The use of McTimoney animal chiropractic in dog agility – an owner’s perspective.
The use of McTimoney animal chiropractic in dog agility – an owner’s perspective.
Agility is a great way to get rid of your dog’s excess energy. Running through a course at speed, passing over and through a variety of obstacles. It is one of the most popular dog sports around and it thrilling to watch.
Any dog can be an agility dog provided they are healthy. They enjoy learning new things, dashing around, and doing something fun with their owner. There are benefits for owners too and not just from a fitness point of view! Many people find it brings them into whole new community and builds a greater level of trust and confidence in their canine partnership.
This is exactly what Amy Ogden, from Derby found. Amy had never been involved in the agility world but when she became the proud owner of Alfie the cockapoo her partner insisted, they take him for puppy obedience classes. Amy said this was where her love of dog training and agility started, and she has never looked back.
Amy said “We attended obedience classes which followed the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog scheme. It was a good choice as Alfie was a very cheeky and naughty puppy who would often take himself off for zoomies! The lessons helped me maintain our training and eventually he matured, and we achieved his bronze, silver, and gold award in the class. This was when my obedience trainer recommended, we try agility, which is why I joined the Derbyshire Dog Agility Club in 2017 and I started competing in the summer of 2018.
I was very proud when Alfie qualified for the Kennel Club Starters Cup final at Discover Dogs in 2019 and he came 3rd.
There are lots of reasons I love agility. I really think it has given me a stronger bond with my dogs and I understand them so much more. There is nothing like stepping on the line with your dog and knowing it is just you and them. It still amazes me what I have taught my dogs and all the things I am able to ask them to do. I am also naturally a very competitive person, so I am always running to win!
Alfie works for his reward! He loves all the treats involved with training and competitions. In addition, I have also made so many friends – it is like a community. Before agility my friendship circle was very small, and I would not do things on my own. But now I spend my weekends travelling up and down the country for shows, just me and the dogs, meeting up with friends from across the country. Agility has bought me out my shell and given me more confidence.
I am a member of Derbyshire Dog Agility Club and A-Game Agility, where I have weekly lessons with some fantastic trainers. I also then hire equipment in my own time to practice skills.
I now have two dogs – Alfie who is 5 and Evie who is 2 and also a cockapoo. Evie is my youngest and is my agility dog now that Alfie is retired. She absolutely loves it and adores racing me around a course. She has recently achieved Grade 6 and is a fast and consistent dog who I hope will take me to Championship level once we get to Grade 7 (the highest grade in agility).
Alfie retired in 2020, but we did achieve Grade 3 and he paved the way for my love of agility. He has matured in to such a lovely dog and is so well behaved – he is a pleasure to have around”.
Amy is a firm believer that as we ask our agility dogs to complete tasks that are so physically demanding, it is important they are kept in good shape to do so. She thinks that isn’t just about keeping them physically fit and trained well. It is also about providing them the right treatments to enable them to be comfortable and pain free.
Amy went on to say “I noticed that Alfie’s jumping style had deteriorated, and he was frequently knocking poles, after seeking advice I was recommended to take him to a chiropractor called Emma Punt for treatment in early 202I. Emma has over 15 years’ experience as a McTimoney therapist specialising in canine and equine therapy and rehabilitation. I remember the first appointment so well.
Emma immediately noticed an issue with Alfie’s pelvis, which had significant misalignment. I was completely unaware of this and was amazed by the visible difference in Alfie’s posture immediately after treatment. I was truly heartbroken that I had not noticed this for myself and left it so long. Looking back I believe the issue started at a show where he knocked a pole quite badly, at the time I rested him, and he appeared to have no further problems.
I have learnt now to never underestimate any incident; the slight knock of a pole, fall or tumble whilst my dogs train or compete is always checked. My youngest dog Evie has been competing for 15 months, in this time she has had a tumble on the A frame and been blown off the dog walk. Both times Emma was my first point of call and both times her treatment found tightness and misalignment issues from these incidents. Seeking McTimoney Chiropractic checks within a week of the incidents meant the issues were treated early to prevent long term issues.
I believe as an agility handler it can be easy to consider a change in performance is due to a dog’s behaviour, however sudden changes in weave style, strides of the dog walk, or even looser turns may all be a sign of a hidden injury, tightness or misalignment that requires treatment.
I like to have my agility runs recorded now do I can watch them back in slow motion and check how my dogs have physically completed the course; where they have taken off for jumps, whether a wing wrap to the left was tighter than a wing wrap to the right. There are so many subtle changes that may indicate a chiropractic appointment is necessary, I often walk behind Alfie and watch his foot placement to see if some treatment for his pelvis if needed”.
When Alfie retired from agility, he moved on to hoopers which is similar to agility, but dogs navigate a course made up of hoops, tunnels, and barrels. Dogs run through the hoops rather than jump and they run around the barrels. Courses are fast and flowing without tight turns and handlers aim to use distance handling, but this isn’t essential. Because Alfie has Early Take Off (he miss-judges his take off point for jumps), hoopers was the ideal sport for him to move on to. Hoopers is great for older dogs, young dogs, dogs who have jumping issues like Alfie or for handlers who may may struggle to get around agility courses.
Amy concludes “I truly believe for Alfie and Evie the McTimoney chiropractic treatment they receive has kept them both in a condition that aids their performance and general wellbeing and regular checks have meant we have avoided long term injury for both. I could not recommend McTimoney chiropractic treatment for dogs enough and especially for agility dogs”.
McTimoney Animal Chiropractor Emma Punt told us “I first met Amy and her lovely agility dog’s Alfie and Evie when Alfie was having problems jumping. Watching a video of Alfie doing agility he was knocking poles and struggling to accelerate away from the jumps. Amy had noticed he wasn’t quite himself. Working dogs, such as those that do agility and working trials often have “body issues” due to the nature of their lifestyle. For agility dogs, like any athlete, a proper range of motion is key to peak performance. Twisting, turning, accelerating, and decelerating at speed and jumping all put extra pressure on the musculo-skeletal system particularly the lower back/lumbar spine and pelvic region. “Body issues” such as reduced range of joint movement or muscle tension are easily resolved using chiropractic techniques which gently elevated pain and restore more normal function.
I check all dogs from nose to toe and In Alfie’s case tension in the muscles of his lower back and a crocked pelvis were the source of his discomfort and resulting poor performance. After only a few treatments Alfie was pain free, not knocking poles and much happier to go out doing agility again. I’ve seen hundreds of working dogs over the years and the most common symptoms are refusing or knocking jumps, problems with the weaves, stride changes, particularly on the high dog walk and long jump or scale issues in working trials.
The extra pressure the hind quarters of the body is under when jumping or accelerating quickly means that these areas are more prone to injury hence why I see the early symptoms of musculo-skeletal imbalances present themselves in these ways. Having the privilege to work with these wonderful athletic dogs to either keep them in tip top condition or to aid their recover from injury is hugely rewarding”.
The McTimoney treatment itself is a gentle, hands-on technique which uses light and fast adjustments, not force, to help encourage the vertebrae to return to the neural position. By putting energy into the joint the muscles holding the vertebrae in the wrong position are reminded to relax and allow the joint to return. By using our hands for this we can tell how much energy is required to make this happen and can adjust for more sensitive or more painful areas.
The utilisation of rehabilitative and complementary physical therapies within the animal industry has grown exponentially in the last 20 years with many vets and therapists working together to achieve the best outcomes for their clients through collaborative interventions. As the McTimoney technique has increased in popularity, we are seeing more studies emerge which show the effectiveness of this technique.
If you would like to know more about how to train as a McTimoney Animal Practitioner, please visit the McTimoney College of Chiropractic at https://www.mctimoney-college.ac.uk/postgraduate-studies/msc-animal-manipulation/
Dr Emma Punt BSC, PHD, MMAA, MAHPR, AHEA
McTimoney Canine and Equine Sports Chiropractic
Senior Tutor McTimoney College of Chiropractic
Research Lead and Associate of British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association
For more information about dog agility and how to get started visit: https://www.thekennelclub.https://mctimoneyanimal.co.uk/org.uk/events-and-activities/agility/new-to-agility/
For more information on the McTimoney Animal Association and to find a practitioner near you go to https://mctimoneyanimal.co.uk/find-a-member/#!directory/map