Help Your Dog Adjust to Wearing a Brace
| Derrick Campana
There are a variety of reasons your dog may begin wearing a brace. It could be that he was injured in an accident or has a chronic, genetic condition that has begun to cause him pain. Regardless of why he now wears it, a custom leg brace is a time and financial commitment and you want your dog to like to wear it. For this reason, many loving pet owners are worried about how their dog will adjust to the new brace. You're right to be concerned!
Let's say instead of your dog, it is you that has an injured leg. A stranger puts this foreign object on your leg, something you don't quite understand. After placing something new to your injured leg, they clearly expect you to walk on it. This stranger doesn't explain it in a way you understand, but instead starts calling your name and expects you to get up and walk to them. Most of us would not react too well. You may sit still, grumble, whine, yell, cry, and maybe even throw a fit. Yet, this scenario is exactly what we expect our canine friends to do.
The truth is dogs are far more adaptable and intelligent than you may fear. The best part about putting on a new brace is that with a little help, usually they do just fine! In fact, since he was injured or in pain before the leg brace, he will do better than fine. He will finally be able to walk and enjoy life the way you want him too, without any mobility issues or chronic pain. Overtime, limping will decrease as the brace provides the necessary support and the injury heals.
What is this "little help," though? How do you help your dog understand that the new leg brace is a good thing and he should begin to walk with it on? Dogs need to learn to trust the brace and realize that they can again put weight on that leg. Sadly, you can’t explain to your dog in human words what they need to do or how the brace will feel. That certainly would be much easier! Instead, the most important thing to do in order to get your dog used to the brace is to walk him very slowly on a short leash. Gently pulling him on a leash forces him to put the braced leg down and get moving. It also keeps you in control while he is learning.
In more extreme cases, you may need to manually put his leg down for him. When dogs are used to walking on three legs, they want to keep doing this. You need to retrain his brain. That means you actually do a walking motion with this leg, manually picking his leg up and putting it down for him, repeatedly. Walk him up and down the hallway over and over until he gets the right idea.
This advice is sure to help you and your dog. He'll be walking comfortably on all four legs again before you know it!