First, what is Watsu? Wastu is a form of body therapy performed in the water. It encompasses muscle stretching, massage, yoga and Tai Chi all to relax and rejuvenate the body. For dogs it is basically Tai Chi in the water, but you hold a dog in your arms while you do it. Canine Water Therapists combine Watsu and swimming to help naturally alleviate pain in arthritic dogs or help a dog heal from surgery or injury. Trainers use Watsu to reduce aggressive tendencies in shelter dogs, or to build confidence.
Often after major surgery a water therapist uses the slow, fluid movements of Watsu to relax their client. The swishing of the water against the dog’s limbs helps to circulate the blood and promotes healing. This also gives the dog a chance to get acclimated to upcoming therapy sessions. Since most patients aren’t able to actually swim until about two weeks after surgery Watsu gives the practitioner a chance to get the dog in the water without preforming any rehabilitative manipulations.
Watsu helps to loosen joints and muscles while a dog is still recovering. Many water therapists mix Watsu in with other forms of therapy, but because of its noninvasive technique Watsu is often use in the early stages of therapy. Different limbs can be isolated and stretched naturally by the motion of the water. No undo stretching is placed on the body. The water does all the work.
Any dog can be stressed beyond their limit after going through a traumatic experience such as major surgery. Many pets come away with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Many practitioners employ Watsu to help dogs overcome post- traumatic stress. With its warm, gentle technique the dog lets go and relaxes. A less stressed dog heals faster and adapts to other forms of therapy more quickly.
Watsu is wonderful for geriatric and arthritic dogs. Many therapists break a thirty-minute session up by Watsuing their client for the first ten minutes before moving onto swimming. Watsu helps loosen stiff joints, easing pain and helping the dog perform better when swimming. A lot of geriatric dogs love the calming movement of the water moving their limbs. The slow gentle stretch helps relax muscles and ease pain Even if your dog doesn’t swim Watsu helps alleviate aches and promotes healing and most dogs take to it with little problem.
Trainers working with shelter dogs use Watsu as a way to calm aggression and fear. Because most aggression comes from fear using water is one of the best ways to counter act it. When you put a dog in a warm pool it builds confidence and relaxes them. Even dogs that are afraid of water often like Watsu. Building confidence relieves fear and once the fear issue is addressed aggression often disappears.
New forms of canine therapy are being developed all the time. Many of the same techniques used for people are now effective in helping canines be rehabilitated. There is no question that Watsu is very effective in helping dogs heal faster.