Disclaimer: We are not veterinary professionals – the information provided has been gathered through our own reading as we look to support Holly.

Balance and Coordination

by | 7 May 2022 | Supporting a Dog with CH | 0 comments

When we first met Holly, most of her time was spent on the floor, pulling herself along. She was able to pull herself up a little but not to a stand. Her lack of balance and coordination caused by Cerebellar Hypoplasia meant that she needed care with everything. Therefore, it is important to recognise the level of commitment when taking on a CH dog, whether this is from birth or later on in the dog’s life.

One lesson we needed to learn very quickly is that although giving good support to a dog with Cerebellar Hypoplasia is vital – you can easily overdo the support. When a pup is trying to get to a toy, bringing the toy to the pup isn’t in the dog’s best interest, they do need to do the work themselves. However, saying that – if the toy is so far away that the pup will tire before it reaches the toy, it’s probably best to bring it in a little closer, giving the pup a reasonable amount of work to do.

Don’t baby your CH dog
Support – don’t hinder by treating the dog as a baby
Easy does it – don’t let them run before they can walk
Little Steps Matter – Modify training to give them extra steps
Slow Things Down – Speed isn’t always a dog’s friend. Slow and Steady is best.

Early Intervention for a Dog with Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Early Intervention for dogs with Cerebellar Hypoplasia can make a huge difference to their chances of survival and quality of life. Unfortunately, there will always be dogs that do not make it, due to the severity of CH, however, we do believe with the right support, most dogs with CH can manage their condition successfully and lead happy, exciting lives.

Good Intervention can help dogs find a healthy way of coping with CH, which can lead to fewer complications in life such as arthritis. Dogs with Cerebellar Hypoplasia find it difficult to stand, their posture can be affected. It is very likely that their musculoskeletal system can be affected as muscles and joints can be over or underworked due to how the dog finds ways to try to balance and coordinate their movements. It’s therefore important to think about your dog’s needs now but also for the future.

McTimoney Chiropractor

Having a McTimoney Chiropractor can help with supporting you care for your dog with their needs now but also their future needs. We started taking Holly to see her Chiropractor when Holly was 3 months old. Holly was assessed and we were given exercises to help Holly with her muscle tone, her posture and general body condition. These exercises included:- weight shifting, neck stretches, standing, skin rolls and massage. We went home and done these exercises with Holly on a daily basis at the level Holly was able to do at the time.

We would recommend that each dog with CH should regularly see a McTimoney Chiropractor, Holly gets seen every 6-8 weeks. A Chiropractor will offer support in what exercises are best for your dog but they can assess and treat areas where your dog has any discomfort.

You can find a list of McTimoney Chiropractors in the UK here

Specific Training for a Dog with CH

A key aspect of helping a dog with CH is what we like to call “paw placement”. Holly has had a lot of support in her training with where she puts her paws. Caroline from Look Forward Dog Training and Behaviour has spent a considerable amount of time helping Holly concentrate on paw placement and her standing posture.

Holly’s training has involved using a balance board, slightly inflated to get her to concentrate on her balance, she has to shift her weight to maintain her balance. This helps to strength her muscles too. Caroline also helped with Holly getting used to different surfaces as well as having to stand at different levels.

Cones and poles have been used to slow Holly down and concentrate on where her paws go (paw placement). We have carefully looked at how Holly walks and have encouraged her to her paw placement to be left, right, left, right, however, this might not be right for all dogs with Cerebellar Hypoplasia.

One aspect of helping Holly with her paw placement has meant having to slow Holly down. Holly is a very determined pup, she is into everything and can get some good speed behind her when she is excited. She can leap in the area, jump from side to side, somersault and roll over multiply times when she is excited to get somewhere. This isn’t great for her and her risk of injury is so much greater when she is excited. We had to find ways of channelling her excitement, so she is safe being excited.

An Alternative to Recall

A time when Holly gets very excited is when she hears her hoomum’s voice. This makes recall quite impossible. If Holly is called back she leaps up in the air before making her way back to her hoomum, she is unable to walk in a straight line and tumbles getting back, this involves far too many risks of injury but also changes Holly’s environment as she goes off the wrong way. Also, she doesn’t return quickly which can put her at risk if we are recalling her due to a change in the situation (eg. uncontrolled dogs being off-lead). Caroline, understanding this problem, gave us another way to allow Holly to be off-lead but without using recall. With high-value treats available, Holly can now be off-lead, wander for a while and knows that she needs to routinely come back to us. This has made a huge difference to Holly as she can have her freedom like other dogs without Cerebellar Hypoplasia but also have the risks of her injuring herself hugely minimised.

We recommend having a good dog trainer, one that has had experience in working with disabled dogs would be an advantage. Holly doesn’t go to dog training sessions, she has one-to-one sessions where the emphasis at the beginning was on balance and coordination and minimising the risk of injury and has gone on to involve a lot more usual training for Holly’s everyday living.

If you would like more information on the training given to Holly please contact us. It may be possible for you to have a zoom session with Caroline, if you would like more information regarding a zoom session, please let us know when you fill in the contact form.


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