This is why I can relate to my canine massage therapy patients

Every week, during my canine massage clinics, I meet dogs with pain, dog with orthopaedic & neurological conditions, elderly dogs.  And one word can summaries why I relate so closely to them and their owners:  MEHWI (MAIS OUI), my “little” pup who was supposed to become my next agility dog and my first trial herding dog but took me instead on a totally different route and experience.

Mehwi at 14 months was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia and needed replacement for both hips. Due to some complication during the recovery period for the first hip he ended up spending over 6 months of his life cage rested, that was nearly a third of his life.

Mehwi had his first 10-minute walk away from home exactly a year ago today, he was overwhelmed, look at the video at the end of this post, it shows it all, his first walk, his gait after his first and second operation, it was a scary time for me. It took Mehwi a year after that first walk to build enough muscle strength to be able to run freely at home. Still Mehwi has not played with other dogs since, he has not been yet for long free walks, he has only seen the top of a Scottish hill once.  It has been a lengthy process and it has been quite painful psychologically for me as his owner. There have been scary moments, moments when I questioned my decisions, moment when I blamed myself for letting him do too much, moments of impatience as he was not progressing fast enough, moments when I have been dishearten, frustrated.

And our “adventure”, if we can call it an adventure, is not over as  Mehwi is now back to short lead walks for a few weeks as we are trying stem cells therapy to help him with another orthopaedic condition: elbow dysplasia – I am crossing fingers that this will work and I can only thank the team at Aberdeen Veterinary Referrals, especially Scott Rigg, for helping me to try to offer pain free life to my pup.

I have definitely learnt a great deal with Mehwi, and I am still learning. Rehabilitation can take a LONG time, and when I write LONG, I mean LONG time, much longer than I would have expected. It’s not a linear process either, it can be such a roller coaster. So yes,  I relate to every single of my patients and to their owners too because I am also living their experience.  On a more positive line, I definitely believe that Mehwi has made me a better canine massage therapist and a better animal physiotherapist to be.

These are below a few tips I have learnt with Mehwi:

1 – Get your dog insured with a good insurance company: what happened to me could happen to any of you and this is such a relief to know that you can provide your pet with all the treatments he/she may need without having to worry about the cost.

2 – If you feel something is wrong with your pup or dog, trust your instinct go to see your vet and ask, if required, to be referred to a specialist. This has happened multiple time in my life and every time I was right.

3 – Physiotherapists, masseuses, chiropractors, osteopaths are not supposed to diagnosed, you should involve your vet and a specialist if needed.

4 – Try to work with a vet you trust, if you are in a practice with multiple vets, there is nothing stopping you to “choose” to deal with one of them only. Working with a vet who knows your dog can make so much difference and don’t be afraid to ask your vet to refer you to a specialist, you don’t have to wait for him/her to do so.

6 – Take charge of the rehabilitation process, ask questions, make sure you understand what you are explained, make sure you are comfortable with your dog’s rehabilitation team. Work with professionals who understand the subject, don’t be afraid to “build” a multidisciplinary team around your pet with individuals who are willing to communicate with each others.

7 – Canine Massage Therapy can be a powerful tool to help dogs with orthopaedic conditions and post-operative recovery both in term of pain management and rehabilitation.

8 – Be patient, very patient, we are never patient enough when it comes to rehabilitation post surgery.

Team Scotland Understand the Importance of Taking Their Guild Canine Massage Therapist To The World Agility Open

Canine Pawsibilities and Agility Team Scotland feature this week in the Canine massage guild blog!

If you are interested to understand how warm up and cool down massages can benefit your agility dogs or any canine athlete, this blog is for you! Check it out on the Canine Massage Guild blog page:

Team Scotland Understand the Importance of Taking Their Guild Massage Therapist To The World Agility Open

And to set the atmosphere, I also have summarised the experience in in a slightly more lively manner:




Another training day at CANINE Pawsibilities

With the nice weather we had a couple of weeks ago, Iain decided to take his camera out to witness another training day at CANINE Pawsibilities.

There was a mix of junior classes, agility foundation for young dogs and one to one agility training sessions.

Although I am a border collie addict, I love training a wide breed of dogs, I love seeing the young dogs evolve, I love seeing small dogs like Cyril playing with the big boys like Harley. I love witnessing Sprout and Maddie or Buzz who have been rescued recently, building their confidence. I feel so lucky to be doing what I love: training dogs or should I say enrich some dogs’ life.

Just like with human, training is not one system fits all, each dog has its own personality, its own strength and its own weakness and this is without taking in account the owner / dog relationship which is also another level of challenge. When training, I need to take all these parameters into account.

Each team challenges me in their own way, they push my creativity to find what might work better for them. I feel that each dog and owner I meet push me to improve my skills and knowledge. Also,  I try to give a little bit (and even a lot) of what I have learnt over the years with my own dogs to all of them, hoping that I can help them all live a happier, fuller life: I see this is as my own dogs’ legacy.

And the most important aspect of it is a simple advice: don’t waste any time, enjoy every single minute you have with your four legged friends, have fun, laugh, don’t be frustrated if training does not take you (easily) where you would like to be, instead embrace the challenge and adapt to your dog’s need and never ever worry about what others might think of you and your dog – One day, which is not further away than a blink of your eye your friend will have aged and it will be too late.

All the photos of the video below (and much more) can also be admired on Iain’s website  (at a much better resolution than the video). If one of the star of the video is yours and you would like some of the photos, use the “contact us” option on his website and just ask him, I am pretty sure he will be more than happy to email you the photos. Or you can also simply let him know you liked his photos…. this is another thing my dogs taught me: positive reinforcement works also on human!


You said Collection or Extension Jumps?

During their last dog agility training session Buzz and Colin were working on early verbal and physical cue for more efficient lead leg change during collection and extension jumps. Although lead leg is often overlooked in agility it is actually a simple concept that can make the difference between a tight turn and a wide turn.

In simple terms, the front leading leg when a dog is cantering, galloping or jumping is always the second of the front legs that strikes the ground. Do you know which leg is the leading leg when your dog is jumping to the right? If not, I would advise you to film your dog in slow motion whilst jumping and learn to recognise which one should be his leading leg. You will then be able to recognise so many video of agility dogs on the internet turning with the wrong lead leg, this is often a sign that the handler has not provided clear enough physical and/or verbal cues to allow the dog to prepare himself for the jump.

As Colin was struggling a little with the concept, he decided to take the exercise to the next level. I must admit I am really impressed by his dedication and interesting initiative!

As the exercise was definitely a success we decided to share the experience with the outside world for the benefits of you all but remember that this jumping exercise is an advanced exercise, I would not advise to try it without the supervision of your trainer nor without a photographer to capture the essence of the exercise.

So now, please look attentively to the next few photos and share with us your opinion

  • Which one of these is a collection jump and which one is an extension jump?
  • That was easy? OK, so now watch attentively: who is using the wrong leading leg?


  • Do you think Buzz gave the command early enough?
  • Finally which jumping style do you prefer?

In case you were wondering I can confirm that no human was hurt during this photoshoot! But did you know that abnormal lead leg changes can also be an early pointer of injury?

It’s fun, it’s cold…it’s April outdoor agility training in Scotland

The nice part of training agility outdoor again is the sun and the light, the bad part is how cold it can be in Scotland even mid-April! We had a lovely (very cold) training session on Monday night and it was even better as Iain decided to try one of his new toy! So we now have some lovely pictures.

I am so proud of everybody I am training, I am always amazed of the improvements of all the teams and how everybody is trying so hard.  I wished I had videos of everybody from the first time they came to train with me to now. Being in a farming area quite a few of the handlers are in the middle of the lambing at the moment and I am actually very impressed that everybody is still committed to come and participate to the agility training sessions.

Knowing how tiring lambing is, I must admit that I am not sure I would be able to come training and stay awake most of the night for the lambing especially as everybody who know me also knows that when I train, everybody run…not only the dogs!

So now place to some of Iain’s fab photos. the agility models are Fly, Rosie, Rhum and Doodle. I hope that all of these teams will try to do at least a few agility shows this year…no more excuses!





World Agility Open, go on Agility Team Scotland!

In 2012 Manouk and me were lucky to be part of the very first Agility Team Scotland that went to represent Scotland at the World Agility Open Championship. This year I will be returning to the event as the Canine Therapist for Team Scottish.

Last Sunday was the last team training. I thought it would feel extremely strange not to be there as a competitor and of course it was a little, but to be honest I just love my role in the team. It’s so much fun and so much challenge to take care of all the canine athletes!

I spent most of the training afternoon getting to know the Agility Team Scotland canine athletes before the big event in May and performed some pre-event warm up massages and muscular health checks. My aim was to earn the trust of the dogs I barely had time to actually watch any of the runs!

I also hope the team members will take back home my advice concerning warm up and cool down for their team mate and will spend a little bit of time developing a tailored routine. It is an aspect of the heath, performance and well-being of the canine athlete that is too often ignoredin agility.

I am so excited and can’t wait now for the event, less than two months to wait now! Go on Agility Team Scotland, let’s go and win some medals!

And I forgot to say….I was so proud of little Kelsy, I have been treating her now for a few months and she was absolutely flying!

Photos courtesy of Fiona Flood

Crufts 2016 – Good Luck to all the agility competitors

How time flies! A year ago I was getting ready for Crufts with Manouk to compete in the agility championship final on the Sunday, one of the most prestigious final of the UK.

Manouk  was just back from an injury, in fact I only had the go ahead to compete from Scott Rigg, his orthopaedist specialist, 5 days before the competition, so it was truly a magic event.  It also prove that with dedication, patience and the right Medical and rehabilitation team, miracle are possible!

No need to say I was just a little bit nervous (!) but I had a fab last minute groomer who stepped in: Lucy Osborne who helped me in the background to discuss the courses, calm me and take care of Manouk whilst I was walking the courses.  Agility is also that, a community of people who are supporting and helping each other’s, driven by the same passions: our dogs (they always come first) and agility!

Little I knew it would be his last final and his last time at Crufts: a couple of months later, during a follow up check-up, he was diagnosed with an unrelated condition, a lumbosacral disc degeneration, which forced us to stop agility, with 2 champ tickets and 3 reserves in our pockets. So close to the prestigious “agility champion” title. Gosh I miss running this boy, he is just a dream of a dog, no wonder why his nickname is Mr Perfect!

So today, I woud like to wish all the BEST OF LUCK TO ALL THE AGILITY COMPETITORS, I will obviously cheer for all my fellow Scottish competitors! With a special thought for Kelsy, Burns and Jess who will be competing at the young kennel club agility ring! Enjoy your time there!

Introducing Canine Massage Therapy to the veterinary community

On Wednesday 17th of February, I had my first opportunity to raise the awareness about the value of Canine Massage Therapy and the Canine Massage Guild to the veterinary community of the North East of Scotland.

It was also a great opportunity to discuss how beneficial a multi-disciplinary approach can be for the rehabilitation of a canine patient. The presentation was split in two main subjects: Hydrotherapy, presented by Sarah Wilson and Clinical Canine Massage Therapy, presented by myself.

The presentation was held at Aberdeen Veterinary Referral and was fully booked. I am delighted by the very positive feedback we had after the presentation and I am hoping to continue to improve the awareness of Canine Massage Therapy to the veterinary community of the NE of Scotland.

I would to take the opportunity to thank Sandra Wilson (K9 Health Centre)  for her trust by inviting me to share her presentation and AVR for giving us such an opportunity.

Less than 18 months in practice and already nominated for the Petplan award!

It’s been an amazing year setting up my Canine Massage Therapy Clinic, with some scary moment too!

My confidence builders have been two of my canine massage guild colleagues, namely Natalie Lenton, course director of the Canine Massage Therapy Centre and Chairman of the canine massage guild and Emma Overend, instructor in Canine Touch and McTimoney Animal therapist.

And of course Scott Rigg from Aberdeen Veterinary Referrals who is kindly mentoring me in my next project: becoming an small animal physiotherapist. Scott has also authorised me to use sometimes one of the room at the practice when some of our common clients may not be able to drive up to Huntly for their Canine Massage Therapy treatments.  But just to clarify I am not technically a member of staff of the practice!

I can’t even explain how nice if feel to be nominated for such an award especially after just under 18 months of practice in Canine Massage it means a lot to realise how appreciated I am by the people and owners of dogs that I am trying to help. I guess this nomination set the standard high for my few coming years of practice! Thank you so much for your support Jeri!

Canine Sport Medicine course: conditioning and rehabilitation of the canine athlete

Today is a good day: I just found out the I passed the exam for the canine sport medecin course with a 99% Mark, hurray!

As some of you already know I went to Zurich at Bessy’s Kleintierklinik last month for a 3 day intensive course about Canine Sport Medicine taught by Chris Zink.

This was an amazing opportunity for me as the course, developed by the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (USA), is mainly held in the USA and is only opened to veterinarians, veterinary technicians and physical therapists. It was definitely a steep learning curve!

The group included 83% of veterinarian surgeons with 4 orthopaedic specialists and some veterinarian specialised in animal rehabilitation, most of the last 15% were physical therapists who specialised in animal therapy. It was a truly European course with people from Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, England and Scotland.

The course, aimed to provide us with a fundamental understanding of anatomical structure and locomotion and how they relate to performance and potential injuries was quite intensive. We covered in depth the main sport injuries of the canine athletes in all disciplines, including their causes, the main diagnostic procedures, their prevention via conditioning program and post injury targeted rehabilitation. The course also included the safe introduction to canine sport for young dogs.

The role that psychology can play in the rehabilitation was also discussed as well as the nutrition and supplements.

We had some very interesting discussion on the subject of diagnostic and rehabilitation with the participation of all the experts in the room describing their own approach during the practical sessions.

Chris Zink was definitely a brilliant instructor, extremely knowledgeable with a thorough science based approach that I really appreciated and she is very entertaining too!

Finally it was a very good opportunity for me to network with some like-minded professional with whom I am hoping to keep contact and maybe meet again in the future.

I would like to finish by thanking Chris for the course and Rico Vannini, Owner of Bessy’s Kleintierklinik for the organisation and welcoming us all to his clinic.