I live with an awesome 3 legged dog called Shania. The name Shania is of Native American origin, and it means “on my way”. I thought this name was especially appropriate because Shania is a very active dog, who is always on her way to doing something fun and exciting.
She is a 3 legged dog but she does not let that slow her down one whit.
One of the first things that people say when they meet Shania is, “What a happy dog!”. And indeed she is. In fact, she even kept her spirits up while we were trying to straighten her leg, and she had to go through multiple surgeries. The surgeon, nurses, doctors, receptionists, and even other patients in the hospital loved her to bits.
Recently, Shania just turned three. She is my second dog and I have learned a lot from her. I am very glad that I get to share my life with such an awesome dog. This article summarizes some recent lessons that I didn’t get to in my earlier 3 legged dog care article.
1. No Getting on Furniture
3 legged dogs, especially young 3 legged dogs are very energetic. If not properly supervised, they will get themselves into trouble.
One common trouble spot for a 3 legged dog is jumping up on furniture. Husky Shania has no problems getting up on furniture. Getting down, however, is a totally different matter.
Often, Shania will jump or climb up onto raised surfaces and have problems getting down. We really do not want our dog to jump down on her own, especially if she is missing one of her front legs. This could cause her to injure one of her other legs which would be really bad news.
Therefore, it is best to institute a strict no getting on furniture rule.
When Shania gets up on furniture, I no-mark her (Ack Ack) and carry her down right away. Then, I prevent her from going up again. It is best to catch her and no-mark her before she actually jumps up. In this way, I can give her an alternate command and reward her for doing a Down on the floor.
From this, she learns that …
Jump on furniture = Get carried down right away, but
Rest nicely next to the couch = Nice rewards and affection.
2. Every Dog Needs a Good Scratch
3 legged dogs may have difficulty getting to certain parts of their body.
Shania has a difficult time getting to her ears and to the back regions of her body. Whenever I notice her scratching, I try to give her a helping hand and scratch the target area and surrounding regions.
Sometimes she scratches because there is some grass seed or other organic material stuck in her fur. These organic materials can be very sharp and may cause puncture wounds in her body. While helping her scratch, I can also locate and remove these nasty weeds.
In fact, it is a good idea to keep our 3 legged dog well brushed and free of organic materials that may poke at her skin and cause her to itch.
Another thing I have noticed about Shania is that she tends to scratch her ears very rigorously, because she does not have as good balance as other dogs. In the beginning, this has led to bleeding and some infection in one of her ears.
Now, I step in and do ear scratching for her when she needs it. I also regularly clean her ears to help prevent ear scratching and infection.
3. No Kibble Balls
3 legged dogs have more trouble with certain toys. In particular, it is difficult for Shania to work on kibble balls because she has to follow the balls and move at a slow pace. This forces her to hop/stop and hop/stop which is difficult, slow, and places more strain on her single front leg.
Because of their missing limb, three legged dogs have a different gait than regular dogs. For example, Shania is more comfortable moving at a faster pace. When she is running fast, there is no hopping and one does not even notice that she is missing a leg. It is only when she is walking slowly that her limp is most pronounced.
Shania does best with interactive toys that she can work on from a fixed position. She enjoys chewing on rubber Kongs, rubber tires, and bully sticks. She also likes working on the Premier Twist and Turn toy. She has figured out that the easiest way to get food out, is not to roll it, but simply to bite on the rubber top and temporarily deform it. This creates a bigger hole at the side of the toy for the kibble to flow out.
Shania also likes opening cardboard boxes. She steps on one end of the box to stop it from moving and tears at the bottom where the food is.
4. Keep Things Dry
3 legged dogs do not have as good balance as other dogs. It is very important to keep things as non-slippery as possible.
Sometimes, Shania plays with my other dog (Shiba Inu Sephy) inside the house. There is a lot of running, turning, and bumping, so I make sure to put carpets all over my tiled or wooden floors.
During the rainy season, Shania’s paws become wet and more slippery. Even if she steps partially on the tiled floor, she can slip and fall. Wet paws can also make her slip on the carpet.
Now, I always dry her paws on a towel when she first comes into the house. This makes it much safer for her to run around at high speeds, without slipping and losing her balance.
5. Safety and Fun
Sometimes, it can be difficult to walk the line between safety and fun for a 3 legged dog. I try, as much as I can, to divert Shania’s energy towards supervised activity that is fun and safe.
Some of Shania’s favorite activities include –
- Hiking in the hills where she can pounce and dig for critters. I only walk her on-leash because if she sees a deer, she will be gone in the blink of an eye.
- Playing with her partner in crime, Shiba Inu Sephy.
- Meeting people around the neighborhood.
- Working on food toys.
- Resting on the sidewalk and watching cars and people.
- Playing the flirt pole game.
- Hunting for squirrels and other critters in the backyard. We left a section of the backyard without grass so that she can dig whenever she wants to.