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Slow and square - why we should care

Nicky Grant BSc Hons Physiotherapy, MSc Veterinary Physiotherapy, HCPC, MCSP, ACPAT A , RAMP

Agility, the ability to move quickly and easily, that’s what the dictionary tells me when I look the word agility up. Agility dogs have to accelerate, decelerate, turn on the flat, turn in the air, during take off and landing and be able to adapt to the cues we are giving them and not always at the optimum times! There are multiple times on a course when our dogs will have a single foot on the floor during take off or landing, often whilst turning. This takes incredible balance, strength and coordination to manage this stress on the body. If we don’t specifically train this, how do we expect our dogs to cope with these stresses on their bodies?

We spend a lot of time, rightly, teaching our dogs speed and rewarding for movement but we need to spend some time going slow and standing still to build the foundation blocks for agility. If your dog can’t stand on two legs standing still, how do we expect them to be able to manage at speed.

A large part of core stability comprises Multifidus, a combination of tiny muscles in the spine that sit between all the individual segments of the spine. When they are working correctly, they are able to stabilise the segments of the spine by anticipating movement and acting accordingly. Interestingly, the presence of back pain causes these muscles to switch off and become smaller around the painful or dysfunctional segments. Furthermore, they don’t just re-start when the pain goes away, they have to be re-activated with specific targeted exercise. This is the case in people and dogs and is something a Physiotherapist can help with, both for yourself and your dog.

Having appropriate core stability helps dogs to have a stable spine allowing the legs and pelvis to move efficiently as well as offering a stable base, helping to reduce the risk of injury and improve athletic performance.

Hand in hand with core stability we must help our dogs to have good body awareness, we must help them understand where their legs are both in relation to each other and the environment around them. They need also to be able to coordinate their back and front legs and understand they have a left and right side. Without appropriate body awareness the risk of injury is higher and performance will be reduced.

The building blocks of normal movement are built on moving slowly and correctly and standing square, find out more by dropping us a line at the Win Clinic, you can call us on 01823 426490 or email us on

Thank you to the beautiful Clyde for allowing us to use this photo - if you want to see how Bonny worked with Clyde from both a physical perspective and a training perspective check out our puppy series HERE, for a limited time use winclinic10 to get 10% off site wide at

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