People & Dogs
Dogs are good for human health but did you know they can prevent dangerous falls? Learn how to prevent or correct balance problems!
HERDING FOR HEALTH!
by Carole Henry, Vandy Kees and ACDs
After decades in the sport of dogs, one activity has stood out as beneficial to senior health, especially balance, which is crucial to prevent falling.
Advancing into the sixty year decade, I found myself losing my balance at home and this resulted in several falls. Also my memory was on a noticeable decline. Not that it was good in the first place but I could tell there was a difference. There also had been a decline in energy/stamina.
It was at this stage of my life that herding was started with my trio of littermate Australian Cattle Dogs and one Keeshond. If you are fortunate to be able to keep sheep, goats, or even ducks, this becomes fun instead of a chore.
If you have no herding breed, no livestock, keep reading because it will still work for you and you can use it for show or obedience training any breed of dog.
The first benefit to seniors is learning to walk backwards. It is also one of the hardest things to learn too. You must do this to control the sheep and the dog as you guide them through all the chutes and pens. When first learning to walk backwards I was constantly losing balance and falling on my butt. Having a big butt and soft pasture helped lessen the bruises.
As walking backwards became as simple as walking forwards I became aware that I had not lost my balance at home for months! No falling. I was even remaining upright most of the time while working the sheep. My balance was as it had been in my younger years. I advise all who have a balance problem to learn to walk backwards for at least one hundred feet at a time.
The second most beneficial balance exercise thing to the senior citizen is walking forwards. I know it sounds too simple but walking every day while training my dogs has gotten me in shape again. You walk and walk and walk. With three dogs to train, I WALKED! Very little running involved in herding unless you are going after your dog for bringing down stock, as the dog is the one who is suppose to do all the work.
The third important benefit is more use of your brain. Nothing like trying to figure out what the stock is thinking about doing and getting your dog to stop them. Getting yourself in the correct position in less than a second or two can be pretty frustrating. It has taken more than four years to get my wits together and I’m still learning.
Since starting in herding I have an easier time remembering and I’m starting to react faster with my commands and body positioning. No more brain fog and just the fact that I have noticed says a lot!
I did not realize how far the decline was in my body and mind until herding was started. Age creeps up slowly and then it is THERE. What I realize as I am writing this is that there still can be reversal in the decline. That is a very good thing for all of us. As soon as we slow down or stop our activities, we start on the decline and loss of balance leads to falls that can be crippling. If bed-ridden or on restricted activity because of a fall, your sense of balance becomes further compromised.
If you still owner handle but have fallen in the ring or you fear you will fall, walking backwards will help you maintain balance. Walking MORE will help you develop strength. You can do that at a gym or seniors group but “working out” with your show or obedience dog is much more fun and productive for you both.
We will all reach an age where the legs fail but we dread the mental decline most of all. Directly because of herding I have more brain power and less fog, more stamina with the walking, and no more falls around the house.
With the 70 year marker right around the corner, aside from fish oil and tart cherry juice, I still do not take medications or pain killers and I have my original joints. How long this will last, I do not know, but with the benefits of herding, loss of my joints, balance, and mental acuity will be in the far future.
The herding crew: Australian Cattle Dogs and (pictured) Keeshond, GrCh Vandys URL LoJo, TT, JHD, HTADls
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