Spring Action : Acupressure Enhances Canine Fitness
Spring is in the air!
When spring is in the air, every dog knows it. Spring is the season when dog’s eyes brighten, their natural zest for life flows through their veins, and they want to run, play, and stretch their bodies. Spring is a time of action.
There are so many canine performance sports today that require peak levels of running, twisting, turning, jumping, and pivoting. Anyone watching an agility trial or Fly Ball competition can see the adrenaline pumping through every ounce of the dog’s being. Adrenaline can over-ride the senses and the animal can unknowingly hurt himself badly especially early in the active season. The risk of injury is very high when a dog is not properly conditioned. Plus, dog’s need to be given the opportunity to warm-up before engaging in the burst of excitement and energy the dog experiences at the moment he is released for coursing, a herding test, or on a sledding trail.
Physical conditioning takes time and different parts of the body condition at different times. For instance, muscles are first to build. Cardio-vascular conditioning occurs second. This is followed by the strengthening of tendons, and then ligaments which hold the joints securely.
All conditioning regimes need to be designed for each specific dog and their particular sport. Training programs for a dog will depend on their age, breed, weight, and current general fitness level.
Canine exercise physiologists usually recommend that a dog begin conditioning by successive short runs in a straight line; that is, run 5 – 100 yards, stop, walk, run another 50 – 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 in conditioning is to progress toward running on uneven terrain with incrementally increased amounts of turning and pivoting to build well-rounded muscle and flexibility of tendons and ligaments. Exercise experts advise to be sure to do a warm-up before and cool-down after strenuous exercise. Remember to make water available for the dog before and after 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 is when the body is even slightly off-balance when injuries tend to 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.
Canine Acupressure and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupressure connects you and your dog with thousands of years of natural healing. It’s a gentle yet powerful healing tool based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The ancient Chinese understood that all living beings, human or canine, are part of the universe. We share the stars and planets over head, we tread the same earth beneath our feet. We must all eat, sleep, work, play and engage our minds and spirits.
Chinese medicine has always focussed on health. When an animal succumbs to illness it means he’s not coping with his environment. From a TCM perspective, most illness is understood as a breakdown in the immune system. When the body’s natural defenses aren’t strong, external climatic pathogens such as Wind, Cold and Heat can ‘invade’ the body and illness can occur.
The practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the practice of preventative care. The ancient Chinese thoroughly and deeply understood the dialectic cycle of life and all that exists. It was clear to them that the life force, or chi, of all living things is entirely dependent on the proper balance of sun, heat, rain and cool. Yin and Yang are the two major aspects of chi, the nature of these is often likened to the nature of fire and water. Everything in nature must have a balance of fire and water to thrive.
Enhancing Conditioning with Acupressure
The ancient healing art of acupressure offers a way of enhancing the conditioning process. Acupressure, which is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, is known to:
- Build flexibility of tendons and ligaments
- Decrease inflammation of soft tissues and joints
- Strengthen and warm muscles by supplying necessary nutrients
- Relieve muscle spasms by establishing a smooth flow of energy and blood
- Remove toxins from an injured area while replenishing with healthy cells, and
- Reduce the painful build-up of lactic acid in the muscles by increasing blood circulation.
There are specific acupressure points, or little energetic pools, on the dog’s body where we can access and thus influence the flow of energy. By influencing the flow of energy, we can optimize the dog’s conditioning program. The following acupressure points, also called “acupoints,” can be used while building toward peak performance.
Bladder 17, Diaphragm Transporting, (Bl17) is a powerful acupoint that enhances the flow of blood throughout the body. Cardio-vascular health is the key to all the biomechanical functions of the body. Good blood and energy circulation means that the all the tissues receive nourishment so that healthy cells can form while lactic acid and toxic substances are removed. It is the continuous flow of replenishment and removal that makes for the strengthening and building of muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Gall Bladder 34, Yang Hill Spring, (GB 43) is used facilitate the flexibility of tendons and ligaments. Tendons and ligaments are like the new, young branches on a tree; when the wind blows, they must be flexible and bend or they will snap and break. By maximizing the flexibility and strength of ligaments, the flexibility and weight-bearing capacity of the joints increase.
Spleen 6, Three Yin Meeting, (Sp6) is often used to nourish the muscles and other soft tissues of the forelimbs and especially the hindquarters. Good muscle tone is dependent on nutrient rich blood. Sp 6 is known for its ability to enhance the circulation and nourishment of the blood.
Stomach 36, Leg Three Mile, (St 36) is used for many significant purposes. As the Master Point for the gastro-intestinal system, St36 is very important in converting food substances into refined, bio-absorbable nutrients to be circulated in the blood. St 36 is known for its ability to contribute to a dog’s overall physical endurance because it promotes energy throughout the body.
Between receiving a Spring Maintenance Acupressure Session every five to six days and careful physical conditioning, the dog-athlete will have a good time getting back into action this spring.
Always have two hands on the dog. Rest the soft tip of your thumb on the acupoint identified on the chart and exert about one pound of pressure, less pressure for smaller dogs. Place your other hand comfortably on another portion of the dog’s body. On smaller dogs it may be more comfortable to use your index finger with your middle finger on top of it for the point work instead of your thumb.
Keep your thumb, or index and middle finger, on the acupoint for at least the count of 30. If your dog shows any signs of distress or pain while holding the point, please stop and try it again some other time. All of the acupoints are located on both sides of the dog’s body. Once you complete the series on one side, please do the same acupoints on the other side.
You will know you are doing a good job when your dog indicates he is experiencing energy moving more smoothly through his body. Dogs express the movement and harmonious flow of energy by yawning, stretching, passing air, rolling over, licking in general or licking your hand on the point, and sometimes just breathing more deeply and falling asleep.
Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute
Article written and provided by Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis who are the authors of: Acu-Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure, The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide To Canine Acupressure, Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure, and Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual.
They founded Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute which offers interactive and online training programmers worldwide, plus books, meridian charts, and videos. www.animalacupressure.com
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