I’ve got a thought concept for you. It’s incredibly simple, but incredibly profound as well. I found it as a blog on: https://www.bettermovement.org/blog/2019/why-some-movements-are-incredibly-fun and I thought it was a perfect fit for canine rehab as well.
So, the blog asks the question, “Why are some physical activities so incredibly fun?” The key here is the caveat “…for some people, but not for others.” I added that in! I hate running, but I love lifting weights. I am admittedly afraid of the ocean (any large open expanse of water to be exact), so surfing is out for me, but I love to move to music, and have been known be a dancing machine (albeit more so in my younger years). Bike riding hurts my wrists, neck, and butt, but I love yoga.
There might be movements or activities that are universally appreciated: Jumping on a trampoline, playing in water, sledding down a hill or going down a water slide. I think the majority of people would find these things to be fun.
Where am I going with this?
There are going to be some movements that some patients love and are motivated by, and others that turn them right off! All creatures are built with an inherent risk-reward measurement system when it comes to movement & expending of energy. As a gazelle, should I burn all my calories unnecessarily running from point A to point B just to graze in a different area? No, maybe that’s not worth it. However, if I’m a gazelle being chased by a lion, then I’d burn all the calories necessary to not be eaten that day!
The same can be true for prescribing movements that feel good or are enjoyable as part of a therapy plan versus prescribing your ‘standby exercises’ or the underwater treadmill just because you have it versus finding exercises that your patient and client can enjoy! Sure! Sure! You can try all your patients in the UWT if you want, but if the dog hates it, then maybe it’s not an effective therapy. Maybe ‘enjoyment’ is an untapped, poorly understood, missing element that could take your therapeutic exercise sessions from good to great!!!
When I enjoy something, I put my heart and soul into it. Can’t that make a difference to how I perform, improve, excel, and grow? Sure, it can!
So, try to find those things for your animals and patients as well! What motivates them? What movements or activities do they already do (and love)? If it’s a sporting dog, can you incorporate sporting activities into their rehab? If they know tricks, can they be incorporated? If they love the kids in the house, can the kids participate in rehab? If they’re food motivated, use food! If they do better with the reassurances of their owner, then be sure that the owner is participating in the exercise sessions (not just dropping the dog off). And so on!
Make it about the dog! Not about you and convenience or preferences. Maybe, just maybe, it will skyrocket your results!
Reference: Laurie Edge-Hughes, BScPT, MAnimSt(Animal Physio), CAFCI, CCRT; Owner, Four Leg Rehab Inc.