Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space and what your body is doing to keep it there. This needs to be achieved without conscious thought and processing of the information. This is just as important for your pet as it is for you. You need proprioception in everyday life to walk down the street or throw and catch a ball. The same way your pet does to go for a walk or chase a ball. It is even more important when performing more extreme activities like taking off and landing when your dog or cat jumps.
When you step off the curb without realising that there is going to be a drop, it is proprioception that stops people from face planting and allows them to recover their balance and posture. I know my proprioception is quite average because there have been a number of occasions that I have failed to adapt to the incoming information regarding my leg and bodies location.
We can use a variety of methods and exercises to challenge your pets proprioceptive awareness. This training will assist the brain to react quickly to sudden changes and maintain normal movement. Proprioception is something that can be improved through training, just like heel work.
The ability to know in minute detail where their paw is in space is impaired when there is an injury, or even small amounts of pain. The information pathway has been disrupted and can even send the wrong information to the brain. This can mean that your pet does not ‘trust’ the limb any more. It may also mean that they can have an accident that will lead to further injury.
Puppies are another example where proprioception is less than perfect. Growing bodies, bones and muscles changing from day to day is difficult to adapt to. Starting to challenge this ability at a young age will help protect growing bones and joints and help your puppy to start to learn the skills to better adapt so changes in their body in the future.