I spent a day in London last week studying Proprioception for dogs.
Proprioception, from the Latin proprius meaning ‘one’s own’, is really body awareness – learning where your feet are and how to control them. For a dog, if they are able to gain a sense of their own self it builds confidence, calmness, clarity, core strength, control, coordination, confidence – and whatever other c’s on a similar vein you can think of.
The training involves exercises, usually done at the walk or very slow trot, over cavaletti (or just poles on the ground for smaller dogs), through tunnels, over stepping stones (aka boxes), through bending poles, across bridges and so on. Much like agility but in very slow motion. But unlike in agility, the aim isn’t necessarily to ‘finish’ the challenges but to learn from them. The dog will be learning about his body; and the handler will be learning about his dog.
The subject is far too ‘uge to tackle here, and I’m not qualified, but one thing I do think is worth sharing, is how much much proprioception principles are used by dog experts, whether in training, treating, curing or whatever. Think about a vet examining a dog when you go to the surgery, feeling the balance of his body, seeing how he stands, looking in his eyes. Think of a trainer successfully interpreting the body language of an unwilling dog and replacing a negative behaviour with a positive one. And how those same principles can be used by the average owner (if that’s how you and I can be described). Just taking the time to really watch your dog and make yourself aware of how s/he moves, lies, stands, jumps, sleeps or whatever when in a relaxed environment will enable you to learn what’s ‘normal’. And consequently, what isn’t, when s/he’s in pain or stressed or genuinely needs support.
There’s a lot to be said for watching. And stroking.
And seeing as it’s nearly Christmas, what better excuse to take to the sofa than ‘I’m busy propriocepting the dog. Sorry, can’t wash up today…!’