The Importance of Touch for Your Agility Dog
There is a ton of stuff that goes on behind the scenes with agility dogs and some of it may seem like voodoo when you first hear about it. It is a real shame that it comes off that way, but you have to remember you are dealing with an athlete in the full sense of the word. In fact, you are an athlete and should treat yourself as such when you run a dog in dog agility.
What are some of these “fancy” terms you will hear milling about behind the competition line? Massage, chiropractic, raw food, and acupuncture, are just a few of them. For example, when I first began working with my dogs, I raised an eyebrow at canine massage in general. I do not need massage. My dog CERTAINLY does not need massage. (oh, how wrong I was on both counts…)
Sadly for me and my dog, I was under the false belief that massage was a complex, time consuming task that would involve long downs for my dog and sore knees for me. In fact, I thought it would be hours of rubbing that would wear the fur right off my poor pup or at the very least turn it into felt! Then I attended a beginners obedience class for my puppy, Quick. The facility I was training at started every class with massage and aromatherapy! I remember wondering how on earth would we get any training done, after all, it was only an hour long class.
I couldn’t have been more wrong if I had tried. Massage was easy. Our sessions started with rubbing their ears, same as I normally do when I am happy to see them. Only now we had a routine and pattern to follow first on one ear, then the other. We followed that with a rub down starting at the shoulder, stroking down their front legs with both hands ending with manipulating their feet and toes. We then moved to a rub down the sides (by this time Quick leaning against me, moaning happily) followed down the back legs. The final step was to rub our palms down their backs, starting at the back of the neck all the way to the tail.
I was amazed at how much five minutes could do to transform me and my dog. All of the dogs were significantly more relaxed, smelled the same (we used lavender oil) which reduced meet & greet sniffing, and as a bonus I now knew my dog’s muscular baseline.
From the outside, that might not sound like much, however, it is incredibly important in agility! If you meaningfully touch your dog on a regular basis, you know how they should feel. You will also find areas of concern such as hot spots, mats, or debris in long coats before they become a huge issue. Including the feet can reveal sore toes or pads so you can treat them before your hard-core herder starts holding up his feet in pain.
Dog massage and dog agility should always go hand-in-hand and I hope you see that and get started on a routine with your dog, too.