Sarah Fisher is a TTouch Instructor for equine and companion animals and a behaviour counsellor. She trained with Linda Tellington Jones and Robyn Hood and organises the TTouch training for the UK. She teaches staff workshops for many of the UK’s top animal shelters including Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the Mayhew Animal Home, Blue Cross, Wood Green Animal Shelter and Dogs Trust working with their long stay dogs and other animals with behavioural issues. Sarah also fosters challenging puppies for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and assesses dogs for court cases.
Sarah works with private clients, and lectures around the UK and internationally and has given talks and demonstrations on dog and horse handling and behaviour for a variety of organisations including the United Kingdom Register of Canine Behaviourists, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, the British Veterinary Nurses Congress, the International Companion Animal Welfare Conference (Czech Republic, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Latvia), Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes, Canine Partners for Independence, Dogs for the Disabled Association, the Association of Chartered Animal Physiotherapists, the McTimoney Chiropractic Conference, Harper Adams University vet physio course, The Kennel Club (Discover Dogs), the Dog Groomers Association, Pet Care Trade Association, The Association of Behaviour Counsellors (South Africa), the Tellington TTouch Organisation (USA) the veterinary nursing staff at the Queen Mother Hospital RVC, dog breed clubs, dog training centres, riding clubs and the Irish Horse Welfare Trust.
Sarah is a regular teacher on the Dogs Trust International Training Programme and teaches workshops both here and abroad. Rescue work is closest to her heart and Sarah has taught workshops in Poland, Romania and Holland for rescue organisations and has created a new series of workshops under the title Cool to be Kind with Marie Miller promoting kind and effective handling and training techniques for dogs and horses.
Sarah Fisher is the author of Know Your Horse Inside Out, Unlock Your Dog’s Potential and co-author of 100 Ways to Train the Perfect Dog and 100 Ways to Solve Your Dogs Problems with Marie Miller, all published by David and Charles Ltd.
Sarah very kindly agreed to answer the following questions:
- What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?
In my experience canine arthritis and issues with the canine skeleton have long been overlooked. I am passionate about educating animal guardians as many of my canine clients that display reactive behaviours towards dogs and unfamiliar people have physical problems that have been inadvertently overlooked. Current trends such as laminate/wooden flooring in the home contribute to many behaviours in dogs that the clients struggle to modify or change including sensitivity to contact, vocalisation, noise sensitivity/reactivity, restlessness etc due to increased body tension and discomfort. These associated behaviours often diminish once a veterinary diagnosis has been made and appropriate treatment is in place in conjunction with modifications to the home environment and day to day management of the dog.
- As a therapist what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?
Education is crucial in helping canine guardians identify canine arthritis and supporting them through that process without judgement. A collaborative approach between veterinarians, therapists, trainers and behaviour advisors is essential. I see many dogs that have undiagnosed skeletal problems being encouraged to chase balls and engage in high energy activities because the guardians are struggling to manage the dog both at home and when out and about. I also see dogs that are struggling in training classes due to a slippery floor that exacerbates physical problems and limits the dog’s ability to learn and engage in the educational opportunities. In my experience many dogs labelled as stubborn, reactive, stupid, unpredictable, lazy, hyperactive and so on have pain and/or body tension that are contributing to the behaviours. Pain limits a dog’s ability to learn, move freely, rest fully, maintain a sit, stand in balance, enjoy body contact and so on, and it also increases noise sensitivity. It is important that we share our knowledge and experience to help both the guardian and the dog and to recognise that in terms of behaviour dogs are responding not only to their external environment but their internal (physical wellbeing) environment too.
- How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?
I hope that with increased knowledge and awareness across all sectors, arthritis can be identified earlier enabling guardians and care givers to adapt the way they manage and educate their dogs without inadvertently exacerbating this condition. I believe that early diagnosis and veterinary support along with other therapeutic modalities and modifications to husbandry will change the impact that canine arthritis has on our companions. There is a common belief that canine arthritis is a condition that is only identified in the older dog which is incorrect. All too often the diagnosis is made when the brilliant canine body can no longer compensate for the physical issues that may have been overlooked or misunderstood for quite some time.
- If you could have the opportunity to give one tip/ piece of advice to an owner with a dog suffering from arthritis what would it be?
Don’t panic and follow Canine Arthritis Management!