You know sometimes you get a feeling there’s more to what you see but you just can’t put your finger on it?

Performing massage with years of clinical work under my belt, I’ve witnessed some of the most incredible moments and outcomes from this results-driven therapy

But sometimes I was left scratching my head.

Some agility, canicross, working, and show dogs would arrive for their pre-season massage and in many cases, I would find that, quite unusually, these dogs had some muscles in spasm.

A muscle in spasm is painful, feels really hard to the touch, puts stress on joints, strangles blood circulation, and irritates the nerves adjacent to it.

My aha moment.

The reason I was puzzled by this change in muscle tone was because the dogs in question were otherwise fit and healthy with no veterinary diagnoses nor did they have muscular injuries.   

So, I’d carry on and release those tight, sore muscles only for those dogs to return for their post season massage having had an awesome season but with the same problem.

During one of my head scratchy phases I was studying to be a Core Conditioning Instructor.

Very early on in my training I had my Aha! moment.

The reason the muscles were in spasm was that the core stabilising muscles of those dogs were weak.  It transpired that the weak core was causing other muscles to overwork and so those overworked muscles went into spasm.  It was classic overcompensation!

Performance Issues

It also explained why as the season drew to a close that owners would report seeing a gradual slowing down, reduced focus, reluctance to work in harness, inflexibility, and flagging energy levels in their dogs.

Some would, almost in passing, mention clumsiness, poorly timed or poorly navigated obstacles, and sometimes accidents involving equipment.

Luckily my amazing sport, working and show dogs clients know when there’s a problem because of the impacts on performance.  They stop working their dogs straight away to investigate the cause.

What they also know is that 45 – 55% of a dog’s body is made up of muscle and so appreciate that if they spot a new mobility or performance issue in an otherwise healthy dog, that muscle injury or spasm is very high up on the list of likely causes. 

Finally I had my answer! 

So, what exactly is Core Conditioning?

Core conditioning programmes are the ultimate in core fitness programmes for dogs.

Running for a period of 6-8 weeks Core Foundations is an absolute must before undertaking any new sport or activity and especially after taking a long break from training.

The Fundamentals 

Working with up to date sporting principles, in-depth canine anatomy and breed knowledge here are some of the fundamentals covered

  • Balance
  • Core Strength
  • Mental & physical agility
  • Flexibility
  • Strength
  • Co-ordination

Sport-specific training alone does not make an athlete.  

Core training is an essential component!

The key to avoiding injury is to prepare your dog’s body properly for their sport or job.

This is exactly what we teach you to do. 

Throughout each programme muscular weakness and imbalance is systematically assessed, measured, and addressed using science-based, controlled, and targeted exercises

This will improve your dog’s movement, posture, demeanour and overall health and wellbeing. 

The better and more efficiently your dog moves his or her body the less likely they are to injure and the longer you both get to do what you love most.

The results are consistent and truly life-changing!

How do I know my dog would benefit from the course?

To be frank I rarely see a dog who wouldn’t benefit.

From puppies – yes puppies! (from around 6 months) to elderly dogs, this programme is adapted to suit all breeds, ages, and abilities.

And believe me, it’s really never too late!  My first foundation graduate superstars were aged between 9 and 14 years old.

What might I see if my dog’s core muscles are weak?

Everything I’m about to list for you needs to be taken into context and so to be sure your dog will require a full assessment by a trained coach.

That said, core conditioning is likely to help your dog if he or she

  • Turns easier one way versus the other.
  • Cannot hold a square sit or stand.
  • Cannot hold a sphinx in the down.
  • Back arches in the middle  (Roaching)
  • Back dips in the middle (Swayback)
  • Has flagging energy levels
  • Lacks flexibility
  • Uneven movement (Gait)
  • Appears clumsy, poor foot placement
  • Performance issues
  • Lacks drive
  • Poor reach
  • Muscles in spasm

Train Safely – If lame don’t train!

If your dog is lame, in the interests of their safety we cannot accept them onto the programme unless your vet confirms it’s safe to do so.  For example, arthritic dogs may be stiff and occasionally lame but will still hugely benefit from the gentle, low-impact exercises you will learn.

Learn more about my business Born to Run and Core Conditioning for Dogs

Learn more about Clinical Massage

Angela Day,   MCICM (grad), CM (Dip), MIAAT, MIRVAP (MT)



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