Out and About with Holly

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

Holly’s progress has been amazing. With great support she is managing to do things that we didn’t know she could.  When we met with Holly and discussed Holly’s care with Jules from Labrador UK Action Group we were unsure if Holly would be able to walk on a lead, be able to walk to the end of the road, or sit.  We just didn’t know.  Holly’s vets didn’t expect a good outcome for Holly, yet now she is having good walks on and off lead.

It’s been the support of the team around Holly (read more here) and Holly’s determination that has made this happen. 

Holly the Lab Out and About

Holly’s Chiropractor has been involved with Holly from the beginning. She has been able to suggest exercises to do with Holly as well as give advice about equipment.

When Holly was three months old, Clare Lawrence McTimoney Animal Therapist recommended the Help Em Up Harness or WW Support RX.  We did our research and decided to go for the Help Em Up Harness. This harness has a handle to support a dog in two places.  Holly would struggle to get up on to all fours, so we would support her by gently using the back handle on the harness to help her find her paws.  We gauged how much help she needed and over time this became less and less as she was able to pull herself up on her own.  We then discussed with Claire if there was another harness that would be better for Holly as she was developing so well.  Claire suggested the Perfect Fit Harness. This harness is good as it’s sturdy but comfortable and has two loops for the lead so Holly walks with a double ended lead.  The lead links to the harness under her chin and also on the top of the harness.  This has helped Holly find and maintain some balance and she now has a certain walk that has been described as dancing and swag.  She just looks really happy as her walk is full of bounce.

Holly and Teddy in her Dog Buggy
Holly in her buggy
Holly on her buggy

Although Holly enjoys being out and about, we have to be conscious of how much she is doing and wants to do.  If Holly had her way, she’d be walking everywhere and meeting everyone, but she tires very quickly.  Having a dog with CH, whether they are totally mobile or uses aids, can walk for a short or long time, they will tire more than dogs without any disabilities. When Holly goes for a walk she has to concentrate more on how she is walking, where her paws are and the ground is she walking on.  Each movement means more focus for a dog with Cerebellar Hypoplasia, they use their brain more and therefore tire sometimes very fast.  We monitor Holly’s energy levels and adapt her walking and training to be in line with her energy levels.

We purchased a doggy stroller so that Holly was able to get out even when her energy were levels low. It was recommended by her Chiropractor to introduce the stroller to Holly early on so that she is used to it, so if in later life she needs to rely on it more,it doesn’t cause her any anxiety with introducing something new.

Training with Caroline from Look Forward Dog Training has also supported Holly in getting out and about.  One training exercise that Caroline introduced early on, was getting Holly to do a “down”.  This has been great for Holly as she can be unsure about the traffic and other noises when out and about, and she would go down awkwardly when she heard a loud noise. After being trained to do a “down” Holly has been able to use the down position when she gets nervous.  This means she is more in control of her movements (although she has to put a lot of concentration into it) and the down prevents her from going awkwardly and reduces the risk of injury.

Holly doing a down

Holly was getting on so well, we discussed the possibiliyy of her having more freedom and being able to be off lead.  This would be great for Holly as she can then have another experience of what it’s like to roam open spaces.  However, there was quite a large hurdle to overcome – RECALL.

The problem in recall for Holly would be how she would come back. For Holly, she can gain speed especially when excited and if her HooMummy calls her. We knew the excitement would mean Holly would jump up in the air, land awkwardly and then run with somersaults, tumbles and in the wrong direction until she finally got there.  The risk of injury was too high and so recall wasn’t right for Holly and an alternative needed to be found.  You can find out more about the alternative here.

One thing we learnt as a team about Holly was that alternative ways of doing things are necessary.  Little tweaks are needed, even adding different steps into dog training techniques are needed to make sure that Holly is safe but also has the opportunity to experience things that other dogs without CH get to experience.

It’s really important to assess the environment that your dog is out about in.  Look out for slippery ground, like wet leaves and ice.  We don’t walk Holly if the ground is too wet as she is more likely to slip and get hurt. We also take care to ensure that where we visit doesn’t have areas with too many different levels.

Holly prefers walking on grass rather than a path as she gets better traction, but then you have to be careful of mud.  It’s all about balance – giving a CH dog the chance to have great experiences, and not going over the top with safety so to hinder their development.  It’s best to keep reviewing your dog’s growth, development and limitations, and adapting things to fit their needs. 

Holly going for a walk