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Teaching Your Dog To Pull a Wheelchair

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Teaching your dog to “pull” can be a great asset. Your dog would be able to help you out of a chair or bed, but better yet help you pull your wheelchair.  If you want to train your dog to pull you in your wheelchair there are a few things you must consider. Your dog must be strong, in good physical condition, and a large enough breed to perform this task. You can’t ask a miniature poodle to pull a heavy wheelchair whereas a Labrador Retriever, Doberman, Rottweiler, Husky, or St. Bernard or any larger muscular dog would have no problems with the task.  You also need a larger dog so that you can also comfortably hold onto the harness vest   for control. But as you can see in this picture there are some small dogs that will perform just as well as a larger dog, and this little guy looks like both he and his owner are having a heck of a good time!

Your dog will need a well fitting harness designed for pulling so you can hold onto to the harness or attach it with a short leash. Always start out on a level paved surface with good footing for your dog in a quiet out of the way place without distractions.  Enlisting the help of friend with some food treats to coax your dog to “pull” will be very helpful for this exercise.

I am assuming that your dog knows his / her basic training and is proficient and obeys your commands……such as sit, stay, heel, come and etc. If your dog does not already know the commands for  ”HALT” and “EASY” or “WAIT”, than you must teach them because they will be helpful if he or she will be pulling you in a wheelchair.

To began have a friend stand about six feet away with some treats. Take hold of the handle on the harness vest and give your dog the “HEEL” command and start rolling forward. Have your friend show the treats to your dog and entice him / her to move faster to get the treats. As you feel the resistance on the harness vest, give the command “PULL” as your friend continues to entice  your dog with the treats. As you dog is pulling praise him with “good pull.”

If your dog gets too excited use the “EASY” command to remind them to stay under control. Keep your free hand on the wheel to keep it rolling straight or slow it down. It is important that YOU be the one to give the dog the treat when you reach your friend. Give the “HALT” command, make your dog “SIT” and YOU give the dog the treat as a reward.

This will take some practice. At first keep the resistance to a minimum and slowly increase it over time until your dog is doing all the work. Keep up praising your dog as he / she learns to pull and learns to “HALT”  on command.

Once you dog knows the “PULL” and “HALT” commands you can also tie your dog to your chair with a leash that is attached to the D Rings on the harness.

All this training should be done on a flat level surface. Once your dog know how to pull, you can start training on a slight incline where the resistance will be much greater. Using a friend with treats to encourage is helpful along with you getting a running start with your wheelchair before you hit the incline to help your dog along and keep the chair moving.

Pulling on a level surface is easy and enjoyable for most dogs and gives your shoulders and hands a break. But pulling up and incline may be too much for your dog to handle. Don’t ask your dog to pull too much weight up a very steep incline, you will have to determine the strength and capabilities of your individual dog.

service dog with wheel chair

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