With the return of warmer weather, your dog will be more active than he was during the winter. Here’s how physical conditioning, along with acupressure, can help get him fit for spring, and reduce the risk of injury.
Dogs know when spring is in the air. They want to run, play, and stretch their bodies as the weather warms. Perhaps your dog is also involved in a canine sport such as agility or flyball, activities that require running, twisting, jumping and pivoting. But if your dog doesn’t get as much exercise during the winter, a sudden increase in activity in the spring can lead to injury. Along with careful incremental conditioning, stimulating common acupressure points can offer your dog to help him avoid an early-season injury.
Physical conditioning for dogs
Conditioning takes time, and different parts of the dog’s body will condition at different times. Muscles are the first to build. Cardiovascular conditioning occurs next. This is followed by the strengthening of the tendons, and then the ligaments.
An individualized conditioning regimen needs to be designed for each dog in relation to his conformation and particular sport. Training programs will depend on his age, breed, weight, and current general fitness level.
Physiologists specializing in canine exercise usually recommend that a dog begin conditioning with successive short runs in a straight line; in other words, run 50 to 100 yards, stop, walk, run another 50 to 100 yards, and so on. By traveling in a straight line on a surface with good traction, the dog’s muscles and tendons are allowed to strengthen while not being overly stressed.
The next step is to progress to running on uneven terrain with incrementally increased levels of turning and pivoting. This builds well-toned muscles and increases flexibility of tendons and ligaments. Exercise experts advise doing a warm-up before strenuous exercise, and a cool-down afterwards. Remember to make water available for the dog before and after physical activity.
Watch for fatigue and any indication of pain. A dog will naturally shift his body weight or alter his gait to compensate for tired muscles or pain, thus compromising other parts of his body. It’s when the body is even slightly off-balance that injuries often occur. Veterinary sports medicine practitioners report that the most common canine orthopedic injuries are repetitive stress injuries caused when the dog is tired but naturally driven to continue.
How acupressure enhances your dog’s conditioning
The ancient healing art of acupressure supports the canine conditioning process. Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupressure helps with the following:
- Building flexibility in tendons and ligaments
- Decreasing inflammation in soft tissues and joints
- Strengthening and warming muscles by supplying necessary nutrients
- Relieving muscle spasms by establishing a smooth flow of energy and blood
- Removing toxins from an injured area while replenishing it with healthy cells
- Reducing the painful build-up of lactic acid in the muscles by increasing blood circulation.
Acupressure reduces the painful build-up of lactic acid in the muscles by increasing blood circulation.
Canine conditioning acupressure session
Acupressure points are little energetic pools on the body. We can use these points to access and influence the flow of energy in the dog’s body. By doing so, we can optimize his conditioning program. The following four acupressure points, also called “acupoints”, are commonly used while building a dog’s condition toward peak performance. (If you’re new to acupressure, here’s how to perform a session:
- Always have two hands on the dog.
- Place the soft tip of your thumb on the acupoint identified on the chart (see page xx) and exert light pressure. For smaller dogs, it may be more comfortable to use your index finger instead of your thumb.
- Rest your other hand comfortably on the dog’s body.
- Stay on each acupoint for a slow count to 20 and then move to the next point.
- Remember that all these acupoints are located on both sides of the dog’s body. Once you complete the series on one side, do the same on the other side.
Dogs express the movement and harmonious flow of energy they’re experiencing by yawning, stretching, passing air, rolling over, licking in general, licking your hand on the point, or sometimes just breathing more deeply and falling asleep. If your dog shows any signs of distress or pain while you are applying light pressure to an acupoint, stop and try again some other time.
Acupressure points are little energetic pools on the body.
1. Bladder 17 (Bl 17) is a powerful acupoint that enhances the flow of blood throughout the body. Cardiovascular health is the key to all biomechanical functions in the body. Good blood circulation means all the tissues receive nourishment so that healthy cells can form, while lactic acid and toxic substances are removed. It’s the continuous cycle of replenishment and removal that makes for the strengthening and building of muscles, tendons and ligaments.
2. Gall Bladder 34 (GB 43) is commonly used to facilitate the flexibility of tendons and ligaments. By maximizing this flexibility, the movement and weight-bearing capacity of the joints increase.
3. Spleen 6 (Sp 6) is often used to nourish the muscles and other soft tissues. Good muscle tone is dependent on nutrient-rich blood. Sp 6 is known for its ability to enhance the circulation of blood and the absorption of nutrients.
4. Stomach 36 (St 36) is the Master Point for the gastrointestinal tract. It helps convert food substances into refined, bio-absorbable nutrients to be circulated in the blood. Additionally, this point is known for its ability to contribute to a dog’s overall physical endurance.
By giving your dog this acupressure session every four to five days, along with physical conditioning, he will have an easier time getting back into action this spring without injury.
Amy Snow is one of the authors of ACU-DOG: A Guide to Canine Acupressure, ACU-CAT: A Guide to Feline Acupressure, and ACU-HORSE: A Guide to Equine Acupressure. They founded Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Resources, which offers books, manuals, online training courses, DVDs, apps, meridian charts, consulting, and many more acupressure learning tools and opportunities. Email: tallgrass@animalacupressure