Canine Bowen Therapy is about helping your dog recover from pain & restricted movement. But it's not just the hands on work - it's also 1 part practical advice, 2 parts owner involvement & 100% ALL about the dog. Here are some cool facts to help you understand your canine companion a bit more...
1.Super sense of smell
Your dog's sense of smell is upto 100,000 times greater than yours! It is so powerful they can even detect a specific scent in an expanse of water & can be trained to detect target scents to benefit humans - for example cancer cells in the human body, landmines, noxious substances, scent trails for tracking missing people or subtle changes in chemical reactions within the body in order to alert someone of an imminent epileptic episode. Unfortunately this also qualifies them to seek out random scraps of food on the ground & hidden treats in your pockets! But this highly attuned sense of smell & natural foraging behaviour can be used to your advantage & your dog's benefit - letting them sniff the surroundings when out on walks allows them to collect information about the area which is processed by the olfactory bulb, which occupies a large part of their brain, telling them who has been here, when, how big they were, what sex they were, how many, what other animals have passed through etc. It's a bit like social media for dogs! Even better if you scatter treats for them to find as this satisfies the reward centre of their brain. Treat scattering or treat hiding games can also be done at home. They allow you to sit back & observe your dog carrying out their natural doggy behaviour. This type of activity is surprisingly tiring, relaxing, rewarding & a great physical workout for your dog's musculoskeletal system. Scent work releases endorphins which tend to stay in the body for a few hours so 10-15mins of olfactory activity can leave a dog in a state of contentment for a few hours. This is a much more efficient & engaging experience for them than high energy activities like ball chasing which release neuro chemicals & stress hormones such as cortisol & adrenalin which also stay in the body for a few hours leaving your dog seemingly not tired out but in reality 'wired' & not content, after having added additional strain to their musculoskeletal system through high velocity twisting & turning or high impact on joints through heavy landing.
2.Similar musculoskeletal system to you
In other words muscles & bones. Although it is similar there are some significant differences which reflect how both species have evolved for different functions - your dog has about 320 bones but you have only 206. Their spine is made up of 7 cervical vertebrae, 13 thoracic vertebrae, 7 lumbar vertebrae, 3 sacral vertebrae & between 20 & 23 coccygeal vertebrae forming the tail which is used for balance & communication. Your dog's spine is flexible so unsuitable for carrying heavy loads. Your spine however is slightly more rigid - if it was too flexible it wouldn't hold you upright! We have 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, 5 lumbar vertebrae, 5 sacral vertebrae & 4 coccygeal vertebrae (but no tail!) We also have natural curvatures in our spine which act as shock absorbers. There are some muscles your dog doesn't have- they don't have a Gluteus Maximus like us as they they don't need it to maintain an upright bi-ped posture. But there are muscles they have that we don't - over a dozen ear muscles for directional hearing (making them very efficient at hearing you open a crisp packet even though you are being as quiet as a mouse), expressing emotion & filtering out certain sounds (such as their owner calling them back) But just like you your dog's muscles, tendons, ligaments , bones etc are surrounded in a sea of connective tissue called 'fascia' which is subject to tensional forces & susceptible to stiffness & pain so they are perfect candidates for Bowen Therapy.
Anatomy of the Dog In Straightforward Terms by Kerstin Mielke is a good book if you want to learn more but don't want to be bamboozled.
3. Has night vision
Almost....being evolved from predators that hunted at sunset & sunrise your dog has better vision than you in low light but little vision in complete darkness. Their pupils are larger than yours to let in more light & they have more rods than cones making them better able to create images in low light conditions. You however have more cones so better at distinguishing colour - dogs are red/green colour blind. The colour that most stands out for dogs is blue, something to think about when choosing a toy for them.
4. Has a cooling system in their nose
Unlike your sweaty armpits on a hot day or after exercise your dog really only sweats through their paws but this is not the only nor the main way they cool down. The main cooling system is in the nasal passages which inside have a structure of walls made of very thin & wet epitheleal tissue which cool down warm air as it enters the nasal passages via panting. Bracycephalic breeds ( breeds with short snouts) have a much harder job to cool down as their nasal passages are smaller & less effective at cooling the warm air. These dogs should always be kept in the shade or a cool place on hot days.
5. Can be left or right pawed
Research using 'the Kong test' or the 'First step test' has been used in studies to determine whether dogs can have a dominant paw like humans can have a dominant hand. Studies revealed, through repetition of the exercises over a minimum of 50 times per participant, that dogs do indeed demonstrate preference for one paw over the other. Try it at home - see how many times your dog uses their left or right paw to hold a treat filled Kong or which paw they favour when taking their first step down some stairs. Are they left pawed right pawed or ambi- pawed?
6. Can detect Earth's magnetic field
German zoology researchers have discovered that dogs align themselves with magnetic North when doing their business, suggesting they can detect Earth's magnetic field (but only when the magnetic field is calm) along with a handful of other animals that have also been studied such as cows, deer & foxes. It's not yet clear what this 'extra sensory' ability actually means or how else it is used other than for lining oneself up for a poo, but watch this space!
7. Is 99.96% wolf
Your dog, however small, tall, long, short, snub nosed, long nosed, drop eared, bat eared, crazy or calm shares a common ancestor with the present day grey wolf (Canis Lupus). Your dog (this may be hard to believe for some of you, but confirmation of something husky, malamute or samoyed owners have suspected all along!) is the domestic version of the grey wolf having descended some 30,000yrs or more from the bravest wolves that began to move into human camps, at first likely to be after scraps from our campfires. The relationship grew from there. It is thought that these animals initially domesticated themselves, rather than being domesticated by force, possibly recognising in the human an animal similar to itself in family living, group hunting, problem solving & mutual respect. Although your dog is practically wolf the missing %of DNA is purely domestic dog having evolved through selective breeding resulting in the widest range of sizes & colours of all animal species. But the main differences between dog & wolf are likely behavioural. Having lived with us for so many thousands of years they have adapted to be quite different from the modern day grey wolf in the way they interact with their environment. For more info I can highly recommend the book 'The Truth About Wolves & Dogs' by Toni Shellbourne
8. Has excellent memory
Having evolved from wolves your dog has a great memory for where they might have left stuff buried, like that deer carcass they left to prove for better eating! But this is not a realistic scenario for most dogs today, except maybe burying a bone or hiding a toy. But memory is not just limited to these activities. Dogs remember commands, people, places, other dogs & traumatic experiences. Certain situations can easily trigger a stress response in a dog who has had a previous bad experience in a certain place or with a certain person or a particular dog or other elements that might have a connection or association to this traumatic experience. However, don't let this 'long term' memory confuse you with how they actually learn, which is much more 'in the moment'. When teaching your dog new commands, new behaviours or new positive associations with certain situations the desired behaviour needs to be rewarded immediately, otherwise the connections won't be made & you run the risk of rewarding them for a completely different behaviour than your desired outcome!
9. Loves your sofa but this doesn't mean they are trying to be 'Alpha'
I love my sofa, my dogs love my sofa & I don't blame them - its a much more comfy spot than a dog bed on the floor! But this doesn't mean they are trying to be 'dominant' or rule the roost. Spending quality time with your dog in closeness on the sofa can help cement the bond you share but if you rather they didn't get on your furniture this is fine also. The dominance theory, sadly still popular amongst many trainers, was first developed in the 1940s from observations made by biologists on wolf 'packs' but has since been debunked by more thorough scientific studies into wolf families ('packs') & into domestic dogs seperately. The wolf pack structure & hierarchy is different to what was originally thought & using wolves as a model for behaviour modification in domestic dogs has since been found to be of less value. Behaviours that were originally thought to be displays of dominance are now seen as signs of stress, anxiety or fear. If you have concerns about certain unwanted behaviours your dog is displaying seek help from a qualified & accredited professional in force free training/behaviour modification. If in doubt the APDTE is a good place to start to search for a practitioner near you.
10. Super sociable
Dogs are a sociable species by nature, much like us humans. When you bring a puppy or rescue dog home you become their family/ gang / posse & once your bond has developed they will love nothing more than just hanging out with you, whether this is in the garden, watching telly, at the pub or out on walks. You can improve the quality of the time you spend together by engaging in play with them at home , being present when on walks & not burying your head in your phone or just simply being together doing nothing. Some dogs cope well with being left for short periods alone but for others their world falls apart each time you walk out of the door! As in no. 9, if you have issues with separation anxiety a qualified behaviourist can help with rehabilitation.
11. Speaks to you ALL the time using subtle signals
Some dogs are more vocal than others but none of them can vocalise words. Nevertheless your dog speaks to you all the time! Tails, ears, eyes, posture can all
express joy, excitement, sadness, fear, anxiety & anger. Yawning, panting & lip licking are common expressions of stress or anxiety & they can quickly escalate to a bite if ignored. The canine ladder of aggression is a great infographic for this. I can highly recommend 'Calming Signals' by Turid Rugaas who has mapped out a system of understanding the very subtle signals your dog uses to communicate with you.
12. Can read human emotion
Yes your dog is constantly studying your face for clues about your emotional state. 'Left gaze bias' is a technique they use to rapidly assess your mood by briefly looking into your left eye - they know when you are happy or sad or angry often before you do! They also learn very quickly which facial expressions they use get a positive response from us, hence those infamous puppy dog eyes! It is also thought that they can imitate some human facial expressions. After all they have had over 30,000 yrs to study us!
13. Capable of love
Research into animal behaviour has come along way - neuroscientists can now assess brain activity in dogs specifically trained to enter an MRI scanner & perform a task. Wow! Dogs experience a wide range of emotions, love being one of them - but you knew that already! Studies show that when you gaze into your dogs' eyes (with soft eyes rather than a hard stare) levels of Oxytocin increase in both you & your dog. Incidentally this doesn't occur dog to dog as direct eye contact within the species can be interpreted as threatening & would likely increase stress hormones. But you didn't really need science to prove that your dog loves you, did you?!