Category: General

Groundhog Day

January has gone in a flash, New Year's resolutions have either stuck fast or are a distant memory as we move into February. For me personally I don't set resolutions, but intentions and the same goes for my dogs. My intentions are to keep providing a happy, full and varied life, providing enrichment from different aspects of our dog's life. Groundhog day is here and I think sometimes it's good to review and reflect on our habitual patterns when sharing our life with our dogs.
What is your daily routine with your dog?

They’re fed, watered and fussed throughout the day, along with the same two walks to the park twice a day. Seems a fairly standard set up for pet parents and one that may be ringing true to you.

Is Groundhog Day with our dog's exercise regime a bad thing?

Well yes and no, let me explain. Dogs as well as us humans are creatures of habit and for the most part we like routine. Knowing our routine allows us to predict outcomes, our dogs know that when you put on your coat and grab your lead that you’re off and they get to come too! Now if we look more specifically at that walk twice a day, this is where having a Groundhog Day routine could potentially be of detriment. Walking the same route, same surfaces, same duration can lead to niggles of discomfort occurring. This is down to concussive forces entering the body. Concussive forces occur from everyday activity for both us and our dogs. This is where energy transfers from the ground as we step, travelling up the limb and then dispursting. If we walk up and down the same hill to get to the park every time, concussive forces are dispursting in the same areas which can lead to niggles of discomfort.

Instead of hitting groundhog day when it comes to your dog's routine, don’t be afraid to change it up! Vary your route taking into account

SURFACES

Now I know that I would rather walk barefoot on grass than I would tarmac, as it's more comfortable. The same goes for our dogs as softer surfaces reduce concussive forces. This is really important for dogs with painful conditions such as arthritis but also for those without conditions to keep joints happy and healthy for longer. Another thing to consider is walking on loose ground such as sand or gravel. For a fit and able dog this is hard work but good for proprioception skills. This however should be something avoided with pain management cases as these dogs need a little more stability.

TYPES OF EXERCISE
Does your dog dawdle whilst having a good sniff, or maybe they pull like a freight train to get to the next lamppost. You get to the park and they may have some doggy pals they love to run and play with or maybe they’re happy doing a lap of the park and coming home. Exercise will vary hugely from dog to dog and this in turn will have a varied impact on our dogs musculoskeletal system. There seems to be a common misconception amongst dog owners that in order for a dog walk to be good, that your dog has to be shattered when they get home. This really isn’t the case, being present with you dog and avoiding overly strenuous repetitive activities i.e ball flingers *shudder* is a much more engaging walk than taking our dogs to the point of exhaustion. Again think of those concussive forces, keep things in moderation if your dog likes zooming around, mix up on lead and off lead time and encourage free running on soft surfaces like grass.

DURATION
Do you give yourself a set amount of time to complete a dog walk, perhaps 30 minutes before you start cooking dinner. Sometimes setting a duration of a walk can encourage us to rush, especially if we have a dog that is starting to slow down and the pace isn’t matching the distance of your walk anymore. As part of a pain management plan I put in pretty strict duration limits, especially early doors to find that fine balance of healing and working the body slowly back up to full function.  


FREQUENCY
Walking our dogs daily is a bit of a cultural thing in this country, I am here to tell you that it is ok for your dog not to be walked every day SHOCK HORROR! It is ok to have a chill day, in fact I encourage them! The same way that sometimes we might want a lazy sunday our dogs can really benefit from this. If your dog is reactive, allowing decompression time helps to bring stress chemicals down in the body. If we have a pain management plan in place, rest days are vital in order for the body to heal and repair. 


Leaving behind groundhog day I hope this has given you some different aspects to start thinking about when it comes to varying your dogs walks to keep them happy, fit, healthy and engaged.

FASHION OR FUNCTION 

Now onto my next topic, one that is easy to divide opinion. Fashion or Function, dog coats are they really necessary?

I hear you, “Dogs already have coats” that they do, but have a look at the 1000s of different coat types, length, colour, thickness all of which will have an impact on how our dogs feel temperature. Did you know that dogs have thinner skin than ours, so they can feel contact temperatures more acutely than us. Dogs are similar to us in the sense that some run hot and some run cold. I know that I love having the heating on full blast in the car, for which Stef always contests with “ARE YOU TRYING TO COOK ME” A dog's breed and their function will play a role in their ability to regulate their temperature. Would an Alaskan Malamute like a coat, uhm anything more than a raincoat I don’t think they would be overly impressed, whereas the thought of a Whippet bracing the outdoors without a jumper, thermals and a raincoat would be out of the question!

With so many different coats and jumpers on the market it can be tricky to know what to pick. This really does come down to your dog and also the weather. Summer days may see warm weather with some light showers so a light rain mack will suffice. Now lets be under no illusion here in the UK we are all well fared with wet and cold weather so investing in a decent coat for your dog is important. Keeping our dogs coats dry will help to maintain heat in the muscles, which is needed to keep them supple and maintain good circulation. If the coat is wet your dog will expend energy on just trying to keep warm and evaporating water off the skin. As well as this keeping the joint warm will help to maintain good joint function. Think about how on cold winter mornings we can have stiff and achy joints (showing my age here) but naturally we want to cover our hands from the wind and rub them together to generate heat.This occurs due to the synovial fluid in the joint capsule, when this is cold it becomes thicker and more claggy which can impede on the function of a joint. If we can keep a joint warm this synovial fluid will change its viscosity, becoming thinner and more fluid which allows for easier movement and less discomfort. The same applies for our dogs! Taking a look at the Hurtta Range I am incredibly impressed with the quality and detail that has gone into making these coats fit for function… so of course I have bought all three of my thugs one and an extra body warmer for Rodney. Rodney has Grade 2 Luxating Patella, meaning that keeping his joints happy is of paramount importance to his pain management plan. The Hurtta Body Warmer has proved great for Rodney, sitting nearly flush but still full range of motion is achieved. Another bonus point is that it has a zip that runs along the back that he can step into as often with bodysuits for dogs we have to hyperextend joints to get legs in the right place. The amazing feature of this is the lining, made with strips of heat reflecting aluminium foil to maintain body temperatures in up to -15! This has been keeping Rodney toasty in the house, we do have the heating on but this boy sits in front of the fire with a blanket over him… he runs that cold! So this has been a great winter edition for him to keep him nice and cosy indoors and outdoors. Outdoors I team up with the Hurtta Parka Bilberry to keep him warm on the go. From the fabric panel at the front of the forelimbs to allow maximum range of movement, to the extended length at the back to cover the glutes and quads Hurtta really have built a fit for function coat. Not only is this coat suitable for the fit and active dog but really consideration has been made for dogs who have additional requirements due to musculoskeletal issues. I’m a big fan of coats, so don’t ever feel daft for popping one on your dog. Facilitating your dog's comfort is not pandering to them and something I actively encourage, especially when Hurtta is on offer this month at 40% off!

I hope that's given you a couple things to be thinking about for you and your dog, as always any questions don’t hesitate to give us a shout!

Continue to nourish your dogs with species appropriate nutrition, massage and compassion.

Catch up soon,
Yaz x 

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