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Canine Massage & Stretching

A dog owner’s manual

 

 Written by Kerstin Haase and Jörn  Oleby
 Reviewed by Brenda Tenten & Karen Perry

Description: Massage is a way of strengthening the bond with your dog. Apart from the physical and psychological effects, familiarising the dog with being handled can be of great value in other situations. You can massage and stretch your dog’s muscles regularly, enabling your dog to maintain good health longer through life and improves the quality of your dog’s life. The risk of injury is substantially reduced.

Contents include:-

  • Authors' note

  • Foreword

  • The wolf and the domestic dog

  • Historical background

  • Muscles and joints

  • The wellbeing of your dog

  • When to massage

  • When to use stretching

  • When to avoid massage and stretching summary

  • Massage + summary

  • Warming up + summary

  • Stretching + summary

  • Remember

  • Illustrations

  • Photographs

  • Index

Best Features: I volunteered to review this book because I knew nothing at all about massage and stretching. I do now. 

So, get down to business and start reading. The whole tone of the book follows the initial strapline: ‘Our best friend’. The book is intended to increase the bond between man and dog in many ways, not just through the use of massage and stretching. As the authors state: ‘The book is intended to improve the well-being of your dog and strengthen the bond between you’. They set about this in a systematic way.

Before we get to the chapters on practical massage and stretching techniques, we are taken through chapters about the history of the wolf and dog; man and dog; and some fairly in depth (to me anyway) chapters on the muscles and joints. There is also a chapter on the wellbeing of your dog, and again the message is ‘the contact between the dog and the owner is essential and needs to be maintained.’ And one important way of doing this is through massage and stretching, they argue. They give advise on when to massage and stretch, and when not to do so, with clear summary pages for later reference.

Finally we come to the chapters on the actual techniques to be employed. In a handy sized book as this, aimed at ordinary dog owners rather than professionals, they have not tried to cover all massage, but have given clear explanations and diagrams for five techniques. Again, there is a summary section that I kept open on the floor beside me as a quick reference when trying them out on my own dogs.

Before the stretching chapter, warm up is described. This is essential before and after activity for preventative  purposes. Then come nine stretching techniques, covering forelegs, chest, shoulders, hips, thighs and hind legs, again with clear diagrams and a summary section, and this time also with some caution boxes as appropriate.

The book closes with a page of Remember bullet points, and an index - both of which make it an easy reference book to use.

Did the techniques work? Well, I’ve only managed effleurage so far. It is supposed to relax your dogs, but two hyper Australian Cattle Dogs are perhaps not the ideal subjects for a complete beginner. They both seemed to think they were being punished at first, but Amber has begun to relax now towards the end of the massage. On the other hand, I feel beautifully calm and tranquil at the end – so perhaps it is beneficial to the owner’s state of mind too! I think as they get more used to it my dogs will indeed benefit more and more.

Could be improved: I really liked the book and could find no problems at all. Possibly at cover price a hard cover would be more appropriate at the cost.

Design & format: I opened the parcel with anticipation. First impressions were excellent: a convenient sized book (about 10in by 10in) with an attractive cover featuring nine lovely photos of different breeds of dogs. A quick flick of the 96 pages revealed more great photos of dogs in action, together with easy to understand diagrams, clear layout, colour coded page headers for the different chapters – altogether very attractive and inviting to read. The back cover features the blurb – very dog positive – and a really cute small photo of a terrier half down a hole – doing what terriers do!

My favourite picture in the Photographs section strangely enough was not the Beardie weaving, nor the beagle jumping, not even the boxer with the flying ears or the photo of the swimming dog from underneath, but the bowing Golden Retriever on the beach at the start of the book – a real character.

Overall Rating: 10/10. I especially liked the way that enjoyment and partnership are stressed, with praise and pats being mentioned. While the book is appropriate for any family dog owners, special mention is made throughout to the needs of 'performance' dogs, so in that respect it is very relevant to agility.

I liked the way that the authors do not mean to replace professionals, or the need for exercise, but to complement these. Kerstin Haase and Jorn Oleby are quite obviously dog owners themselves who enjoy the company of their dogs.

Price: £14.90 plus shipping inside Europe £3.50 and elsewhere £4.90

Value for money: Yes, both for myself and as a present for dog owning friends.

Available for purchase online for despatch anywhere.

About the authors...
Kerstin Haase and Jörn Oleby are licensed dog physiotherapists and treat dogs with muscle, tendon, joint and cartilage related problems. They are also much appreciated lecturers and give courses in massage and stretching. Jörn Oleby is a qualified sports and health instructor for humans. Kerstin Haase is an experienced dog breeder and gives courses in obedience.

About the reviewer...
Brenda Tenten began agility 20 years ago with a rescued Weimaraner, before moving on to Lurchers, Border Collies, and most recently, Australian Cattle Dogs.

She has also been an instructor for 12 years, the last five at a club she runs with some friends in Halifax. Judging began in 1992, and has included all sizes and levels of classes, although Brenda has particularly enjoyed judging the Championship classes and the ABC Final.

A mini review from Karen W Perry...
I loved this book! I read it on a sunny afternoon in one sitting and found it to be easy to read but with plenty of pertinent information which was easy to absorb and understand. As an animal therapist myself, I have found some of the books designed to help you to massage your own dog to be over simplified and a little on the 'airy fairy' side. However, this book gives a fairly meaty beginners guide to canine anatomy, including joint function and muscle types, essential if you want to massage effectively.

The chapter on injury prevention is helpful, as is the guide, when to massage and stretch, particularly for the competition dog. The authors continually repeat the importance of only massaging your dog if it is healthy and to consult your vet if you suspect otherwise, which seems obvious, but well worth pointing out.

The section of the book which describes how to perform certain massage techniques comes illustrated with easy to follow diagrams. Some of the techniques I felt could perhaps be swapped for easier methods, as there was risk of causing discomfort to the dog, such as the 'backcross,' where pinching could result, or 'frictions,' where it could be difficult for the beginner to understand how much pressure to apply. However, it is mentioned that if the dog is not enjoying the experience, he will most likely get up and walk away! Again, with the stretching exercises, it can never be over emphasised that you are gently encouraging a stretch, and not pulling or extending beyond the range of movement. Care must be taken to thoroughly read the text first and observe the dogs reactions while performing the stretch.

The diagrams illustrating the massage and stretching are lovely, and I will certainly use them to help show my clients how they can help their dog. I especially liked the 'at a glance' summary at the end of each section.

All in all this is a smashing read for those forward thinking, caring dog owners who would like to aid their dogs performance, make them more comfortable and strengthen the bond between dog and owner. The over riding view is that massage is more than just a half hearted stroke, it is a valuable tool for good health and prevention of injury.  (18/07/05)

Click here to read about Paula Kingswood's experiences, putting theory into practice.