Noddy is a desperately handsome black Labrador who is approaching 11 years old and lives over in Petworth. He recently had a slip and had started to become stiff in his rear legs with possible back strain. His Mum wanted him checked over and massaged to ease out his discomfort. Noddy was described as a ‘very alpha dog’ which fits perfectly with his magnificent regal head and his manner. Although he immediately decided to play cute with me and tuck his head under my shoulder, massage was going to be on his rules. He would settle down for a few minutes, then walked away. He came back, massage, walk away. Repeat. This was the rule. Well, until 60 minutes of that game when he decided that massage was, in fact, wonderful and something that even an alpha male can enjoy. He simply lay down without moving. As well as working on his rear end, which is where he seemed uncomfortable, I also concentrated on his shoulders and neck which had become tight due to compensation and was probably making his out of balance.
We went through a series of exercises to help keep his back and neck supple and to assist the proprioception of his rear legs. Again, exercises were on his rules. I would set the exercise up. He would do them. He would lick the treat. If the treat was not immediately lickable, he stopped. Luckily the treats I use are 3 calories each so we could abide by his rules of exercise = treat.
Noddy even has his rules about cuddling. Again, on his terms and when he wants one. But you would never believe that seeing how he responded to guided massage from his Mum. He took everything she could give her.
With his seniority, the plan is to keep him mobile and comfortable with regular maintenance sessions.
His Mum sent me a couple of texts when they got home : “He is so chilled he’s almost horizontal”. “We just did a walk and he is moving beautifully. I can see a discernible difference”.
But the following day the text arrived "Noddy is moving beautifully today. The biggest change is with his shoulders and front legs. He's got his natural bounce back. I could tell immediately he got up this morning that he was in better shape". Working just on his hips, the presenting problem, would not have made such considerable improvement.
Even Alpha Dogs with loads of rules benefit from massage, especially if all parts of the body are covered.