Agility Dogs

When is a training problem actually a physical problem?

Accounting for 45% of your dog’s bodyweight it’s no wonder that common muscular issues can affect a dog’s training and competition. An owner or an informed trainer may notice muscular issues in dogs manifest as performance changes such as:

– Pole knocking
– Slowing down
– Measuring
– Stutter stepping
– Change in stride
– Change in take off spot
– Change in jumping style
– Uninterested in training/distraction techniques e.g. running out of the ring
– Weave entry problems
– Contact issues
– Coat changes in the dog
– Showing preferred landing spots
– Struggling to wrap around wings
– Short turning on one side
– Struggling with two on, two off contact
– Dogs who have only just measured into their height
– Dogs returning from clinical injury
– Intermittent lameness issues
– Post operative rehabilitation e.g. cruciate ligament
– Jumping off equipment to avoid contacts
– Loss of speed and enthusiasm

How Muscle Functions: What You Need To Know.

Muscle relies on the ability to effectively contract and lengthen. However Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) causes microtrauma to the muscle which causes restrictive adhesions between the muscle fibres or muscle cells made up of strings of myofibrils and in turn sarcomeres, myofibril, myofilaments and actin and myosin. So basically using basic cross bridge theory we can acknowledge areas of tissue becoming so adhered that it can no longer slide and glide to cause efficient movement. Muscle can also be strained due to an acute trauma e.g. falling/slipping/performing before being warmed up.

When larger areas of these restrictive bands form over time they can form a trigger point; a hyperirritable band in the muscle that causes faux muscle fatigue. Persistent stress on a muscle can lead to hypertonicity. And when a muscle finally fails and becomes overstretched it can strain which is a painful tear to the muscle.

Canine Massage Therapy Aims To:

– Improve performance issues
– Rehabilitate injury
– Provide a good hands on check of your dogs muscular system
– Address areas of specific muscular dysfunction
– Correct postural or gait irregularities
– Break down restrictive adhesions
– Improve speed, performance and accuracy
– Release restricted fascia
– Improve proprioception by working directly on muscle and tendon which house the 2 main sensory neurons muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs, held in the muscle and tendon respectively, to improve function and feedback of the nervous system.
– Remodel scar tissue from the strain
– Allow tissue to return to its normal resting length
– Release trigger points
– Improve range of movement (ROM)
– Address both microtrauma and acute injuries
– Address anxiety issues due to behaviour held in the body as patterns of stored tension

Typically results are seen in 1-3 sessions. You may be advised to rest your dog for a specific time depending on the repair phase of the strain.

Many owners are surprised at the amount of muscular issues a dog harbours and canine massage therapy should not be confused with McTimoney or chiropractic although it is worth stating that both therapies work well together.

McTimoney or Veterinary Chiropractic focuses on the treatment of joints, particularly the vertebrae, addressing misalignments or subluxations that impinge on nerve roots. They will have a maximum of 1-2 days training in basic swedish massage as part of their course which is typically 2 years long as a minimum, unless stated otherwise as having taken a separate course they have not trained in massage therapy.

A Canine Massage Guild member is a Clinical Massage Therapist who focuses on the direct manipulation of the muscle and soft tissues of the body along with the 3D cobweb of connective tissue – the fascia, which provides a pathway and wrapping for nerves in the soft tissue. Massage therapy approaches the whole body and works the muscles from origin to insertion as well as working the fibre different ways depending on whether they are trying to lengthen a tissue or release adhesions and stretch fibres to create space and restore movement. They will have trained for 2 years and unless they state otherwise will not have trained in McTimoney or chiropractic.

Canine Massage addresses the whole body rather than just one area of limb so not only is the area of issue managed but also over compensatory issues.

Incorrect Warm Up, Stretches and Activities

– Massaging away from the heart e.g. towards the paws
– Pulling dog’s back legs behind them to ‘stretch them’ while they are stood up and without stabilising joints
– Wobble cushions (sustained isometric contraction increases the risk of sudden eccentric or lengthening contraction and causes muscle fatigue e.g. shaking
– Fast, uncontrolled spins
– Running cold without warm up
– Excessive tuggy/tug of war
– Too much too soon
– Insufficient rest and recovery periods

Find your dog’s registered, fully trained therapist here