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Chapter 7: The Right Equipment

To safely implement the techniques on this website, you’ll need certain equipment. I’ll be specific when the time comes, but in general…


There’s a saying: buy cheap, buy twice. No matter what
device or equipment it may be, make sure it’s sturdy and
not some dodgy, cheap number that will fall apart in
two seconds. Choose good quality over savings.

How Much Do I Need To Spend On Equipment?

It all depends on the activities you choose to do and how much value you place on quality.

Getting Used To New Equipment

For some of the exercise techniques on this website, your dog will have to be introduced to new equipment. If the dog shows fear of the equipment, the worst thing you can do is mollycoddle your dog. From a human point of view it seems illogical (because we usually want comfort when we’re frightened), but cooing at and patting your dog only does one thing: it makes the problem worse.

This is because verbally and/or physically comforting a scared dog says to the dog: “Good dog, this is the way I want you to act.” So, as hard as it is, you must ignore fearful behaviour and, ideally, divert the dog’s attention in a positive (eg. by doing obedience training using treats).

When you know your dog will be facing experiences that are new and possibly a little scary, it’s best to have a desensitisation plan in place before you start. As we go along I’ll give you ideas on how to do habituate your dog to new equipment and experiences based on these two principles:

  • Creating positive associations using treats.

  • Doing short but ever-lengthening sessions with whatever equipment you’re trying to get your dog used to.

Ask Before You Try

Get the approval of your trainer or behaviourist
about my desensitisation suggestions, especially
if your dog is generally quite nervous.

Desensitising A Previously Abused Dog

All dogs are different, and patience is needed if desensitisation takes longer than you expected.

This can be especially true if you’ve adopted a previously abused dog. Certain processes might take quite a while depending on the dog and the type of abuse he or she suffered. If your dog really struggles with a particular area, seek help from your behaviourist or trainer.

A Good Fit

Getting the right fit for the equipment you put on your dog
could actually save his or her life. For example, a dog can
slip out of a walking device that’s too loose - and if you’re
close to traffic, that could be fatal. A correct fit is a safe fit.

Special Equipment For Special Needs Dogs

Special needs dogs are as precious as any other dog and deserve the same chances as their ‘whole’ (for want of a better word) counterparts. With your support and the help of some amazing devices, there’s nothing to stop your special needs dog from being active like any other dog.

Use logic, think outside the square, talk to people, do some internet research…whatever it takes to make it happen. Some welfare organisations dedicate themselves to taking care of and rehoming special needs dogs and would be happy to give you advice. Look them up, call them up, and talk to them.

The following are resources for special needs dogs, but don’t ignore this section if you don’t have a special needs dog. When dogs age they become special needs dogs, losing some (or all) of their sight and hearing, and their ability to move easily. So while you might not need this information right now, there’s no harm in knowing it for when you do.

Vision And Hearing Impaired Dogs

Just because a dog can’t see or hear so well (or at all), it doesn’t mean he or she can’t take part in most - or possibly all - of the exercise techniques on this website. Modifications might sometimes be needed, but with common sense and the help of a good trainer, you’ll find a way!

Especially For Hearing Impaired Dogs

The Unleashed™ Technology Wireless Leash Guidance Trainer GT-1 helps you train a hearing impaired dog by using a vibrating collar.

Also, check out:

Especially For Vision Impaired Dogs

Have a look at:

  • The Owners Of Blind Dogs.

  • Caroline D. Levin’s book Blind Dog Stories: Tales Of Triumph, Humor And Heroism.

  • Caroline D. Levin’s book Living With Blind Dogs: A Resource Book And Training Guide For The Owners Of Blind And Low-Vision Dogs.

Dogs With Lesser Mobility For Any Reason

The following products can help dogs remain mobile when they are ill, injured, aging, or have less than four legs:

  • Wheelchairs, walking aids, car ramps and braces for dogs.

  • The Bottom's Up Leash™ allows you to give support to a dog whose hind legs don’t function well.

  • Ruff Wear make a great harness with a handle called the Ruff Wear Web Master™ Harness. All of their harnesses are designed to give total body support as you use the handle to lift your dog onto things or over obstacles. (Not only that, they’re extremely tough and have escape-thwarting - yet comfortable - designs. Correctly fitted, even the Houdini-est of dogs would find it impossible to get out of these harnesses!)

  • Ramps give your dog smooth ascents and descents from your car. Check before buying that the ramp’s surface area provides some traction - some ramps are so slippery that they’re totally impractical for an able-bodied dog to walk along, let alone one with difficulty in movement.

  • Petsteps can be placed in strategic areas around the house to help your dog climb up to and down from his or her favourite places. Note: before purchasing, be sure that the petsteps suit your dog's size - some are made of a soft foamy material and so are only suitable for very small, light dogs. Other petsteps can take the weight of dogs up to 50 kilos.

  • Bike baskets - available from any bike shop - will house your small dog for his or her big adventure on wheels. (More on bike baskets in Chapter 14: Putting The Wheels In Motion.)

  • Dog trailers can be attached to the back of a bike to take your small or medium dog for a ride. (I’ll talk more on these in Chapter 14: Putting The Wheels In Motion.)

  • Small, easily-portable dogs (up to around 5 kilos) can be put into carriers. I advise that you buy the type that you can wear as a frontpack or backpack - as opposed to the type that is like a handbag. It’s better for your back, neck, and shoulders, and more supportive for your dog. Handy hints: reinforce the straps by getting a shoe repairer to stitch them. If your dog is on your back, you must check regularly (or get someone else to if you’re walking with a friend) that your dog is comfortable and not stressed out in anyway.

  • Dog strollers can be used to give your small or medium dog breaks while out on a walk, and they’re also a safe, warm, and comfortable option for taking your dog to an outdoor café or crowded places like festivals. There are a variety of dog strollers on the market, so be sure that the one you want takes your dog's weight. I also advise that you buy a 3-wheeled stroller as they can take almost any speed or terrain.

Securing Your Dog Into Carriers And Strollers

In the same way your dog should wear a harness in the car
so as to be seatbelted in, he or she should wear one while in a
carrier or stroller. Dog carriers and strollers have in-built leads
or D-ring attachments: use them to safely attach your dog.

Securing A Walking Dog To The Stroller

During the walking component of an outing, keep your dog safely attached to the stroller’s handlebar using an adjustable lead. Adjustable leads are different to regular leads as they have a handle than can be clipped onto things. Not only that, the handle can be adjusted to be attached to objects of different sizes (more about adjustable leads in Chapter 9: Walkies).

Beyond Mobility: Special Needs Products

Some online shops have dedicated sections on their sites
for special needs products to help ill, injured, or aging dogs.

Paw Pad Problems

Dogs with paw pad issues will benefit from wearing booties. Search the Internet for dog booties that are made solely for practical purposes - not booties that are more about being pretty than offering protection. Show your vet the websites with the different booties available and get their recommendation as to what style they predict would be best for your dog.

Wobbly Dog

For dogs wobbly on their feet for any reason - stroke, injury,
etc - special indoor booties by Muttluks® might be just the ticket.
Visit their site to read the Muttimonials (customer reviews)
from special needs dogs (and and also a buck, a goat,
a horse, and a pig!) who’ve benefitted from these booties.

Summer Dog

In summertime, a special needs dog can wear a doggie life jacket to help him or her swim. (More on doggie life jackets in the Chapter 13: Doing The Swim.)

Special Books For Those Special Seniors

Here are two books to invest in if you live with senior dogs:

  • Good Times With Older Dogs by Dorothee Dahl.

  • Senior Dogs For Dummies by Susan McCullough.

Sexy Seniors: No Outings Is No Solution!

Some people’s ‘fix’ to deal with aging (or illness or special conditions) is to simply not take their dog out at all. But that’s just a crappy ‘solution’: how would you like to be perpetually stuck indoors? You wouldn’t. And neither would your dog.

Your dog might not be as mobile as he or she once was, but that shouldn’t mean an end to the outings. Use the equipment available to help your dog continue to have outdoor adventures. And not just to be wheeled or carried around - keep him or her as active as possible in accordance with the amount of daily exercise that your vet recommends.

Heated Pad For Your Senior

After a big day out, a rest is just what your senior dog will
need. And in cooler weather heated pads placed in your
dog’s bedding might be very soothing to your pooch.
(Whether or not heat will help your senior dog depends
on his or her physical conditions, so make sure that
your vet okays the use of heat for your dog.) There are
quite a few around, but the one I use is by Snugglesafe®.

>>>On to Part 3: Personal Training Your Dog

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lifting harness
The handle of the Ruff Wear Web Master Harness is even useful with able-bodied dogs like Jasmin. I had no reason to pick Jasmin up except to demonstrate for this photo, but let's say you're in a situation where you only have one available hand to pick up your dog, you can simply use the handle. As you can see, this harness has three points of contact - in other words, it's designed to support your dog's body as you pick him or her up (and is therefore safe), but ask your vet to be sure that it's safe for YOUR dog.

Jake testing out his brand new petsteps!

dog in bike basket
Here's the ever-gorgeous Jake in his bike basket. You'll notice he's not wearing the Ruff Wear Web Master Harness - that's because the photo was taken before we discovered these amazing harnesses. These days Jake and Jasmin are never in any other type of harness.

dog in dog carrier
In this photo John is carrying Jake by using a specialised carrier as a backpack. That day were doing the very long Maroubra to Bondi cliff walk which Jasmin could handle easily but Jake's arthritic legs couldn't. He needed a lot of breaks along the way - hence the carrier. Notice there is mesh on the side of the carrier (it's actually on either side, although you can only see the one side). As you're shopping around for a carrier, that's a very important feature to look for, as the ventilation ensures your doggie won't overheat.

specialised dog carrier
In this photo, we had just been walking around Sydney Harbour and Jake needed a break as we went from the Opera House to the Harbour Bridge. You can see that this time John decided to carry Jake in a frontpack arrangement. Oh, and in case you're interested, the brand of the carrier we use is Outward Hound by a company called Kyjen. Note also that while the carrier is pretty sturdy, we had the straps reinforced by a shoe repairer because - as far as small dogs go - Jack Russell Terriers are actually quite heavy.

pet stroller
Here are the Dynamic Duo (Jake left, Jasmin right) at a festival. Having them in a stroller at festivals ensures their tiny terrier toes don't get stepped on.

power walking with stroller
On a winter walk! Jasmin and I are powering along while arthritic Jake zooms about in the stroller. (I think Jake's ducking his head down because he didn't want his friends to see him riding around in a stroller!) I bought this fantastic heavy duty three-wheel dog stroller from Classy Tails.

dog wearing booties
Jasmin in Ruff Wear Bark'n Boots™ Skyliner booties.

dog with life jacket
Jasmin models her Ruff Wear Portage Float Coat.

Jake is loving the winter months now that he has his Snugglesafe® headpad! If you have a senior dog, you MUST get one of these heatpads - older dogs (not to mention unwell dogs and puppies) feel the cold more, so these heat pads are an essential purchase.

Snugglesafe heatpads
Jake's not the only one who loves the Snugglesafe® headpad - although Jasmin (left) is a young and healthy dog who doesn't need help keeping warm in winter, we're hardly going to leave her without a heatpad when Jake has one!



Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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