Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Massage, Exercise & Behaviour - it's all connected

Recently, a friend of mine put up a post on Facebook with a link to pictures of ‘dogs who have no idea where all this mess came from’.  He kindly tagged the post with “A client for Dr Les no doubt”.  Apart from the pictures being great fun I did then have to put my therapist hat on to think more about them.  As I replied to him “The editor’s note at the end sums it up from a massagey therapeuticy point of view. No exercise or attention gets a bored or tubby dog”.  

In a previous blog I have already written how a daft £1 squeaky ball gives Mr Sam hours of therapeutic and fun exercise on the beach.  He comes home too knackered to rip the toilet roll apart even if he wanted to.   Plus I can control when he has had enough so he doesn’t injure himself.

The same day I read another article (it is the ex-academic in me…I can’t stop reading research) by Brandy Arnold about the benefits of walking your dog.  The article states that “Dogs are great at providing strong motivation to maintain their owner’s exercise program – who can resist a happy dog, panting with excitement at the front door?  They make great walking companions and can serve as the perfect social support......Unlike your human buddies who are likely to skip exercise sessions due to appointments or bad weather, dogs will not give you any excuse to miss out on your daily exercise.”

This is a great article as it details not just the benefits to the two-legged walker (i.e. the owner) but also to the four legged walker (i.e. the dog).  To the owner, regular exercise by walking your dog can reduce risks of breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even colon cancer.  To the dog regular exercise can improve their physical and mental well-being, aid with socialization, help reduce behaviour issues (stop them ripping the toilet roll apart) and increase their longevity.

Then yesterday I was asked if I would like to attend a book show where I would be interviewed about what I do and ways that massage and myotherapy could help with dog behaviour.  The organiser said “…things like stopping a dog from barking excessively”.  I immediately remembered the above article which also refers to exercise helping to curb destructive behaviour such as excessive barking and digging.   The dog transfers any negative energy which can bring about boredom into positive opportunities to sniff and explore and run.  

As I wrote in a previous post about the myotherapy side of what we do at AchyPaw, exercising the muscles can also be done by the therapist for the client.  If fun exercise can be incorporated into the daily routine of the dog then not only will it help their health and maintain their mobility but also your own!   But if your dog is injured, immobile or maybe slowing down due to senior years, then the owner or therapist needs to help the muscles along and perform the myotherapy.  

A simple exercise to do at home to prevent boredom is a game called Go Find.  When Sam and Sarah first went to puppy behaviour class we were introduced to this.  The idea was you rub a handkerchief over you to take up your scent and then hide it somewhere in the house.  You tell the dogs to ‘Go Find’.   They then spend the next 10 minutes walking round the house, sniffing to find the handkerchief.  Sam & Sarah have always loved this game, even 8 years later.  All I need to do is say Go Find and they are off.  If they are ever recovering from an injury or the weather is totally rubbish for outdoor walking, a game or two of this will give them safe exercise in the house but keep them stimulated and prevent boredom.  Plus it costs nothing.  There are many more such simple exercises which we teach clients.  

Massage, myotherapy and dog behaviour are certainly very connected. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Lovely ending to the event season

This year we have taken the AchyPaw gazebo and team to 14 shows and events. We have been in torrential rain three times, high winds twice, scorching sun twice, hurricanes once, and all things in between. 

Setting up the gazebo in rain and wind at Seaford

Our final outing of the year was the Annual Bulldog Rescue Picnic held at Lavant. The weather couldn’t have been better for our final outing – we didn’t even need the sides of the tent. 

This is the second year we have done that show and is certainly one of our favourites. Surrounded by bulldogs of every age, shape and colour is so much fun. Plus there were some great stalls such as the Kiss A Bull one – what a clever idea.

Marshall raising lots of money by selling kisses
Other stalls had bulldog bits of pieces of every description from pillows, bowls, mirrors, coats, and so forth.

As well as being surrounded by such a loveable breed, we were also visited by lots of interested owners. It was such a privilege to be asked so many massage questions by clearly caring owners. It could well be that people don’t take on bulldogs as a pet lightly. They are aware of the many physical problems that the breed could have throughout their life. And to rescue a bulldog as well is doubly worthy in my book.

We were questioned non-stop from 9:00 to 16:00 about ways that the owners could help their pets and maintain their mobility. Several even stayed in the tent to have some massage lessons and learn particular tips and techniques that would help their dog and the problems they were having – frequently arthritis (even in the very young) and also spinal issues. One couple even remembered us from last year and came along for their top-up massage lesson.

Soon the word got round the event that the ‘massage man’ was there. We had big bulldogs, old bulldogs, young bulldogs and tiny ones all snuffling in our tent. Plus wriggly Bracken, the collie, who came for a lesson too.

The smallest security guard dog in the world

We are looking forward to our Bulldog fix next year.  Meanwhile the AchyPaw tent is all put away until 2015

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

How much fun can you have for £1?

Quite a lot apparently and some active stretching for your dog...well our dog anyway!

Recently Sarah lost another tooth so I decided to get rid of all the hard balls that she plays with and replace them with soft ones.  She only gets the ball on my terms now but still crunches them as she catches and chases so something softer can't be a bad thing.  The problem is that most soft type balls are also squeaky balls.  

So now when we are down the beach or on the fields and she gets her ball session, there is noise...not just barking.  And something about that squeak does it for Mr Sam. He has to have that ball.  So steals it off his sister.  

We have never favoured either dog....they are both equally spoiled!  Which meant that I had to get a second soft ball that squeaks so that when Sam steals his sister's, I can get the other one out for her. (Yes...REALLY spoiled).  A quick trip to Asda and I came out with a super soft, super flexy, super bouncy, super red, super squeaky ball.  The fact that it was meant to be an Angry Bird probably didn't register to Sam at all...it was bouncy, squeaky and soft.   

I've already posted a video of Sam on the beach and how he loves to dig which exercises every part of his body while having fun.  His favourite digging toy used to be any old plastic bottle I could find on the beach filled with stones.  Free and fun.  But now he has his £1 squeaky ball.  But a problem....this was not a plastic bottle but a soft bouncy ball.  Digging the bottle into the sand was easy but the new bouncy ball has a mind of its own.  It rolls away, it flies off down the beach while being dug, it squishes and then expands (the look on his face as the Angry Bird ball first squished in then expanded back again was a classic).

So not only is he getting his myotherapy exercise from digging he is also chasing, retrieving and holding.  Accompany that with a free low impact exercise session of swimming in the sea.  Everything you need for maintenance, exercise, hydrotherapy and mobility down the beach.  

A part of his £1 myotherapy fun active stretching session can be found on the AchyPaw YouTube channel here.

So how much fun can you have from £1?  A lot and plenty of exercise too at the same time.

Monday, 1 September 2014

I'm always learning...thankfully

I recently wrote a blog article about a post I read where a canine 'professional' had said canine massage is only about prevention. I felt that was rather narrow thinking and gave my thoughts on how there are probably far more benefits.

But I’m always learning about others. Even ones that don’t have a direct physiological benefit to the dog but a benefit to the owner is a good benefit in my eyes.

I’ve been massaging a small dog regularly for some months now. She came to me initially as she was very hyper. She did not like being touched by anyone other than the owner and often went into anxious barking snappy mode when meeting other dogs or people. My aim for her was not necessary to fix any muscular aches and strains but to get her accustomed to tactile stimulation and for relaxation. It didn’t take many sessions for this little dog to just lie in my arms for an hour and have her therapy. She never struggled, she never complained, she certainly never bit me. In fact she sinks into my lap during the session with closed eyes while every muscle and joint relaxes and calms. She always walks out with a smile and an extra spring in her step.

Recently the owner the said that the behaviour of the dog has changed noticeably. The owner now thinks that she would be able to leave the dog at the groomers – something she has never been able to do. Also, when someone comes to the door the dog still barks but it is now a bark asking for a fuss to be made of her and not flight or attack mode. So a new benefit to me is that the owner has got a social life back – one I hadn’t reckoned on when I started this therapy session.

And now I have yet another new benefit, albeit a rather tenuous one. The owner wrote to me and said “You're going to think this is wicked but now if my dog doesn't want to walk when she is out I say we are going to see Dr Les, and you will never believe it she perks up and starts walking”. It means the dog continues with her exercise (so helping her physiologically) while the owner gets to go out (helping her physiologically too!). Maybe that is a cheeky benefit but I’ll take it.