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Bowen therapy for dogs

Bowen is a fantastic therapy for dogs, and it fits perfectly with the ideals that PDTE members hold close. Even if people are not aware that dogs’ wishes should be placed first, by the time their dog has had a treatment they are under no illusions about exactly who is in control of the sessions. What makes this therapy so amazing is down to many things. The first of these is that Bowen is a gentle therapy. Dogs experience no harsh adjustments when having Bowen. Even though it is a physical therapy, there are no sudden twangs to the spine or skeleton. All the work is done on the soft tissue and fascia of the dog’s body. Bowen therapy for people and animals is based on the work of Tom Bowen, who developed it in his hometown of Geelong – originally a mining town in Australia. His patients were the miners that lived in the area, and he also treated racehorses and racing greyhounds. He developed a therapy which would help the body heal, and which would have a long-term effect on the health of those he treated. Bowen is still not a very well known form of bodywork but it is beginning to become more widely recognised throughout the world. The beauty of his legacy is that treatments can be given to anyone, whether very young, very old or in between. This is why it is perfect for animals, especially dogs. When treating dogs one of the very first principals is to let them dictate any treatments they receive. We are not there to do what we think needs to be done, despite any original diagnosis. Dogs often know what they need so much better than a therapist does. Before any treatment commences, we talk with the owner and make sure they understand that although Bowen is a physical therapy, it is the dog that decides how much he needs and how long the breaks are. The breaks and the fact that Bowen looks minimal are the elements that need to be explained clearly to owners before commencing treatment.

Breaks are integral to Bowen. When treating humans many therapists leave the room, but when treating dogs we often find the roles being reversed - it is the dogs that leave the room instead! The breaks are the signature of Bowen and they are there, as far as we know, to let the brain process the information it is being given. They are also important as they allow the body to relax. As therapists we are required to train on humans first, as the feedback that people give us is vital. For instance, a move may result in a sense of heat in an area, or the therapist’s hands may feel a certain way after returning to a part of the body that hasn’t been touched for 10 minutes. Once, when I was doing my case studies, one of my friends reported that she felt like she was hovering above the table she was being treated on. These sensations are not abnormal during Bowen treatment. Once you understand that the body can react in many different ways then the idea of leaving dogs to decide how long they need between each move becomes clear. We naturally have no idea what dogs are feeling during treatments, but when they use a calming signal and walk away it is pretty clear they need some time to process what is going on in the body, and decide whether that particular move is enough for them. If a dog leaves the room they will return if they need more. It is as simple as that. Problems occur when therapists work on dogs without the right knowledge. It is vitally important that dogs dictate the length and content of treatment. Canine Bowen treatments are done with the dog’s consent.

In the last few years a colleague and I have put together a canine Bowen course. We have included everything we loved learning over the last few years, and lots of things that we felt needed to be developed and highlighted. The aim was to give our students confidence and knowledge in preparation for their case studies or when working on their own dogs. The most mind-blowing part of teaching canine Bowen is the empathy that students develop with dogs they work with. Going into someone’s home to give a treatment is a big responsibility, and often they will see a dog that has been denied choice and the luxury of relaxation for most of its life. This is when the most important part becomes obvious – a few treatments can change the life of the dog for the better. Pennie Clayton works extensively with both dogs and horses in the United Kingdom, and is a qualified Bowen Therapist.


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