The former Dacorum town planner enjoying a new leash of life at Crufts this week

Karen Young works at Safe Hands Canine Massage in Dacorum
Karen Young works at Safe Hands Canine Massage in Dacorum

A town planner needed a new leash of life – and now she’s helping poorly pooches both nationally and locally.

Karen Young had previously advised local authorities over major housing developments in Dacorum but is now giving massages to injured dogs.

“You’re making a difference in a more immediate way,” she tells the Gazette. “It takes years to see planning come to fruition.

“Here I can see a dog come in in pain. 30 minutes later they leave with cheekiness in their eyes and looking happier and more comfortable.”

Karen’s canine clients range from Crufts champions to dogs that can barely walk.

She runs the Safe Hands Canine Massage clinic in Hemel Hempstead, but operates across the Dacorum area.

And using massage as a treatment to help them is still rather an alien concept to many dog owners, Karen explains.

“There’s only about 120 of us in the country who do it,” she says.

“This clinical therapy is new and emerging in the UK. I specialise in chronic pain management for dogs with orthopaedic conditions like arthritis as well as soft tissue injury rehabilitation post surgery.

“The treatment has only been around for 10 years, and it obviously takes time to develop treatments within a field.”

More than 700 muscles make up just 45 per cent of a dog’s entire body weight. Karen uses four techniques to help relieve dogs of their pain – Swedish, deep tissue, sports and myofascial massages.

It helps to relieve stress in the soft tissues and trigger points around muscles. So are more dog owners aware of this kind of therapy?

“It’s getting there slowly,” says Karen.

“It can be quite difficult to diagnose these issues, but we always aim to really improve things within three sessions to try and turn their lives around.”

Karen also tours the country visiting dog shows to highlight the benefits of muscle therapy, with the big event at Crufts this week part of a busy calendar.

“At Crufts I will be supporting competitors from all over the world by providing free muscular health checks and completing warm-up massage for my own clients,” she said.

“I have also been a dog owner all my life and have always felt happiest when I am around them.

“Being able to improve the quality of life of the dogs I treat is a dream come true and I feel so privileged to meet so many amazing dogs and their owners.”