Some practical advice...
dogs are expected to run flat out, jump, twist and climb at speed almost the canine
equivalent of a hurdler or gymnast. However, unlike the human athlete, many agility dogs are
not suitably warmed up prior to exercise. They are often confined in the car or crate, and may
go straight into the queue for their class and run with little or no advanced
inevitably increases the risk of injury and also prevents dogs from performing at their best.
Animal therapist Liz Harris explains how you can prepare your dog for agility work and how to
tell if your dog needs to see a therapist.
It is widely accepted that warming up reduces the risk of injury to muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. A warm up plan including exercise, massage and stretching is a great way to help your dog. It is also important to cool your dog down after exercise, rather than putting them straight back into the crate.
Some benefits of warm-up are:-
Warm up for agility can include:-
Some benefits of cool-down are:-
Cool-down after agility can include:-
If your dog does become injured there are an array of physical treatments available, with many practitioners across the country. If your dog is obviously lame it is important to take them to a vet, but more subtle signs of injury or compensation may indicate a problem which can be successfully rectified by a qualified professional therapist. Popular treatments include McTimoney, Osteopathy, Massage, Reiki, Bowen, TTouch and Shiatsu.
Regular maintenance sessions can also reduce the risk of injury occurring in the first place. Please note: Veterinary authorisation must be obtained prior to any type of therapy treatment.
So, how do you know if your dog requires treatment?
Symptoms can include:-
Fore limb Extension
Press gently on the dog's elbow and extend the leg forward until the toe points
Fore limb Retraction
Support the shoulder joint with one hand and with the other, gently ease the lower leg back towards the back leg as show. Ideally take the limb a little further than shown.
Hind limb Retraction
Support the paw with one hand. With the other press gently on the knee and encourage the limb to straighten.
Hind limb Extension
Gently ease the the hindleg forward towards the front paw. A lot of dogs find this difficult and may require support with your free hand on the buttock
Reduced performance i.e. slower times than usual, knocking poles
Running under jumps or avoiding certain obstacles
Loss of interest in training which can manifest as an apparently naughty dog!
Avoiding play with other dogs or becoming aggressive towards other dogs
Crying out when getting up after lying down
Difficulty climbing stairs / jumping into cars
Showing discomfort when stroked along the back
Failure to resolve the problem using conventional methods
The final piece of advice to give is to enjoy your dogs, and enjoy agility!
Liz Harris is a McTimoney, Sports Massage, Laser and Reiki therapist based in Richmond, North Yorkshire. She has experience treating a wide range of dogs and other animals, and also provides training in Reiki and in basic massage techniques for horses and dogs.
The model for the photos is her collie cross, Maisy, with whom she attends agility training classes with SAS Dog Agility and enters the odd fun competition.
For more information see www.lizharris.co.uk