How to exercise your dog when you are disabled

by PDSA | 12 May 2023 #Lifestyle

Though dogs make great companions for any animal lover, they’re naturally energetic and need plenty of daily exercise. As their owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure your four-legged friend remains happy, healthy, and active.

But if you’re physically impaired, giving your precious pup the right amount of physical exercise each day may not be as straightforward, and you may wonder how to exercise your dog best.

Some people with physical disabilities or impairments worry they cannot look after a dog properly, but this isn’t the case. There are many ways to keep your dog active and on the go so they can enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

Playing with your dog

Most dogs love to play games, and there are many options too, meaning you’re sure to find one suitable for you and your four-legged friend. From traditional dog toys to fun brain games, your dog can enjoy endless hours of playtime with you.

  • Feeding puzzles and snuffle mats are great for keeping your dog’s brain busy. These toys are designed for you to hide dog treats inside for your four-legged friend to find. It’s a good idea to have two or three different types and rotate them so your dog doesn’t become bored by the same challenge.
  • Destruction boxes are great for dogs who like making a mess! All you need to do is fill a box or small container with bits of rolled-up newspaper and then hide some tasty treats inside. The game is for your dog to tear the box apart to get the treat.
  • Ball games like ‘fetch’ can be made more accessible using dog-friendly ball launchers and dog-safe balls. Choosing the right size ball is essential to avoid potentially fatal choking incidents or intestinal blockage. The best balls to use are those on a rope so they can easily be retrieved from the back of the mouth. If you’re using a ball without a rope, choose one with a non-slippery surface and air holes, so if the worst happens, your pet’s airway wouldn’t be entirely blocked until the ball can be removed.
  • Tug of war is also an excellent way for your dog to burn off excess energy if you’re physically able.

Training your dog

Teaching new commands

In addition to brain games, teaching your dog new tricks and commands (through reward-based training) will help to keep their brain active, which is just as essential as keeping them physically fit.

It’s important to keep challenging your dog so they keep learning. Once your four-legged friend has mastered some of the basics (e.g. “paw”), you can move on to teaching them more advanced commands (e.g. “rollover”). If you want to train your dog in a more social setting and meet other dog owners, see if there are any accessible local training classes you can take part in.

Read more: Top training tips for your dog


Wheelchair and mobility scooter training

 If you use a wheelchair or a mobility scooter, you can train your dog to walk beside you. It’s an excellent way for you both to keep active together, and your dog will reap all the benefits of being able to sniff around and explore the great outdoors.

Getting your dog used to mobility devices

It’s best to socialise your dog to mobility aids (e.g. crutches, wheelchairs, and scooters) at a young age so they aren’t scared of them should you (or anyone you know) need them.

If your adult dog is unfamiliar with mobility devices, they must be desensitised to them first, or they may feel frightened. Leave the mobility device close to your dog so they can get used to it slowly. Over time, try sitting in the wheelchair or mobility scooter while your dog is nearby before moving around. The time it takes for your dog to get used to the device can vary. Take it slow, and only move on to the next step when your dog is comfortable doing so.

Training a dog to walk beside a wheelchair

To train a dog to walk beside a wheelchair, you should first ask a friend to hold the lead and walk your dog next to your mobility aid. Use positive training techniques to ensure your dog stays near the wheels (but out of harm’s way) so they get used to walking next to you. It’s best to start slowly and build up over time as they become more familiar with what to do.

Hiring a dog walker

Some owners may need help from others to ensure their precious pooch gets the right amount of exercise each day. Some may enlist the help of family members or friends, but a professional dog walker is also an option.

If you’re considering using a professional dog walker, it’s essential to do your research. You’ll trust this person with your dog on a daily basis, so it’s vital that you know they’re credible, reliable, and experienced.

  • Look for someone qualified: You need someone who knows what they’re doing, so look for a local dog walker with plenty of hands-on experience and, ideally, a relevant qualification.
  • Ask for recommendations: If you know any other dog owners or are an active member of your local community groups on social media, ask if people know of any professional dog walkers. It’s also a good idea to check with your local vets, as they may be able to give you some good recommendations too.
  • Read reviews: If you’re looking for a dog walker online, read what other clients say about them. The odd negative or mixed review is standard, but if there’s a concerning pattern, it’s wise to look for someone else.
  • Always meet them first: Make sure you meet your potential dog walker before you hire them. This way, you can ask questions and see how they interact with your dog.

Some questions to ask your potential dog walker 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?


Read next: How much exercise does my dog need?

Share this article on:  PDSA | 12 May 2023


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