The benefits of canine conditioning
Exercise has both physical and psychological benefits for dogs. Dogs that undertake a canine conditioning program have better cardiovascular function, core strength, proprioception (balance and body awareness), flexibility and strength than their sedentary colleagues.A canine conditioning program will also be mentally challenging for your dog, providing much needed mental stimulation for your dog (and you!) as they get to grips with sometimes challenging new skills.
Injury prevention in dogs
Critically, a canine conditioning program has been shown to both improve the performance of working and sporting dogs as well as helping to prevent injuries. When injuries do occur, they tend to be less severe and recovery is faster, which has to be good news all round.
So what’s involved in a canine conditioning program?
Every canine conditioning program begins with an assessment of the dog to ensure that it is fit to undertake the program. By the end of the assessment we’ll have a good idea of your dog’s relative strengths and weaknesses.Once this part is complete it’s on with the six week program where we cover the basic canine conditioning elements of balance; mental stimulation; flexibility; core strength and strength.It’s great fun and the dogs love it as it’s genuinely mentally challenging for them.
A word about safety
It’s unfortunate that a number of dangerous practices have become common as people try to build core strength in their dogs. Instability equipment such as wobble boards and peanut balls are common and many people have taught their dogs to ‘sit pretty’ in the mistaken belief that this will build core strength, little realising that the dog’s facet joints in the back are I’ll equipped to deal with this exercise.The simple reality is that there are many well meaning individuals out there who have a poor understanding of dog physiology who are mindlessly promoting these practices. However, there is emerging evidence that these activities can have a detrimental effect on your dog or are, at best, ineffective.Rest assured that there are plenty of safe and effective exercises to build all round fitness in your dog.
As a licensed instructor with the Canine Conditioning Academy, I am uniquely placed to take you through the fantastic canine conditioning program.Contact me today to find out how you and your dog can get involved. Telephone 07842 153831Email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the second part of a two part blog, I explore what immediate steps you can take if the worst comes to the worst and your dog strains or tears a muscle and what you can do in the longer term to prevent these painful injuries from occurring.
What to do if you suspect your dog has torn a muscle.
- Don’t panic! Ok, so that bit’s easier said than done and if your dog suddenly goes lame or doesn’t seem their normal selves, it’s quite natural to panic. The good news is that there are some simple steps you can immediately put into place to help your dog.
- Rest. The acute or really painful phase of a muscle strain lasts for approximately 72 hours or about three days. During this time, the injury is extremely painful and it is critical to rest during this time as the dog can easily injure themselves further. It is important to note that that the dog may be unwilling to rest but it is important that you, as a responsible owner, enforce this in their behalf.
- Ice can have a transformative impact on a muscle strain. If you apply ice to the affected area it will reduce swelling and ease the pain. Initially you can apply it for up to 10 minutes every hour during the first 72 hours. Please avoid heat though. Contrary to popular belief it won’t assist in reducing inflammation one little bit.
- Ok, so this one is a bit controversial but I would definitely consider a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory in the first 72 hours. Why? Because if you’ve ever experienced a muscular strain yourself you will appreciate just how painful and debilitating they can be. Anti-inflammatories prescribed by your vet (and I wouldn’t recommend you using anything else) like Rymadil and Metacam don’t get a great press because, just like Ibuprofen in humans,they can have some quite unpleasant side effects. However, I’m not suggesting for a minute that you put your dog on these long term or any longer than 3 days. What I am suggesting is that whilst your dog is experiencing the intense pain of a muscular strain, they will almost certainly appreciate some help getting through this. After the first three days I would not continue with this as intense pain will subside. The remaining pain does have a useful function in curbing your dog’s exuberant behaviour that might cause further damage
- Monitor your dog. If you don’t see an improvement after 72 hours please consult your vet. The symptoms you are seeing might indicate an orthopaedic or other issue or, in rare cases, muscular strains can require surgery.
- Consult a canine massage therapist after the first 72 hours have elapsed. As a muscular strain, which is essentially a tear in the muscle, has begun healing scar tissue will naturally form. This is all part of the healing process. However, this scar tissue can cause inflexibility in the muscle and over time this can restrict mobility. Your canine massage therapist can friction out the scar tissue and stretch your dog’s muscle, restoring the natural range of movement and function of the muscle. The earlier you can get your dog to me, the more I can do to help it.
Preventing muscular strains in dogs
So we’ve looked at what to do if your dog is unlucky enough to sustain a muscular strain but we all know that prevention is better than cure. So what can you do to safeguard your dog against injuries of this type.
Fortunately there is a lot you can do:
- Always warm your dog up correctly prior to physical exercise. I go through this in detail in my Canine Conditioning courses but the warm up is designed to ensure that the dog’s muscles are warm and the rest of the body is prepared for exercise.
- Future proof your dog. By making sure that your dog has a strong core, is flexible, coordinated and strong, you will be minimising it’s risk of becoming injured. Again, I cover this in detail on my Canine Conditioning course which is based on the latest scientific research and does not use potentially unsafe equipment like wobble boards.
- Know when you’re overdoing things with your dog. Your dog will chase a ball until the point of exhaustion and many agility dogs will quite literally run themselves into the ground. Your responsibility as an owner is to ensure that your dog doesn’t injure itself by overdoing things. A high drive dog coupled with a high drive owner can be a recipe for disaster, with neither knowing when to stop. In this scenario, mild injuries can quickly become serious injuries. Rest is as important to fitness as exercise. Take it from me that your dog will not be monitoring this. If you want a strong, fit, durable dog, this is something you will need to take responsibility for.
To book onto the next Canine Conditioning course or to book a Canine Massage Therapy session please leave me a message at the end of this blog or text or ring me on 07842 153831.