A student who completed the “hands on portion” of one of our courses emailed me and asked, “ Why are students required to complete five case studies after finishing their class instruction and training?”
She also mentioned that since she worked on so many dogs under supervision she wasn’t sure if she’d learn anything from the case studies because she wouldn’t know if she was doing the treatments correctly.
Although I was a little perplexed, I understood where the student was coming from. Case studies are time consuming, sometime anxiety producing and sometimes confusing, but that’s the point. Case studies are meant to be thought provoking situations. They aren’t supposed to be easy and they’re an important extension of applied learning. They also build confidence, which is so important to the work we do.
The most valuable teachers in this program are always the animals we work with. They are the ones that continue to teach us their form of communication, how they accept our presence and how they accept our touch. The instructors at CSCM can only provide you with the education, class experience, support and tools, but it’s up to the student to get out into the real world.
Completing case studies outside of the classroom environment will prompt the canine massage student to do the following:
-Network and educate others about canine massage.
- Learn how to schedule animal clients that they we will be working with whether it is a friend’s dog, co-worker, acquaintance or a worker rescue or shelter organization.
-Use critical thinking in determining the location or suitable place and environment for working with that particular dog.
-Apply learning to gait observation, behavior, intake completion and assessment massage. Intake is such an important aspect in evaluating a dog, its special needs, medical history, and contra indications for care, whether they are behavioral or physical- it’s the foundation.
-Use palpation skills. Touching a dog is the most important part of this work. The student will gain invaluable knowledge and genuine confidence. These are the moments when the dog will guide and teach the student at every turn. The student will know quickly if a dog doesn’t trust them, if their intent is not accepted, if the student is not truly present in the moment or if the touch is parallel to the goals of treatment
-Assists in documentation skill and interpersonal communication with the dog’s pet parent.
- Builds patience and understanding of the student’s progress and growth. This is the time when questions are asked, help sought and overall progress observed. In this work, it may take multiple treatments to earn a dogs trust and to handle them in a relaxing manner. Maybe the dog is in pain and needs several sessions to desensitize the dog through pain relieving techniques. All of this takes time, patience and confidence. The results can be astounding for both the student and the animal.
This is why case studies are important. Working with a dog over multiple sessions, tracking and visualizing the progress are the most important and powerful tools in learning patience and building confidence. It can also be- very humbling.
We could easily send students some books, manuals and presentations and call it a home study course, but then this wouldn’t be the most comprehensive and life-changing education we could offer. The application, the touch and the experience is everything. In class, the “hands on training” is the foundation. Outside of class, the “hands-on experience” is not only reinforcement but where the real learning begins.
Let’s not lose sight of what this work is all about… the touch.