Grow Young with Your Dog seemed like it might be just the book for us. In her introduction, Mary Debono talks about how she had suffered aches and pains in her 20s and felt like she had to just accept those pains as part of the aging process. Then she began to learn more about moving and aging and realized that there are ways people can begin to feel younger by making changes to their habits and types of movements. As a dog lover, naturally Mary wanted to help dogs feel younger, too, and Debono Moves was born.
Mary explains that her approach "combines the science of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to overcome injury or disease by forming new neural pathways, with the healing power of love." Some of the goals of her program are to reduce stress and anxiety, minimize the risk of injury, and lessen the effects of arthritis, hip dysplasia, and aging. While Barley hasn't suffered from injuries or arthritis yet, I want to make sure that she doesn't have those problems anytime soon, so we were more than willing to review this book.
Grow Young with Your Dog has lots of stories about dogs who have been helped by the different movements in this book. Mary knew how much I love border collies and agility, so she made sure to point out that Chapter Six focuses on a border collie, Emma, who suffered from hip dysplasia. Her humans, Akiko and Michael, were sure her future in agility was over before it even started. Akiko asked Mary for help. Mary helped Emma to change the way she used her paws, which changed the ways her hips were affected when she moved. Mary paid close attention to all of Emma's body to make sure that additional strain was relived. Combined with holistic veterinary care and proper nutrition, Emma's hips eventually earned a good rating and she was able to begin agility training. Each chapter has different stories like this one and then Mary includes human exercises and dog exercises in each chapter. In this particular chapter, she provides human exercises that help loosen tight hips. I gave these a try and I definitely felt relief as I stretched out my joints and muscles following Mary's instructions.
The companion website provides videos and audio that help walk you through the steps. It can be hard to hold open a book to look at pictures or read directions when you're trying to keep a dog still and relaxed on the floor in front of you, so I really appreciate the fact that the book comes with a code that allows you to access those resources. Even without the additional resources, Grow Young with Your Dog is filled with pictures that illustrate different exercises and let you see the progress the dogs who have used the Debono Moves method have made.
Throughout the book and the companion website, Mary's passion for helping people and their dogs shines through. Her patience and willingness to help a dog relax and make adjustments to her methods to help anxious dogs is evident throughout the book. Mary tells the story of a lab named Blossom who was so anxious around strangers that she wouldn't stay still if Mary looked at her--Mary ended up starting their session with her back towards Blossom and went at Blossom's pace to gradually work up to being able to face her. As the owner of a reactive dog, I love hearing about people who are willing to meet dogs in their comfort zones and then help them break out of those zones.
As of right now, we haven't had much luck performing the dog exercises. This isn't the fault of the book or the Debono Moves program, though. Barley just thinks it's weird when I try these different exercises on her--and anyone who knows Barley knows that it takes her a while to adjust to new things. If I sit on the floor for some of them, she thinks she is supposed to crawl into my lap and smother me with kisses. We'll keep trying, but so far Barley hasn't really figured out what she's supposed to do--and when Barley doesn't understand what I'm asking, she makes up her own rules.
I think foster pup Sal could benefit from a lot of this, too. There are sections on flexibility and arthritis and I think his older joints would really benefit from that. But he's the opposite of Barley. We're still building up trust. He's just getting to the point where he lies on his side and exposes any of his belly to me. He gets scared if I pet his neck. The first time I tried to pick up a paw to wipe it off, he bolted away from me like I'd kicked him. We're not quite to the point yet where he'll completely relax and let me try most of these things, so we'll have to make adjustments and go at his pace--which I know is something Mary would support from the stories she told.
As a book for humans, though, I really like this book! The exercises are simple but effective and help stretch out muscles and joints--something that I can never get enough of. Mary presents ideas in easy-to-follow directions and pictures, which I appreciate. She also makes some really interesting observations about how our habits can contribute to feeling old--both for humans and dogs--and it's made me want to add more variety to my life and break up some routines a bit more to keep me feeling young.
Disclaimer: We were provided a copy of Grow Young with Your Dog by Mary Debono in exchange for our honest review, but all ideas and opinions are my own and we only share information relevant to our readers. Neither Mary Debono nor her publisher is responsible for the content of this review. Always be sure to consult with your vet before beginning new exercise programs with your dog.