A balanced approach to fitness in dogs

The name of my canine massage practice is The Balanced Dog.  Balance is important to many aspects of our lives as well as the lives of our dogs.

When I interview owners who come into my practice for the first time, we discuss all aspects of their dog’s history and health before I massage their dog.  That’s because I want to see how the dog feels, but in context of what I know about their history.

For example, for an owner with a dog that competes in agility, they will think their dog is fit because it ‘runs around like a maniac’ with a ‘desire to win.’  But they aren’t winning and that is why they end up at my door.

This is when I explain that for dogs of any age, there are different components to fitness – described in the chart below.

The individual components of dog fitness

Their agility dog may be strong, but perhaps they are lacking in body awareness or balance – and so that’s where we will concentrate on exercises to improve these aspects of fitness.

For an elderly dog, we will want to ensure good flexibility (where massage and stretching come in) and exercise that is within the bounds of what the dog can tolerate.  ‘Stamina’ is age and breed dependent, for example.

By the way, these aspects are also useful when considering your own fitness.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

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