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.