Training a Service Dog using mobility equipment.

     Training a service dog while using mobility equipment is not always easy.  Whether you use a wheelchair, walker, crutches or any other mobility device to get around you know it can be difficult to figure out how or where you will attach your service dog.  Are you going to attach you service dog to your mobility equipment or to yourself?  That is an important question to answer.  We as users of mobility equipment need to make sure we have full control of our service dogs. As a power wheelchair user myself, I'm going to go over a few options that work for me and a couple of my friends.


     Canine Coach Ashlynn is working a fully trained older Service Dog and also has a Service Dog in Training. Her leash set varies based on the dog, their training, and ability to focus. This first picture is of Ashlynn's power wheelchair setup with her Service Dog Lilly. She has her dog's leash attached to her power wheelchairs arm rest. The dog leash is attached with a carabiner clip and the leash is just long enough to connect to the back clip of a Service Dog and allow the dog to walk in a heel and move in front or behind the chair if needed.

     This picture is Ashlynn's Service Dog in Training Daisy who is wearing a dual clip leash with a slightly different set up with her power wheelchair.  Again her service dog is attached to her power wheelchairs arm rest using a carabiner clip, but this leash is longer because it contains a floating o-ring attached to the carabiner with a longer leash that has attachment points on the back harness clip and a second clip which can be attached to a front harness clip, flat collar or head halter. This set up works best when a dog is still learning how to work in distracting environments.

     Ashlynn also attaches a retractable leash to her seat belt when she needs to do some longer distance work or allow for a potty break. This allows her hands to be free while still allowing her to have full control of her service dog.

     This next picture is of my power wheelchair setup.  Like Ashlynn I also attach my dogs leash to the arm of my power wheelchair using a carabiner clip.  I have an o ring and double eye swivel hook attached to the carabiner clip. I also use a leash that has a double clip that attaches to my service dog's  harness. Her harness has a front and a back leash clip on it.  This helps my dog learn to walk next to my  power wheelchair keeping her from running in front of it where she could possibly get hurt.

     The other reason I use the double clip leash is if I need my service dog to go in front of my power wheelchair I can unclip the top leash allowing her to go in front of  my wheelchair. There is times when I need my service dog to go in front of my power wheelchair. For instance, going in a doorway where there is only room for the power wheelchair or the service dog. 

    Here is a video of Ashlynn going through the doorway with her service dog going in front of her power wheelchair.

     This video is where Ashlynn is using the retractable to have her service dog push the automatic door opener and going thru the doorway with her dog following her.

     I prefer my service dog to go in front of my power wheelchair in doorways, elevators, and my van ramp, because I like to be able to see her walk through the doorway or down the ramp so I can make sure she is safe going on the elevator, thru doorways and down my vehicles ramp.  I want to make sure she doesn't get ran over by my power wheelchair. This first video is of Cassie being introduced to the van ramp. It is very important to introduce new things slowly to your service dog giving your dog a chance to explore the new things your introducing.  You don't want to move to quickly when introducing new things such as the van ramp. If you move to quickly you dog could become very scared and shut down.  In this video I allow Cassie time to smelling the ramp, letting her go at her own pace until she is totally comfortable with the ramp.  Once I know she is comfortable with the ramp I move to the next step and have her go up the ramp. 

     This video is of  Cassie going up the van ramp first with me following her. This is the first time she went up the ramp.  Once in the van I have Cassie go in a down stay until I am ready to leave the van. 

    This next video is Cassie going down my van ramp. She was very excited to go down the ramp and was very confident as she went down.

    Unclipping the leash in front, allows a service dog to go behind the power wheelchair when the dog is needing to. For example, Michael, prefers his service dog Belle to walk behind his power wheelchair while he goes down his van ramp. Here is a video of his service dog  Belle going down the van ramp behind him and his power wheelchair.

     As you can see there is several different ways you can attach your service dog to your power wheelchair. 

     On the next blog I will be focusing on how to attach a service dog to manual wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches. I will go over how to teach your service dogs to walk with you while using  manual wheelchairs, walkers and crutches.  I will also go over how to maneuver a service dog in tight spaces using these mobility devices.