Who hasn’t had a dog that simply loves to roll over and have her belly rubbed? Similarly, most dogs absolutely love having their ears scratched or the base of their tail massaged. This is particularly true if your fingers gently ruffle up the under coat. But, have you considered massaging dogs for anxiety?
Like humans, most dogs actually enjoy a massage.
Why is that?
Is it just affection the dog is craving? Or can it actually be therapeutic for your dog?
Why Massage a Dog?
There are a number of reasons for learning how to massage a dog. Some reasons would come under the heading of simply pampering your dog, others would come closer to therapeutic benefits.
- A massage can serve to calm a nervous or agitated dog. The right technique can provide a soothing distraction.
- If you dog has suffered a muscle injury ask your vet if regular massages could help. You could also ask advice on how to go about it.
- A regular massage session provides an opportunity to pamper your pet.
- If your dog is stiffening in his older age or after an accident, the right massage technique can enhance mobility.
- A massage session presents a perfect opportunity for quality attention time with your dog.
I think Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM sums it up perfectly:
“What you may consider an indulgent spa service can benefit your pet’s mental and physical health. Massage may reduce stress and anxiety, increase circulation, decrease pain, and strengthen the bond between you and your dog.”
Video Showing How to Massage a Dog
If you are pushed for time, you could look for an Animal Massage Therapist in your area,
Alternatively, it is a skill you might like to practise yourself. However, when it comes to learning the art of massaging a dog, it’s hard to beat a video. Your best tutorial can come from watching an expert at work in person or watching a video demonstration.
Sure we all pat our dogs, but massaging is somewhat different.
As you can see from this video, there is a right and wrong way to go about it. You want to instill confidence, or should I say trust, in your dog. I guess it is rather the person doing the massage who needs to have confidence.
Techniques for Massaging Dogs
A variety of gentle massaging techniques are demonstrated in the video, such as:
- Stretching to alleviate hip pain
- Massaging the hip area.
- Your dog will quickly let you know which areas are tender.
- Using the pads of your finger tips while massaging
- Applying a kneading affect to the skin
- Gently stretching the joints when massaging dog legs & massaging paws
- Gently working the shoulder area
- Massaging muscles between the ribs
- Applying the same technique above the tail
- I’ve never had a dog that didn’t absolutely love the tail area being scratched.
- Massaging the neck area
- Again, I must say that all of my dogs have simply loved it when I have rubbed around the back of their ears. (I can’t say the same for when I attempt to clean the ears however.) Working the neck area tends to automatically lead to massaging the dog’s ears.
- This can be very soothing for any dogs that are prone to anxiety.
A Dog’s Reaction to Massage
I think the demonstrator in the video makes a good point with respect to how comfortable the dog feels while being massaged. If your dog is happy to stay put on the mat while you apply your massage technique, it is a good sign. If a dog becomes agitated and tries to get up to run away, then you know that the session is not helping or, more likely, is too rough.
I particularly like the ‘wait and see’ approach toward the end of the massage. That is when the demonstrator sits back to see what he dog does. The dog in the video, looks relaxed and is breathing slowly; she is not at all agitated. And as pointed out, some dogs will at that point, nudge you for more. That is definitely a good sign.
I think the dog in the video would have slept very well after her session, don’t you?
You will get to the stage, with your own dog, whereby you can better read his reactions. This will tend to happen more each time you practise your massage technique.
Books on Pet Massage
You might like to read a little more on the topic and the theory behind it:
Dog Massage Therapy Tools
Sometimes you might find you can achieve better results with a dedicated tool.
Cautionary Notes If You Massage a Dog
If your dog is in pain, please consult your vet before attempting any massaging.
Even if your dog is not in any kind of pain, it would be a good idea, during your next vet visit, to enquire about massage techniques. Find out if it would be beneficial for your particular pet and perhaps you could even ask for a quick demo.
If you do have an arthritic dog, or a dog suffering from an injury, try to find a bed that is designed specifically to enhance pet comfort. If that means looking for a new type of dog bedding, try to select a bed that can be easily cleaned and/or washed.