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Karen B. London
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Carrying Dogs on Walks
Strong opinions sometimes change
Really old dogs deserve a lift

We saw a couple on the trails last weekend with two small dogs, and though one was on the ground, the woman was carrying the other one. My husband and I glanced at each other in silent understanding. We had just been talking earlier that day about how odd it seems to us to carry dogs when out on a walk. The benefits of walking dogs include giving them exercise and the chance to explore the environment. Dogs who are in our arms miss out on both of these.

One of the dogs was running along experiencing these benefits and my kids asked if they could pet her, which was fun for all. During the course of our interaction, we asked the dogs’ names and ages, and were surprised to learn that the dog being carried was 17 years old. The couple told us that she just couldn’t walk all those miles anymore, but that she did love to come along and walk a little bit along the way.

They set her down and as she moved, I could see how ancient she was. She walked slowly, stiffly and with disjointed movements, but sniffed the ground, wagged her tail and seemed quite content with her surroundings. She was old, but happy.

As they walked away up the path, the three-year old dog raced back and forth covering twice as much distance as the people. Their old dog followed behind, in no particular hurry, and I felt sorry for her. My first thought was that they should pick the poor dear up so she didn’t have to endure the discomfort of being on those geriatric legs. Then, I felt an urge to laugh at my response. These poor people—I was literally judging them coming and going! (Shame on me.)

Of course, mostly I was impressed that they had a 17-year old dog and that they were still taking her out on walks. It was crazy of me to object to that dog being carried or to having a chance to walk for a bit. They were clearly taking fine care of her and making sure she’s living the good life right up to the end.

Do you have an elderly dog who is small enough to be carried on walks, at least part of the time?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

photo by Katie Cook/Flickr

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Submitted by PepperPom | February 28 2014 |

Pepper is my service dog. She is a Pomeranian, so she is small enough to carry. She had surgery on both her back legs for patella luxation. She enjoys a short walk, but she also gets tired. She doesn't seem to keep up all the time so I usually carry her, or put her in a stroller when I am in a hurry. The other worry is that in a crowd, a small dog could be stepped on. Sometimes it is just more practical and safer to carry her. Of course those situations aren't really walks. On walks, I let her walk or run until she is tired, then I carry her home.
Pepper (dog) & Mom (human)

Submitted by Sandi Fuller | March 1 2014 |

Minnie is 15 and loves being outside sniffing around. In the winter she rarely goes much past the front door. I adopted her at the age of 13 and she could barely walk on her disjointed legs and had labored breathing. I carried her all of the time then. But she got better with meds and time and she started walking part of the way. She always lets me know when she's had enough but sometimes she just needs a little rest and then she wants back down again. She is no trouble and takes much less of my time and energy than the 3-year-old does. I highly recommend adopting a senior dog.

Submitted by Carolyn | March 1 2014 |

My small elderly dog had congestive heart failure. She did well, until the end, and then we often carried her to her favorite places, let her down to sniff and enjoy. She enjoyed riding in the bike basket, and again, I stopped at her favorite places and let her walk until she was tired. Now we have a new young small dog. We're working on loose leash walking which simply wasn't possible for her in her state of high excitement going to the park today -- so she turned to me, put her feet up, asking to be picked up and carried in.

Submitted by robin | March 1 2014 |

My pup Ali was older when she had trouble walking distances, and had some other health issues; her "sister" Carel had heart disease and we would still take short walks on our block. Although I had no idea if it would work, I took a chance and learned happily that it would: a company called Step 2 made a wagon for kids, out of plastic like material...it wasn't "cold" feeling and had rounded corners, as well as two facing seats and a leg well in the middle for kids. And a door...I filled the leg well with a couple toss pillows or something, and laid a single king-size pillow across the seats...opened the door, gave Ali a boost up, and she was able to go for a walk with Carel and me as I held Carel's leash in one hand, and pulled the wagon with Ali in the other. It was great to not have to exclude her, and she still got out and about and enjoyed the change of scene and fresh air.

Submitted by robin | March 1 2014 |

My pup Ali was older when she had trouble walking distances, and had some other health issues; her "sister" Carel had heart disease and we would still take short walks on our block. Although I had no idea if it would work, I took a chance and learned happily that it would: a company called Step 2 made a wagon for kids, out of plastic like material...it wasn't "cold" feeling and had rounded corners, as well as two facing seats and a leg well in the middle for kids. And a door...I filled the leg well with a couple toss pillows or something, and laid a single king-size pillow across the seats...opened the door, gave Ali a boost up, and she was able to go for a walk with Carel and me as I held Carel's leash in one hand, and pulled the wagon with Ali in the other. It was great to not have to exclude her, and she still got out and about and enjoyed the change of scene and fresh air.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 1 2014 |

Dear Karen,

You gave me the impression that you have two dogs named Lucy and Baxter.[1] You didn't mention them in this article. You don't have dogs? Or decided not to bring your dogs? If not why?

I'm a curious creature! Thank you. Looking forward to your response.:)

1. http://thebark.com/content/walking-multiple-dogs

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