Welcome to another “Lucky Dog” series article. One of the difficult things about being a pet owner is the necessity of handling difficult issues, such as when your pet suffers an injury. Most people do not think about this possibility before it ever happens, but I encourage you to do more than think about it – consider practicing safe handling techniques while your dog is still healthy. Most dogs, when injured become frightened. Adding a new lift or carry technique when he is already injured and frightened only adds to your dog’s fear. Practicing safe lift and/or carry techniques prior to an actual injury will condition your dog to accept the transport technique you will need if he becomes injured, and reduce his fear in an already frightening situation.
In the event of minor injuries, if your dog is able and willing to ambulate on his or her own, let him walk to the car and help him in as needed. If you have time, grab a couple of small blankets or oversized towels, one to put underneath him, and the other to put over his body in case he gets cold or begins to go into shock. If possible, have someone he trusts sit with him to help keep him calm.
If your dog is not able to safely walk on his or her own, then you will need to physically carry him. No matter how much you and your dog love each other, when a dog is hurt and frightened, they can inadvertently turn on their owner, out of absolutely heart-rending panic. As much as possible, take steps to protect yourself; throw on a pair of gloves to give your hands some protection from possible bites, put on a jacket to protect your arms and upper body as well. If your dog’s injuries are not near the mouth, and the dog is not vomiting or convulsing, consider using a muzzle on the dog as well. Never muzzle a dog that is convulsing, vomiting or even if the dog swallowed poison, do not muzzle the dog, as he may begin to vomit during the drive to the veterinarian.
For small dogs, place one hand under the dog’s neck, taking hold of the collar if possible. This hand will help control the movements of the dog’s neck and head, giving you a mechanism to protect yourself from bites. With your other hand, wrap it over the dog’s body and underneath the chest and abdomen, and cradle the dog against your body. Be sure to keep your neck and face out of reach of the dog’s mouth.
For medium dogs, the technique is slightly different. Use one hand to wrap under the dog’s neck, so that your forearm is close to the dog’s chest, and so that your wrist and hand wrap around the top of the neck to prevent the dog from reaching up to bite you. Use your other hand to wrap under the dog’s abdomen, and wrap it around so that the top of your hand is on top of the dog’s back. Keep the dog tight to your body, and then lift from your knees to protect your own back.
For larger dogs, you should carefully consider one of two techniques. In the first technique, you wrap one hand around the dog’s front, trapping the front legs with your forearm so that your hand is on the dog’s shoulder. The other hand wraps around the back end of the dog, trapping both the rear legs and tail, and the hand wraps to the rear leg furthest from your body. Again, lift from the knees to protect your back.
The second large-dog technique involves an over-the-shoulder carry. This works better on long-legged dogs that are too heavy for you to carry in front of your body, but it places pressure on the abdomen of the dog. Therefore, it should be avoided if the dog has a significant injury in the abdominal area. This method is more difficult and potentially dangerous, because you relinquish control of the dog’s head. In this technique, you basically are almost wearing the dog as if he were a fur stole, supporting his weight across your shoulders behind your head, with the front legs hanging down in front of one side of your chest, and the rear legs on the other side of your chest. Reach up to support each set of legs with your arms. This is definitely a technique that you should use only if you have practiced it when your dog is not injured.
Remember that these techniques should be practiced long before you might ever need to use them. You can even link your practice of the appropriate lift-and-carry technique to a cue word and use it as a training item. No one ever plans for an injury, but just like fire drills at home, you need to plan and be prepared. In another Lucky Dog article, we will look at transporting dogs with more serious injuries.
About the author: Sharon McCuddy is the author of the “Lucky Dog” article series, which includes the above article. In part, the author draws on her experiences as a dog owner, rescuer and dog foster home to provide educational articles in the Lucky Dog series. Readers are strongly encouraged to consult with their veterinarian for any medical related issues, and to use the information provided in the articles as a basis for self-education as a responsible dog owner.