GAIT4Dog

What is the GAIT4Dog walkway system? Well, to put it lightly, it’s the most technological and complex carpet you will ever let your dog walk on:) lol. The It’s Possible Walkway is 12’ of seemingly ordinary carpet that houses 1/2” square pressure sensors that when paired with the Gait4DOG software become a very valuable and informative tool to evaluate gait in dogs.

Data obtained by simply walking a dog across the carpet yields parameters such as; step length, stride length, step/stride ratio, reach, stance time, as well as stance and pressure percentages. If that’s a little too nerdy for you to take in, then looking at the GLS or gate lameness score may help. The GLS is comprised of all the data collected and can help evaluators and owners/handers better understand a qualitative degree of lameness or soundness. In a perfect world the GLS score would be 100 for each limb. Check out the picture below, we can see that this dogs right rear limb appears to be lame. We can also see how he may be compensating, as it looks like he is shifting weight to his left contralateral limb as well as his front. Dogs in general, but especially performance dogs can be evaluated for soundness and put the minds of their handlers at ease, but also hone in on potential problems before they become truly clinical to the naked eye.

The Data Collection Process:

Obtaining data is fairly simple but as many variables should be controlled as much as possible. Some variables may include; walking on a loose lead, staying at a consistent speed, minimal head turning or repositioning, and staying on the carpet. Most dogs do very well with the process and pattern quickly to what the handler asks of them.

How does it Benefit the Rehabilitation Patient?

Creating baselines for patients recovering from surgery or injury can be very helpful in making sure treatment is working and there have been no set backs during their rehabilitation. It can also help pick up subtle changes and compensations that may be occurring so that the practitioner can better make decisions on how to target treatment and/or exercise.

How does it Benefit the Canine Athlete?

Many canine athletes suffer from small soft tissue injuries that go unnoticed until they are clinical. At that time longer rest periods and possible treatment may keep them out of their game and not having any fun at trials. Having normal baselines is beneficial in giving the handler confidence that their teammate is sound and ready to compete. It may also be helpful in comparing values if something were to occur.

GAIT4Dog analysis has changed how I practice. Every dog that I work with in clinic is first walked on the walkway so that we can tract progress and make more informed decisions about how we should proceed.

Keep an eye out on my events page for when I may be visiting your town with the GAIT4Dog Walkway!

GLS Score for website

Ipsilateral Bridging Exercise Study with Pogo

During a veterinary practice consult trip I got the chance to play with a canine stance analyzer. This specialized piece of equipment is used to measure weight distribution in the canine. Academically speaking, dogs bear 60% of their weight on their front limbs and 40% on their rear. There is a little learning curve on how to use the equipment, but all in all it was pretty easy to understand and I started collecting data on all the patients we saw for a two day period(about 15 animals). The numbers that I was getting also seemed to correlate with normal subjective gait analysis and the pathologies we were seeing. I decided to take the technology to a different level, as I wanted to see how weight was being distributed during the Ipsilateral Bridging exercise. I have developed many variations of this exercise but for study purposes we picked the simple version and stuck to one angle like at the time mark of 0:22 in this video:

When using this piece of equipment it seemed more accurate to freeze frame at least 10 “good” postures then average the numbers to obtain a more accurate result of the animals weight distribution. I did this with all the patients I saw over the two day period and continued to use this method with studying Pogo at a normal stance as well as in the ipsilateral bridge.

Pogo’s results were that she bears 8% more weight on her rear than the average dog. And during the ipsilateral bridge she distributed 95% of her weight on her down sided limbs. She also would shift more weight to her rear during the bridge, ~1-2% on her front vs ~3-4% on her rear.

Setting up the study was pretty fun and did take a little trial and error. I wanted to make sure we could show, in real time, how weight was being distributed for future review and so that we could put out a short video on what we had learned. I first thought that using a webcam connected to the analysis computer would give us a reference of body posture and position during the study. I thought if I could run a screen capturing program in the background, and use a simple split screen, then I could easily correlate both the video and the analysis in one video. That worked but not as well as I wanted… So I borrowed some of my movie making knowledge and decided that syncing an outside camera to the analysis computer using a simple audible clap would make for easy syncing in post production. This worked much better than the first idea and I was able to sync up both the video from he analysis computer that was being recored by the screen capturing program as well as the DSLR camera showing body position and posture.

Check out the final video here, it was really fun to make. I’d love to get data on all my exercises, and at some point I will hopefully be able to get more equipment like this so I can.

Fitness and Body Awareness workshop at DogStar Performance Dog Sports, Maryland

This past weekend Lindsey and I traveled to Baltimore, Maryland for a Fitness and Body Awareness workshop at DogStar Performance Dog Sports. We were welcomed with open arms by Bridget Thomas and a wonderful group of trainers and their dogs. Everyone had open minds, and sucked in our information while having a lot of fun.

This workshop covered dynamic and stabilizing exercise targeted at higher functioning agility and performance dog teams. During our first day we presented an interactive lecture and a demonstration on exercises we would be covering. We also covered how to make these exercise fun, safe and challenging over time, which is a pretty important concept for all to understand when exercising dogs as well as ourselves. Everyone had a great time and, even though it was challenging, I managed to snap out a few photos and film a little of our training too! Check out the photos, and watch the wrap up video!

Back to Basics: Learning “Sit Pretty”

“Sit Pretty or Beg” is the next “Back to Basics” video I have produced. This exercise can help build not only strength in the lower core of dogs, it also helps build body awareness and yields better stability of their whole hind end.
Dogs will take some time to learn this, mentally, but there is also an element of physical learning that goes on. Take your time when training and don’t push your athlete too hard or too fast on one specific trick, repetitively. Many performance dogs having lower core disfunction sometime in their careers, so this a great, low impact, exercise to teach all ages.
Check out the video below and start training your superdog today!

Bogey’s Amazing Recovery – Effective Exercises for IVDD Treatment

Effective Exercises After IVDD Treatment

by Rosanne Krupka Peters, DVM, CVA, DACVIM (Neurology)
and Robert J Porter, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner

Effective-Exercises-After-IVDD-FitPAWSIntervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a very common problem neurological, surgery and physical rehabilitation practitioners see in practice. Even more so is the patient with a lesion at or around the T/L junction (mid-back). This can affect many breeds but we tend to see more Dachshunds, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels more than any others.

Some of the more common symptoms seen in these dogs are weakness, ataxia (incoordination), and proprioception deficits (scuffing toes and knuckling the foot under while walking) Another common symptom we see that directly affects function is extensor rigidity which means that the legs will tend to be held stiff and straight. This is common when we have problems in parts of the spinal cord in the neck to middle back area (upper motor neuron).

While increased extensor muscle tone can make it harder for a patient to flex the limbs, it can sometimes help us exercise patients a little easier because it better allows for weight-bearing. This allows us to better target desired functions like standing and walking.

The video below follows a MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers patient, Bogey, through about 5 weeks of therapy.

Bogey presented to MedVet Mandeville with no pain sensation in his rear limbs, was brought to surgery and regained sensation within about a week, though was still unable to walk or stand.

Physical rehabilitation started approximately 2 weeks post op, and included underwater treadmill and targeted sit to stand exercises using positive reinforcement training techniques on FitPAWS® Canine Conditioning Equipment. As I have written in the past, the SAID Principle helps guide me in picking effective exercises for patients and athletes, and these two exercises fit very well into this concept. Bogey’s short term goals were to be able to stand and walk, and that’s precisely what we worked on in therapy.

Underwater treadmill exercise allowed Bogey to walk without falling, the buoyancy of water aided in stabilizing his gait and supported the weight that he could not. This also set Bogey up to succeed while practicing walking as perfectly as possible.

Sit to stand exercises targeted the other functional goal for Bogey. In my experience, this really helps hone in on teaching a patient how to eccentrically contract their quadriceps again. When I train a patient I only use positive reinforcement. I see no real benefit in forcing a dog to do much of anything, they never learn that way, and when healing animals or people recover from neurologic disease, I find it essential in their understanding of their own movements.

Another thing I am very particular about is when I reward a patient during this activity, as well as how much of a reward I give.

    My general rules are:

  • Reward for every action
  • Reward for attention, especially when starting a new session
  • Reward for standing on the FitPAWS® Balance Pad (front feet)
  • Reward for stepping off the FitPAWS® Balance PadFitPAWS® Balance Pad (front feet)

The most important time to reward is when they learn to release their quadriceps and get into a sit. Sometimes I let the patient nibble on the reward until they finish an action, then jackpot them for the action I was looking for.

Bogey continues to improve and is now “more active, fit and walks longer than he did before his injury,” says his owners.

Making Exercise Safe and Challenging with the “2 On To Up” Exercise

Making exercise safe and challenging with the “2 On To Up” exercise

In my last blog post I outlined how the SAID principle can help us pick effective exercises for our canine athletes. So how do we continue to evolve these exercises and continue to challenge our four-legged fur balls of energy?

When I start cross-training a dog, I like to think about simple variables of exercise to fit the dog’s mental and physical skill and strength levels. There are 7 main variables of exercise, and plugging one or more into an exercise that you and your dog have mastered can offer up a much-needed challenge that can satisfy the needs of you both.

1. Speed/ intensity
2. Duration
3. Frequency
4. Range of motion
5. Plane of motion
6. Body Position
7. Resistance

A good example of this type of progression, using variables of exercise, is my “2 On To Up” exercise.

Check out Onyx performing the 2 on to up exercise at the intermediate level on the FitPAWS® Peanut.

Benefits of the 2 On To Up exercise:

  • Target lower core muscle groups
  • Engage eccentric muscle loading (elongating contractions) used to decelerate movement in real life and sport
  • Active disengagement of hamstrings group
  • Improved body awareness and strength
  • Easy to teach and can evolve and continue to challenge an athlete
  • Low impact exercise

The 2 On To Up exercise starts with an athlete that can easily get all 4 legs on a prop, like the FitPAWS® Giant Disc. If needed, starting with just a simple board or foam pad can do the trick if working on the perfection of the action/behavior is needed before making it harder.

The next step is to teach the dog to step off the prop, leaving rear legs on the prop and forelimbs on the floor, just like a 2o2o position for an Agility contact. Then, the actual “2 On To Up” exercise is to be able to back them up, placing all 4 limbs back on the prop. It is important to note that the dog must be standing while performing this exercise. If they sit during this action, they are only weight-shifting their front end up, not targeting their lower core musculature like we want.

Once the 2 on to up exercise is mastered on a prop low in height, you can start to progress by simply using a taller/ larger prop, like a FitPAWS® Donut. By using a larger prop you are changing the intensity, body position, range of motion, and resistance of this exercise.

You can continue to progress to larger and larger props, just like in the above video of Onyx, where she has to pull herself up with her lower core and hind limbs. For all of you worried about “tight hamstrings” this is one of the only exercises that also allows an active stretching of this muscle group.

If we want to progress the 2 on to up exercise further, we can take the actions already learned and move to the land treadmill.

**Please use the DogTread® front fence (included) when the FitPAWS® Giant Rocker Board is on top of the DogTread® Treadmill.

The progression of a canine athletic exercise plan is essential in creating an optimum training environment, allowing the athlete’s tissues to adapt and strengthen, resulting in more precise movements.

Pogo is now working many of the muscle groups that she uses in decelerating actions in real life, but doing it safely, and controlled to best cross-train her for her real life sports.

We can even take this to a higher challenge and use a K9FITvest® to add even more resistance, facilitating the building of strength and body awareness.

Variables of exercise can be very inspiring to help you progress or tailor an exercise to your athlete’s cross training program. Try plugging them in to what you are doing today, and post a video on http://www.facebook.com/fitPAWS. We would love to see your athlete in action!