I’m Georgina from the inclusive wedding and travel site, Disabled Travel with Georgina. I have a six year old rescue dog called Milo and he has brought so much joy to our family; he encourages us to go on walks all together, brings me toys to play with even when my mood is low and generally is wonderful company to cuddle up next to me on the sofa during recovery days for my illnesses!
Being a dog owner is certainly a true joy but there are some things that I had to contemplate due to my disability. For me, my main concern is accessibility during a dog walk since I live close to the beautifully rural Peak District in England so many of our nearby walks include natural terrain barriers such as hills, steps or gravel that I might not be able to go over. We’ve managed to find some great local walks though to add to our routines. I definitely think that research is your friend before you head to a new area with your furry friend for exploration on wheels to find out about new doggy friendly, accessible places!
It’s also key to ensure that your wheelchair is suitable for the terrain that you’re choosing to walk your dog over. I would personally prefer smoother surfaces for my non-powered wheelchair, whether I self-propel or not, as a lighter chair weight means bumps and rocks are hard to traverse. My spinal cord pain also means that I really prioritise suspension. A powered wheelchair like the Leon Sling is far more suitable for longer days since it has four-wheel suspension and a long battery range so you’re not left stranded in the middle of a field with nobody but your trusty dog within eyesight! Safety is a really big concern for anyone out dog-walking so it’s important to regularly service your chair and avoid unruly conditions such as ice, overly wet weather and deep mud.
Some wheelchair users might struggle with dexterity so it’s important that they’re able to control their dog, even if they can’t physically hold a lead. Some solutions include choosing to tie the dog’s lead around an attachable device like a cupholder or even choosing a suitable dog breed that could perhaps ride on your lap during parts of the walk if necessary! My spinal cord nerve damage means that twisting motions are hard for me so I tend to store items like dog poo bags in pockets or in a bum bag (a small zipper bag that lies near your belly button, secured around your waist like a belt) so I can easily access these.
Most dogs love to play – our dog particularly loves catching a frisbee or sticks when outdoors. Choosing toys that ergonomically suit your hands and how you can play or propel them is really helpful. You can even buy automatic tennis ball launchers easily online if the motion of throwing is hard (you just might end up with tennis balls lying everywhere unless your dog is well-behaved enough to actually return the balls haha!). You can store all of your dog-friendly goodies such as toys/ dog-coats/ dog drinking water etc in a wheelchair bag to keep your hands and lap free while you roll.
Adapting play, dog care and how you take your dog on accessible walks is really very possible with a little imagination!