Today marks day 62 post-abdominal surgery for Rainey, making this the start of week 9. Rainey returned to jumping 12 inches this week, and also ran in a seminar today. In class this week, Rainey had no difficulty with 12 inches, along with running all contacts and weaves. She also maintained no issues the following days. Each week it seems her confidence has improved. When started back at class some of her previous over-arousal issues showed themselves – excessive barking, grabbing at me, being very ‘sticky’ and lacking independence. As we have progressed in our physical rehab and slowly moved her back up to 12 inches it seems her strength is fair greater than it’s been in a very long time, possibly ever, and her confidence is reaching new heights. Rainey has always been barky when she runs. She instructs me on whether I am too slow or simply providing her incorrect cues. She’s very opinionated. I suppose that’s why I picked her. This week the structure of the post will be a little different. I will cover the 3 exercises in the video, and then I will do a discussion about how I can tell from a functional standpoint that Rainey is much, much better than she once was.
Jump-Crawl – this is yet another more advanced exercise demonstrating power and speed in action. As you can see in the video, I have the bars set above 12 inches for her to jump. The goal of this exercise is to engage the hind end and core through the crawl, then immediately power through to a jump. When they return after the jump, the dog jumps and collects into a crawl. Then repeats. This exercise can only be performed when the dog has appropriate whole-body strength, especially the core and back end. Rainey has not seen this exercise in over 2 years, and since we had been doing so much crawl work lately, she was initially confused and tried to crawl under the jump set.
Ramp – slow, controlled incline work is a great way to build muscle and engage important stabilizers. This exercise also mimics the muscles needed for the incline and decline work needed for the dog walk, teeter, and A frame. When performed in a controlled manner you can engage the muscles utilized for those pieces of equipment to a more thorough capacity. As you can see Rainey sometimes prefers to crouch when she does things. It can be a struggle to get her to fully stand upright, especially on the incline/decline. Therefore, patience is needed and just like everything else, it’s a work in progress.
Back up Incline – this is complex and difficulty. Rainey’s little brain may have exploded a little bit. Therefore, I wasn’t extremely picky in what I was asking her to do. It is very difficult to back up that height of an incline, but she managed to do it. When I repeat this, I will make sure the KLIMB is pressed against the wall, therefore the target FitBone will not move. However, as I have learned in the past, being close to a wall will sometimes encourage Rainey to perform a hand stand. As funny or cute as this is, I really try to discourage it, alongside her offered attempts at a sit pretty. The reason is so much can go wrong with those two activities/tricks. It puts an extreme amount of pressure on the lumbosacral region of the spine. Only dogs with extreme core and back strength should perform those. If she offers them every once in a while, that is totally fine. But under no circumstances do I encourage it, especially not at this stage in her recovery.
Diagonal Leg Lift Core & Strength Assessment – this week I put a traction mat on the KLIMB. I recently ordered one, and I really like it. The KLIMB isn’t extremely slippery, but for things like this it can be, especially when the dog has excess fur on their feet. Rainey continues to have a strong core and excellent core engagement. Her side profile stacked photo continues to show a nice topline and she happily and willingly self-stacks herself. This is really important – she willingly puts herself in a stacked position. Why this is important is it means she is free of pain in her rear end, her groin, and her back. If she was standing with her legs camped under her or not stacking out nicely I would be concerned that she was sore. I note Rainey standing like this naturally any time she is standing, and that is an excellent sign of her comfort. Another sign of a sore hind end or groin is the dog bunny hops when it’s trotting or running. Or it has a pacing gait – left front and right hind come together at a trot vs left front and left hind. This is a sign that something is wrong and the dog should be assessed. Therefore, 3 things for you to monitor in your dog’s recovery – is the dog stacking out willingly, does the dog bunny hop at a faster gait, and does the dog have a pacing gait (when it’s not a breed who should).
Form to Function – All the hard work is paying of
The next portion of the attached video is of Rainey running in a seminar today. It is snippets put together of the complete course from the 2 different sessions she had, a total of a 54 second run. The sessions were 8 minutes and 6 minutes split between 10 dogs throughout 3 hours. That clarification is so you recognize I was not over working her. On that note, I was concerned that repeating the sequence on the second attempt would be too much for her, but in the end, I do not think it was. I say this because she ran it with the same speed and intensity she ran the first attempt. It was a very tough international handling course, and neither of use had ran that level for a while. This was also the first time Rainey has seen a full-sized course since October.
What I want you to appreciate is Rainey’s speed, jump ability, and extension on the flat (flat out running). Where I noticed her extension and overall confidence was her speed over the dog walk. Now if you fast forward to the second video snippet on this video, you will see an AKC agility trial run from October 17th, 2020. This was 5 months ago. As I have stated previously, Rainey had barely received any strength and conditioning in the last year. Watching this second video I can definitely see that. Despite this being a Qualifying run at 4.261 yps (8.72 mph), which earned her 28 MACH points (as in 28 seconds under standard course time), Rainey’s extension while running is not that great, and neither is her jump quality. Again, most notable over the dog walk. Comparing the 2 videos, her DW time is 2.6 secs today (also a missed contact, oops) and 2.9 secs in October. That may not seem like a big difference, but 0.03 seconds can be the difference in winning or losing (of course she needs to actually hit the yellow, but that’s not my point right now). If you watch her head during these runs it may give you a better idea of what I am looking at. In the AKC video, she is doing what I call the schnauzer bop. She’s running like a little rocking horse, and is super cute. This is what most mini schnauzers look like when they run. My first agility dog Pyper always looked like this. And I’ve noticed for the last 6 months or more both Rainey and Aurora look like this more and more. She’s fast, yes, but not as fast as she could be and definitely not as efficient either. When we compare her running from today to the October video, there is a lot less bopping and a lot more full stride running (extension). Then when we compare her jump form from the two videos, she is jumping more efficiently in extension than she has in a very long time. In the snippet included I would like her take off (where she starts to jump) and landing to be a little more equal. However, she still looks much better, and we have not started actually working on her jump form, only her muscles. Therefore, these changes occurred naturally with her increased conditioning and athleticism. A discussion on jump style could go much further, but for now I wanted to point out the improvements in her functionality that were noted by her trainer and myself today. This is extremely promising for her career. Aside from being faster, if she is more efficient and carries herself better that can translate into a longer, healthy (injury free) career.
I continue to be very happy and proud of her improvement and progress! I hope that despite not including any data or literature you have learned something new from reading this. Today provided some real-life experience on why things matter and why we recommend what we do for our sport dogs. I still intend to expand on Tui-na massage, as well as provide a more in-depth lesson on anatomy. I hope to keep coming up with new exercises and helpful information for you!
The road to recovery is long, and sometimes there are setbacks, but the time it takes to get there will always be worth it!
Take care and may the Qi flow freely for you!
Dr. Shantel Julius, DVM, CCRP, CVA, fCoAC, CVSMT, CVFT, CVTP, CVCH, CTCVMP