Exercising your dog if you are physically impaired

Dogs need a lot of exercise which isn't always easy for owners who aren't physically able.

Dogs make great companions for us but we need to make sure they are kept active. There are lots of ways of keeping your dog happy and healthy.

 

Getting a dog walker

Some owners may find they need a dog walker to help provide additional exercise for their pooch. Some ask family or friends to help them but professional dog walkers are also an option. If you go for a professional don't feel bad for being picky as you'll be trusting this person with your dog on a daily basis.

  • Look for someone qualified. You want someone who knows what they’re doing. Look for a dog walker that has had training with dogs and hands-on experience and possibly a qualification in the area.
  • Read the reviews. If you decide to look on the internet for a dog walker, read what other people are saying about them. The odd negative or mixed review is normal but if there’s a pattern or something very concerning, it might be best to look for someone else.
  • Ask around. If you know any other dog owners, ask them if they know anyone suitable. It’s also a good idea to check at your local vets as they may be able to give you some good recommendations.
  • Always meet them first. Make sure you meet your potential dog walker first. This way, you can ask any questions and see how they interact with your dog.

Some things to ask your potential dog walker can include:

  • How many dogs do they walk at a time?
  • Will they be the person walking your dog? If not, who will be?
  • How long have they been working with dogs?
  • Are they trained in pet first aid and CPR?
  • Do they have the correct insurance?
  • If the place they go walking is far away, how will they transport your dog?

 

Playing with your dog

There are lots of ways you can play with your dog, even if you’re physically impaired. From brain games to keeping them fit, you can do a lot.

Brain/scent games

  • Feeding puzzles are a great way to keep your dog’s brain active. You can buy feeding puzzles or snuffle mats where you hide their dinner or treats. Your dog will then have to figure out how to get them out. Watching them is also great fun. Rotate feeding puzzles once your dog has them sussed so they don’t get bored.
  • Ball pits are a great way to keep your dog active. Just fill a small (empty) paddling pool with balls and throw a few treats in for your dog to find. Always supervise them and make sure the balls are too big for your dog to choke on.
  • Destruction boxes are great DIY games ideal for particularly destructive dogs. All you need to do is fill a box with, for example, bits of balled up newspaper and hide treats inside. The game is to tear the box apart to get the treat.

Training

Teaching your dog new tricks and commands helps to keep them occupied. Teaching your dog keeps their brain active which is just as important as keeping them physically fit.

Once they’ve mastered the basics such as ‘sit’ you can move on to bigger things. Keep challenging your dog so they learn more. See if there are any accessible local training classes you can both go to.

Keeping fit

Most dogs love to play games – there are so many that you’re bound to be able to find one that’s suitable for both you and your dog. Traditional games like fetch can be made easier with ball launchers, designed to be dog friendly, that they can chase. If you’re able to, tug games are also good to play with your dog.

 

Wheelchair and mobility scooter training

If you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter to get out and about you can train your dog to walk beside you. It’s a great way for you both to get out and about together and your dog will reap the benefits of being able to sniff around and explore the route.

Dog and chair

The best thing to do is to socialise your dog to mobility aids including crutches, wheelchairs and scooters as a puppy so they aren’t scared of them down the line should you or anyone you know ever use them. If your adult dog is unfamiliar with mobility devices they’ll need a chance to get used to them first. Leave it near an area your dog’s often found when not in use so that they have a chance to get used to it. Over time, build up to sitting next to your dog in your wheelchair or mobility scooter and then moving around while they’re nearby. The time this takes will vary from dog to dog and it’s important not to move on to the next step until your dog is always relaxed.

Walking alongside

If you can, it can be helpful to get a friend to help at first. They can walk your dog next to you while they get the hang of things.

Use positive training to make sure your dog stays near the wheels but out of the way, so they get used to walking next to you.

It’s best to start slow and build up as you both get more familiar with it.