Your retired dog has spent many hours in their tracking harness over his or her career. Some dogs may also have been used to wearing harnesses for repelling or long lining purposes. As they age, they might now need a new kind of harness, one that helps with their mobility.
As dogs add a few more grey hairs to their muzzles, mobility issues become a concern for any large breed dog. German Shepherds also have degenerative diseases associated to their breed that cause significant mobility issues as the diseases progress over time. On top of the breed and age predisposition, add in the extra strain police dog’s put on their joints over the years of jumping in and out of trucks, twisting and turning with the bite arm, sprinting, and tracking in all terrain. Many retired dogs have one sided lameness or soreness because most dogs will tend to track left or right or work on the left or right side of their handler, adding extra strain on the joints on the inside of those turns. No matter how you look at it, these dogs have sore wrists, sore knees, sore shoulders, sore backs and really sore hips!
Getting a two handled harness is a great investment. These are harnesses that have a handle and webbing for the front legs, but also a section of harness over the back legs also with a handle. One brand that many neurologists like is called Help Em Up Harness. I have zero affiliation with this company by the way. They often recommend these harnesses for dogs recovering from neurological diseases or back injuries. When older dogs decide it is too hard to get up and move around, they will choose to stay lying down longer. When they stay lying down, their joints become stiff, their muscles weaken and it becomes even harder to get up. So, it is imperative to keep these old guys moving. They may not be able to move fast or far like they used to, but getting up and moving around the house, or going for several short walks each day is paramount. If your retired dogs can’t engage with life and join the family on activities, we can also see cognitive decline. We want these dogs comfortable and enjoying the best life they can have for as long as possible. If your dog is wearing a harness, it becomes easier for you to help them up, without hurting your back, as you have handles to help with that process. If it is easier to get your dog up, you are more likely to encourage them to get up and move around. Also, for many dogs, slippery floors in our houses are a death trap. If they have a harness on them, and you are able to help stabilize them, they will feel more confident in the house but also going down stairs and walking along the street.