Dogs come in all shapes, sizes and strengths, which is perhaps one of the reasons why we love them so much. But the huge variety of dog breeds can present different challenges to an owner. Small dogs and puppies can put strain on your back as you bend down to pet them and groom them, while larger dogs can pull like a train on the lead during what should be a sedate and relaxing walk.
In particular, it is the sudden and sharp movements of your pooch when they spot a bird or the neighbourhood cat that can cause damage. An unexpected jolt to the arm, shoulder and back mimics many of the symptoms of whiplash – something you don’t consider when you first adopt a new four-legged friend.
Here are a few hints and tips to allow you and your furry companion to keep training, exercising and playing together safely.
Avoiding back pain while walking your dog
Warming up is as important before your morning walk as it is if you are heading out to run a marathon. By doing some simple standing and stretching exercises before taking out your dog, you can get the blood moving around the body and loosen up those muscles. It is always advisable to warm up first especially if you are taking your dog outside for training classes. Once you stop to run through some drills with your pooch, it is easy for your muscles to become cold and tight – so the minute you get moving again, you put yourself at greater risk of injury.
Bend your knees
When you are bending down to your puppy or dog, always make sure you bend your knees. This may seem obvious but so many of us don’t do this. The resulting strain on the joints and muscles can turn into long-lasting injuries if you aren’t careful.
Although you may not be lifting heavy weights when you play with your dog, it can be surprising how many bending movements are involved while playing fetch or adjusting the lead. It’s also true that coaxing puppies during training can leave you in any number of awkward positions.
Avoid lifting your dog
This will help to save your own back and it also benefits the dog psychologically. Dogs like to explore places themselves and carrying them too frequently can jeopardise their sense of identity. No matter how small, a puppy or small dog can easily cause back or even shoulder or neck strain.
Wear sensible footwear
It is important to understand that your choice of footwear is important when getting out to walk your pooch. Shoes should provide comfort and cushioning, protecting against injuries such as twisted ankles and blisters. Selecting the right kind of trainer or walking shoe can make a significant difference in the long term.
It is always best to try and keep your dog on the same side for obedience and walking but there is nothing to stop you changing directions, generally doing things to keep the dog focused and your muscles evenly worked. Walking the same road in the same direction can be boring for both you and your dog but that road camber can risk ankle and knee muscle imbalances.
Take regular breaks
Small dogs and puppies can get fatigued quickly so it is a great excuse to take regular breaks during the play sessions or walks and catch your own breath. With larger dogs you can incorporate ten minutes of doing command training to keep their mind focused on you. But as we’ve mentioned above, remember to stay loose if the weather is chilly.
Go off road
Like many runners are advised, vary the terrain that you walk on. Although not all public places are dog-friendly, you are usually safe with them on a lead and showing good behaviour. Take them to different places: try the beach and walk on that shingle or sand, explore the many woods and forests – all have different terrain underfoot along with getting on the grass. Variation will help to strengthen your ankles and be a welcome break for your lower body from the unforgiving tarmac.
Whatever you do; don’t stop walking
Walking is a great natural exercise and is very beneficial for your body. Walking does not involve the same impact forces on the body that jogging does yet it can go help to strengthen the supportive muscles of the pelvis and lower back. Walking can also burn as many calories if you put in enough of a pace to feel slightly out of breath. While there are plenty of things you should consider when managing back pain, don’t miss the opportunity to get the blood pumping and keep your cardiovascular system in good working order.
The extra effort that you put into the walk the more fatigued your dog will become, which can be important if you don’t want an overly energetic and mischievous canine in the house for the rest of the day.
Hope you have found these helpful and if you have any tips or advice to share we would love to hear. Contact Lushington Chiropractic on 01323 722499.
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