How to Train Your Dog to Walk Beside a Wheelchair

Medium
1-2 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Your dog is the faithful companion you have been longing for. He brightens up your day and brings joy to your life. His energy is abundant and he always wants to play with you. You want to be able to keep him happy and healthy, but being in a wheelchair can make this challenging, as you still need to take him out for regular walks. Of course, you love him very much and want to be able to walk him safely and independently without the need for assistance.

Teaching him to walk beside you obediently is important because it ensures that you can walk him safely without him getting run over by the wheels or his leash getting tangled up. It is also essential when you are walking him next to a busy road that he walks beside you patiently and does not pull you into the road. 

Defining Tasks

Not all dogs, however, may be capable of displaying the characteristics that are required in order to assist disabled individuals, and you will need to gauge if your dog Is up to the job yourself. The characteristics that your dog will need to exhibit are; being calm, focused, friendly (to other humans and dogs) and obedient.  Learning to walk beside a wheelchair will take a lot of awareness and patience and therefore may not be suitable for young puppies. If you do have a puppy, you may want to consider waiting until he is at least 6 months old.

Teaching him to walk beside the wheelchair should take anywhere between 1 -2 weeks depending on how quickly your dog picks it up or how frightened he is of the wheelchair. It will also depend on how much you have worked on obedience and awareness training with him previously. 

Getting Started

In order to teach him to walk beside a wheelchair, you will need to have patience and a positive attitude. You will also need a leash between 3 – 4 feet long to allow him some freedom for sniffing time. In addition, you will need a clicker and lots of his favorite treats.

You might want to consider training him in your yard to start with, to limit the distractions and to make sure his full attention is focused on learning.

Once you are prepared, you can now to teach him to walk next to a wheelchair like a professional!

The Clicker Method

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Step
1
Understand the clicker
A clicker is a great way of communicating with your dog and getting him to pay attention to you. You can use the clicker to signal to him when he has performed a behavior correctly.
Step
2
Familiarize
To get him familiar with the clicker, position him in front of you and command him to sit. Every time he performs this behavior correctly, give a click followed by a reward (a treat) to reinforce the behavior. It is extremely important that he is rewarded for his efforts. This will ensure he will be motivated to repeat the behavior again.
Step
3
Click and walk
Now that he is responding to the clicker, it’s time to move on to walking. Have him sit beside the wheelchair until you are ready to move. Then command him to walk and use the clicker to signal to him if he has performed correctly.
Step
4
Walking and stopping
Slow the wheelchair to a standstill and give a “stop” command in a firm voice. As soon as he has stopped, give him a click to let him know he has behaved correctly and reward him with a treat straight away.
Step
5
Straying away
If your dog starts to stray away from the wheelchair, gently pull back on the leash and tell him to stop. Use the clicker when he has stopped. Again, If he performs well then give him a click and a treat for his good work.
Step
6
Repeat
You will need to repeat steps 3 and 4 around 10 – 15 times a day until he gets the hang of walking patiently beside your wheelchair. The more you practice, the quicker your dog will learn his new skill. Once he has gotten the hang of it, you can start to cut down on using the clicker and treats.
Step
7
Avoid punishment
If he doesn’t seem to be listening to you and is getting distracted, try not to punish him. Do, however, keep using the clicker and reward him whenever he does perform a behavior correctly. He will eventually get the hang of it.
Recommend training method?

The Walk With a Partner Method

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Step
1
Wheelchair friendly
Get him used to being around the wheelchair if you haven’t already done so. Perhaps leave it by his bed when you aren’t using it or sit next to him in the wheelchair when you are in the house. It is important that he feels comfortable around the wheelchair and isn’t frightened by it.
Step
2
Walking partner
Now that he is comfortable with the wheelchair, you can bring in a friend to help you. So, start off by having someone else stand next to your wheelchair while he is on the leash and position him next to the wheels of the wheelchair.
Step
3
Sit
Start at a standstill and tell him to sit next to the wheelchair. When you are ready and you feel like he is listening, tell him to “walk” and slowly start to move the wheelchair forward.
Step
4
Stop
Practice stopping a few times so that he gets used to stopping when the wheelchair comes to a stop. As you slow down, have your walking partner gently pull back on your dog’s leash until you both come to a standstill. Use the vocal command “stop” and reward him with a tasty treat when he has performed the behavior well.
Step
5
Practice makes perfect
Repeat steps 3 and 4 as many times as needed so that he begins to pay attention to the speed of the wheelchair and moves in sync with you, staying beside the wheelchair at all times.
Step
6
Increase the speed
Once you have conquered steps 3 and 4 and are confident he is comfortable with the wheelchair, try increasing the pace slightly. However, only increase the speed slightly to start with, so you don’t startle him. Practice steps 2 and 3 again a few times at a faster pace.
Recommend training method?

The Slow & Steady Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Start slow
Have him start by sitting next to your wheelchair while you hold onto his leash. Start off very slowly and tell him to walk on. By going slowly, you will force him to slow down. This will also help you to control him and the wheelchair simultaneously.
Step
2
Stop
If he starts to pull and move anywhere apart from beside the wheelchair, stop your wheelchair and give him a gentle pull on the leash. You should also give a vocal command to “stop” in a deep voice to give the tone of authority.
Step
3
Distance
Keep the leash clear of the wheels at all times and while you are moving along slowly, practice moving slightly further away from him so that he does not walk as close to the wheels.
Step
4
Be assertive
If he tries to stop at any point, you must pull the gently on the leash and use the vocal command “walk” in a deep assertive voice. It is important that you decide when to slow down or stop and not your dog. He must be taught you are in control.
Step
5
Reward
When he does follow your instruction correctly, hand over a tasty treat. You can also give him verbal praise to reinforce the point. The happier he feels afterward, the more likely it is he will repeat the behavior.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Lancelot
Miniature Schoondle
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Lancelot
Miniature Schoondle
2 Years

I read the article in regards to how to train a dog to walk beside a wheelchair. I think overall there's great advice in the article however, my dog has become a barker and pulls, which has caused me to tip over. My greatest fear is falling over on him. I'd like to find a way to work on this however the article mentions practicing in a yard which I do not have. I do in-home training but as we all know it's definitely not the same. Not to mention, I live in a small apartment and can't even get around with my wheelchair at home. Do you have any recommendations to prevent such a situation especially when the highest value treat I can possibly give him with his stomach problems don't usually work in that instance? This makes turning him around and walking in the opposite direction generally impossible. I'd like to figure out a way to do this without relying on someone else.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
422 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I suggest checking out the article that I have linked below and using the collar mentioned there while working on the pulling. It also sounds like you need someone else to help you teach heel and then simply be able to hand him over to you to practice the training once he knows. How to fit the collar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3iczULPcdE How to use it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPg21-Uosg8 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lancelot
Miniature Schoondle
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Lancelot
Miniature Schoondle
2 Years

Hi, I submitted the question below and I received a response recommending a prong collar. I am very anti-prong and shock collars. I'd definitely appreciate positive dog training tips in regards to my original question below.

I read the article in regards to how to train a dog to walk beside a wheelchair. I think overall there's great advice in the article however, my dog has become a barker and pulls, which has caused me to tip over. My greatest fear is falling over on him. I'd like to find a way to work on this however the article mentions practicing in a yard which I do not have. I do in-home training but as we all know it's definitely not the same. Not to mention, I live in a small apartment and can't even get around with my wheelchair at home. Do you have any recommendations to prevent such a situation especially when the highest value treat I can possibly give him with his stomach problems don't usually work in that instance? This makes turning him around and walking in the opposite direction generally impossible. I'd like to figure out a way to do this without relying on someone else. 

Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/training/walk-beside-a-wheelchair

Thanks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
422 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I suggest following the "Clicker" method from the article but making a few changes. First, instead of using treats, use his daily kibble as rewards. Practice the training as many times per day as you can and feed him his meals as rewards for heeling beside the chair and paying attention to you. At the end of the day, if he he has not eaten both meal amounts as treats during training, you can give him the remainder in a bowl. The easiest way to do this is to measure his food into a ziplock bag each morning and use that food as rewards throughout the day, then you will know if any is left at the end of the day, ensuring that he is eating enough and not being overfed. This should be gentle on his stomach since the food is just his dog food. He should also be motivated since it will be his meal and he will be hungry during training. Many dogs actually like their own food better when they have to work for it - it's psychological. Second, practice the training inside, off-leash. When you teach puppies to heel, generally it is taught off-leash. In an enclosed area, you can safely do that in this situation until he learns to stay in the position right by the chair and not forge ahead. You will not be able to pull him back because there will be no leash but you can tell him "Ah Ah" when he gets too far ahead to help him learn that that is not correct, and pull the treats away as a natural consequence for moving too far ahead. When he moves next to the chair again, praise and reward him - to let him know that he is now in the correct location. Third, instead of using a clicker you can use your voice to mark when he is in the correct position. To do this, choose an easy to say word such as "Yes!" or "Good!". Say the word, then give a treat right away. Practice this for a couple of days, several times a day with his meal kibble, until he gets excited when he simply hears the word before he sees the treat. Once he understands that "Yes!" or "Good!" means that a treat is coming, then you can use it like you would a clicker to mark his good behavior while still having your hands free later when you take him outside, as he improves. https://wagwalking.com/training/walk-beside-a-wheelchair Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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