Using a dog stroller can help a senior dog safely maintain a better quality of life. It’s made an enormous difference in our lives. Here’s why we opted for a stroller, features (pros and cons), getting accustomed with stroller use, and lessons learned along the way.
Life with a Senior Dog
Life with a senior dog is filled with love, but also the sadness of watching them struggle or miss out on things that bring them joy. When Oli started slowing down and retired from being my running buddy, we adapted to life by taking him on a separate walk if Humphrey and I were running. As he slowed further, separate walks become our daily norm. It’s time consuming, but it gives both dogs the types of exercise they need. Now the time has come to include a stroller in our exercise equipment for a better (and safer) senior quality of life. Here’s the scoop on our stroller (good and bad) and stroller life.
Why We Decided to Buy a Senior Dog Stroller
Choosing a Dog Stroller
Dog Stroller Features
Here are my pros and cons from our stroller. These are handy hints for things to look out for when stroller shopping. I’ve also included some of the changes we would (or have) to the stroller design, plus additional features for comfort and practicality.
Pros and Positives:
- Versatile convertible bike trailer or stroller.
- Well ventilated and good visibility. Lots of mesh windows, including a big zip open front window.
- Accessible large rear entry (which I’d consider essential for a big dog like Oli).
- Can be zipped fully secure and also has an interior tether point.
- Decent weather resistance, including a roll-down rain shield for the large front mesh window.
- Rugged large tires (air-filled and knobbly) for rougher terrain. The stroller is light weight and rolls well on a variety of surfaces, as long as the tire are appropriately inflated, although the fixed front safety wheel requires extra effort when manoeuvring (see below).
- Assembly was easier than expected and the construction seems fairly sturdy. We did add some after-market gaskets to tighten up the handlebar-to-frame connection. The rocking slack was annoying me during use.
- Unfortunately, it is tippy when heavily weighted at the rear. This requires careful positioning and handling while Oli is going in or out. To compensate for this and the lack of locking (see below), I brace it between a solid object at the front tire (wall, post, tree, or similar) and myself at the back stabilising whilst assisting. As a safety issue, I consider this the biggest detractor.
- It is easy to push, but turning requires a little more effort as the front wheel (when used as a stroller) does not swivel/pivot. Fixed front wheels are commonly used as a safety feature on strollers, especially ones that can be used for jogging. They help lower the risk of speed wobbling accidentally causing a fast-moving stroller to turn or tip. The stroller is easily turned with a little pressure on the handle bars to pop a low wheelie, but some models offer the option to lock/unlock a front swivel for easier manoeuvring at low speeds.
- It does not have a mechanism for locking the wheels against unwanted rolling.
- It is not easily collapsible or foldable for storage or transport. Although we did find a way to hack this for taking the stroller with us on road trips with minimal disassembly and reassembly.
Enhancing Comfort and Ease of Use
The cushion was made the same way as our DIY fitted dog bed covers. I used a remnant of waterproof fabric left from when I made our old dog beds. The inner cushion was upcycled from a worn-out old pet bed that previously belonged to Tiger. I made a washable cover for the fluff with odd pieces of fabric from my stash.
I also made some easy care stroller blankets using stash fabric. They were sewn in the same manner as our DIY double-sided flannelette blankets. Zeros supplies purchased! I’m trying to destash, so was quite chuffed.
Getting Our Dogs Accustomed to Stroller Strolling
Introducing the New Stroller
Getting Our Senior Dog Used to Using the Stroller
Getting Our Younger Dog Used to Accompanying the Stroller
Humphrey needed to be trained to walk on-lead with the stroller. He has taken to carriage dog life remarkably well. On our initial outing, he walked with me on lead next to the empty stroller, getting used to the strange rolling object and learning to keep his distance from the wheels. We then transitioned Oli into the stroller while he walked on lead with my husband nearby. After the hop-off portion of our tour, I walked with both to get myself comfortable while my husband was there for back-up in case I needed to hand off. From that point on, Humphrey’s been a natural. We’re very lucky. After the walk to get to the destination (usually an off leash park), he’s happy slowly sniffing along at Oli’s snail pace (and occasionally playing with passing friends) for the off-leash portion of our outings.
Reinforcing the Positives
For now, we’re using it only for occasional outings to fun off-leash areas in nice weather so that the stroller is associated with good things (by both Oli and Humphrey). I try to keep the course smooth and pace moderated, rolling by lots of good smells, giving frequent vocal reassurance and praise, and making occasional treat stops. They now associate the stroller with going to fun off-leash places and special treats. Both boys get excited when I take it out to prepare for outings.
Adjusting to Crazy Dog Mom (and Dad) Stroller Life
Getting Used to Using a Stroller
Learning to Roll and Stroll Safe
Expect a Few Stares
Your Senior Dog is What REALLY Matters
Update on Stroller Life Evolution
Oli’s stroller was been an increasingly important tool in maintaining his safety and quality of life since it was first purchased and introduced. I’m really glad that we made the decision to buy the stroller and introduce it to him before it became a necessity. Without it, his world would have grown very small.
Roadtrips and Memories
When my parents visited from overseas, the stroller allowed Oli to safely join us on several road trips. He even got to stay in a few dog-friendly Airbnbs! We bought a pod for the roof (full car) and clever hubby figured out how to fold down the stroller with only a few quick bolts in/out for reassembly. We cruised new dog-friendly parks and trails, revisited some old haunts, and never needed to debate the length of walking, safety of Oli joining the group, or who would stay behind. We made so many memories and we couldn’t have done it without the stroller. Poppy especially liked rolling the stroller.
Decreasing Mobility, Increasing Strolling
Inevitably, despite the best efforts of us and our trusted vets, Oli’s mobility declined. The hop-off portions of the walk slowly became shorter. He’s great at asking for a lift when he gets too tired. And at bossily demanding to get out when things look or smell interesting. Then we reached a stage when the stroller came out not for long adventures, but for safety and extending normal walks around the neighbourhood. I was devastated, but wiley old minx Oli wasn’t the least bit sad. It was just another step in his stroller evolution and there were still more adventures to be had.
Time is short, and the quality of life factor is key to knowing when it’s time to say farewell. I know the day is coming soon, but the stroller is allowing Oli to enjoy his final time. Cruising happily, smelling the world, and making memories while we can.
The Wind in Our Fur
When COVID lockdown clipped our road trip wings and prohibited even short car trips to nearby parks, the stroller was phenomenally helpful. Without it, Oli’s world would have been very tiny. Instead, we continued our strolled and rolling on our permitted neighbourhood walks. I even took him on a few short jogs so he could feel the wind is his fur. You should have seen the crazy happy old lad! My middle-aged stroller jogging speed was definitely a poor substitute for a car ride, but he still got to feel a little bit of wind in the fur and flap of the ears. All from the comfort of his stroller cockpit. I hope it reminded him of when he was still my lightning fast running buddy.