Dog Training With A Disability: Lisa’s Story
From building confidence to working on recall, there are some areas of training that are common to all of us.
But for Lisa Vesty, there’s one thing that’s different: she does her training from a mobility scooter.
We love following Lisa and the spaniels’ training adventures on Instagram (@tyler_and_maya_tales) so we asked her to share her story and how she makes training work for her.
Here’s what she had to say…
Tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Lisa and I’m from Leicestershire in the Midlands. I have a genetic connective tissue disorder called Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome with marfanoid body habitus (I know, what a mouthful!). I also have Scoliosis (curvature of the spine). EDS is quite a complex connective tissue disorder that affects people differently. I am quite badly affected and have to use a mobility scooter and walking aids. The most common symptoms of hEDS are joint hypermobility which can cause joints to dislocate and chronic musculoskeletal pain.
And what about your dogs?
Tyler is the eldest and is the first dog we have owned as a family. We initially got him to help our eldest son overcome a fear of dogs. It was the best decision we could have made. He helped our son within weeks to get over his fear and has helped me to rediscover myself in so many ways. I feel forever in his debt.
We’ve had Maya from a puppy. Maya has a much more nervous personality - she’s not a natural optimist, although with lots of games using Tug-E-Nuff toys she is making great progress. She is the most loving and fun dog and she has fitted into our family perfectly - even Tyler loved her from day one!
What challenges have you come up against as a disabled dog owner, and how have you overcome them?
The most difficult thing I found as a new dog owner when Tyler was a puppy was what lead to use and how to get a tiny bouncy puppy used to the noise and motion of a mobility scooter. After lots of research I found that you could buy double ended leads with D-rings that I was able to thread through my seat and they gave me enough lead for Tyler to walk safely away from the wheels.
Walks can still be stressful even now due to pavements being obstructed by cars, wheelie bins, roadworks that provide no temporary disabled ramp and only being able to get on and off the pavement where the down kerbs are. I’ve trained both dogs to ride on the footplate of my scooter for when I really need it.
I found that ‘conventional’ training methods were a bit too rigid for disabled dog owners. It’s very difficult on a mobility scooter to stop and change direction quickly, for instance. I am sure that there are lots of fantastic trainers out there that embrace all dog owners, but I personally found puppy training classes were not that inclusive so I decided to train Tyler and Maya on my own. I use concept training and games to train both Tyler and Maya - the training videos from AbsoluteDogs have really helped with this.
As Tyler reached one, we experienced a breakdown in our relationship, and this is when I first discovered Tug-E-Nuff. Tyler suddenly went from having 100% recall to zero.The environment was so much more interesting than me. I was relatively static unable to play hide and seek games with him or play in the energized way he needed. All the toys I’d found were more about sending dogs away, like balls. He didn’t need any encouragement in being away from me and if he did have a ball his game was then to stay away from me even more, so I couldn’t have the ball back. The tugs I’d found were made of rope which were difficult to hold and caused me lots of pain (and Tyler didn’t like them either).
I knew this needed to change, fast. I started asking for behaviours like paws up on my scooter and calling him back putting him back on lead and then releasing him again and I bought our first Tug-E-Nuff toy, the Sheepskin Bungee Chaser with Tennis Ball. All of a sudden, in his eyes, I was cool, I was fun, I was interesting. I could drag the Chaser behind me for chase games and I was able to throw it easier due to the long bungee handle and the weight of the ball. It enabled me to get him to come in close to me for a game of tug as it has an easy grip handle and the bungee means it is easier on my joints.
All these little things helped me to restore our relationship quickly and using a range of Tug-E-Nuff toys is now the foundation of all my training and playing with both dogs. The power of play is so incredible. It’s highly motivational for your dog, enriching for you and your dog, it boosts confidence and builds your relationship. What can be better than happy endorphins all round!?
How has owning and training Tyler and Maya helped with your health?
I can honestly say getting Tyler and Maya has been the best thing for me. I am totally a different person to who I was over five years ago when I wouldn’t really go out on my own. It’s broken down barriers. Now, people see Tyler and Maya before my scooter and disability, my disability is not a topic of conversation anymore. I have made lots of great friends and most importantly it’s helped me massively in confidence, pushing myself to go out on my own. The mental health benefits have been enormous and being with Tyler and Maya are now a huge part of my well-being and pain management plan.
Want to know what Lisa’s top toy picks are for dog training from a wheelchair? Stay tuned for next week’s blog where she shares her favourites along with more tips and advice.