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Each year Jean Davidson works her Shiatsu magic on new and returning handlers and their dogs around the agility circuit in Scotland. She has noticed that quite a few of the dog problems would seem to be related to the handler as well as the dog as if they were being transferred down though an invisible lead. She explains how it works...
Shiatsu is a holistic therapy which takes into account the whole person or dog - what is going on in their life, work and play and how the environment they live in effects how they are. One of the many benefits of Shiatsu sessions is becoming more aware of our own body and how our life impacts on our health. The same is relevant to our relationship with our dogs.
In the West, our doctors and vets work with the symptoms we present, prescribing proven medication to cure the problem. A Shiatsu practitioner's role is to work with clients to help them by looking at their whole situation to find the root cause, if possible, and then work together remove it. For example, it may be the handler's competitiveness that is putting pressure on the agility dog, causing the worry or anxiety. Raising awareness of this the handler can work to find a way of avoiding this going down the lead improving the handler/dog connection. Nine times out of ten this leads to improved performance.
The most usual complaint is 'My dog keeps taking down poles. I don't understand why.'
When I examine the dog, I often find either an anxious dog with tight shoulders who is taking down poles with its front legs or a dog that worries about everything that is going on and takes down poles down with its hind legs.
Why you might ask?
Now change your thoughts to being afraid, a bit anxious, what happens to your body you tighten your kidney area, bring your back down and tense your shoulders to fight off whatever the problem is. What happens to you? You get a headache, tense neck and shoulders feel very ‘up tight' so do the dogs therefore when they take off to jump they don't lift their front legs properly taking poles down as they approach the jumps. Relaxation is needed this time the shoulders, neck and kidney area.
Most of the dogs I work with belong to agility competitors. However, I do have the occasional vet referral which I treat in the same way, gathering information about the whole dog (occasional cat and recently a pony) to find out what has happened in the past that could have triggered the problem. As Shiatsu works to relax the soft tissue, it allows the skeletal systems to realign naturally. This is the area where I receive vet referrals as this is not their specialism. For example, elderly dogs with stiff joints can be assisted with gentle stretches and joint opening to maintain good circulation. Younger dogs with tendonitis and unknown causes for lameness have improved quicker with Shiatsu treatments.
How it works
When the body is relaxed, it can start to heal itself. Take breathing for example. Occasional deep breaths provide much needed oxygen to the muscles, improving aches and pains and giving that sense of wellbeing. I've found this is the same in both people and dogs. In The Well-connected Dog by Amy Snow & Nancy Zidonis, they say,
My three study years concentrated on work with people. My family dogs also enjoyed me practising on them. This led me to use Shiatsu for dogs as my final year dissertation. From there, I went on to include work with dogs and ultimately I set up in business.
In both people and dogs working to open shoulders making space for the scapula to move freely releasing stuck ki, improving circulation to deep muscles. This opens the chest area aiding breathing, lowering shoulders and releasing tension and toxins in the whole area. This makes people and dogs relax and feel good. For people getting to know how the body feels when relaxed is important then they can realise when the body is out of balance under stress.
Short case studies
Some examples of agility dogs and people I have treated include:-
My background in training and development has led me to the next step, developing courses for handlers to explore Shiatsu for Dogs. The sessions enable handlers to work with their own dog, building an important connection between them. I also have a course for Shiatsu practitioners (people and equine) to enable transfer of skills and knowledge to working with dogs.
If you would like any further information about this or anything else that my article has raised contact details can be found on my website or visit me at one of the 2011 events details also on website. It is, however, important to remember that if your dog is unwell, you must visit your vet first. Shiatsu is a complementary therapy and not a substitute for the vet. It works to complement the veterinary practise not replace it.
Dogs have always been part of Jean life even when she was a wee girl. When she married it was 'love me. love my dog. The dog happened to be a Cairn terrier. Since then, her family always includes more that one canine pal - first Cairn terriers, then border collies and German Shepherd Dogs (GSD). At present she has two Border Collies (aged 15 and 6) and a GSD (almost 2). She has been attending agility training since the GSD was 14 months old, but they have haven't yet made it to competitions - maybe later this year.
Jean's daughter-in-law is an agility handler so she tapped in to the circuit in 2004 and continue to take Shiatsu to dogs and handlers at agility events from April – August each year around the East of Scotland. In 2007, people began asking if she would run workshops to help them work with their own dogs. Using her background in training and development, Jean designed three courses that she runs from home or at other suitable venues.
The courses are:-
Learn about Shiatsu and help improve the connection between you and your dog.
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