Andorra is a country where dogs are practically members of society, with about 15,000 dogs registered. Almost every family has one or more dogs. In addition, millions of tourists visit Andorra every year, and many of them also come with dogs. GosSWIM is the only company in the Pyrenees that offers hydrotherapy services for dogs as well as makes available to dog owners a place in the middle of nature and adapted where they can leave them for several hours under supervision of qualified personnel for socialization and leisure. The professional dog trainer and educator, Silvia Grau, explains the benefits of hydrotherapy and talks about the other services available through her company, GosSWIM.
What is hydrotherapy for dogs? Which animals needs hydrotherapy and what for?
The buoyancy of the water reduces the body weight of the dog and thus reduces the tension in the supporting structures of the limbs, joints, tendons, and ligaments.
Canine hydrotherapy helps by increasing the mobility of the joints, maintaining their strength, decreasing pain, muscle spasm, and inflammation, promotes healing of soft tissue injuries (muscles, tendons, ligaments), prevents the deformities, and reduces the alteration of gait.
Hydrotherapy is done with hot water so that a dog’s metabolism is activated differently than it is without water. The internal activity of the dog is multiplied by three, in contrast to the dry work.
We have been working with this therapy for seven and a half years. We are very popular because we carry out sessions suitable for dogs, either for mental and physical balance, for osteoarthritis, dysplasia, or being overweight, or even just a leisure session while playing for optimal maintenance.
What is the optimum water temperature for hydrotherapy baths for dogs?
The optimum temperature for hydrotherapy is 28-28.5 degrees. Below 28 degrees is not considered therapy; it is considered a bath. At 28 degrees, the dog’s breath and heart beats 3 times more intensely, and the blood vessels dilate. It is as if the dog is running down the mountain.
You offer a “day hotel” service for dogs. Can this service be requested, for example, by tourists visiting the ski resorts of Andorra? Can they leave their pet safely for several hours under professional supervision? What is the price of this service?
This service will be launched next month. We have an open airfield with plenty of space to play and it’s well adapted. This service will be offered during the day, for example, from 8.00 to 15.00 or 17:00, depending on demand.
This service can be very attractive, because when we work, we have to leave our dog closed up at home for a long time.
We also hope that tourists who come to Andorra for skiing, for example, for a few hours and that they cannot take their dog with them, can leave it to us. We will make every dog have fun, socialize, and not be alone!
Tariffs may vary depending on hours of stay – from € 15 to € 35 (if you also want a pool session for your dog or a wash). A hydrotherapy session costs € 25 for 30 minutes with drying included.
Do you have a lot of regular clients?
We have regular clients who come every week. We also do the home delivery service if the owner requests it. Most of our clients are residents of Andorra, but there are also clients from neighboring countries such as Spain and France.
How many people are on your team? What are the conditions you offer and the surface of outdoor and pool space?
The pool is 6 meters long by 3 meters wide and 1.20 meters deep. We have almost 600 square meters of outdoor land with shaded areas, lawns, and cages in case of rain. We can accept up to 3 dogs per session in the pool and 10-12 dogs in our outdoor field. We also have a running track if a dog needs to burn a lot of energy. Every dog does it under personal supervision. We prefer quality of service to quantity where we can have problems. You should always make an appointment a few days in advance and adjust your schedule for both pool and field sessions.
What “entertainment” do you offer for dogs?
We can do exercises with a mattress for balance and confidence. We have toys: ducks, balls, biters, etc. We also have pressure jets to relax or reduce pain. We can do the session with the owner in the pool or without.
Dog Training – how many sessions do you recommend in order to train or educate dogs to follow basic instructions?
Training depends a lot on the dog and the owner because I always say that every dog is like a world. Whether it is an adopted and adult dog or whether it is a dog raised at home, whether it is a puppy or an abused dog that has grown up in a home with poor energy or trauma or inexperienced people. I can’t say for sure if the dog needs one or more sessions.
We need to know a dog, its behavior, and its routines. We suggest a session to get to know each other and start educating skills.
Is it required a license to train dogs in Andorra?
Obviously, we need to have a degree or a diploma that confirms that we have completed a course of at least 100 hours. Not everyone is capable of educating a dog! I have degrees in hydrotherapy that I did in England, as well as several workshops and courses with different professionals from the canine world in Catalonia.
My qualifications are as follows:
- Royal Canine Society of Catalonia, Professional Canine Trainer License. (380 hours) level 2.
- Degree from Greyfriars Veterinary Rehabilitation and Hydrotherapy Training in Guilford, UK,
- Bocalan Foundation of 100 hours intensive in Sant Cugat, Barcelona.
- Intensive theoretical and practical dog training course, PAHS Program (the Pelutopia and Traning Dog educator).
- Communicative Intervention in Problems of Theoretical and Practical Behavior.
- Attitude and Link Workout Seminar organized by Natural Gos.
- Introductory seminar on the Tellington TTouch Method.
Do you train dogs of all breeds?
Dog breed is not a problem. The problem can be character. I do not train dangerous or aggressive dogs. I work more with basic training that both the dog and its owner need to know. So, I have to work both of them: an owner and a dog. A dog can learn fast. But very often, owners don’t know how to educate a dog.
Do you offer dog walking services?
I do it occasionally, but only if I know a dog well enough. I will never take an unknown dog for a walk in the mountains.
A walk and a hydrotherapy session cost € 35.
Are there any interactive communication services with dog owners (video cameras, chat, online photos)?
Whenever we do a hydrotherapy session or work with a dog in the field, we make videos and post them on social media. We can also send a video directly to an owner to let him see what his dog is happy. An owner is constantly informed; we communicate frequently. I am lucky that they trust me!
Your company has been around since 2013. How did it all start? How have your services changed over time?
I wanted to work with dogs. Due to a car accident, I felt the need to leave the hospitality industry where I used to work, and for 2 years, I had to do daily rehab in a swimming pool. This situation made me decide to adopt my first dog, the golden retriever, Nona. She forced me to walk and was my big friend for almost 10 years. Nona helped me to discover the world of dogs and water therapy. She showed me how the water made her happy. So I started working with dogs, first in the water and then outside.
What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to offer some more services for dogs such as grooming?
These are two very different things. Grooming is very dirty and since I have the only hair dryer, I can’t offer this service to dogs doing a hydrotherapy session at the same time. I wouldn’t want to mix these types of services.
Do you practice canisterapy?
I couldn’t get into this world. I didn’t have time. I specialize in hydrotherapy and basic education, and I am fully dedicated to it.
Interview: Irina Rybalchenko