One thing you’ll quickly learn about disabled dogs: what they may lack in physical ability, they more than make up for in personality, determination, and their capacity for love. Talk to just about anyone who has one of these pups and that’s the first thing they’ll tell you. They are constantly amazed by their dogs’ tenacity, strength, and temperaments.

Adopting a disabled dog can be rewarding for so many reasons. You’re giving a dog a new lease on life, probably saving him from being euthanized or living his life in a shelter, and providing an opportunity for you and your family to be inspired and rewarded with unconditional love.

The thing about disabled dogs is, they don’t know they’re disabled. They still have the desire and, in many cases, the ability to do everything a “normal” dog can do, with a few (generally minimal) modifications. Whether a dog is missing a leg (or legs), is blind or deaf, or has another disability, there are so many treatment and modification options available these days that, with a little time and commitment, can have him doing many of the things he loves again.

Dogs who are missing a leg, or “tri-paweds” as we like to call them, are generally able to easily resume normal mobility; most can still walk and run and enjoy all the same games and challenges. Dogs who have lost two legs (or are unable to use more than one leg due to a musculoskeletal or neurological condition) generally require the assistance of a doggie wheelchair or other mobility aid, but once they have that extra help, they will be scooting all over the place in no time!

Many different wheelchair brands and models currently exist, and payment plans and rental options are also available to help defray costs. Some organizations will even provide wheelchairs free of charge to people with pets in need. Today’s doggie wheelchairs are unbelievably versatile and sophisticated in their construction. They allow dogs to traverse uneven and rocky terrain and easily navigate geographical obstacles. Check out this great video showing how a dog with nerve damage to her rear legs is able to get around in her wheelchair! These assistive devices also allow dogs to engage in normal play activities, like running or playing ball. All in all, they give disabled dogs the chance to just be dogs!

Dogs with sensory disabilities, such as vision or hearing impairment, may have a harder time adapting to their condition if it occurs later in life, but generally do so with aplomb. When a dog loses one sense, their other senses usually intensify, essentially picking up the slack and pulling in more information to help the dog better navigate the world around it. Dogs with vision loss tend to develop a stronger sense of hearing and smell; conversely, dogs with hearing loss must rely more heavily on their vision and smell.

Training techniques for these dogs must be adjusted; dogs with vision loss will need to be re-trained with audible cues, while dogs with hearing loss will need to adjust to exaggerated visual cues. In the book “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” by Jennifer Arnold, Arnold describes how a deaf, senior dog narrowly avoided being hit by a speeding car when he responded to the visual cue to “drop,” given by his owner from across the street. This example shows how, with proper training and a little more time and vigilance from their owners, sensory-disabled dogs are able to lead relatively “normal” lives.  Using a remote trainer, such as the BigLeash S-15 Remote Trainer or the BigLeash V-10 Vibration Trainer, can be a valuable tool for communicating with your hearing- or vision-impaired pet.

While adopting a dog with a disability can be a challenge, both in preparing for the dog’s arrival and adjusting to the accommodations the dog may need, it will repay you many times over in the gratitude and love only a dog can give. We hope you will consider bringing home one of these deserving dogs in need.

For more information about adopting a disabled dog, check out these helpful links!

Image credit:

Handicapped Pets via Flickr – image is cropped