Physiotherapy-based defense training fundamentals

We, humans, do take care of our bodies and our health. If our knee hurts, we go to the orthopaedist, if our back hurts for a long time, we probably start considering physiotherapy. The need to go to inspections regularly increases with the level of sports load. The same applies to dogs, and especially to those engaged in defense training. How does dog physiotherapy work, when is it good to start considering it and how can it help our dogs? That´s what we Jan Böhm about. 

Which part of a dog's body is exposed to the heaviest load during defense training?

It is definitely the spine, as the dog is hanging on a sleeve for most of the time, so all its weight and thrust go from the cervical vertebrae through the chest to the lumbar. The entire spine gets loaded a lot. With rapidly running dogs, this problem is more pronounced.


How important is it to carry out defense exercises properly?

Very. Especially because a dog can very easily suffer an injury during training. It is of fundamental importance to first get into motion, be warmed up and able to properly tackle. Some dogs play the indestructible when training, are very tough and do not show pain. In these cases, it is very important to balance speed, will, technique and safety. For training purposes, it is necessary to find someone who already has some experience. Additionally, if you have a fast and talented dog, this need becomes even greater.


Is a defense trained dog to visit a physiotherapist?

I definitely recommend it. The basis is that the dog not only be in a good physical condition, but also well stretched and muscular. It's like with humans. We also take care of our body. Some of us go for a massage, others spend their free time playing sports and then stretching. Each and every person favours something else, but we should all take care of ourselves. This also counts for dogs.


What injuries can result from improper technique?

Spinal injuries are the most frequent ones I have encountered. However, discarded vertebrae, dislocated knees, elbow joint injuries, broken wrist bones or torn muscle attachments are common as well. I have also seen how ribs broke following the collision with the helper and the sternum gets also bruised very frequently.


What are the main mistakes when carrying out tasks or performing exercises that affect the dog's musculoskeletal system?

Frequently, it´s insufficiently warming the dog ahead of training and a similarly serious problem is, for example, a poorly muscular dog, which does not exercise properly and regularly and or having defense training only once in a while. We can compare this to a situation where a person goes skiing only once a year and immediately descends a black slope in the Alps. The dog has to move sufficiently also beyond the defense training ground. It is also important to regularly feed your dog with quality food, which mustn´t lack enough protein for good regeneration. At the same time, we mustn´t underestimate the dog´s health, i.e. regular inspections and X-rays of the entire body in adulthood, especially prior to demanding exercises.


Does the physiotherapy need differ depending upon the breed? Do large breeds e.g. need to fix other problems than ones? Do large breeds require physiotherapy more than small ones?

Each breed has its own specifics. A smaller dog weighs less, yet it might be faster. A large dog is not that fast, but it needs more strength to keep its posture due to weighing more. On the other hand, of course, it might also the other way around. As a result, there is one common important element, namely that dogs have to be in shape and have no pain.


How does a dog's physiotherapy work?

It resembles human physiotherapy. There are various aids, such as rubber massage balls or sports balance tools - such as the bosu. You will recognize a good physiotherapist mainly by his/her results: it relieves the dog of pain, the animal breathes well then and will be satisfied.


Is a dog that not engaged in defense training to attend physiotherapy as well?

Sometimes you don't even know when or how dog hurts itself, so I definitely recommend physiotherapy. Sometimes you would be surprised at what problems there are in the dog's body, and if there are none, at least you are sure that your dog´s OK.