“Look, that dog only has three legs!” Just another common phrase I hear about every time I take my dog out for a walk. Yes, my dog has three legs. Yes, he loves going for walks. But, he doesn’t know or act like he’s different. He loves going for his daily walk and running around like the others.
Whether a dog was born with a different ability, or they develop later in their life, being handicap (blind, deaf, missing a limb, etc.), should not deter the dog from having a normal life. Most dogs are incredibly adaptable and can adjust well to the life they have been given. Unlike people, they don’t hear the judgments of others and try their hardest to enjoy the life they have. When it comes to being the human of a dog with special abilities, the best advice I can give is, be patient!
Let’s look at 3 major categories of special abilities and what you can do to help:
Deafness in dogs is pretty common (please refer to our article on training a deaf dog). Using a vibration collar and hand signals are common ways to train deaf dogs to live in a hearing world.
Blindness is also common in dogs, and certain breeds have an even higher likelihood of being blind. On top of being hereditary blindness, many dogs develop issues with age. Whether the blindness is from puppyhood or develops from cataracts or glaucoma, a blind or partially blind dog can still maneuver in this world.
The good news is that they use their noses the most to explore their world! When working with a blind dog, use scents! Dog safe essential oils are a great way to mark places in the house to give the dog points to reference. Spray around their food bowl and water bowl with one scent. Spray by the doors with another. Then spray their bed, kennel, or wherever they rest and sleep with another. Another great option would be to purchase bumpers that attach to the dog’s collar. These bumpers stick out in front of the dog and help them maneuver around without hurting themselves.
If you have a puppy that is blind, guiding them on a leash as they navigate the house and yard often is crucial to learning where things are. If your old dog goes blind, they already have an idea where things are, so make sure things stay where they are. Just because you have a blind dog, does not mean that training will be all that different. You can still use verbal commands, but you will just need more patience and practice.
Dogs with three legs or even two can hop along just fine! While my dog might not be able to swim very well or give high 5’s, that’s about the extent of what he can’t do. He can run, jump, play, go in the water, jumps up in the car and he goes to daycare. My dog is taking glucosamine for his joints. You should talk with your vet about joint health supplements, especially if you own, or are thinking about owning a tripod. Dogs carry 60% of their weight on their front legs, so making sure those joints stay healthy is essential.
Puppies that are missing a leg won’t know anything is different, they adapt quickly, giving them extra breaks can be beneficial, so they don’t overexert themselves. In most cases, adult dogs that must have a leg amputated will also bounce back quickly. Watch out for extra wear on the elbows and chin as they will put more pressure on those areas as they lay down and get back up.
Dogs are amazing creatures and handle having special abilities very well! If you are looking to adopt, rescue, or even buy from a breeder, don’t overlook the special needs dogs. They might surprise you with what they CAN do!