Saturday, October 8, 2016

Barley Reviews Grow Young with Your Dog

When Barley and I were asked to review Mary Debono's book Grow Young with Your Dog, we were intrigued. Exercising is something I prefer to do with Barley, but we haven't had much luck with different exercise programs that incorporate work for dogs and humans. We can't go to boot camp classes because Barley's too reactive for me to be able to break focus on her. When I downloaded a Doga book, Barley looked at me like I was crazy when I started trying some of the moves. I have some stretching DVDs and yoga programs, but even though they help with my creaky joints, it's hard to find time for them when I'm trying to keep Barley active.

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.

The Good
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.

The Truth
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.

If you want to learn more about Mary and Debono Moves or buy your own copy of Grow Young with Your Dog, you can visit Mary's website here.

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.


  1. We reviewed this book last year and I really enjoyed it too. But I also had trouble putting it into practice! The dogs would not sit still with me, and I'm not very good at relaxing either. I think I should take another look at it though, I may find something in there to help Cricket with her arthritis.
    Jan, Wag n Woof Pets

    1. I know there's a section on arthritis, so I'm sure there is something helpful for Cricket! But I know that struggle of trying to get a dog to sit still with you! On the rare occasion it does happen, I'm afraid to even breathe--much less move in a new direction--because it feels like the spell will be broken ;)

    2. Hi Beth and Jan,

      Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to offer some suggestions to help calm energetic dogs. After working with hundreds of dogs over the past 25 years, I understand the challenge of working with enthusiastic canines! I’d like to offer some tips that may help your dogs learn how to enjoy relaxing and beneficial Debono Moves.

      Blogspot said that my comment was too long, so I put up a quick web page where you can access my suggestions:

      Beth and Jan, I’m so grateful that you took the time to read and review my book, “Grow Young with Your Dog.” Please let me know how you and Barley, Sal and Cricket progress. I’d be happy to offer support via Skype too.

      Thanks so much!

    3. Thanks for following up on this, Mary! I'm looking forward to trying out your tips with Sal, especially! :)

  2. I like the idea of exercises to help a dog with arthritis and such. However, a dog with hip dysplasia cannot just become a dog with good hips. I do not care what kind of exercises you do or what kind of nutrition you feed. Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint. You cannot fix that with exercise or earn a good rating if hips are truly dysplastic. It may be that the hips were not aligned correctly when an xray was taken so a second proved a better result. Perhaps a young dog had a borderline result and as the dog matured it improved (this is why results are not final until a dog is 2...hips change as a dog matures. better or worse). Now I am not saying that a dog with HD cannot benefit from exercise to build muscle but it cannot be fixed. Not without surgery.

    1. Thanks for sharing that! The only dog I've ever had with HD was my first dog that we got when I was 2, so I certainly don't know much about the medical side of it; I just know that as she grew out of the puppy stage, she was able to run and play well until she got old and arthritic--but we never expected more of her than playing on the beach and taking walks, so I have no idea how bad it was :) In Mary's book, she was focusing on helping the dog change the way it walked and which part of the paw it put pressure on to change the way the joint was being used and maybe that had something to do with the development of the hips as the puppy matured? She did mention that all of the doctor's had said the puppy would need surgery and were amazed at how things changed--so it's possible that this was just one of those weird medical mysteries that can't be explained, too :) Or maybe it was all just coincidence. Thanks for pointing that out!

    2. Hi! I thought you might be interested in reading the story about the young border collie that was diagnosed (by more than one vet) with HD. Even the dog's holistic vet (not one to jump to surgery unless absolutely necessary!) thought that the dog would not be pain-free w/o surgery.

      I don't take credit for the dog's eventual good hips, but I do explain how I worked with the dog to help change small differences in the way she moved. I wasn't trying to change the structure, but to change her function. And, as we know, form follows function. The bc's young age contributed to this ability to change her "form."

      You can read the story and see the x-rays here:

      Thanks so much for commenting. Best wishes, Mary