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.
Jennifer Holcomb says
Hi! I have a 4 legged husky and am thinking about adopting a 3 legged one. How long of a walk could a 3 legged dog go on? (In the winter). I worried about walking them together and the 3 legged dog getting tired.
I think it depends a lot on the dog, age, temperament, etc. I walked Shania separately so that she could rest whenever she wanted to, and then can continue to walk further if she wanted to. My other Husky at the time wanted to walk faster and for longer, but she was also younger. Because of her missing leg, I think Shania had to expend more energy walking but she also loved just hanging around outside. So did my other Husky actually, but she wanted to walk longer before resting and doing people watching.
I did give a lot of attention and time to Shania but she was also one of the most rewarding relationships that I have had.
This is years old at this point, but my lovely Elvira was hit by a car and just had her front leg amputated and her back femur reconstructed. This has given me so many ideas for toys!! Thank you so much!
Hugs to Elvira. Great to hear that she is back home.
Hello! I am thinking about adopting a 3 legged Golden retriever (he was first amputad with an axe by a man who did not have enough money above the paw the second same thing happens but above the elbow and then the rest with the shoulder blade was removed surgically also he was trained as a therapy dog) but do they get tired more easily than 4 legged dogs?
rescued a 1 1/2 yo 3 legged husky named Giovanni! We are looking for a home and don’t know the best avenue? Any advice? He had issues with his leg as a pup and when he put pressure on it he helped so he quickly got use to not using it. After neglect to repair the arm it needed to be amputated. We love the dog but found him on Craigslist and thought we could find a happy home for him but finding harder than we thought. He is happy and loves small and big dogs and little kids and even cats. Any advice?
I would start with local Husky groups and then also the local SPCA, Humane Society, or other no-kill rescues. One easy way to find local rescue groups is to go to Petfinder.com, enter your zip-code, and possibly breed, and see the organizations that come up.
Excellent site! I adopted a 5 year old Shiba named Arthur that’s missing his right front leg 3 weeks ago…a leg he definitely doesn’t seem to miss!
You have no idea how helpful your article is right now. I have been sitting here feeling so guilty and helpless and decided to research how to care for our girl, Oakley. Last night, like every other night my husband takes the dogs just outside of town to a huge park with woods and trails, Oakley spotted a deer and chased it far enough that my husband had to get to the car to go after her. In the meantime she was hit by another car. The doctor at the animal hospital said that the break was far enough up that surgery had a very slim chance of helping and she reassured us that removing her front left leg was the choice that she would make for her own dog. The removal of her leg is scheduled for tomorrow morning as long as she remains stable. Your article felt like it was meant for us, not only because of the useful advice but because we adopted Oakley from a shelter five months ago to be a sister to our shiba,Shena. Oakley is a lot bigger than we were looking for, she’s a sheppard, hound mix and eighty-five pounds now but she picked us. We promised her that we’d take care of her and love her, which we do. I pray that we can help her adjust as well as you have helped Shania.
I own a one year old lab pup who just came home today from the vet from having his front leg amputated. He was hit by a car and survived a broken vertibrae. The vet warned us that he might would chew at his “dead leg” and sure enough he did, so we had to get it removed. I am really shocked at how quickly he is getting around 🙂
I was at the vet picking up my 6th month old jack russell/ beagal mix from being spayed and this lady brought in a puppy with a badly damaged leg and said she was hit by a car five days ago. The vet she visited first just shoved the bone back in and said it wasn’t broken. When the lady brought it in, she had a bone infection and we live in guam so we can’t cast or wrap it since we will get a fungus. The lady wanted to put the puppy down if she couldn’t give it away. I told her I would take her. I had to give her numerous medications for the infection and she was six pounds and now she is 11 pounds and I just dropped her off and her front right leg is being amputated. I’m so nervous about her because I have two energetic dogs and my entire house is tile. My yard is tile also except for a small patch of grass. It’s labor day weekend so my husband and I are off for four days. I have never seen a tripod dog so reading all of your comments has been very helpful and comforting. I’ve only had this puppy two weeks and she has been very sick but she is already a part of our family.
This is a great article! I have a 3 legged Min Pin. He is 4 (ish) It is the left front leg. I have trouble keeping his harness on because he can duck out of it so easily (he too is a “chaser”) Are you aware of any sites or places where I might find a harness better suited for him?