What Is Canine Bowen Technique ?
Canine Bowen Technique (CBT) is based on the principles of the Bowen Technique, a successful human bodywork-system named after its developer, Tom Bowen (1916-1982), which was developed in Australia during the 1950’s, and brought to the UK in the early 1990’s. Its adaptation in the UK for use on dogs was started in 2001 by Bowen practitioners and dog trainers/behaviourists Sally and Ron Askew, who started on their own dogs, and then, with the cooperation and support of their local vets, integrated their findings into their canine behavioural and rehabilitation work with great success.
Canine Bowen Technique is a holistic form of bodywork. By "holistic" we mean that it "works on the body as a whole, without referral to named disease". So EGCBT practitioners do not concentrate on the veterinary-diagnosed disease or condition per se, but work with the dog, as they see it, on the day.
For example, although a dog may be brought with a condition such as rear-leg lameness, an EGCBT practitioner may well work with other parts of the body as well, including the back, neck, and front-legs, in order to address other possible problem areas caused as a result of the dog compensating for the presenting condition. In this case the dog may well have tried to shift its weight forward in order to relieve the pain in the rear-legs, but this, in turn, will affect the carriage of the head and neck, and require the front-legs to carry more load. By addressing these other areas, we are maximising the dog’s attempts to return its body to proper balance.
What happens in a Canine Bowen Technique session ?
Using fingers and thumbs on precise points on the dog’s body, an EGCBT practitioner applies gentle rolling movements over soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia, and skin). The move is not a flick, but done slowly and with very gentle pressure so as to just disturb the underlying tissue and create a focus for the brain to work on.
There is no hard manipulation, no pulling or cracking of joints, no insertion of needles, no massaging with oils.
Although a typical consultation will last up to about an hour, while the practitioner gets to know more about you and your dog, and your dog can get accustomed to and relaxed with the practitioner, the actual hands-on part of the session will usually last no more than about 20 minutes. Over the following 3-4 days the dog may experience reactions as its body continues to assimilate the effects of the Canine Bowen Technique moves and realigns/rebalances itself. The average number of sessions required to obtain noticeable change is one or two.
During the session, there are short intervals - determined either by the dog or by the practitioner - which allow the dog to absorb the information given by the gentle moves, and allow fine adjustments to take place within its body. We believe dogs are much more in tune with their bodies than humans, and generally know for themselves when to “take a break”, and when to come back for more. Often, after just a few moves, they will wander off and just stare blankly into space, or go somewhere for a short lie-down.
Canine Bowen Technique is never forced on the dog - this will only serve to make the dog less receptive and will be counter-productive to the outcome. So an important part of Canine Bowen Technique is recognising and respecting when the dog indicates it has received what it needs.
At the start of a Canine Bowen Technique session, there will need to be time to allow the dog to accept and trust the practitioner. For very nervous dogs, most of the time of a first Canine Bowen Technique session may well be spent solely on developing this relationship and very little Bowen work may be done. However, after getting accustomed to Canine Bowen Technique, most dogs will want it more and more, and many will come over and position themselves to indicate where they’d like the work doing.
Why Use Canine Bowen Technique ?
Canine Bowen Technique aims to promote and support the body’s own powers of relaxation and self-healing, and as a result may be very useful for dogs with problems in the following areas :
• Acute injury eg sprains and strains.
• Chronic conditions and degenerative disease - helping to improve the dog’s quality of life.
• Rescue/re-homed dogs - relaxation of tension caused by earlier stress and trauma.
• Pre- and post-operative surgery - assisting recovery times.
• Fear-based anxiety - such as fireworks and thunderstorms.
However, EGCBT practitioners will not claim to be able to “cure” a problem. Our aim instead is to facilitate the marshalling and channelling of the dog’s own resources so that it can determine how to heal itself. In this respect, therefore, Canine Bowen Technique can be almost all-embracing in its coverage. Although generally regarded as a ‘remedial’ technique, Canine Bowen Technique can also be used for maintenance and prevention, helping to keep the body in optimum balance. To this end, it may be very beneficial for the elderly dog, or for active, hard-working dogs or dogs used for competitions in obedience, agility, or trialling.
Common conditions which are often presented at Canine Bowen Technique sessions include :
• Allergies and Skin conditions
• Arthritis and Muscular Sprains & Strains
• Back problems
• Lameness and other Gait problems
• Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
• Working or Competition dogs
• Dogs that pull on the lead
• Aggression and other Behavioural problems
• Stress & Anxiety disorders
• Cystitis & Urinary disorders
• Recurrent Ear problems
Obviously, veterinary-diagnosed conditions such as joint dysplasia will not be ‘cured’ by Canine Bowen Technique. Nevertheless Canine Bowen Technique may be very beneficial for dogs with these sorts of conditions, because the rebalancing/optimising effects both locally and elsewhere in its body may help to improve its quality of life.
A Bowen session is a partnership. When working with humans it is a two-way partnership - between practitioner and client. With dogs it is a three-way partnership - between practitioner, dog, and owner.
Your EGCBT practitioner will give you some post-session advice with regard to your dog and how it should be looked after over the following few days. Carrying out these aftercare recommendations contributes greatly to the outcome of the session and if the owner is unwilling to abide by these instructions then the effect of the session may be wasted.
For instance, after a Canine Bowen Technique session, most dogs will probably feel tired and want to go off somewhere quiet and have a nap. This is very good news, since sleep is the time when most of the body’s repair actions take place, and the dog’s apparent tiredness shows it is accepting the Bowen work. If, however, the owner insists that their dog accompany them on a long walk on the beach, maybe because they’re feeling sorry for the dog and want to “make up” for it not feeling well, then the dog will not get the time it needs to repair itself, and may well reinjure itself as well.
So be prepared to listen to and accept the advice of the practitioner.