From California to Kenya – Tips to Help You and Your Dog Feel Younger

 “Every once in a while, people need to be in the presence of things that are really far away.”  ― Ian Frazier

I taught a dog workshop in Kenya last Sunday.  Well,…sort of.  Actually, I sat in my California kitchen and, thanks to the magic of Skype, I joined Moyra; her adult daughter, Clea; and a tan puppy in a living room near Nairobi.

Although almost ten thousand miles separated us, I felt as if I was in the room with them. I watched the little ten week-old Rhodesian Ridgeback-cross pup, who was born with a pronounced curve in her spine and weak hind legs, bounce around on an area rug.  Although the pup often moved her hind legs together in “bunny hop” fashion, she was a decidedly happy and active little girl.  In fact, the pup, whose name is Zuli, was so animated that I wondered if it would be a challenge for her to lie still.

Maria pointing out the pup's spinal curve

Moyra pointing out the curve in the pup’s spine


But I needn’t have worried. As I instructed Moyra how best to use her hands to help the puppy, the young dog relaxed noticeably. Soon Zuli was lying quietly on her side, blissfully soaking up the relief and comfort that Moyra’s hands provided.

Zuli relaxed as Moyra learned how to help her.

Since the puppy had significant scoliosis, (unnatural curvature of her spine), I explained to Moyra how best to use her fingertips to gently support Zuli’s tense and overworked back muscles.  As she did so, the muscles began to soften; to have more “give” to them.  Having softer, more flexible back muscles was a new sensation for the pup. And, as indicated by her calm, relaxed state, it was a sensation that she clearly enjoyed.

New, pleasurable sensations can help improve movement and well-being by interrupting the vicious cycle of stiffness, pain and limited movement that injuries, structural differences, and fatigue can generate. In other words, novel experiences can create new possibilities.    

The future suddenly looked brighter for the little pup.  While there was still lots of work ahead, the puppy was off to a better start. And, thanks to Skype, I was able to be a part of this delightful dog’s new beginning.

You and your dog can benefit from pleasurable, non-habitual experiences too.  Read on to learn how easy it is to introduce novelty into the life you share with your dog.

Why do things differently? 

There’s an old saying, “Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time”. True enough, but do you always start with the same leg when you put on your pants?  When you put on a shirt or jacket, do you slip the same arm into the garment first?  And how about when you take off your pants or jacket?  Which limb do you move first?  If you’re like many people, you habitually put the same leg into your trousers first.  And you slip the same arm into your jacket first.  The same holds true for taking them off.

Over a lifetime, we put clothes on and take them off so many times that we don’t give it a second thought.  The process becomes habitual. Habits can be quite useful in saving you time. After all, you wouldn’t want to have to think about how to tie your shoes every time we put them on.  It’s expedient to do some things automatically.

But habits can also limit you mentally and physically. Doing the same things over and over reduces your chances of doing something new and innovative. The neural circuitry associated with habits becomes so deeply ingrained that you no longer seek a better way to do things. Your brain runs on auto-pilot, diminishing mental and physical flexibility.

In contrast, taking a break from the ordinary can create new neural pathways. It may prevent memory loss as it rewires your brain, awakening your mind and body as more senses are activated. By using your body and mind in non-habitual ways, you can open the door to physical and mental nimbleness.

I’ve seen this to be true with dogs too. The novel Debono Moves not only help our canine companions move easier, but those with behavioral challenges often act more appropriately too.  Releasing the body from limitations seems to free up the mind.

It’s easy to introduce novelty into your life. I’ve included some suggestions, but I’m sure you’ll come up with a lot more ideas. Just thinking about it will stimulate your brain and create new neural connections!

 Fun, Easy Tips to Help You and Your Dog Feel Younger:

  • Use your non-dominant hand to put on your dog’s harness and leash.
  • Teach your dog to walk on your other side.
  • Explore new places with your dog and safely meet new canine and human friends.
  • Vary the surface you and your dog walk on.  Take your dog to diverse places to exercise, such as a sandy beach, a leaf-strewn wooded path, a grassy field and a cement sidewalk.  Your dog’s brain – and your own – will be stimulated by the different sensations that each surface produces.
  • Teach your dog new behaviors and fun tricks.
  • Change where you throw the ball for your dog.   And use your non-dominant hand to throw it!
  • Take different routes on your walks with your dog.  If you usually turn right at the end of your driveway, turn left.
  • Put on music and play with your dog. Maybe even learn canine freestyle dancing!
  • Learn how to read canine body language. Your dog will thank you.
  • Groom and pet your dog with your non-dominant hand.
  • Challenge yourself to do even one little thing differently with your dog each day.

 What will you do differently today?  Please leave a comment to let me know.  I’d love to hear from you!

Would you like to have a personal Skype session to learn how to help your dog, horse or yourself? Contact me and we can discuss if an online session would be a good fit for you.  I’m here to help.

It’s surprisingly easy to teach someone 10,000 miles away!



Mary Debono
Mary Debono, is a Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner who teaches people how to increase mobility and confidence while minimizing the effects of aging and injury. She is the author of the award-winning, Amazon #1 bestseller, "Grow Young with Your Dog," and the creator of Debono Moves. Mary travels internationally to teach workshops with an equine, canine/feline or human focus. She also offers online consultations. Mary lives in sunny Southern California with her husband, horse, dog and cat. Visit her at www.DebonoMoves.com
Mary Debono
Mary Debono

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