Left or Right?
You may be surprised to learn that always performing even the simplest activity only on one side of your dog impacts your dog’s muscle development and consequently joint health.
Humour me for just a moment, I’d like you to try this:
1. Sit upright on a chair and look straight ahead. Make point of noticing your neck and shoulder muscles.
2. Now slowly look up to the right as far as you can and hold that position.
3. Notice how the muscles on the right side of your neck have shortened and the muscles on the left side have lengthened.
Now I’d like you to imagine your dog always walked on one side, looking up at you on average 10-15 times during a walk, walked twice a day for several years.
Muscle development will inevitably bias toward one side.
So, on one side muscles will be short and the other side will be long. If your dog’s muscles are not “unwound” and brought back to balance, at the very least you run the risk of restricted neck and shoulder movement.
Over time this causes compensation, uneven loading, and stress on muscles and joints, and reduced range of movement.
And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that muscle compensation is a common precursor to muscular injury.
One-sided activities impact joint & muscle health and development.
Let’s test the theory.
For this, you’ll need your dog, their lead, and an upright pole. A bamboo cane set upright in the ground is a great way to achieve this – if you don’t have a pole get creative. The goal is for your dog to walk around a thin upright object with you.
Ready to Test the Theory?
For dogs walked on the LEFT do this.
1. With your dog on a lead by your side, and with your dog closest to the pole, slowly walk around the pole clockwise 3 times.
2. Make a point of observing when you tug on the lead and budge your dog around with your leg. Now stop doing that.
3. Next – keeping the same distance from the pole as before and with your dog closest to the pole again, I want you to walk slowly around the pole anti-clockwise 3 times.
For dogs walked on the RIGHT follow steps 1-3 but work anti-clockwise first and then clockwise. Remember to walk slowly!
How many of you …?
- tripped over your dog on the second set of circles
- budged your dog around with your leg
- tugged on the lead to direct your dog
- or had to move further away from the pole so as to not influence your dog’s movement
- Was one way easier?
I’ve hugely simplified this and ignored any pre-existing injury or conditions, breeds specifics, and age – all the information I would normally have to hand to fully assess your dog. this is just to quickly test the theory.
However, the fact is that all muscles work together in pairs and so the actual impact on your dog’s body of repeated one-sided activities spreads further than the neck and shoulders to include other muscles, muscle groups, and joints.
Here are some more ways uneven muscle development can happen.
More Common Causes of Uneven Muscle Development
- Walking your dog just on one side
- Training your dog just on one side
- Only walking your dog on flat ground
- Conformation (How they are built)
- Inappropriate exercise
- Over exercise
- Inappropriate use of equipment (eg untrained use of balance balls)
- Sport-specific training only
- A restrictive or poorly fitted harness
- Constant pulling on the lead
- Poor diet
It’s critical for our dog’s health and well being that their muscles are appropriately developed, adapted for their sport, strong enough to support the skeleton, that all joints are moved through their full range of movement and that exercise/training is balanced with proper core training delivered by an appropriately qualified core specialist core conditioning coach who will also take account of pre-existing conditions, breed, and lifestyle.
What Can You Do To Limit Uneven Muscle Development?
Of course, this is dog-specific but – top level:-
The single biggest concern I have is many owners forget that dogs will work for as long as you ask them to and that they get tired, feel fatigued, are susceptible to injury, and feel pain and discomfort just like you do. Be consciously aware that nothing moves in the body without muscle and that your dog has around 700 pulling on 320 bones to move. Muscles move the body – not bone.
Perform activities equally on both sides.
The caveat to this? Every dog is different!
The responsible thing to do is to strengthen your dog’s core before joining your agility, canicross, working /service dog training, or at the very least join my conditioning programme and I can help you work safely alongside it.
So, what is CCA Core Conditioning?
Core conditioning programmes developed by the Canine Conditioning Academy (CCA) truly are the ultimate in core fitness programmes for dogs.
During the programme I teach you how to spot imbalance and the early signs of tiredness before they become fatigued before they become injured.
You’ll learn the science behind the programme in uncomplicated language but best of all you are given a bespoke exercise plan designed specifically for your dog.
Throughout the 8 week programme you will gently and systematically target and “unwind” muscular restrictions leaving your dog visibly moving better, more balanced and much happier.
The better your dog moves the less likely he or she is to injure and the longer you both get to enjoy doing all the things you love!
To learn more about CCA core conditioning, to understand when your dog needs it, to see and hear first hand our results or if you’re ready to change your dog’s life click on the link below
Want to find out more about our courses and how we can help your dog pop over to our page Core Conditioning – Born to Run.
Prefer to talk? Yep me too.
Why not book a call?