Dogs are funny sometimes: they may love their harness, but hate wearing sweaters. If your dog isn’t thrilled about dressing up, you may be worried about introducing them to a leg brace. Here at Doggy Brace, we know you’re concerned and we’re here to offer your training tips for introducing the leg brace for ACL tears or injury to your furry friend.
Our braces are made to be durable — they are neoprene, which is a synthetic rubber used to make wetsuits. They are tough to tear, bite through, and damage. But we know dogs and we know they’re fickle at times. You can turn your back for two seconds and they’ll have torn the brace off their leg and zoomed out of sight.
So, how do you promote good leg brace wearing etiquette?
1. Be Patient with Your Dog
First and foremost, always be patient with your pet when you’re introducing them to something new. Your dog can’t talk to you (though whining is an option), so you may not immediately know if they’re concerned about their ACL brace. Pay attention to their behavior: look for slow and cautious or jumpy movements, a tail between their legs, and if they’re moving close to the ground. This often shows their fear or reluctance to do something.
You can help alleviate this by letting them smell the brace under your supervision. Encourage them with a gentle voice and treats to get their tail wagging again. Once your dog seems more comfortable, tell them to sit and stay. Never restrain your dog while you’re training them, especially during the first trial run! You want them to associate the brace with comfort, and not fear or negativity.
If your dog wiggles away when you try to slip the brace on their leg, don’t reprimand them. Calm them down with pets and a happy voice and try again. If they need a break, give them one.
2. Let Your Dog Get Used to the Brace
Sometimes, cautious dogs need to get used to the smell and feel of the ACL brace before they allow you to put it on them. Let them smell it for as long as they want, and rub it against their belly, back and face. This will get their scent on the material, as well as get them used to the feel and proximity of the leg brace.
Never force it on them! If your dog is skittish and doesn’t want the brace around them, put it away. Let them calm down before you try again, and this time, use extra treats.
3. Offer Positive Reinforcement
A combination of positive reinforcement training and patience is the best approach to teaching your dog anything. When it comes to wearing anything, always supervise your dog to ensure they don’t chew off any part of it or ingest it.
Once you get the brace on for the first time, immediately reward your dog with a shower of love and treats. Get their tail wagging and get them happy! This reiterates that the brace is a good thing and that they should associate wearing it with treats and love.
Reward them by taking it off after a short while too. You don’t want to overdo their first few times. And if you have to cinch the straps tightly, it’s good to remove the brace every few hours to promote good circulation.
4. Get your Dog Moving
This is the tricky part. Your dog may not want to move immediately with a new thing restricting their leg. They may just sit there, stand like a statue, or they may immediately try sniffing at or biting the brace. If the latter happens, distract them with a toy instead of reprimanding them. Remember, you don’t want them to be afraid of the brace.
If your dog is sitting, carefully lift them up and place them on all four legs and reward them with a treat. You may have to do this a couple of times.
If they’re refusing to budge from a standing position, use their favorite toy, treat, or trick, as an incentive to move. Do not attach their lease and try to pull them; this will only frustrate them. Instead, let it be on their terms and reward them generously when they do finally take a step.
5. Be Patient (Again)
This step is so important that it needs to be said twice. Your dog may not be running or walking around immediately with the brace on (especially if it is used to help with an ACL tear or injury) and it may not be love at first sight. That’s okay; no one likes change and restrictive clothing right? Be sure to encourage your dog and let them know that the brace is a good thing. Do not reprimand them for not knowing how to use or treat it. You have to train them; they will learn by watching you.
If you have any questions about DoggyBrace, contact us today.