An assistant dog has visited the same animal clinic in Irlam for the last five years to do hydrotherapy.

Emma Jane Cox Harris, 47, has had her assistant dog, Tinto, for six years. They were partnered when Tinto, now eight, was 18 months old.

Emma said: “When I got her, I wanted something that was just for her because her life is based around me.

“But also, Tinto has a weakness in her front legs, and like us, dogs are right or left-handed.”


Since Tinto is an assistant dog, she can do many things, like retrieving items for Emma and turning on light switches.

Emma said that Tinto favours the right direction, so when Tinto used to jump up at a light switch or button, she would favour her right side and hit the wall first.

“It’s her right leg that’s weak,” said Emma.

However, since the hydrotherapy, Tinto has learned to swim in the opposite direction. As a result, she now uses her left side too when doing tasks for Emma.

“I don’t want her to have any lasting problems, and this has strengthened her leg,” said Emma.

The hydrotherapy has had a great impact on Tinto’s behaviour.

Emma said: “Tinto isn’t very good at being separated.

Tinto and Emma

“But going there is the only time Tinto doesn’t show any separation problems. She doesn’t even look back.

“She loves her job, and she loves her walks, but I think the swimming just gives her that extra bit.”

Kath Allsey, a hydrotherapist at Irlam Animal Clinic, said there are many benefits to hydrotherapy.

Kath Allsey

Kath said: “It’s non weight bearing so there’s no pressure on the joints.

“All dogs exercise on land so…their paws are going down on hard surfaces.

“That’s then pressure on the bones, on the joints, tendons, and if you’ve had surgery, having that just causes untold damage.

“Whereas in the pool, research suggests that if you spend one minute…in fairly deep water like what we have, and working at a steady pace, that’s the equivalent to one mile on hard surface.

“It just benefits them no end, especially in the colder weather now because arthritis is setting in and it just relaxes the muscles, the joints.”

She added: “There’s no pressure there. The whole wellbeing – it’s great for them.”



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