K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert – Catherine Nicoll, Clinical Canine Massage Therapist

Our next professional to feature in the ‘Interview with an expert series’ is Catherine Nicoll, a Clinical Canine Massage Therapist, who we have been going to see to keep the dogs in tip top condition since she set up in 2012.

Canine massage has been something the K9 Trail Time dogs have had incorporated into our training programme for 6 years now

Tell our followers a little bit about what you do, how you got into it, how long you have been doing it and your experience / or qualifications?

I am a Clinical Canine Massage Therapist so I specialise in treating soft tissue, muscular issues such as lameness/limping and dogs with Orthopaedic conditions like hip dysplasia and Arthritis. I also treat dogs post operation like Cruciate Ligament or Luxating Patella. I do 4 disciplines of massage to include Swedish, Sports Massage which is used for injury identification, isolating muscles by working from origin to insertion and I focus on trigger point release and scar tissue remodelling. I also do deep tissue massage which mobilises the deeper muscles, spreading fibres to make the muscles more supple and flexible. Finally, I do Myofascial Release. Muscles need to be able to slide and glide and myofascial release releases muscles from each other and from the periosteum of the bone. I treat elderly dogs who are slowing down and getting stiff as well as sporting dogs who have either injured themselves with sprains or strains or for maintenance to keep their muscles in good working order. I completed the Diploma in Canine Massage Therapy in January 2012 and set up my business, Dogs Body Canine Massage Therapy, immediately after.

Catherine treats many dogs besides sports dogs, as all dogs can benefit from massage

The reason I got into massage is that I am a qualified human sports massage therapist and, having regular massage myself, knew how beneficial it was. My dog, Paddy, kept going lame when he was 15 months old and after x-rays and further investigation I was told by the vet that they couldn’t find any issues and so I would need to just keep him on lead walks. I looked into having him massaged and when I took him to Natalie Lenton from The Canine Massage Therapy Centre, she found the problem with his lameness immediately. He had a strain (tear to his muscle) in his superficial pectoral muscle which was making him lame. I was so impressed and relieved to know what the problem was that I decided to sign up for the course. The course took me 18 months to complete and I left my job of 20 years working in a bank to set up my own business.

What does a day in the life of you consist of?

My day varies. I am lucky that my Clinic is at my home so in between treatments I can be with my own dogs. I have treated up to 8 dogs in one day but ideally prefer to treat 4-5 dogs a day. As well as doing Clinical Canine Massage Therapy, I am also a Tutor on The Clinical Canine Massage Practitioner Programme run by The Canine Massage Therapy Centre and so my days are sometimes taken up with tutor work in preparation for the students. Being self-employed means that I can choose to take an impromptu day off when I like which I love! I also run 1-day workshops for members of the public to enable them to learn some Swedish massage techniques to do on their own dog at home. (Details on my website).

Dogs tend to relax into the massage and benefits begin to be seen after a session or two

Share with us your proudest moment so far

Every day that I am helping dogs makes me proud. I guess if I had to choose one, however, it would be changing one elderly dog’s life completely. His owner was thinking about having him put to sleep as he could hardly walk and was miserable but decided to try massage as a last resort. After 2 sessions he was happier, more mobile and enjoying his walks. He went on to live for another 3 years.

What are your top 3 tips connected with what you do for our followers and their active dogs?

  1. If you have laminated/wood flooring put non-slip runners down! Dogs are digit grade animals which means they walk on their toes. They cannot grip hard floors and so end up slipping around which puts a lot of strain on their muscles and inevitably end up getting injured.
  2. Get your dog check out by a Canine Massage Guild member. We are trained to identify muscular issues so by bringing them for a massage 2-3 times a year it enables us Therapists to spot any issues before they become a problem. We work “best practice” and so, if your dog is injured you should see an improvement in 1-3 sessions. In the unlikely event that you don’t, we would cease further treatment and refer your dog back to the vet for further investigation.
  3. Dogs get injured the same as humans do, think about what you are doing with your dog. Don’t keep using ball launchers to exercise your dog. Warm them up on lead for 10 minutes before letting them off to run. Feed them a good diet and don’t let them get fat! Give them a day off from exercise. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical. Don’t feel guilty if you are unable to take your dog for a walk one day, it’s not going to do them any harm and the rest will give their body time to recover.

Catherine will be continuing to help owners and their dogs but also by training other therapists, bring the benefit of massage to many more dog owners

What are your plans for the future?

I am passionate about what I do and so I just want to keep on helping dogs with mobility issues and make a difference to their lives. I will keep on learning more about canine anatomy and physiology as I find it fascinating. I want to continue to educate dog owners on the benefits of Clinical Canine Massage Therapy as there are still people out there who have never heard of it, although that has improved in the years since I trained!


How can our followers get in touch with you?

You can visit my website www.dogsbodycaninemassage.co.uk you can email me at mail@dogsbodycaninemassage.co.uk or ring me on 07967 099603. I am based in Hartpury, Gloucestershire. I have a Facebook page too so please go in and “like” my page – https://www.facebook.com/DogsBodyCMT/  

If I am not local to you, then visit The Canine Massage Guild website and find your local therapist there. http://www.k9-massageguild.co.uk


5 Top Tips for getting ready for the new racing season

As the nights seem to be getting longer and there is a definite ‘nip’ in the air in the mornings now, I started to think about how I prepare for the upcoming race season. The UK canicross and bikejoring race season tends to begin in September when the temperatures can still be a little warm for racing but often cool enough to just get away with it. If you have not been doing a lot of training with your dog over the summer, then September seems like a good time to start up again and if you’re taking part in the European Canicross Championships, which are usually held in the second week in October, it’s a good idea to have started some training even before this.

The following are just a few things I think can help get you and your dogs organised and ready for racing again. With more and more events being run either specifically for canicross, or just allowing a canicross entry, there are plenty of events now to fill almost every weekend between September and May!

1. Work on your voice commands – this is probably the easiest thing to do and the thing I am guilty of ignoring the most. If you are walking your dog on a lead at all, then you can do directional command training and try to keep fresh in your dogs’ mind all the important voice commands you use when competing. If only I could master ‘steady’ and for it to not come out like a squawk every time we see some small furry wildlife when going downhill…

Working on your voice commands can help prevent 'nasty incidents' when out of the trails!

Working on your voice commands can help prevent ‘nasty incidents’ when out of the trails!

2. Get your dog (and yourself) checked for any minor strains and sprains – I am a great believer in prevention is better than cure when it comes to injury and by taking your dog to see a qualified massage therapist, such as one from the Canine Massage Guild (http://www.k9-massageguild.co.uk/) then you can identify any potential problems before they become a hinderance. I also get regular sports massage therapy myself, as although I don’t consider myself an athlete, I can feel the benefits of having a regular treatment.

Judo enjoys his canine massages much more than I enjoy my sports therapy massages!

Judo enjoys his canine massages much more than I enjoy my sports therapy massages!

3. Invest in repairing or buying new kit – this is the time to get a new harness for your dog, waistbelt or trainers for yourself and repair any old items you want to continue using. If you are looking to try a new set up, do it when you are building up the training again so you can see the effects any new kit might have over a period time before you ‘need’ it to perform for you. I always get new trainers over the summer months and break them in so I don’t suffer blisters when it counts. I also try different harnesses on my dogs in training and different combinations of harnesses, waistbelts and lines to find what is going to work best for me and my dogs when we get to races. For inspiration visit our website: http://www.k9trailtime.com

Now is a great time to invest in new kit so you can try it out before the races begin

Now is a great time to invest in new kit so you can try it out before the races begin

4. Give your dog a good groom and pamper session – you might do this all the time but most of us don’t find the time to sit down and check every inch of our dogs all the time. Set aside some time to comb through everything, check the pads, claws, eyes, ears, tail, inch by inch and note down any lumps or bumps you might find or feel so that you can keep an eye on them. This should be done all year round and by keeping a close eye on your dogs’ coat and skin you can help monitor health and notice any changes that an increase in activity might bring about.

Check every inch of your dog for anything unusual or any potential problems

Check every inch of your dog for anything unusual or any potential problems

5. Save some money and hire a PA! – in all seriousness, it’s not cheap competing in dog sports events in the UK, mainly because of the fuel involved to travel to them. The events that have camping actually work out as a fairly cheap way to spend a weekend away with your dog (in great company of course!) but once fuel is taken into account, this can add up. It is worth having a look at the events taking place and being organised about which you are prepared to travel to, fairly early on in the season. Many of the events have closing dates for entries only a week or so in advance so you can make last minute decisions on entry but I think it’s good to familiarise yourself with the dates of events, not only so you can budget but also so you can train appropriately. It’s quite different doing a one day 5km race to competing over a whole weekend where there may be 3 or 4 races to participate in and you need to be sure you and your dogs are fit and prepared so you can both get the best experience out of it.

Being on the road a lot is part and parcel of the UK dog sports scene

Being on the road a lot is part and parcel of the UK dog sports scene

With all of that said I’m looking forward to seeing what this next season holds for us – Happy Trails!