canine bowen technique



The Bowen Technique is a gentle, non-invasive, light-touch, holistic therapy that promotes healing, pain relief, and general body rebalancing. It aims to support and boost the natural healing capabilities of the body.

It was brought to this country from Australia in 1993 as a complementary human therapy. Bowen practitioners of humans are now widespread (see www.bowentherapists.com and www.thebowentechnique.com) and many nurses, midwives, doctors, physiotherapists, and hospice nurses regularly use Bowen on their patients as it is very effective and also extremely gentle.

When applied to animals (mostly dogs and horses), the Bowen Technique is accepted as a manipulative therapy covered by the Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962 of the 1966 Veterinary Surgeons Act, allowing qualified practitioners to work on the animal on referral from the dog's veterinarian.

Typical areas that may respond well include:

  • Stress and anxiety disorders
  • Acute injury - sprains and strains
  • Chronic illness and degenerative disease - improving the dog's quality of life
  • Rescue/rehomed dogs - relaxation of tenseness from previous trauma
  • Pre - and post - surgery - reducing recovery times

Please click here (European Guild of Canine Bowen Therapists web site )for a full explanation of the benefits of Canine Bowen Technique and details of where you can find a qualified therapist.

It is important that Bowen Therapy is not mixed with other physical therapies within one week either side of each session. Visits to the Vet or prescribed medications are not affected.

It is also important that the dog is given the opportunity to rest for a few days after a session, so do not book him in for a show or competition, or do excessive training or exercise the day after.



On the right hand side of this web page you will see a series of photos showing a 12 year old Border Collie being given a Bowen session.

As you can see sessions can take place in the dog's home environment so that both the dog and its handler feel more relaxed. However, this is not a pre-condition - Bowen sessions can take place elsewhere if necessary.

The therapist will ask you questions about your dog - its routine, diet, health, veterinary diagnosis, medication, symptoms, behaviour etc. This will enable the therapist to begin to get an HOLISTIC all round picture about the dog and its lifestyle, and so to plan an individual treatment programme.

You will be asked to walk your dog up and down (probably outside as there will be more space) and the therapist will very carefully watch your dog's gait, movement, and monitor how it stands, sits and lies when it is relaxed and still. The therapist will make notes about all this information as it enables them to monitor the dog's progress not only pre and post treatment, but also to note any relevant changes when they return for the next session (usually in 7 days time).

The therapy session itself will now begin. Bowen is not forced on the dog - it has the choice of walking away from the therapist at any time it chooses to do so (read Escape Route to understand the importance of this when treating any animal). Instead of grabbing and trying to restrain the dog, the therapist waits for the dog to APPROACH THEM and throughout the session the dog is free to walk away from the therapist whenever it wants. The hands-on part of the session should last no longer than 20-30 minutes, depending on the dog and its needs.

When the dog is relaxed and receptive, the therapist makes very gentle, slow, small movements on the dogs skin on specific parts of the dog's body. The therapist does not manipulate the dog in any way, and DOES NOT poke, prod, or press deeply into any part of the dog or its muscles. Bowen is very calm and relaxing, yet it is certainly not like traditional "massage" techniques.

When you first start watching the therapist working on the dog there seems to be very little happening. The movements are so slight and subtle that it is very easy to miss them! However, watch your dog (as of course the therapist is doing all the time) and you will see the tension start to drain away from the dog's body. One of my dogs looks completely different after a session - his ears and forehead relax after the therapy has drained away all the tension that he has kept in and around his head and neck muscles. It is amazing!

Some dogs prefer to stand or sit when they are having Bowen, while others prefer to lie down. Whatever position the dog wants to adopt is fine with the therapist. In fact the dog often moves its body in such a way as to offer the part of the body that it needs "work" on - asking the therapist to put their hands on a particular leg, thigh, spinal area, neck etc. This is wonderful and exactly what the therapist is looking for - the dog is communicating what it wants and needs.

Dogs react in different ways to Bowen. Some go into a deep trance-like state and their eyes glaze over as they look far into the distance. Some wander off to get a drink or to sniff while their body absorbs the work done, then they return to ask for some more treatment. Others can be energized by the treatment and become frisky and playful - this usually signals that the session is over.

Each dog is different and so the length of the sessions is different as well. For many dogs, when they feel that they have had enough treatment for that session they will get up and walk away, as if to say "Thank you, that is enough". However, some dogs, especially submissive (or "obedient") dogs, or low-energy or elderly dogs, or those in extreme discomfort, may just stay where they are. This is not necessarily a sign that they want the treatment to continue, and is where the skill and experience of the therapist comes into play. In these cases it is the therapist who determines when the session is over. Too much Bowen in a session on one of these types of dogs can over stimulate reactions - the treatment needs to go more slowly to get optimum results.



The amazing thing about Bowen is that the treatment does not stop when the therapist finishes the session. The treatment has started a reaction in the dog's body and it continues to heal and regenerate itself over a period of time. The most obvious changes will become apparent after 24-72 hours, but they may continue much longer - maybe even weeks. This is why in general Bowen therapists do not treat more frequently than once a week.

In order for your dog to get the maximum effect from the session it is important that the dog has the following -

    Make sure that you have a bowl of fresh clean water available for your dog to drink when it is being treated. You may also notice that it will drink far more water than usual over the following 24 hours or so - this is very encouraging as it is another sign that the Bowen is still working on the dog, well after the actual session has finished.
    Although your dog may rest and sleep deeply for a considerable time after the session, it will also require short calm walks as well (NOT long walks, energetic training, mad runs or chasing after toys etc). This gentle exercise helps the body to assimilate the work done, and acclimatize and adjust to the new feelings and sensations that have been triggered by the treatment - it is all part of the healing process.
    This is something that you, the owner, can do to really help your dog to get better. Keep detailed notes about your dog from one treatment to the next. This will enable both you and the therapist to recognise the changes, good or bad, that have happened to the dog and whether the treatment is working or whether different procedures, or more or less work, is indicated at the next treatment, in order to improve the dog's health to its optimum level. Things to look out for are changes in -

    Appetite; amount of water drunk; posture and movement; energy levels; sleep patterns; behaviour; stress symptoms.

As I have said before, each dog is different. Yet I have been told that on the whole, just 1 or 2 sessions (at weekly intervals) are all that is required to achieve a noticeable change, followed by monthly or even up to half yearly treatments to keep the dog in optimum health. Exceptions to the "not more than once a week rule" are -

  • Re-injury - treat as soon as possible
  • Veterinary-diagnosed fatal disease or condition - treat as often as needed to keep quality of life
  • Bitches in whelp - treat as often as once every couple of days

In conclusion, I cannot recommend this complimentary therapy too highly! I have seen amazing results with so many different types of dogs, particularly those suffering from stress and behavioural problems. Please consider taking your dog for a Canine Bowen session - and perhaps you should have a Human Bowen session as well. You will be amazed at the results!


This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).


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