Give the dog a Bowen. I couldn’t resist writing it, and Harrogate-based Sally Fryer would be quite happy to help with this request as she practices as a canine Bowen therapist, but what is it all about and is Sally effectively the equivalent of a Yorkshire ‘dog whisperer’?
The Bowen technique, for humans, was so-named after Australian, Thomas Ambrose Bowen, and was brought over to the UK in the 90s by Julian Baker who now runs the College of Bowen Studies.
It has, like many non-invasive, complementary treatments, its detractors, but it also has over a thousand practitioners with clients who wouldn’t be without it.
Sally has been a Bowen therapist since 2002 and two years ago took on her canine equivalent of the training and is now fast becoming in demand from dog owners either at a loss over how to help their best friends overcome stress, anxiety or long-term problems they have struggled with for years or assisting with the fitness of activity dogs.
Ironically, it was as a result of injuring her knee while out walking her Golden Retrievers on Cow House Bank on the North York Moors, near Helmsley, that Sally was introduced to the Bowen technique nearly 20 years ago.
“Somebody said I should go and have some Bowen,” says Sally. “I’d never heard of it and I was just told that ‘they kind of prod you a bit in places, but it works’.
“I’d been getting to the point where I couldn’t walk the dogs, so I needed to do something. I went along, had one session and couldn’t believe it. I was pain-free.
“It’s about tiny, rolling moves over specific points.
“They’re over what we sometimes refer to as ‘function junctions’ where we have lots of different muscles crossing.
“There are specific areas we work on for specific problems, but it’s about gentle therapy with a very light manipulation of muscles and soft tissue.
“We work holistically rather than one particular area and the Bowen treatment triggers a response and sends a message to your brain, which in turn raises a red flag or sounds an alarm button to assess what is happening and that triggers a self-heal.
“That’s the top and bottom of it.
“I sometimes describe it as: Imagine there’s a little person in your brain sitting in this enormous room full of filing cabinets where everything is stored that you have ever done.
“This trigger sends a message and the little person goes through all the files cross checking to make sure everything has been fixed properly. It’s like you are recalibrating your body.”
Sally said she wanted to undertake the canine side when she started with Bowen, but because the human side took off really quickly she didn’t have the time to study.
“When I made the decision to do it two years ago, I had the most amazing training and one of my tutors was Penny Clayton who is also a renowned dog trainer and behaviourist.
“Before I work with any dog, I always insist on the vet consent form being signed and stamped by the practice and from the very beginning I am always very careful about how I go about any treatment.
“Normally, on a first visit, I sit and talk with the owner for somewhere between half to three quarters of an hour and during that time I ask what food the dog eats, how it sleeps, how much exercise it has, whether the owner uses a collar or harness.
“I go into a lot of detail and during that time the dog is also getting used to me being there.
“I then undertake a hands-on assessment, feeling for any change in one side or another, looking at their teeth, eyes and ears, making sure the dog is comfortable.
“I’m building a picture around what the owner has told me and what I can feel with my hands and see.
“I work on quite a lot of agility dogs, particularly with Emily Fothergill’s competition dogs of Stardom Agility in Bedale. Emily engages me in advance of competitions to calm her dogs’ natural enthusiasm. It helps with their mobility.
“I also work on a lot of gun dogs who, a bit like footballers who have to suddenly sprint and can suffer hamstring injuries, need to sit for a while and be relaxed and attentive. They need to feel relaxed and ready to listen.”
Rescue dogs, anxious dogs and older dogs are among the many that add even more credence to Sally’s increasing reputation as a dog whisperer.
“When anyone is born, whether it is humans or dogs, they don’t have any stress. We are a big empty glass and then knocks, injuries and what happens along the way adds stress to the body, filling the glass.
“It then gets to the point where the glass is completely full and the tiniest little thing will send it overflowing and unable to cope.
“With Bowen it is like you are emptying the glass of all that stress, which then means the body instead of being tense can come into rest and repair mode.
“It’s about allowing that tension to be released.
“When I go back for a second, third or fourth visit you can tell the dog remembers there was something it found really lovely the previous time because it will come to me and present me with the areas where it wants me to work.
“Canine Bowen is very much dog led and I am reading them constantly.
“They are very aware of what is going on in their bodies and I’m just helping them as much as possible to enjoy their lives once again.”