I attended a movement markers workshop last month for professional development. It was very eye opening. So many dogs are walking around with a little hitch in their giddy up or just not moving as fluidly as they should.
I picked up a variety of educational tips that I hope to share with clients in classes and lessons.
Tip 1 – work on handling your puppies as soon as you get them home. Hopefully your breeder is also doing this between birth and 8-10 weeks when you pick up your puppy. Touch them all over. Use meal times to get them comfortable with handling, holding and restraint. Go slow and use brushes, nail files, nail tapping with clippers, blow dryers and the sounds of a Dremel. The more that your puppies get used to this the better their experience will be at the vet and groomer. Practice muzzling your puppy. If it becomes a fun game, they will play every time.
As a side note, your puppy/adult dog will get a more thorough vet check if they can be touched and handled all over. And your groomer will appreciate you even more.
Tip 2- dogs benefit from both western and eastern medicine. Search out massage therapists, chiropractic and acupuncture professionals for your pet in addition to regular vet visits. If you have an active dog that plays, wrestles or competes, it is not uncommon for their joints to become out of alignment and a good chiropractic session or dog body work session can alleviate stress and pain.
As a side note, dogs act out when they are in pain. They can become aggressive or reactive on leash so taking time to thoroughly massage and touch your dog a few times a week is critical to catch any injuries. Early detection = early intervention. Muscle stiffness can impact behavior. Dogs that are tight and walking on tip toes can project aggression without realizing it.
Tip 3 – Dogs that are sore in the front can lead to human aggression and dogs that are sore in the back can lead to dog/dog aggression. Many dogs that walk on flexi leads and harnesses are walking time bombs with all the pulling.
As a side note- I am not opposed to flexi leads or harnesses IF they are used appropriately and safely. They are not my first choice in training aids but they are a resource in my toolbox.
Tip 4- What you feed your dog can impact their behavior and ability to retain training commands. Do your research when it comes to food and treats for your dog. Make sure they maintain a healthy weight and find foods that have the proper fat/protein ratio for your dog’s needs. There are some great websites where you can evaluate your foods (dogfoodadvisor.com) or check with a local holistic pet supply store.
As a side note – just because a food is heavily marketed and advertised doesn’t make it the best food. And just because it is the most expensive doesn’t make it the best food either. The higher the quality of food, the more your dog will retain for their mind and body.
Tip 5 – How a dog moves can provide a direct correlation to areas that are sore or weak within your dog. The best way to help your vet is to video your dog while moving and show that to your vet. Point out limping or any areas of concern on your dog.
As a side note – many times your dogs are stoic at the vet and they can’t find any injuries unless they x-ray or do CT scans. Showing them a video of the issue will help in detecting any problems and the best treatment options.
Tip 6 – Every interaction with your dog is a learning and a training experience for your dog. As a trainer we learn a lot by watching how you let them out of the car, how they behave when we come in the house, if you apply corrections when needed and what you allow your dog to get away with.
As a side note – I am a balanced trainer so I will make every effort to reward dogs for good choices and effort, however, I will also correct firmly but fairly when needed. My gift to my dog is leadership so I can help them learn how to be successful.
Tip 7 – Your body language speaks volumes to a dog. Examples include standing straight, using special pressure, breathing, how you speak to your dog (telling vs asking), how you communicate to your dog, etc.
As a side note: There are certain ways to hold the leash that indicate what you expect from the dog and how to help manage them when they need help.
Tip 8 – Dogs want to have a dialogue with you, not a monologue.
As a side note – respect the growl, respect the head turn or snap if you are pressing on their body and it hurts. That is information you need to help them to feel better. That is the only way they have to communicate to you. Use it wisely.
Tip 9 – Nail trimming is so so important. Movement is a natal language for dogs. Motion should be fluid. Dogs build movement memory with correct foot falls. If their nails are too long, their foot will not fall correctly and will lead to strains, sprains and potential injuries. Basically they are walking on their tip toes.
As a side note – work on their nails DAILY. Go slow, use food, have a vet help cut them short to start and then begin building a positive association with their feet. Procrastinating or complaining is not going to fix the issue. Schedule weekly appointments if needed.
Tip 10 – Harnesses will actually do more harm than good for your dog, especially the no pull kind. Look at where the harness sits on your dogs’ chest. Most times it is compressing their shoulders and creating tension when they pull. A “Y” fitting harness is a better choice and ONLY after your dog has learned to walk calmly next to you.
As a side note – A martingale collar, well fitted regular collar or prong collar is a safer choice for walking your dog. A head halter is also an option IF the dog is not pulling to hard. Jerking with a head halter can hurt their neck muscles. Harnesses can be used once your dog is walking calmly next to you or for a specific purpose (weight pull, tracking, etc).
We hope you can benefit from these tips and I will be sharing them with clients in private lessons and group classes moving forward.