Back pain and dog walking. Tips for prevention

Could this cute dog cause back pain?
Can cute puppies cause back ache? Having recently purchased a puppy for the first time I know the answer  is yes. I  have suddenly become aware of the aches and pains which can come from owning a boisturous (or lazy and stubborn in the case of my puppy) bundle of fluff, and not just with regards to chewed table legs and slippers.
In fact on asking other owners at my puppy training class this weekend the incidence of lower back and neck pain from such dedication was remarkable.
And it is not just the small dogs and puppies which cause problems by being so small they almost require one to be a contortionist. Large dogs cause their own issues such as pulling like a train on the lead or darting off to chase a neighbourhood cat. So here are a few hints and tips to allow you and your four legged friends to keep training, exercising and playing together.

Walking your dog and avoiding back ache

Walking is not only great natural exercise it is also safer for your body. Walking does not entail the jarring forces that jogging does and in addition also strengthens the supportive muscles of the lower back and pelvis. Plus it can often burn as many calories if you put in enough of a pace to feel slightly out of breath. And the more effort that you put into the walk the more energy that you will drain from your dog, which will help to reduce naughty behaviour when you get home.

Bend your knees

Muki and I

When you have to bend down to greet your puppy or smaller dog always bend your knees. It may seem obvious but so many of us just bend our backs and as a result take all the strain through those muscles and joints. Add to that the awkward positions that we can get in trying to coax our puppy in training classes to follow our lead and you can imagine how tired those muscles get. And to then get into our car and drive home again can often spell an aching evening and set up for a bigger problem later on.

Regular breaks

Small dogs and puppies get tired quickly so it is a great excuse to take regular breaks during the walks or play sessions and catch your own breath. And for the bigger dogs you can incorporate ten minutes of doing command training to keep their mind focused on you.

Avoid lifting them up

This is not only to save your own back but also benefits the dog psychologically. As Martha Scott quotes; “Don’t make the mistake of treating your dogs like humans, or they’ll treat you like dogs.” Dogs like to explore places themselves and carrying them too frequently can jeopardise their sense of identity. No matter how small, a squirming puppy or small dog can easily cause back or even shoulder strain.

Sensible footwear

I am not recommending that you go out and buy a pair of ‘Hunter’ wellies or even a pair of the latest ‘Fit Flops’ but it is important to understand that your choice of footwear can not only provide comfort and cushioning they may also protect against injuries such as twisted ankles and blisters, an all too common feature of a nice outing in the local countryside. A good walking shoe with Superfeet footbeds is a great starting point.

Warm up

It may sound theatrical but if you are taking your dog to a training or agility class you would be advised to warm up first, especially if it is outdoors. There is often a lot of standing around and your muscles can get cold and tight. It is therefore important to do some simple standing stretches when you get down there and try not to keep too still when you are waiting for your turn each time.

Vary routines

Although you should try and always keep your dog on the same side for walking and obedience, there is nothing to stop you changing directions, walking backwards and generally doing things to keep the dog focused and your muscles evenly worked. If out on your usual route try to vary it at least in terms of the direction. Pounding the same road in the same direction can be boring for both of you but that road camber can risk ankle and knee muscle imbalances.

Go off road

Like many runners are advised, vary the terrain that you go on. Although not all public places are dog-friendly you are usually safe with them on a lead and showing good behaviour. So take them on the beach and walk on that shingle, explore the forests and Downs and all the differing terrain underfoot there, and of course get on that grass as much as possible. All of this variation will help to strengthen your ankles and be a welcome break for your lower body from the unforgiving tarmac.

Start horsing around

If you have a big or unruly dog then you may need to treat them like a horse. The first thing is to try a new collar and perhaps opt for a halter type around the body or in particular a headcollar type which uses the head as a whole to turn them rather than the bulk of the shoulders and neck.
As with a horse, use your body to turn them. Avoid letting them get ahead of you so that when you turn them at their shoulders they have less to resist you with.
I hope these tips to prevent back aches with dog care help you as they have helped me. If the niggles just won’t go away however, feel free to pop in for a free check to resolve any underlying problems.

Amanda Goring

Chiropractor


Sundial Clinics, Brighton's favourite chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage clinicsFor better backs, shoulders, knees and necks

Serving Brighton, Hove and the surrounding areas

2 thoughts on “Back pain and dog walking. Tips for prevention

  1. I hurt my back lifting a piece of furniture last week. I’ve been taking pain medication and using ice packs.
    The problem I have is that I am about to adopt a dog. I know right now I won’t be able to help get it in my car.
    My question is should I wait a week to get the dog and do back exercises to strengthen my back?

    1. Hi Mavis,
      Walking the dog will help your back as will other gently exercises. If you do lift the dog into the car, make sure to bend your knees and keep your back straight. Then the lifting should not be too troublesome.
      MB

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