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Man's best friend can take some time to get use to being around wheelchairs. For some dogs, it could be an overwhelming and scary experience. It can be equally scary for wheelchair users who are around dogs for the first time when they are wheelchair bound.
Here are some tips dog owners can use to make the experience of the dog and the wheelchair user more pleasant.
Always keep your dog on a leash when they are close to the wheelchair user. If they are unfamiliar with a wheelchair, they might growl, bark or get excited. Physically disabled wheelchair users have a reasonable fear of being knocked over, bitten or just not being in a position to defend themselves. Keeping your dog on a leash will help to ease some of those fears for the wheelchair user and the dog.
Wheelchair is Foreign to Animals
Your dog's reaction to a wheelchair is totally natural so don't be too hard on him if he barks or gets a bit out of control. Most dogs are not exposed to wheelchairs so their first encounter can be overwhelming.
He might see it as a threat at first and might go into protection mode for his owner. Dogs also pick up on fear, so if the wheelchair user is nervous the dog will pick that up and his natural instincts will kick in.
Be Patient with Your Dog
The dog is probably more scared of the wheelchair user than the user is of the dog. Give the dog time to get use to the wheelchair, enough time so he doesn't see it as a threat. Don't make any jerky or sudden movements, let the dog see the wheelchair move around normally.
Once the dog has calmed down, stay still and let the owner bring the dog to you. If he remains calm and doesn't get upset you can offer a hand for him to sniff BEFORE trying to pet him.
Doing this will allow the dog to see the wheelchair as non threatening and he will learn how to move around it without worrying about getting his paws run over.
Dog Coming into Contact with a Wheelchair
If your dog is going to be in regular contact with wheelchair users, you might want him to experience the wheelchair without anyone in it at the beginning. He can get use to how it moves, smells etc. When he eventually sees someone sitting in it, he won’t be too overwhelmed.
If your dog is still not comfortable, consider getting professional training for him. With the proper training your dog will be much more at ease around wheelchair users.
In some situations, it might be better to just keep the dog away from the wheelchair user while you have a wheelchair visitor over.
Therapeutic Benefits of Dogs
You can keep him in a separate room or kennel until the visitor is gone. Only use this as a last resort if a wheelchair user is visiting and your dog hasn't been properly exposed. If he will be interacting with wheelchair users regularly, use the tips above.
The trick is to be patient with your dog while he gets use to the wheelchair and its user. Some breeds might adapt quicker than others.
Studies have shown spending just 10 minutes a day with a dog can lower blood pressure and anxiety even for wheelchair users. The therapeutic benefits of dogs can be fully realized when the tension between the wheelchair user and the dog is removed.
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