Every few months, I will perform a static postural assessment of my dogs. I take photos of my dogs standing, sitting and downing and put them into a document. I analyze their posture in the pictures to identify any issues they may be having and to track any changes that may be occurring over time.
What is posture? Posture is the position in which the dog is holding his body while standing, sitting or lying down. To maintain proper posture, your dog should have good flexibility in the muscles, normal range of motion of the joints and muscles that are balanced on both sides of the dog. By analyzing photos of a dog in a stand, sit or down, we can identify postural deficiencies and deal with them accordingly.
Why is good posture important?
- Helps the dog stand, walk, sit and lay down while placing the least amount of stress on the supporting muscles and ligaments when static and in motion
- Helps the dog move and distribute weight accordingly permitting the muscles, joints and spine to work together so the dog can move fluidly and effortlessly
- Helps the dog keep bones and joints in correct alignment reducing the abnormal wear and tear of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis and joint pain
- Helps to reduce muscle fatigue as the body will use less energy when the muscles work more efficiently
- Helps prevent injuries, pain and discomfort
- If the dog’s posture is out of alignment, then compensation, pain and injury can occur.
Why Perform a Postural Analysis?
- Establish a baseline. Before beginning a fitness program, creating a baseline is a great way to track your progress on your fitness journey. This way, you can judge the effectiveness of the exercise program.
- Track any changes in the dog’s posture over time
- Identify muscle imbalances that can be addressed with well-rounded fitness program
- Help identify if there are any areas that needs to be further looked at by a health care professional.
- Help to identify issues before they become chronic
Method: Take photos of your dog standing, sitting and lying down from 4 locations: anterior(front), posterior (back) and both lateral (side) views. Helpful tip is to put your phone or video camera on a tripod and take videos of your dog standing, sitting and downing and move your camera to all 4 locations. Take screen shots of each position in each location on put them in a document. Take multiple pictures in the different positions to get a good idea of what is the norm for the dog at this moment in time. Look for patterns over the different locations and positions to see if something looks off. Make note of the areas that deviate from the ideal posture taking into account your dog’s breed and any other factors that account for postural deficiencies.
Stand: Dog stands in a balanced stand with front feet under shoulders and rear feet under hips with feet tracking forward, flat back (according to breed) and head in natural position.
Down: Dog is in a sphinx down with feet, elbows and knees pointed forward and tight to body and a flat back (according to breed)
Sit: Dog is in tight sit with feet, elbows and knees pointed forward and tight to body and flat back (according to breed).
Factors that affect posture:
- Structure (Congenital or disease related)
- Abnormal Gait
- Muscle imbalances/ tight muscles/weak muscles
- Decreased flexibility and range of joint motion
- State of Mind (if dog is nervous, his posture will be affected)
Here is an example of the pictures I recently took of my 10 year old dog Tandem. Like stated above, I videotaped from all 4 locations, did screen shots of the positions and put them in a word document. I have my dog stand, sit and down. I will do these positions multiple times to get a good idea of what is the norm for the dog at this moment in time. I look for patterns over the 4 different locations and positions to see if something looks off. In the example below, I put circles on areas that I will be paying attention too. Overall, I think he looks good for a 10 year old athlete. Looking at the pictures, the following are areas of concern: Row 1 circle- left hind leg is forward..is that a pattern? Row 2 circle: he is laying down on his right hip? Is there something going on with his left side? Row 3: His hair looks really wavy? Is there something going on with his back? Because I know my dog and I take these pictures often, I am not concerned that he looks a little easty westy in the front as that is his structure.
What to do? I highly recommend visiting your canine health team if you are concerned with any issues you see or even think you see. I always follow my gut even if don’t understand what is wrong, or even if I can’t see it myself. If I feel like there is something going on, I will seek professional help. Tandem will see his chiropractor as soon as I can get him in. I will give him massages. I will watch the areas that I am concerned with to see if there are any changes or soreness. Additionally, because I do these assessments every few months, I can compare prior photos with these photos to see if there are patterns and changes over time.
These assessments are important to do so you can see if there are any issues developing and hopefully catch them before they become a major problem. So I highly recommend getting your camera or video camera out and taking pictures of your dog!
~ Lisa Schmit, PhD, CCFT, CPMP
Owner: In the Zone Agility in Illinois