Putting it into practice, our first workshop…

June 16, 2017 7:04 pm

For the past few months, as you may know, I have been visiting dog training and agility clubs giving talks on the subject of veterinary physiotherapy. It has been wonderful to hear all about your dogs and your experiences with physiotherapy. So much so, that it got us thinking about whether there was any way that we could meet your furry friends. So, on Sunday 4th June, in collaboration with Pet Necessities, we ran our very first canine physiotherapy workshop.




The main aims of this 2-hour workshop are to firstly coach pet carers in massage techniques and secondly to teach strengthening exercises. This is all done with the dog’s individual treatment needs in mind, and all attendees at the workshop need to have a vet referral beforehand.

Our enthusiastic pet carers learning the skills

Three very handsome chaps attended our first workshop:

Theo (a super chilled out Labrador, who had previously broken a back leg and whilst rehabilitated at the time, still has some ongoing issues)

Charlie (a very fine-looking Jack Russell cross with some ongoing niggles in his back leg)

Yala (a very regal deerhound who has had one of his front toes removed)

I started the workshop by taking it back to basics with some classroom training on canine anatomy. I think that all of the pet carers in the room were surprised to learn that dogs do not have collar bones. By having disconnected shoulder bones however, it allows our canine friends to achieve a greater stride length -which helps them with their running and jumping. They are definitely not disadvantaged in any way by missing out on a couple of collar bones!

We then moved onto the hands-on massage, where I coached the pet carers on how to develop the most effective technique. This included tips on how to work with the muscles, how to find the ideal intensity and how to identify the knots that might be hiding away.

Pet carers had a chance to practice their hands-on skills under my supervision

As a species, dogs are amazingly receptive to massage, and it was definitely apparent that all of the boys were enjoying it. It is well documented that massage, in all recipients, releases endorphins, slows heart rate and lowers blood pressure. It was not long before the whole room became very calm and tranquil with the odd snores escaping from the lads.

“Theo is loving being the recipient of daily massage!!! Kim’s teaching style was fantastic. I really enjoyed the class. Thanks again.” (Emily)

After we managed to wake the dogs up from their massages, we then moved onto strengthening exercises. Strengthening exercises are invaluable for muscle development which helps to support bones and joints, and in the second half of the workshop I put the dogs through their paces, which they all undertook with great joy. I think that the supply of treats may have helped with the enthusiasm!

For Charlie and Theo, who have some problems with their back legs, doggie squats were the primary exercise we focussed on. Doggie squats are essentially sit-to-stands. To get the optimal benefit, I suggest doing a number of these in a row. I would recommend aiming for around 10 in succession, but if you are starting this as a new regime, then you may need to build them up day-by-day. They are truly brilliant for building up back legs. For Yala, where we were aiming to strengthen his front legs, I focussed more on doggie press-ups. Doggie press-ups are sit-to-lies, or in Yala’s case stand-to-lies (he is a deerhound afterall!). Again, to get optimal benefit, a number of these in a row is the ideal approach.

Yala showing us how it’s done!

All of the boys took to their exercises brilliantly, and so for the last section we moved on to wobble boards. Wobble boards are a great way to take exercises to the next level, but should only be done once your dog is totally comfortable with the exercises on stable ground. However, I don’t think that it will be long before our workshop superstars will be there, so we gave it a little try. They were all very receptive, especially Charlie who was in his element!

Charlie was having a great time!

At the end of the 2 hours, I think that we all agreed that we had had lots of fun with much laughter, snoring (only from the dogs!) and enthusiastic tail wags.

A massive thank you to Sarah at Pet Necessities for coordinating the event, to the wonderful pet-carers for bringing huge enthusiasm and energy, and to the stars of the show, Yala, Charlie and Theo for being the perfect patients. I’m looking forward to hearing about their progress over the coming weeks.

Remember that we are always looking to spread the word so if you are involved with a dog training or agility club and would like to know more about booking a talk or workshop with us, please drop me a line at kim@theralph.vet. We also have a new private Facebook group (The Ralph Physio and Rehab Community). Please do send us a request to join the group where we discuss all things veterinary physiotherapy – we would love to have you join us.

Thanks as always for reading,

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