Supporting physical rehabilitation with behavioural modification

When managing painful conditions it is important to remain aware of the effects of pain on behaviour and conscious experience. By using pain-relieving medications, physical therapies, and cognitive activities we can reduce the impact of pain on quality of life. We also need to be aware that behaviours can negatively impact chronic pain conditions – for example uncontrolled racing/chasing can increase the risk of injuries (particularly if it involves explosive activity without warming up), or exacerbate pre-existing injuries.

Keeping more than one excited dog on a lead can be challenging!

By using some training techniques we can try to alter the excitement levels of dogs so that they go from racing through a gateway to sniffing for treats on the ground. We can get through the pinch point (gateway) and divert attention away from racing against each other towards calmer movement. We can then set off on our walk in a more relaxed frame of mind. Scattering some more treats as we go focusses attention on us, rather than the environment, and everyone gets a change to warm up before strenuous exercise.

Think about replacing chasing type activities (ball or frisbee throwing) with seeking/searching activities – these provide a great workout but greater focus and precision, which might reduce the risk of injury. Searching for food, toys, or more structured target scent training work provides mental and physical stimulation without subjecting the body to the forces associated with jumping, twisting, and sprinting and can be incredibly rewarding for dogs.

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