Does your dog know he has a back end? Or more accurately, does your pooch know that he controls those back feet and they don't just follow the front like a caboose on a train? All too often, I find that the dogs that come to my office have overall poor awareness of their back ends. Some know they have a back end but seem surprised when the back feet do something independently of the front. Others can't seem to get their back feet to move independently at all. And still others, are like the proverbial bull in a china shop, with little awareness of their entire body, front, back and everything in between! Admittedly, any dog in my rehab program that is being treated for a hip, stifle, or hock joint issue IS going to have altered body awareness in that leg(s) because of the joint issue. We know that an injury to the knee, for example a cruciate ligament tear, disrupts the normal function of the mechanoreceptors and joint receptors that are involved in telling the brain where that leg is in relation to the rest of the dog's body and the environment. But that's not to say that these guys get a free pass because they have an injury. Just the opposite! These dogs need proprioceptively enriched exercises to encourage proper functioning of these receptors again. Okay, big fancy words, for these guys better have some balance, coordination, and body awareness exercises in their rehab program! What about those dogs that don't have an injury? All the canine athletes, amateur and professional, weekend warriors included, need to have great control over their bodies and feet to prevent injuries, injury that can occur in daily life as well as canine sports. Injury prevention not sexy enough for you? How about the concept of recovery. Ever slip or stumble on something and be able to pull yourself out of it without falling? That's what I'm talking about. I want your dog to be able to recover from a potential disaster and walk away with you saying "Nice save." instead of "That's going to hurt later."
Dr. Sonnet Jarvis