Sunday, 20 December 2015

"Well....Dr Les said...." : Maddie's story

"Well...Dr Les said......." is a phrase I ought to copyright. 

Maddie is a 12 year girl who is one of my exactly-30-minute clients. She knows when half an hour is up and simply leaves me mid-massage stroke and walks away. She is also one of my once a week clients. 

Her owners had originally been to see me over a year ago for a lesson in massage but realised that they needed help. So a couple of months ago came back to me and asked me to visit weekly so they would feel guilty if they didn't do the homework I had left them. 

As well as the importance of the benefits of canine physical therapy, I feel educating the owners is equally important as they are, after all, the principal carer. Sometimes it could just be showing them moves and techniques they can do in between scheduled therapy sessions, sometimes simple and fun active exercises they can do with their dog to keep them supple and mobile and sometimes it is about giving advice on ways they could help with their dog's ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) - things like raising the food or water bowl so the dog doesn't have to stoop. In Maddie's case one of these tips was about encouraging her owners to get some cushions or foam cuts in places where she tries to jump or land. 

Maddie loved to get up on her Mum's bed and sit beside her on the sofa but the jump up was becoming too steep. More important was the crash down again when she got off - placing enormous pressure on already senior joints and muscles. The bed in particular was very high. 

After the first session I went back to visit her and found cushions scattered all the house in the appropriate places. "She loves these" they said. "We had to tell her that Dr Les said you need to land on something soft now so she wouldn't think they were just there as obstacles" which apparently seemed to work. Maddie now can get back to her favourite places. The bed still posed a challenge though as it was really high off the ground. They could lift her up and she could then land on the scatter cushions but she wasn't able to get up of her own accord. 

Today I went for the weekly visit and her Mum said "Come into my bedroom and see what I've got".....hmm....couldn't resist that offer. As soon as I walked in I saw they had a new bed...a nice low bed. "Well...Dr Les said the bed was a bit high so we bought a new one". And Maddie loves it. I asked whether the bed was comfy. "Not really" was the response "but Maddie can now sleep with us whenever she likes so that is all we care about". 

The things we do for our dogs!!!!! 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Empathy between dogs and their owners - proven.

I always enjoy reading well conducted research articles concerning canine behaviour especially those that give further proof to the incredible bond between a dog and their owner. 

I was interested in an article I read recently ( which had a couple of extra references, which my geeky nature had to follow up. 

One in particular referred to the way dog owners feel they can read the emotions of their dog through their facial expressions and not just through the way they are standing, turn their head or the way they hold their tail. It appears that this is actually true. A Japanese study in 2013 (Nagasawa et al) examined the facial expressions of dogs, using a high speed camera, when they were presented with their owner and someone they didn’t know.

It is always good to have things like this verified so we are just not classed as ‘mad dog people’. The study showed that when a dog is reunited with their owner, they lifted their eyebrows, especially the left eyebrow. But when they saw someone they didn’t know, there was little facial movement. 

The research team suggested this demonstrated behavioural facial laterality in response to emotional stimuli which reflects their attachment to their owner. 

Another study from the article referred to contagious yawning. We frequently yawn empathetically when someone we are watching yawns – echoing their behaviour. But apparently, this is not limited to humans. I guess it is not too much of a surprise since dogs have always been bred to watch us and see what we are doing. 

The study by Romero et al (2013) was conducted to determine whether contagious yawning in a dog was due to mild distress related response or empathy. They studied 25 dogs faced with familiar humans (their owners) and an unfamiliar human (the researcher) and acted out a yawn or other movements used as a control mouth expression. The dogs yawned far more frequently when watching their owners than the unfamiliar human which clearly demonstrates the correlation between emotional proximity. In addition, contagious yawns in the dogs were significantly higher during true yawning than other mouth movements. To make the inference even more factual, the research team actually measured the heart rate of the dogs. This did not change throughout the experiment which demonstrated the yawning response was not due to stress. They concluded that their study showed this contagious yawning is consistent with a form of empathy between a dog and their owner. 

So next time someone tells you that your dog can’t possibly understand what you are saying, tell them “Oh yes they can” and it is now scientifically proven. 
Talking to my kids


Nagasawa M et al. (2013) “Dogs show left facial lateralization upon reunion with their owners”. Behavioural Processes, 98 September 2013, pp 112–116 

Romero T et al. (2013) “Familiarity Bias and Physiological Responses in Contagious Yawning by Dogs Support Link to Empathy”. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71365. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071365

Friday, 23 October 2015

Kyto the Warrior

Ever wondered how a dog reacts after a massage therapy session? Well...look at Kyto bounce and dance - says it all really. And this is an 11.5 year old 46.5 kg dog with nerve damage in spine, backache and arthritis behaving like a puppy. He totally loves his regular sessions with me and the additional daily work his mum gives him. 

When his owner moved to her new house with Kyto she had lovely wooden floors throughout the hall. When I first met her, I suggested maybe a few carpet runners would help stop him skittering along the floor when he defends her from The Postman. On my last visit I noticed a few carpets here and there. This time, her beloved wooden floor had been carpeted. The things we do for our dogs. 

His owner had an animal communication session with one of Elizabeth Whiter’s graduates last week. The first thing that was said was that Kyto had been a warrior and thinks of himself as such. He communicated that he used to work alongside horses and lost many of his friends. I felt a little chill as the day before I had been researching a section I am about to teach for my new Canine Massage diploma module which I am delivering with Elizabeth. The part I was researching was the History of Massage in Animals. Although the use of massage techniques in ancient human cultures is well-documented, searching for the history of animal massage took a bit longer. The article I had just read said that Julius Caesar travelled with a personal massage therapist who also worked on his war dogs. And that a full-body massage was recommended for dogs and horses by Flavius Arrianus, a philosopher and administrator under the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian. When I relayed that to Kyto’s owner she also felt a little chill and we both looked at Kyto and said “You knew Julius Caesar?” He just did his cute head tilt one way then the other as though to say “Of course….don’t you?” 

From that point, the massage session took an even more referential tone than usual. Do I address Kyto as “Your Emperorship”? or “Hail Kyto”? He didn’t seem any more warrior-like than usual and simply nuzzled my hand and nose so maybe he is happy to have left all that behind him and to be able to live his life with his wonderful caring human who covers up her slippery wooden floor for him. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Give a dog a bone....and they will find it like we do

Research that looks into neurophysiology, behaviour AND dogs…..ooooo, right up my street!

I always knew dogs were really really smart and this was confirmed by a recent study at the University of Sheffield ( The research team found that when humans navigate through computer files, the same brain structures are used as when a dog searches for their bone.

Apparently, it seems most of us search for stuff on our computers by going through folders or other pathways. (Sounds about right for me anyway!). There are two ways to search : hierarchical or query-based. Most people in the study moved through folders in a top down fashion until they reached the file they wanted rather than spending time composing a specific query-based search. This is despite advances in search technology.

So why did their sample prefer this long-winded method? They suggested that top-down navigation uses the same parts of the brain and neural processes that have evolved over millions of years for navigating in the physical world – looking for a path where we actually stored something physically.

To get technical, these parts are in the posterior part of the brain. And that is what links us to dogs. This is exactly how they use their brain to navigate instinctively to that part of the garden where they buried their bone so they can find it when they next want it.

I’m sure there will be some people who use the key word search. Ok, for you, to get even more technical, searching for a file using a key word activates a part of the frontal brain, called Broca’s area just in case you ever need that for a pub quiz. But for us ‘old fashioned’ types it is not all bad news. Apparently top-down searching makes less use of words, leaving your ‘language system available for other tasks’, the researchers said. Phew!

Interestingly, using the frontal part of the brain for searching is a function, so far, unique to humans. But watch this space. Other recent studies have shown how the brains of dogs are evolving in parallel with us as they have spent so many years working alongside humans. You may well come home one day and find your dog on Google! 

Sam Googling walks

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Magnificent Mr Khan

The Maginificent Mr Khan
Back in June I was asked if I could go and help a newly rescued German Shepherd called Mr Khan who was 'walking on his heels'. He also had EPI and probably malnurishment as he weighed so little before being rescued by the wonderful Melanie Beck of Zennet Rescue. His tail had also been removed before rescue.

Before his rescue

Walking on his heels
When I first saw him it took my breath away how such a magnificent dog could have been so mistreated. He really was walking on his hocks - not just flat toed but totally flat footed placing his weight from his heels to his toes. This had caused his lower hind legs to become calloused.

Without a tail to balance him, with very little muscle mass to support his weight, he was just dragging himself along which had resulted in a very bad roaching of the spine.

But, my goodness, Mr Khan had a real will to survive. He wanted to get better.

My aim that day was to teach Mel all the moves and routines she could do to help him recover his mobility and to stand up straight. Lots of massage techniques, lots of compression to build up the muscles and plenty of passive stretches as well as active exercises. We spent quite a long time together as Mr Khan deserved a second chance (or probably a first chance) at a good life.

He seemed to know that I was there to help and was very responsive to touch and massage. If there was any discomfort he displayed it by a gentle grabbing of my hand as though he were saying "OK Dr Les....that is a bit tender there".

There was actually very little of Mr Khan that wasn't tight especially his tendons and ligaments of his hind leg which had shortened and prevented him from stretching them fully and standing up straighter.

For a dog who had clearly not had the best of starts he was very tactile and we soon got lots of sighs and snores. He seemed to realise that massage therapy and myotherapy was going to restore his quality of life. Unfortunately it was harder trying to coax him to perform active exercises as his EPI prevented the use of treats so we had to devise exercises that didn't need bribes. But he picked those up quickly.   Again, he seemed to understand that we were there to help.

Mr Khan - the 50kg hunk of love
Now, just over three months later Mr Khan is back to the Magnificent Mr Khan that he should be. Mel describes him as "a 50kg hunk of love" who has become a real massage diva. I know that it couldn't have been an easy journey for him and Mel must have been massaging him every day to bring about this transformation.

Look at these 'before' and 'after' pictures and see how massage, myotherapy and some good honest hard work can bring back the quality of life to a smashing dog.
Before and after

Before and after

And we love happy endings. The update on Mr Khan is that yesterday he won Best in Show at the Helping Paws Fun Dog Show. 

Mel, who rescued him, posted "OMG, OMG, OMG!!!! Mr Khan has only gone and won Best in Show at the Helping Paws charity dog show!!! So, so thrilled and proud of this boy after everything he has been through. Team Khan, thank you!! " 

These pictures show a totally transformed dog physically and mentally. He was happy, alert and totally strutting his stuff. Well done Mr Khan. 

Proud Mr Khan and his rescuers
Best in Show - Mr Khan
"I know...I'm a superstar"

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

RSPCA Brighton Staff and Volunteers Training Event

We were invited to the RSPCA Brighton to show the staff and volunteers how to perform canine massage. The aim was to introduce them to nine techniques that they could use in a routine to help relax nervous and anxious dogs waiting for rehoming to their Forever Homes. 
AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
"Ooooooo...what do you think of that move?"

We had two groups of five and four members plus a variety of dogs.  By the end of the event we had five dogs who all went home relaxed plus nine members of the team who looked equally relaxed. Our Sam and Sarah received a double dose as they acted as demo dogs for both groups so were totally zonked out by the end of the day.

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
"Just there please Ann"
Our Sarah is not one to offer false praise but she remained quite happy on the floor being worked on first by Lorna and then Ann.  For her to stay still for that length of time is the highest praise!  Clearly they were good therapists.

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
"Yes, oh yes"

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
"I think I'll try yours next"

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
Our Sam having his ear massaged

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
Our Sam really enjoying Chris and his skin rolling technique

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
"If I move this way Mum, you can get a better technique"

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
Srah reminds Lorna what to do next

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
Best friends inside and outside of the massage room

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
Lauren 'grounding' Lilo

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
Heidi working on Sam's pectoral muscles

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
Lauren at full stretch

Gina working on the abdominal muscles

AchyPaw training event @ RSPCA Brighton
Little Spot had only been rescued a few days previously yet took to his massage like an old hand.  30 minutes after this picture he was fast asleep on the duvet

We are looking forward to continued collaboration with the RSPCA team and dogs

Friday, 10 July 2015

Size really doesn't canine massage anyway

Meet Henry

Henry is a wee Pomerian who was called Bubbles before his rescue – but Henry suits him so much better. He looks like the most adorable cherished Teddy Bear you’ve ever owned yet a year ago he had been abandoned and ended up with the Dogs Trust.

He was referred to me with a trapped nerve in his left shoulder which causes him to yelp now and again, particularly at night when he wakes himself up. He is currently on quite a lot of pain medication but his owner wants to try and treat him with conservative therapy. He has already had one acupuncture session with the lovely Guy from Coastway Vets who treated our Sarah. The aim was to add another complementary therapy to give this little fella some relief. (And little he is…..imagine a miniature terrier or tiny Chihuahua. His owner told me of a lovely story where they put all his daughter’s fluffy toys in a pile and placed Henry in the middle for their picture of last year’s Christmas card – a bit like that scene in ET. People had to try and spot Henry).

He is thought to be about 12 years old and rescued a year ago. He only has a couple of teeth left and is described as “a right character with a bit of a dislike for men, particularly youths with caps”. Fortunately I can no longer describe myself as a youth and certainly don’t wear caps so 2 out of 3 ticks for me.

The pain from his issues was clearly displayed when he stood up as his back was very hunched and roached – his front legs were almost touching his back legs. His owner said the best way to hold him was simply to scoop him up and sit him in my lap. Before any ‘scooping’ I had a little chat with Henry who decided that I was definitely yapping and ‘gumming’ material. After 5 minutes of gumming I went in for the scoop. Henry sat in my lap while I had a feel of his muscles. His little neck was rock solid which must have been causing an awful lot of pain.

A Henry-size dog can’t really be massaged by hand, but with fingers and thumbs. So he got lots of work on his stiff neck and down his back. Within 5 minutes he had slumped into my knee then he slumped down into my lap then his eyes closed and then his head drooped. Clearly this was what he needed.

You’d think that treatment for a Henry-size dog could be done in a short time but actually he lasted a full 60 minutes with a turning round half way through without any complaint. Just as I had finished he let out the longest sigh.

He had to be one of the most receptive dogs I have treated in a long time despite his initial wariness of me. He seemed to know that I was there to help him and trusted me within such a short time going nice and floppy allowing me to really work on his muscles and joints.

The picture below shows the end result – Henry fast asleep back in his bed. Just goes to show that canine massage & myotherapy has no size barriers.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Canine Reiki and Animal Healing

Reiki and massage therapy are essentially both stress-relieving techniques that combat and release mental and physical fatigue. However, there are differences between the two therapies, the main ones being : 

  • Massage is fundamentally a physical therapy involving manual touch and manipulation of the muscles, fascia and joints to relax tight muscles and assist with the circulatory systems. Reiki generally does not involve touch and works on the energy channels in the specific areas of the body to relieve blockages that cause stress and illness. Massage can be described as physical manipulation, whereas Reiki is energetic manipulation. 
  • In some instances, physical massage may be contraindicated – e.g. some cancers or open wounds. Reiki therapy is safe for people with any medical condition as it requires no touch or very little touch. 
  • Reiki can also be performed on a recipient from a distance and is a more recent practice dating back to only 1922 by Dr. Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist.  Massage requires the physical presence and dates back several hundred years

Both therapies have the same aim to increase and free the unbalanced energy flow in the body and so are complementary to each other. In fact many physical massage therapists use Reiki techniques during a session to concentrate on the emotional and mental well-being. 

If you feel that your dog would benefit more from Reiki session, or if physical massage is contraindicated, we have a qualified Reiki practitioner in the AchyPaw team who can perform this alternative complementary therapy. 

Additionally, as we are always adding to the toolkit of services that we can offer to dogs and constantly attending courses and workshops we also offer Animal Healing. Read about this here

As with all complementary treatments, there is no intention to replace veterinarian advice, more to support and enhance the effects and to add to the toolkit of available therapies we can offer to benefit dogs at AchyPaw. 

If you are interested in learning more about Reiki or Animal Healing for your dog, please contact us.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

A Day in the Life of a Canine Massage Therapist

I recently became a featured member of the Good Vet Guide and they published an article from me about the Day in the Life Of....

I warned them it would be long but they published anyway.

"A Day in the Life of a Canine Massage Therapist – Dr Les Ellam from AchyPaw

I love writing, probably because I was an academic for 21 years before starting my new career. Researching new stuff, explaining what I do, writing about the benefits and conditions that can be treated with canine massage and myotherapy, are all things I do every day. But to explain a single day in the life of a canine massage therapist stumped me for a while

I looked back through my records at the dogs I have treated in the past 3 years. No day is actually the same. There have been a variety of ages. My youngest was a 6 month old puppy where I was actually called to help the owner bond with him more. By teaching her a daily massage routine the power of touch was remarkable and within a few weeks they were inseparable. The puppy had finally stopped climbing the ceiling as he found climbing into his mum’s lap for a massage was far more fun. Then there was the 1 year old who I was asked to help after they became over exuberant and strained some leg muscles. In the middle range, I have had lots of 8 year old dogs who have started to display signs of slowing down. They can often be treated on a regular basis to maintain mobility and quality of life for as long as possible. At the far extreme I have been referred a couple of 13 and 14 year old dogs for palliative care. The aim with those was not to treat the disease that was affecting them but to help them relax, ease their muscles and joints, so they could be relatively pain free with regard to their mobility to help their own internal healing.

Then there were the conditions I have treated. The list is lengthy. Muscle issues are clearly the most frequent on the list, followed by joint issues, arthritis, sports massage, spinal problems, lack of symmetry due to amputation, dogs with a fear of fireworks and even a dog with epilepsy. It is not just about prevention but also maintenance, treating specific injuries, rehabilitation, sports and relaxation. Personally I think to pigeon-hole the rationale behind canine massage and myotherapy as having one benefit is not the way to go. I prefer to think holistically – where the therapy can work on the whole body since everything is ultimately interrelated and interconnected. 

Recently we have expanded our toolbox of therapy techniques to include Reiki and Animal Healing for those dogs or owners who prefer a less physical treatment. Dogs have no guile; they don’t understand the concept of placebo. If Reiki or Animal Healing works on them, then it works, no need to question the whys and hows. 

As far as the numbers of dogs seen in a day, that can be anything from 1 to my largest number of 5. On one occasion I worked on 4 dogs of different ages and abilities back to back (literally too). They each had their own issues, their own ways of lying for me and their own 'feel'. The first dog was a true athlete, an agility dog who had muscles like Usain Bolt (I guess, not that I have massaged Usain Bolt.....) firm and plentiful. Dog #2 was a retired athlete, still possessing the sporty muscles but they were a lot looser with the beginnings of evident wastage. He fell asleep for me. Dog #3 was the puppy of the first dog and didn't know the meaning of “just try to relax”. I think she heard that as “wriggle as much as you can”. Dog #4 was an ability dog who had thyroid problems which had resulted in the loss of all his fur before being diagnosed and treated with thyroxin. With him it was all about the skin, no kneading. Lots and lots and lots of skin lifting, fascial work and stimulation. By the end of his session he was not only fast asleep but had noticeably softer fur. His owner said “ not spikey anymore”. A variety of dogs, a variety of conditions, a variety of aims, but in each the outcome was successful. 

Feedback typically comes from the dogs (apparently!) I am always surprised how many are able to send me selfies of them snoozing after a session or texts telling me how much better they feel now. 

There is also education. At AchyPaw, we not only treat animals but also like to share our knowledge with owners. After all, they are the people with their dogs 24/7. When treating a dog I always work with the owner. They sit in the treatment session with me and if I feel a tight muscle, or find a move that is very beneficial then I will share it. Everyone goes away with some ‘homework’ and I always follow up a session with a workbook of things to do tailored to each dog. This could be massage techniques or exercises, which is where the myotherapy side comes in. Massage is easy to explain but the explanation I like best is “The scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, as apart from mere rubbing” (Prosser, E.M. (1941) A manual of Massage and Movement. 2nd ed. Faber & Faber: London). The effects and benefits of massage can be mechanical, physiological and psychological varying according to the intent with which massage is given, the selection of techniques used, the condition of the client and the frequency of sessions. Myotherapy describes muscle therapy or, as I like to explain it, the therapist exercising the muscle for the client. It is a form of manual therapy focussing on the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal pain. The term is not just a technique taught at a particular school but was originally used in the 1970’s by Bonnie Prudden to describe a specific type of trigger point therapy which she developed following earlier research and studies into pain and from myofascial trigger points. Used today, the term myotherapy incorporates a wider range of techniques including massage, joint mobilization, therapeutic stretching, exercise, postural advice and, most important for me, education. 

Demonstrating a few appropriate exercises to the owner that they can do with their dog to stretch and mobilise appropriate joints and muscles can then be their ‘homework’ to build on the therapy session with me and maintain the mobility until the next session. These exercises don’t have to be expensive with lots of kit. They can be simple walking, sitting or standing exercises. Our Sam loves the beach and loves digging in the sand. This is a great free exercise that is under my control. When I think he has had enough, I take the ball away. But while he is digging he is exercising his shoulders, back and rear leg muscles…..and it is free and fun. 

There are also days when we deliver one to one or group training sessions. These are great fun and allow the academic in me to resurface. The day always starts with a game and I ensure the session is not just a lecture but interactive and hands on. Those days in the life of a canine massage therapist can be hard work but very rewarding. Seeing a frisky boisterous puppy turn into a slumbering snoring dog in a couple of hours of being massaged by their owner can’t fail to make me smile. Or an older dog who struggles in but leaves with softer fur, a wagging tail plus an owner who is happy that they can now help their dog themselves. 

One thing that is always constant in my daily life though, is my own dogs. I never forget the reason why I started AchyPaw Canine Massage, which was to help our Sarah. Every night, she and her brother Sam, sit either side of me on the floor and have their daily treatment. Instead of being petted now by stroking, they get therapy. Not always intensive or long, but always some kneading, some effleurage, some stretching, all of which result in smiling faces and “Don’t stop now Dad” stamps of their paws. 

Is this the best thing I have ever done? Most certainly. The best job in the world"

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Looking through the eyes of love

As much as I love research, there are many that make me think “I already knew that” but it is good to read things that have now been proven scientifically. This recent piece of research is another one that seems to support the coevolution of human-dog bonding by engaging common modes of communicating social attachment. 

The latest piece of I-told-you-so was published in the journal Science and revealed ways in which humans and dogs bond with each other by looking into each other’s eyes. Japanese animal behaviourists (Nagasawa et al of Azabu University published here) found that interaction between dogs and their owners, especially by eye contact, raises levels of oxytocin in both the human and dog brains. Oxytocin is a very powerful hormone commonly referred to as the ‘love hormone’ since when we hug or kiss a loved one, the levels of oxytocin go up. And when the hormone elicits this caring behaviour, then the levels go even higher causing a looping effect. Because of this effect, it is said to play a big role in pair bonding. 

Although it had already been found that oxytocin bonding occurs in other mammals, too, (interesting fact –Prairie voles, one of nature's most monogamous species, produce tons and tons of oxytocin) humans were thought to be unique in using eye contact as part of this cycle. But now it has been shown that domesticated dogs and humans share the same effect. When the research team tested hand-reared wolves (which tend to be undomesticated), they found no such effect, and wolves spent little time gazing into their owners' eyes. 

The study is surprising to many who work on animal behaviour, as eye contact, especially staring or gazing, is typically viewed as threatening. However, a gaze shared between a dog and their human owner produces quite different results than one between two dogs. The team suggested that early domesticated dogs began unknowingly and unintentionally utilizing a mechanism meant for bonding a human parent with their child. Because those ancestor dogs benefited from the behaviour, the trait was passed on. 

If, like us, you tend to humanize your dogs, this piece of research gets even more scary. They found that that if they sprayed either oxytocin or a placebo into 27 dogs' noses in a randomised experiment, female dogs that received the hormone spent more time staring longingly at their owners, and oxytocin levels also rose in those people. So your girl dog really does look at Mum or Dad more longingly! Our Sarah will never go over that piece of research. 

There is a sweet little video from New Scientist on YouTube here which describes what we already knew. 

A study in 2012 showed that, in humans, giving a massage also helps to raise oxytocin levels ( So for the perfect double bond, giving your dog a massage and gazing lovingly into their eyes (probably not both at the same time as that could make for an awkward massage technique) the bond will be strengthened even more. We have actually noticed that often, when one of us massages Sam or Sarah, they frequently gaze at the other of us. Clever dogs! They get one oxytocin boost from the massaging Dad and another from the other Dad.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Further canine massage workshops : Next Steps and Warm-up / Cool-down routines

Last weekend we delivered our first “Next Steps” workshop which included a warm-up / cool-down routine. This added an extra 9 massage techniques to the 8 that were taught in the Introduction workshops. One of these moves was a move unique to us which we have called the "AchyPaws, Play & Stay technique" in homage to Paws, Play and Stay for hosting us.

That gives everyone a huge toolkit of techniques that they can now use on their dogs. We also included a demonstration and knowledge of a routine for warming up and cooling for everyday or specifically for sports. And to add to the bundle we included some revision of passive movements, joints and bones and a brand new active stretch technique. Not bad value for two workshops.

As usual we started with an interactive game. To assist with revision and see what everyone had remembered we started with the Post-It game but this time it was joints and bones.

It was Skye’s third time in the class so she resolutely lay down enduring the sticking.

Skye with her 'joints and bones'

It was first time for Little Millie and Big Disney but both behaved incredibly well as their joints and bones were stuck on.

Millie has an expression like "Dad...I'm only small.  I'm covered now"

Disney's first time with the Post-It game

During the event all sorts of lightbulb moments went off. We found a previously undiscovered trigger point on one dog, we found an area on another which caused a back leg to flick when the rear leg and lumbar muscles were massaged (possibly due to 'sticky' fascia or simply to muscle tension) and also discussed how the new active stretch could really benefit the Cani-Sports dogs.

Discussion time at the end (note all the chilled dogs)

We received some great feedback. Gary, the owner of Paws, Play & Stay Dog Hotel wrote “Furthering our knowledge and benefitting our dogs is what it is all about. The difference in Milly over the last 4 months is so noticeable - her feel, movement and recovery all affected with positive noticeable impacts, this transfers over on all of the dogs we lay our hands on in both massage sessions and just in general bonding in daycare Paws Play & Stay. Today's activity of warm up, cool down and further techniques has cemented the basic fundamentals and given me yet more substantial tools to benefit my dog's health and the relationship I have with them. Most noticeably for me is the enjoyable calming effect and bonding on both myself and the dogs I interact with. The valuable tools to take care of daily the impacts on our canine friends cannot be underestimated from diet, training and interrelationship bonding to recovery from injuries and maintaining a healthy dog. I cannot thank AchyPaw & Massage by Chris enough for your time and professional approach to Canine Massage."

And from one of the owners : "Great day today and all the dogs were really well behaved! Disney is still chilling even now Les, he went out on a double walk (first with Skye then puppy Toby) and has spent the rest of the day completely zonked! I am just about to see if Toby will let me do a bedtime massage so we have a quiet night!"

So another very worthwhile session. We are looking forward to our continuing relationship with Paws, Play & Stay.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Massage training for Guide Dogs and their owners

A few months ago I had a training session with Sue and her GuideDog Zara. She has been singing my praises and organised several of her friends to come and learn the best ways for a partially sighted person to massage their own dog.

We had cleared out AchyPaw HQ to accommodate the four owners and dogs who were due to arrive and went to meet them all at the bus stop. Immediately I was presented with the daily difficulties a partially sighted or blind person has to face. Walking up to our house there were lots of A Boards outside shops and cafes, bollards, seats, people and all sorts of things we sighted people take for granted that we can avoid. The owners had complete trust in their dogs to navigate the way through all these obstacles.

Once we had arrived, we released the dogs from their harnesses and they immediately became happy, bouncy, excited puppies. We had dogs racing round our house and garden sniffing, chewing, playing and generally being dogs.

Getting ready for the session

Princess Debbie had her own special mat

After a short while of this play activity, we got the dogs back and started the session with the Dot To Dot method that I had used before (borrowed from Natalie Lenton of the Canine Massage Therapy Centre) so the owners could learn to recognise what goes where on their dog.

We then took the owners through 8 massage moves that they could use daily on their dogs for general relaxation, if performed slowly, or for warming-up before their free-runs, if performed more rapidly.

As with Sue, the owners picked everything up in no time at all.

All in AchyPaw HQ

Professor Thomas enjoying his massage

Zara having a great time

Dogs everywhere

Bassey in bliss with his owner's technique

As the session went on, and their owners became more confident, the Guide Dogs became more chilled. But as soon as we had finished the routine and they knew it was all over, they reverted to play mode again emptying out our dog’s toy box, playing tug with one of Chris’s socks, throwing the draft excluders around as well as demolishing several litres of water and wee-ing in every available space in our garden (which kept our Sam and Sarah amused for hours when they returned home later that day).

We received lots of thank yous and goodbyes from all the dogs after the session.

Thomas gets an extra massage from Chris

Thomas says goodbye to me

And thank you too Thomas

Princess Debbie says thanks too

We ended the day with a final photo call of all the dogs waiting for their treat and in a line.

It's a treat Dr first, me me me

Bassey, smiling Debbie, Thomas and Zara

That had to be one of the best days, if not THE best day, of my new AchyPaw career. I look forward to hearing how they all get along and meeting them again.