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Canine University 71 Clinton St. Malden, MA

Have a Great Dog!

Natural Health Corner: The Body Wrap, and it's Benefits for Building Confidence and Coordination

Last month, Canine University hosted Karen Thurlow Kimball for an exciting half day workshop on Tellington Touch. Karen gave us a very informative structural evaluation of each dog and explained that the way a dog moves depends on the way they are put together. She made some interesting observations relating to how a dog's conformation can determine his increased risk of strain and injury or his overall body confidence and clumsiness.

Karen recommends something called a body wrap to help dogs become more aware of how their bodies move and become more confident in general. Most dogs are not aware of the back half of their body, especially their rear legs and feet. If you take your dog for long hikes or play a dog sport you may have found that they are clumsy with their hind end or find it difficult to balance themselves. It could be that yours is the dog that hates to try anything new and is hesitant about walking on different textured surfaces or climbing up or down the stairs. The general body wrap uses an ace bandage that is roughly six inches wide (use two tied together for large dogs). Take the wrap and place the knot where you have tied them together on the dog's chest. Take both ends and crisscross them over the dog's back, around and under the dog's belly and over the rump. Tie the remainder in a bow on top of the dog's rump. Make sure the knot is not resting on a bone, but instead twists off to the side.

Having your dog wear this wrap for an hour at a time can help calm him when he is nervous or give him confidence when he is meeting new people. Some people find that the body wrap has a calming effect on a nervous dog right before a thunder storm. The effect of the wrap is much like wearing a ace bandage on your ankle: it supports that area of your body and helps you move more confidently. When you take the ace bandage off, you still feel where it made a bit of an impression on your skin and still feel it's support even when you are not wearing it. The body wrap works similarly in that it helps the dog to be more aware of his body and feel that his front half is connected to his rear half. This in and of itself sometimes helps dogs to be more confident and want to try new things. For a not so confident dog, you might try wrapping him and teaching him to carefully negotiate the rungs of a ladder laying on it's side.

During the workshop we set up a small labyrinth for the dogs to negotiate using pieces of pvc tubing and foam noodles (like the kind kids use in the water) and practiced trying to get the dogs to negotiate the course by helping them pay attention to both their front and rear feet. Another tip Karen gave us for helping a dog to negotiate where his feet are, is to put terry cloth pony tail holders on the dog's paws, so that they rested right about where his ankle or wrist would be. This tip in particular really helped my German Shepherd, Stryker, gain more confidence and precision about where he placed his feet. We did an exercise with Stryker where we put the weave poles on their side so that one end of the pole rested on the ground, while the other end (the base of the pole ) was in the air about six inches or so. As we walked him back and forth his front and rear left legs had to step high, while his right front and rear legs did not. This was hard for him at first and he nicked his toes a lot and was pretty clumsy. After putting the hair ties on his feet he started to settle down a bit and became more aware or where his feet were. He started lifting his feet so that he was no longer banging his toes and was even willing to go faster now that he knew where his feet were. For dogs that are not very aware of where there feet are imagine how terrified they must be to walk on slippery surfaces or negotiate a set of steep stairs. If your dog is one that is experiencing confidence problems or is clumsy (like Stryker) try these tips to see if they help you make your dog a more confident and adventurous companion. For more information on Tellington Touch, Karen recommended a new book called Getting In TTouch With Your Dog, by Linda Tellington-Jones, $16.95.

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