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Dog Training and Canine Massage?

Most folks in the canine professional world seem to have a myriad of letters after their name. While it can look quite impressive, it can also be somewhat bewildering as to what those letters mean. One of my proudest alphabetical accomplishments is my Lang Institute Canine Massage Provider (LICMP) status, which I earned graduating from the Lang Institute for Canine Massage (LICM). I thought it would be nice to write a bit about what LICMP means and what that education brings to me as a dog trainer.

The LICM is a year-long, 663 hour course of study created by Joanne Lang. Joanne is a graduate of the world renowned Boulder College of Massage Therapy (as am I). She has been a leader in the canine massage world for over 30 years. With LICM, she created a program for canine massage that is as extensive as BCMT's program was for human massage therapy. LICM covers canine anatomy, physiology, gait analysis, nutrition, pathology, massage techniques, and exercise. Studying with LICM taught me to look at the entirety of a dog: “Many times, when we look at an animal, we miss much of the picture. I teach how to look at a dog’s overall balance and structure and understand how it is all tied together.” – Joanne Lang

I keep my membership with the Associated Bodyworker and Massage Professionals active along with the excellent insurance they provide, but I don't do full-on canine massage sessions except with my own dogs anymore. I really found my passion in dog training and behavior; it's the thing I feel I can do that will bring positive change into the world. But that doesn't mean I don't use everything I learned with LICM every day, because I do.

The first thing any trainer will ask you if you contact them about a behavior issue is "Has your dog had a recent checkup with your vet?" That's also the first question a canine massage therapist would ask. Dogs are masters at concealing pain and yet pain can be a cause or an exacerbating factor in many behavior issues. A massage therapist is NEVER a substitute for proper veterinary care, but we can be an extra set of eyes on your dog. If your dog isn't rocking "sit" it's a good thing to ask "I wonder if it's because sitting is uncomfortable." Those kinds of questions run through my mind as I work with dogs.

I realized how important the link between pain and behavior was. I wanted to know more so I enrolled and graduated from a course designed for canine professionals on canine arthritis presented by the awesome folks at Canine Arthritis Management in the UK. This gave me the title of CAMadvocate. The course was designed to help us see the subtle signs of arthritis and to assist folks and dogs in finding the right professionals and lifestyle changes to help them cope with this horrible, degenerative disease. 80% of dogs over the age of eight have it ... one out of five puppies will show signs by the time they are one year old. Arthritis isn't curable, but there are a lot of strategies that can give an arthritic dog more years of a good life.

I think understanding the anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology of canines makes me a better dog trainer. That's why I include LICMP and CAMambassador in my dog training credentials. If you and your dog(s) ever work with me and Practically Perfect Dogs, remind me to show you the Lang System exercises. They are three simple, but powerful exercises that are great for your dog's spinal health and will help you hone your luring / training skills. It's a win/win. My favorite.

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