How to Talk to Your Vet
I never used to make such a large deal about talking to your vet. I mean, I always advocate for it, but I never thought to help people learn how to approach their vets with the idea of strength training through the CRT program. I decided to add it's own little spot in my seminar material and I am so glad I did. It got people talking---got them truly asking great questions. I encourage ALL of my clients to talk to their vets about their dogs doing CRT; it is a prerequisite of mine for owners to get their dogs cleared prior to the start of their programs. I just didn't realize how much further I could help them along in the process. After talking to the many professionals I have collaborated with in the making of this program---I know have a much better understanding of their concerns and how to help owners and potential CRT-goers seek out their approval.
A huge part of getting this information out there, to be more widely accepted, and squashing the fallacies that surround resistance training and why dogs use it for conditioning is that we need to stop hiding. We need to stop going "off road" at dusk or dawn to avoid public perception and interaction (unless you are concerned for weather conditions) and bring the concept of resistance training in this modality into the spotlight. I've met a handful of people who acknowledge this idea and are joining me on my venture to push this style of resistance training into the forefront-----but when they get to their vet or any responsible physical therapist, they usually come back and say---" My vet was apprehensive", or " The chiropractor said I should really use caution". NO KIDDING! Those are excellent vets and fitness experts and rehabilitation professionals! Those are the people I want you and your dog collaborating with. To dispel the myths and to open their minds to what a great thing CRT can be. Now, of course if they tell you that exercising your dog three times a week is not a great idea and that he or she should probably sit on the couch more........then perhaps we find a new vet. If the reason they told you to be hesitant is that a dog can get injured---then they are telling you the damn truth! Dogs can and HAVE gotten seriously injured when doing resistance training incorrectly. Spinal compression, herniated discs, overstretched iliapsoas muscles; they all lurk around the corner if you don't know what the hell you are doing!
Now- I've said it before:
I AM NOT A LICENSED PROFESSIONAL.
But with that being said---I used their knowledge and advice on HOW to create a program that gets those dogs into this style of strength training safely. People have been using harnesses and chains for decades, long before me. I didn't invent the concept----but no one has created a program that gets people started on the right path being inclusive to the needs of professionals. That is CRT. We talk about the use of proper equipment and why it is important you know the gait of a dog and movement. The CRT program gives weekly sessions and incremental changes so that you aren't guessing, because if you guess wrong---there goes the dog's hamstring muscle, patella....or worse, their confidence. There goes the idea that this is a good thing. The internet and social media are chalk full of "experts" whose proficiency status is only defined by the amount of trophies or titles they have, or how "heavy" their dog can pull. Those are the people giving advice on how to get dogs started; these are also the people that the modern public generate their perceptions about this training through. No wonder they see the concept as dangerous--because it can be. Just like taking medical advice from WebMD (and as a critical care nurse--this happens daily) can prove to be a terrible idea. People self medicate, diagnose, and treat based on the internet---hmmm, look familiar? Yeah, we do that with canine fitness too!
One of my many goals for my CRT program was to take the old school methodology and concepts and then merge the worlds of trusted canine fitness and rehab experts, while utilizing the concepts of human strength and conditioning programs to create a program that helps get dogs and owners started and minimize potential risks,...... yes I said minimize not eliminate (all physical activity can have risks).
The CRT program is multifaceted; it touches upon improving relationship, better cardiovascular endurance, greater strength and conditioning overall, and a vent for pent up frustration in a troubled dog-- it's benefits are endless. I've got a few current CRT clients who are doing the program to help combat severe arthritis, or to begin steps with battling weight loss with their dogs, and they asked me some great questions. The most common question being:
How do I talk to a vet or rehab specialist when I tell them I want to do this with my dog? What do I say?
That's something people don't often tell you how to do and many professionals only have the vision of the what's usually in front of them. They see videos and clips circling the internet with a dog using momentum and hurling themselves forward to move a cart 4x heavier than them! Professionals fear for spinal cord compression, sprained or pulled muscles because the dogs don't do passive or active range of motion or static stretches prior to this event. ALL REAL GREAT CONCERNS! They don't see the new wave of people who are trying to this correctly, emphasizing proper form, and utilizing therapists to help them come up with range of motion (ROM) and flexibility exercises to do before their sessions. CRT does that---and we need to tell them about it. I know from my own experiences with all of the rehab professionals that I work with for my own dog's complicated needs--honesty is key. Telling them upfront that you are doing low level resistance training with proper equipment that was custom made for their bodies to keep them safe will get you a long way. Many of them become inquisitive and start to ask questions--they truly want to know. It's just been hidden in the dark for so long now...
It's important that you also know that while CRT focuses on strengthening and conditioning, flexibility and range of motion, massage and core strength are also very important to providing an all encompassing fitness regimen. Lifting everyday will make me stronger, but my flexibility and range of motion decreases with hypertrophy of the muscles---so incorporating those into your dog's active recovery days are HUGE (please read the blog "A Little Rest & Relaxation" if you have no idea what active recovery days are). On my website, I have a resource page that includes all of the professionals that will work with any CRT clients of mine. They will be open minded and work WITH you as you continue to do the CRT program with your dog. They have been there for me when creating this program and I want to share their knowledge with you. Reach out to them, ask to make an appointment to get a better understanding of what you can do on your rest/active recovery days.
If you are seeing someone outside of the recommended professionals on that page, tell them exactly what it is you are seeking at your appointments. Do you want help with flexibility in your dogs? or enhancing their proprioception and body awareness? Tell them. They are there to help you---to guide you. If they are curious about the program, give them my contact information. I'd love to talk and have another ally and resource for other CRT clients!
So talk to your vet, be proud of wanting to better your dog's mental health and physical well-being. Be honest and open----they will appreciate it. You will be surprised how many are welcoming to the idea of resistance training through the CRT protocol!