Over the years, you’ll begin to notice changes to your dog beside a greying muzzle. In the senior years, many dogs have issues that impact their physical abilities, whether due to arthritis, illness, or just because they are small and have trouble keeping up. Even when challenging to do so, it’s great to get out walking with your dog every day. The sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of the world activate the brain, so walks, even in a stroller, are a great way to keep your dog mentally fit.
Pet parents of senior dogs with difficulties often find themselves asking, “How do you train your dog to use a pet stroller?” As with all dog training, the most important things to remember are taking it slow, making it positive, and working with your dog’s abilities.
A step-by-step guide for how you can teach your dog to ride safely in a stroller
You may need to ask a friend or a partner to help you.
1. Begin by getting your dog comfortable with the stroller. For many dogs, strollers can be scary because they are large and new. But this is a critical step, and I recommend doing it slowly. Bring the stroller somewhere your dog can easily investigate it, and be sure to lock the wheels, so it doesn’t suddenly move.
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2. If your dog shows relaxed and calm, you can also reward them with a few treats to ensure they maintain a positive experience. If your dog seems skittish or unsure, move farther away from the stroller until they are relaxed, then reward with treats (or a toy). Your goal here is to work towards the stroller slowly. Again, don’t rush this!
3. Once your dog seems comfortable, unlock the wheels and have your partner move it about a bit. If your dog remains calm, reward with a few treats. Just as suggested before, if your dog is timid, you’ll need to move farther away until your dog is comfortable and try again. Your goal will be to ensure your dog has a positive experience with the moving stroller.
4. Now that your dog is happy in the presence of a stroller, you can pick them up and put them in the stroller while giving them a treat. For larger dogs too heavy to be picked up, you can lure them into the stroller. Once your dog is in the stroller, offer treats. If your dog finds the experience scary or unpleasant, stop and try again later, working your way up to this point. You may want to do this several times over several days.
5. If your dog remains happy with all the previous steps, introduce movement. Push the stroller around a bit with the dog inside while providing treats and praise often. If they remain calm and relaxed, feel free to continue but keep an eye on their stress levels. For timid dogs, take this step slowly.
6. Once your dog has a positive experience at home, try for longer adventures. Start by choosing locations with few distractions that may cause unneeded stress.
Now it’s time to get moving with your dog. While out on your next stroller walk, be sure to bring your dog’s collar and leash. Periodically stop to let your pup out to walk, stretch their legs and get a closer sniff. When they’ve tired themselves out, allow them back in the stroller for a cozy ride home.
Remember, when it comes to pet training, choose the methods that help your dog succeed. Use positive reinforcement to encourage training, and resist attempts to force them to move quicker than they are ready; stroller rides should be enjoyable for both dogs and humans!