Everyone loves a great massage, and dogs are no exception. Massage therapy is one of those rare things that’s both healthy and feels good. If you’d like to treat your pooch to a massage, you can look for a specially trained and certified canine massage therapist near you. Alternatively, you can practice learning the basic techniques yourself, and expect lots of happy tail wagging!
1. Reach Peak Performance
Just like human massage therapy, canine massage therapy helps dogs perform at their best. It supports healthy blood circulation and eases muscle tension. A thorough massage is particularly well-received among dogs who have recently physically exerted themselves. Dogs in training to become search and rescue workers, guide dogs, and guard dogs can benefit from regular massages, but so can companion pups who just had a great run through the dog park. A massage will help your dog recover faster from a strenuous workout, so he or she can be ready to take on the next challenge.
2. Address Health Problems
Canine massage therapy is often recommended for dogs with both physical and emotional health issues. Pups who tend to be high-strung or anxious will find it soothing, particularly as a thunderstorm approaches or when a vet is trying to administer a shot. And, although massage is not a substitute for medical care, it can be helpful for elderly dogs who suffer from stiff joints. By gently pressing and releasing key muscles around the joints, you can encourage the proper drainage of fluid from these areas. This reduces swelling and inflammation. Note that massage therapy should be used as a complementary treatment along with a vet’s medical care for conditions like arthritis. Dogs with stiff joints may also benefit from a superfood supplement formulated for joint health.
3. Detect Health Issues
Detecting emerging health issues as quickly as possible is crucial, but dogs won’t always let their owners know when something’s wrong. Regular massage therapy will let you become better acquainted with what feels normal on your dog. You’ll be better positioned to detect potential problems, like lumps and scabs. Additionally, pay attention to your dog’s response to the massage. Does your dog stiffen up and whine when you touch a particular area? Perhaps that area is injured. Keep an eye out for swelling, tenderness, patchy hair loss, and unusual warmth as you massage your pup.
The Basic Techniques of Canine Massage Therapy
There are many different movements you can use. Start by becoming familiar with the main techniques used to promote canine health. They are:
- Effleurage — Professional canine massage therapists use these long, gentle strokes at the start and end of each session. They warm up and loosen the tissues to prepare them for more intensive techniques. You can also use effleurage to warm up your dog’s muscles before a rigorous workout.
- Petrissage — This is like a human’s deep tissue massage. These kneading, twisting movements break up scar tissue and adhesions.
- Compression — Gentle “pumping” movements get the blood flowing, soothe away muscle spasms, and keep the fibrous tissues flexible.
Once you master these basic techniques, you can perform these specific massages:
- Stress/anxiety relief massage. Use effleurage, starting at the neck and working your way downward. Start by placing your hand, palm flat, on top of the head or neck. Use long, sweeping strokes along the spine. If your dog allows it, increase pressure gradually—but never press down on the lower spine. Finish by resting one hand at the base of the head and the other hand over the pelvis. This stimulates the part of the spinal cord that manages rest and relaxation responses.
- Joint stiffness massage. Start with effleurage around the sore joint. Then use gentle compression movements, getting into a slow press-and-release rhythm. (Never use sudden or intense force directly on top of a bone.) Finish with more effleurage.
- Pre-and post-workout massage. Start with effleurage over the entire body. Progress to petrissage using the heel of your hand over the large muscles (thighs, buttocks, shoulders, and neck). Picture yourself kneading dough, but gently. Wrap a hand around a leg and squeeze gently, progressing upward. Repeat for each leg. Finish with whole-body effleurage.
Try out these techniques, and you’ll see how canine massage therapy is a great way to stay on top of your dog’s health, and strengthen your bond at the same time!