PAIN! Exploring the link between posture, pain and behaviour
Comfort expands, discomfort restricts.
Pain and/or an expectation of pain can limit a dog’s ability to learn as well as impacting on his life quality. With greater awareness modifications can be made to the dog’s environment, lifestyle, and human led interactions.
Pain is a common factor in many behaviour struggles and is often overlooked; chronic pain in particular can be hard to identify. Pain can be linked to skeletal issues, ill-health, dental problems, natural biological changes during adolescence, soft tissue strain and gut discomfort etc. Even if the original reason for pain has been addressed, compensation patterns and pain expectation can have an ongoing impact on emotional and physical wellbeing.
Pain can increase the tendency for a dog to display behaviours such as resource guarding, compulsive type behaviours including toy ‘obsessions’, jumping up, pulling on a lead, mouthing, harness sensitivity, sensory sensitivity including noise sensitivity, and reactivity towards other dogs. Many ‘high drive’ dogs have underlying pain, and we always need to consider if a dog has a busy brain, or body pain.
There is a direct link with posture and behaviour; slowing movement down in ACE Free Work helps caregivers to recognise postural patterns that might warrant further veterinary investigations. Free Work is not only beneficial to the dog but can improve a caregiver’s observations by noting what sensory items a dog enjoys, as well as those he actively avoids.
ACE Observations are an important part of canine guardianship and postural patterns are in place at an early age; identifying how a dog organises his body when on the move and at rest can help caregivers and guardians join the dots and access the right support for their companion. Coat patterns can provide important feedback about a dog’s wellbeing, as can the habitual position and organisation of his ears, limbs, neck, back, tongue, and tail.
Pain is a personal experience for every being and we need to keep an open mind and question everything we do, everything we believe, and everything we see; but never question the dog because the dog is always right.
Sarah Fisher is a canine and equine behaviour advisor and educator. She has worked with animals for over twenty years and is the founder of Animal Centred Education. She is passionate about sharing the importance of improving observations, the link between posture, pain, and behaviour, and teaching the value of helping dogs to move efficiently and in balance.
ACE techniques including ACE Observations and ACE Free Work enable dogs to reset, and rebalance. They help to improve communication with and understanding of the dogs in our care, can highlight potential physical problems early on thus minimising the risk of injury and reducing many common behaviour struggles, modify habits in both the caregiver and the canine, and can help achieve, and maintain, good physical and emotional well-being.
Sarah is experienced with a wide range of breed types and teaches staff workshops for many of the UK’s animal welfare organisations including Battersea. She has also worked in Europe teaching staff workshops for shelters and has taught workshops and clinics for dog trainers and behaviourists in Holland, Greece, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, South Africa, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania and Poland. She has taught multiple workshops and online seminars for a wide range of organisations including companion dogs, dogs in rescue, search dogs and assistance dogs.
Sarah gives presentations on a variety of topics at dog training and behaviour seminars in the UK and abroad, and is a regular speaker at the annual Dog Behaviour Conference organised by Victoria Stilwell Positively. She also conducts behaviour assessments for private clients, animal welfare organisations, and court cases.
Sarah is a published author and has participated in numerous television and radio programmes over the years including the Nightmare Pets SOS for BBC1.
International Canine Behaviourists