applicable because our guy is missing one of his hind legs. Thoughts?

    Thanks again,

    • shibashake says

      There are certainly differences between missing a front-leg vs. missing a back-leg, however, there are also many shared experiences with all three legged dogs. In addition, all dogs have different temperaments, will be motivated by different things, and will likely have differences in terms of what they excel in, and what they may have more difficulty with.

      I talk about many of my experiences with Shania in the article above, and some of them may apply to another dog, while some will be less so. One of the most important lessons I learned from my Shiba Inu, is to be flexible and to listen to my dogs. I make sure to modify training techniques to suit their temperament, their needs, and based on what they say to me through their body language and behavior.

      Is there something in particular that you feel is very different for a dog that is missing his back leg? If so, please let me know so that I can add that into the article.

      Thanks and big hugs to your new furry companion!

  16. Jaime says

    Thank you for the information on this website! Our 4 year old Great Dane, Scoobert, had his left front leg amputated on Tuesday…cancerous tumor in his elbow. This is his second night at home. Looking for any advice. Tonight he wouldn’t go outside to go to the bathroom and I know he had to go. Fully expecting a huge mess in the morning. We couldn’t even get him to sit up to get a towel under to help him stand. He’s 150 lbs so lifting him isn’t an option. He’s begrudgingly gone out since coming home and always needs lots of assistance to stand, but tonight he just wasn’t having it. Any suggestions on where we go from here? We’ve tried coaxing him with treats, food, commands etc. when does it start to get easier? So sad to watch him like this. Thanks.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Jaime,

      How is Scoobert doing?

      One thing that helped with Shania after the amputation is that we had a potty pad area for her in the house. In this way, she only had to walk a few steps to get to it. Size is an issue though, because we don’t want the pads to slip and slide. We had a potty pad holder, but I am not sure if those will be big enough for a Great Dane.

      Another possibility is to get a tarp or something similar (i.e. something that doesn’t absorb smell and that we can throw away later). My breeder does that when she has puppy litters. She secures a tarp really well onto the floor, and if the puppies go on the tarp, it is much easier to clean, and she can just throw the whole thing out after the puppies are grown.

      Sometimes, though, the dog may not even want to get up. My Sibe, Shania got bitten by a rattlesnake recently, and she spent a couple of days in the emergency hospital. They told us she did not want to get up at all the first day and a half. They just let her do her stuff in-place (on towels), and then gave her a bath after she started to feel better.

      In terms of recovery, that is probably very variable. Shania had a very short recovery time because she was very young and still small, when the amputation was performed. I would chat with his vet and see what he says. Also, check-out http://tripawds.com/forums/ . A lot of good information there and many people who have gone through the same thing.

      Hugs to Scoobert. Let us know how he is doing when you have the time.

  17. Rikki says

    My dads Pomeranian had puppies 9 Weeks ago (she only gave birth to two) & one of them was born with no paw, so her leg isn’t completely gone but not enough to put weight on it. I ended up keeping her. & after reading about the harness u use I was wondering if u could use a regular harness or does that not provide enough balance?

    • shibashake says

      Hello Rikki,

      The trouble I had with regular harnesses is that many of them would not stay on properly. The extra material of the Ruffwear helped it to stay on more securely, whereas the lighter weight harnesses often did not stay in place (because of the missing leg).

      However, Shania is a much bigger dog, and it may be different with a smaller Pomeranian. Let us know how it goes.

  18. says

    Thank you for writing all of this material about caring for a tripod. I adopted at the beginning of October and ended up adopting a 4 year old tripod shepherd/chow mix. He had been in the shelter for 2 years and my heart immediately melted for him; so I knew I had to take him home…but wanted to make sure I knew how to take care of him properly (considering any particular situation).

    His leg was amputated 2 years ago, so he’s adjusted to it already and can out-run most of the other dogs we encounter in the fenced yard in my apartment complex. He absolutely loves playing fetch and would go on forever if you allowed him to. We also average at least 2 walks a day, ranging somewhere between .75 to 1.25 miles (each walk).

    Thank you again. This has become my ‘go to’ location for any questions I have while still learning what I need to be sure to do to make sure he has the best home possible.

    • shibashake says

      Four paws up and a great BIG WOOF to you for saving him. He must be a really handsome guy being a Shepherd and a Chow.

      He absolutely loves playing fetch and would go on forever if you allowed him to. We also average at least 2 walks a day, ranging somewhere between .75 to 1.25 miles (each walk).

      That is so good to hear that he has finally caught a break and found a great home and a great companion.

      Shania sends many magical licks! 😀

  19. Kathryn miller says

    Hello thank you for your website. My husband and I recently rescued a tri paw, he is three yrs old, and seems despondent. How long does it take to get his pep back? He just wants to lay in the corner..is hard to get outside for potty breaks etc

    • shibashake says

      I think it depends a lot on the dog and his history. Dogs that have a more difficult history will take more time to adjust to a new environment and new people. Did he just have his leg amputated? Or did that happen a while ago? Was it a result of a car accident or something else?

      Generally, I try to give new dogs their space and let them come to me in their own time. Dogs generally love food, so I find that it is a good way to get my dogs motivated. My Shiba is a pretty aloof dog, but he will usually move his butt when he smells me cooking sausages. 😀

      What breed is your rescue? Breed characteristics are also a good way to identify good motivators for a dog. My Sibes, for example, love to pull, run, and they like chasing games (high prey drive). How long have you had your rescue?

  20. says

    I’m about to have my beloved 10-year old Cairn’s (her hame is Rua) left front leg amputated due to an aggressive, but localized (thankfully) sarcoma that has come back twice. Other options were 4 weeks of radiation/chemo five time a week away from home, or a drug that would delay the inevitable. I chose amputation for her for a variety of reasons, mostly that it will give her the best chance of having a ‘normal’ lifespan, and because I will be with her during recovery, and she will be in her home for complete support. I thank you for this wonderful site and the articles. They give me lots of hope and tips on how to handle both the emotional (on my part) and physical (on her part) challenges that she will face. I live in a remote area where there is no access to hydrotherapy, so I’m thinking of a deep kiddie-pool for her swimming needs, supervised, of course. How long do you walk or exercise your sweet husky? How do you care for her pads and feet? How did you help her find her balance when it first happened? Thanks, so much, again. We will keep you in the loop!

    • shibashake says

      How long do you walk or exercise your sweet husky?

      Shania is almost 5 now. I walk her every day but she mostly likes to rest outside, in the shade, and look at people or greet people. We stay out for over 2 hours or more, but we don’t cover very much distance. I let her set the pace and tell me when she wants to relax, smell, and look. She is more active in cold weather.

      How do you care for her pads and feet?

      I used to put Dermapaw on her pads, when she was younger and more active. Now she does not seem to need it. I do check her pads after we go walking on nature trails to make sure that there are no grass seeds or anything else that get stuck in them. I also try to trim her pad fur. If it gets too long, she may slip on it.

      How did you help her find her balance when it first happened?

      Shania got her leg amputated when she was very young – a few months old. The bones in her front leg didn’t connect, so the leg wasn’t ever weight bearing. I think because she never had use of the leg, and because of her age, she very quickly got used to walking on three legs.

      I recently talked to my vet about hydrotherapy and he didn’t think she needed it yet. As I understand it, hydrotherapy is often used in cases where the dog has difficulty walking. The water helps to support the dog’s weight, and this enables him to exercise and rebuild leg muscles.

      Big hugs to Rua. It warms the heart to see that she has such a good and caring family. Please give us an update when you get the chance.

  21. Tara says

    I love your page! My husband and I rescued a tripaw named Winnie almost a year ago and I found your site very helpful! Winnie had her leg amputated at 4 months and she is now 1 year old, but she has NO idea anything is missing lol. She could be a champion musher the way she runs at the dog park! My other dog, Lola, is also protective of Winnie, so it was nice to read that your dogs are this way too. Keep up the great work!

    • shibashake says

      she has NO idea anything is missing

      That is so true! Shania is like that as well. I often wish she would be more careful. 😀

      Many thanks for your awesome comment and BIG hugs to Winnie and Lola!

  22. Kimberly says

    Thanks so much for all the tips on caring for a 3 legged dog. My family just adopted a 5 month old tripod yellow lab from a rescue. She has had zero leash training what so ever and always had access to a doggy door. I am having a lot of trouble taking her out on a leash. She doesn’t even follow me. Sometimes she tries to take off running and falls when the leash jerks. Other times I try to get her just to follow alongside me and she would rather just sit and stare off in the distance or lay down and eat leaves. Sometimes she runs from side to side and all around my legs with no direction at all. I bring treats along and try to keep her moving at a good pace next to me with treats but half the time she is just jumping up alongside me. Suggestions?

    • shibashake says

      Hello Kimberly,

      Congratulations on your new puppy and 4 paws up for adopting a dog in need.

      In terms of leash training Shania, I mostly use the start-stop or red-light, green-light technique. Essentially, I only walk when the leash is loose. When it becomes taut, I stop. Here is more on leash training techniques.

      I first start leash training in a very quiet area with few distractions, e.g. my backyard. I use a no-slip collar and a leather 6 foot leash. I usually start by only giving puppy a medium amount of lead, so that I have better control. If she walks well, I slowly give her a bit more lead and more freedom.

      With Shania, I slightly modified the start/stop technique by including a count before stops. When I start counting, she knows that she should slow down. If she slows down, I stop counting. If she does not slow down and I reach to 3 then I stop.

      With Shania I also stop a lot to let her rest. When it is time to move on, I give her the ‘Stand’ command (previously trained) and reward her for that. Then I reward her for walking well beside me, or we sometimes play the “Find-It” game to make the walk more fun. I make sure not to reward her for unwanted behaviors, e.g. jumping. Instead, I ask for an alternative command, e.g. Sit, Spin, Find-It, Come.

      Big hugs to Puppy!

    • Kimberly says

      Thanks for the advice. Leonie is settling in well. I will try some of those techniques for getting her to walk. Did you experience any crying after Shania had her operation? Leonie is 2 weeks preop and sometimes seems to whine or cry for what seems like no reason. I don’t know if this is pain or her missing her old “home” or her just begging to play outside.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Kimberly,

      Yeah, Shania did cry occasionally after her operation. They were very brief cries, and reduced in frequency with time. I think it may be due to Phantom limb syndrome.

      Big hugs to Leonie!

  23. Kia says

    I just want to say this: You are a wonderful, kind, loving, considerate, compassionate, informative, sensitive, generous and VERY much appreciated human being. Thank you SO much for time and help. Kia xx

  24. Gussy says


    I have a 12 yr old husky who just had his front leg amputated. It has only been a week but he is having a lot of trouble getting around and maintaining balance. I think it will help a lot to use a harness with him, but i cant do that until his wound heals. Do you have any recommendations for physical therapy, or somehow teaching him how to walk on 3 legs?

    Thank you,


  25. Anonymous says

    I recently rescued a Golden Retriever puppy born with three legs and one front deformed leg she is very sweet she is 7 weeks old now and i am trying to find a wy to get her a prosthetic leg do you know where I could get that for her? My vets around here have no idea. I am in California. I really found your article on your dog helpful also I ill get higher food and water dish. Thank you Tina

  26. kelly robertson says

    Hi ! We have a 20# husky mix 14 week old puppy Kona she was attacked as a newborn and lost her front left paw we also adopted her brother who is 50#. They love to go for walks and I recently purchased a harness for him that works wonderfully but did not know if it was recommended for a 3 legged dog. What do you think would work best for her at her age-she definitely pulls and loves to be the leader when we walk!
    Thanks for your article it very insightful:)

    • shibashake says

      Hello Kelly,

      I used the RuffWear harness with Shania when she was young. I liked it very much because it had a lot of material around her torso and was secure on her even though she was missing a front leg. The problem with a lot of lighter harnesses is that they may slip and come off a 3 legged dog because of the missing leg.

      However, as Shania grew older and became much larger, the harness just gave her too much pulling power. I am now using a no-slip flat collar on her and training her not to pull. When she is pulling hard I would reach down and stop her by placing my hand on her chest. This also helps to give her support. Then I simply reorient her front area to the direction I want her to go.

      I use the red-light-green-light technique (start-stop technique) and hand targeting to teach her not to pull. Sometimes when she pulls too much, I turn her around but only with my hand on her chest. Doing a quick turn-around does not work well with her because she will lose her balance.

      I would recommend training them not to pull when they are younger, smaller, and easier to stop. 😀

      I wish I were more strict with walking Shania when she was young but since she is my first 3 legged dog I have a big soft spot for her in the middle of my heart. Still she is coming along nicely even now with her leash walking.


  27. Justin Dunning says


    My name is Justin and I have a puppy who is about 12 weeks old. He is a half rottweiler half italian mastiff mix. Due to unfortunate events, he will be having his right rear leg amputated. Anyone who has had a puppy knows they love following their owners around and get under their feet a lot. Mine did that and I stepped on him and shattered what would be his knee. Horrible feeling! It is repairable but not recommended due to his young age, where the break is, and how many surgeries he is going to have to have because he is going to be a big dog. On top of all of that, he’d be in a cast for the next year or so. It just breaks my heart knowing I caused this. I just wanted to stop by and say that I really appreciate your sight and all the tips for having a 3 legged dog. I know he’ll be just fine and happy but it still stinks. What were the hardest things to adapt to for your dog and for yourself in the beginning? I’m trying to get all of the insight I possibly can so I am prepared as much as possible. Thanks for everything! – Justin

    • shibashake says

      Hello Justin,
      Yeah, it was very difficult for us as well with Shania. Much more so in the beginning when we were trying to straighten the bones in Shania’s leg. But it is really quite amazing how quickly she bounced back after her amputation.

      What were the hardest things to adapt to for your dog and for yourself in the beginning?

      I think the hardest part for me is the balance between safety and happiness for Shania. Shania is a pretty energetic dog and she likes to run around at top speed, jump, and do all manner of crazy doggy things. Some of these things are more dangerous for her because she does not have as good balance as a 4 legged dog. Also, she is putting more stress on her single front leg when she engages in these activities.

      But then, I don’t want to stop her from having fun and living her life either. I try to channel her energy into safer pursuits and manage her environment carefully. My tendency is to be overprotective, but I try my hardest to achieve a balanced approach.

      Another difficult thing for us are the loose dogs in the neighborhood. I suppose some of the dogs see Shania as being more vulnerable and sometimes they come over and try to dominate her. I am currently carrying an air horn to keep loose dogs away when necessary.

      Also, a 3 legged dog may get overwhelmed more easily during play especially during rough play. Supervision during play is always important especially when interacting with new dogs. I also keep play groups small so that they are manageable and fun for everyone.

      Thanks for sharing your story with us. Big hugs to puppy! Btw, what is his name? Let us know how things go after the operation.

  28. Maryam says

    Actually the surgery was just yesterday. Due to some problems the vet had postponed it. sorry for late reply. She is fine, just a bit of bleeding when she tries to get up and move her arm.
    🙂 thank you all for your good wishes….
    Maryam and Landi and others 🙂

    • shibashake says

      Hello Maryam,
      So glad to hear that everything went well. We send you big hugs and wet licks! 😀

  29. Maryam says

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience!
    My 11 year old GreatDane is going to lose her left hand on Sunday! because of cancer.
    I am too worried. I’ll try to use your tips 😐

    • shibashake says

      Hello Maryam,
      How did the surgery go on Sunday? How is your girl doing?

      I was very worried about Shania as well, but dogs really are very awesome and very brave. They handle such things 1000 times better than people do. Shania sends her licks and well wishes.

  30. Mary Lynn says

    Thanks for responding back! My friend and I enjoyed the enlightenment of your training. We plan on attempting it with Trixie. Trixie weighs about 45 pounds. At 9 months she will probably get a little bit bigger. She has a LOT of energy and yes…running down hill at full gallop-you wouldn’t think she only had 3 legs! And is she strong! One of her favorite games is to play tug. I have to hang on with both arms-I swear she could pull my arm out of its socket if I am not careful. But she is sweet. She does get scared fairly easily, though, so we watch and calm and reward as much as possible.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Mary Lynn,
      How is Trixie doing?

      She does get scared fairly easily, though, so we watch and calm and reward as much as possible.

      Yeah Shania is like that too. Her public enemy #1 is the garbage truck. She is a bit better with it now but she still does not like the loud noises it makes; especially when the arm comes out to grab the trash cans. I usually move her into a nearby driveway and distract her by doing commands.

      Hugs to Trixie!

  31. Mary Lynn says

    Hi Shania’s Mom…Thank you so much for this usefull advice. My best friend just adopted a 9 month old Doberman/Shephard mix. She got Trixie from a shelter that received her with a very mangled leg. The shelter felt the only solution was to remove the leg so Trixie, like your Shania, is missing one of her front legs. You would hardly know it to watch her. She is adapting nicely to my friends home and all her puppy-glory is emerging. Walking Trixie, however, is scary and uncomfortable for both Trixie and whoever is walking her. I sent a copy of your blog to my friend. Any advise is greatly appreciated…Oh…and both of your babies are gorgeous…

    • shibashake says

      Thanks Mary Lynn. 😀

      How heavy is Trixie currently?

      Shania is about 45 pounds and the method that has worked best for her is the red-light-green-light technique. I have modified the technique slightly for her so that I don’t do abrupt stops. Here is what I do –
      1. When the leash gets taut, I start counting to 3.
      2. Once I start counting this is an indication for Shania to slow down. If she does not slow down by the count of 3 then I stop, ask for a Sit, and wait there for a while. Then I start walking again. In this way she learns that the fastest way to get where she wants to go is to slow down when I start counting.
      3. Sometimes, Shania will not slow down multiple times in a row. In these cases I get her to slowly turn around and we go back the way we came. After a bit, we stop, sit, and wait before continuing.
      4. If she still will not walk properly, then I march her all the way home and end the walk. I use the term “Go Back” – and she knows the walk is about to end so she will usually pay good attention to me then.

      Ending the walk is very effective for Shania because she loves being outside more than just about anything else so cutting the walk short is worse than anything else I could do. I used this same technique to stop her from eating poop. It was very effective. 😀

      However, this only works because I can actually stop Shania. I also wear a glove on my right hand to lessen wear and tear on my hand.

      For larger dogs, the head halti is a possibility. That has its own pros and cons so I would definitely read up on them first. Finally there is also the option of leash corrections although I am generally not a fan of pain based aversive techniques. This article has more details on the various methods –

      Lots of love to Trixie! She sounds like a very happy and sweet dog, just like Shania. Yeah it is truly amazing how quickly dogs, especially puppies, recover from losing a limb. I have never seen Shania mope or let her missing leg stop her from doing anything, including flying down hills at top speed. I have to be the nay-sayer to keep her from doing too much. She is awesome at working on interactive toys as well.

      There is much that we can learn from dogs. 😀

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