Everyone likes to stroke a friendly dog or cat, but Lizzie Garthwaite goes one better – she gives them a massage.
Thanks to her specialist training Lizzie can relieve a Staffie’s muscle pain or a Persian Blue’s joint stiffness with just a few minutes of her healing hands.
“I have even treated a guinea pig for anxiety!” she said.
Lizzie, from South Bank, York, is a trained practitioner in the Emmett Technique, which can also be used on humans.
She began by learning how to apply the treatment to people before moving on to the rest of the animal kingdom.
Improving the whole animal
“Animals might need a treatment for a range of reasons,” Lizzie told YorkMix.
“If they are competing, a treatment may help to release tight or overworked muscles and improve gait and stride.
“It may assist symptoms from an injury or accident. Sometimes animals might suffer with a general tightening of muscles, or with old age.”
She said different animals are also more susceptible to certain ailments – “for example, some golden retrievers can suffer with weak back legs”.
The technique involves applying light pressure on specific parts of the body. Although most commonly used with horses and dogs, Lizzie said other pets can benefit.
“This technique has been used on cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, sheep, and even a camel! This is really a therapy for all, people and animals alike.”
What is the Emmett Technique?
Australian animal expert Ross Emmett developed the technique after spotting how animals would respond beneficially to certain touches from him
He then realised that this technique worked just as well on humans
The technique uses very light and gentle finger pressure on specific ‘EMMETT’ points on the body
These points are either switched across lightly, or held together
This releases tensions and helps muscles re-set, reducing pain and discomfort and improving mobility
It is internationally recognised and taught in 26 countries
Four legs not two
Adapting the technique for animals took a bit of getting used to, Lizzie admitted.
“The first time I started training in Emmett with animals was quite strange, mainly because I was so used to using this technique on people.
“So having to alter what I knew to use on something on four legs, not two, was interesting.”
During her training she sometimes had to scale up or down: “We had a few different breeds to work with, and it was a challenge switching from working on a small terrier to then go to a massive mountain dog.”
Transforming a grumpy horse
How does she know it is working? “I find that the animal will often ‘tell’ me what is a problem area, so I tend to allow them to approach me and I just gently feel over that area, looking for muscular reactions at certain points, or a reaction from the animal themselves,” she said.
After applying the each massage move, she watches the dog to see if it is having an effect. “They can show this by their breathing pattern, lowering their head or simply becoming still when you are ‘on the point’.”
She says you can see the difference immediately: “When I first started using this technique, even after a few moves, I could see that the dog was walking with a better gait and more freely.”
After an Emmett treatment, they can be like a different horse, as they are no longer in pain.
Treating pets and owners
Lizzie, 31, grew up in Malton and went to The Mount School in York. Her mum, a doctor, learned about the Emmett Technique and was impressed by it.
Passionate about dance, Lizzie had done an MSc in Dance Science and realised the treatment would help injured ballet dancers. She trained in the technique and began by applying it to humans before doing the extra training to use it on animals.
Now she often ends up treating pets and their owners.
“I love using this therapy, both with people and animals. Working with animals is perhaps more satisfying, as they can’t always tell you what the problem is.
“Using the Emmett Technique, I can find out where their pain and discomfort is, and help to reduce it.
“If by doing this I can help improve their lives, that’s good enough for me!”