Oh, a massage… who doesn’t love the relaxing effects of a good massage to work out those kinks and bring about that state of calm. Whether you go for a massage to help relieve pain, to help deal with anxiety, or just as a treat for some much needed self care, there are plenty of reasons to go.
And just like us, our pets can also benefit. Dog massage provides many benefits, both physical and mental. It’s also a nice way to spend some quality time connecting and strengthening the bond the two of you share.
And while there are plenty of canine massage therapists out there, there are also several massage techniques you can use on your pup at home, on your own.
The Benefits of Dog Massage
Dog massage is a wonderful tool for dogs of all ages. You might think of seniors dogs as being the best candidates for regular massages, and that’s true, it can help with the regular effects of aging, but our seniors aren’t the only ones who benefit from dog massage. Young, active, energetic pups can also gain from a good rub down.
Here are a few of the benefits of a good massage:
- Anxiety: For fearful or anxious pups, hands-on contact can help reduce stress during a thunderstorm, fireworks show, or any situation that makes your pet nervous and restless. Calm, gentle strokes can bring down those stress levels and help your pet cope.
- Joint pain: The act of gentle rubbing and kneading can increase circulation to sore muscles and joints. The gentle pressure of your hands causes tissues to contract and increases local blood flow, relieving pain.
- Pre-Activity: Just like human athletes, dogs, can benefit from a pre-workout warm-up. A gentle massage stimulates circulation, increases blood supply to joints, muscles, and nerves, and can even help prevent injury and post-workout soreness.
- Post-Activity: Age, overexertion, too much inactivity, and previous injuries can all lead to postexercise stiffness and pain. Massage can help alleviate some of this discomfort.
How to Give Your Pup a Massage
It’s easy to just give your dog a got pet, but massage is a bit different, especially when you’re using for a therapeutic reason.
Tips to remember before you start:
- Try to conduct sessions in a quiet, comfortable area to make it as peaceful as possible. use a low, calming voice
- Keep sessions short at the beginning to allow your pet to get used to it.
- If your pet shies away at first, don’t force it. You want this to be relaxing, not anxiety inducing.
- Avoid areas you know your pet doesn’t like to be touched.
- Take caution not to press too hard, and stop if your pet flinches, moves away, nips, or growls.
- Watch her body language. A dog who enjoys it will seem relaxed, stretch, lean into your hands and be calm to the point of falling asleep. A dog who is uncomfortable will watch you closely or try to escape and may even growl.
- Stick with more basic, light-touch techniques (see below), unless you’ve had some animal massage training, and avoid intense full body massages if your pet is severely ill or painful. You can speak with a specialist in these circumstances, and discuss with your vet if massage is a good idea for your dog.
Here are a few techniques to try at home:
- Forehead — There’s an acupressure point at the top of your dog’s nose that promotes calm. By applying pressure with your thumb from the top of your dog’s nose, over her head and back again, you can promote relaxation and healing.
- Backstroke — Gently stroke up and down your dog’s back, avoiding the spine and putting slight pressure on either side. This is a relaxing movement that may help your dog feel more calm.
- Chest and front legs — Gently rub your dog’s chest in a circular motion. Slowly work your way down to her legs, rubbing firmly – but not too firm – downwards in one motion. If your dog isn’t a fan of leg rubs, move on. Don’t force it. However, if she enjoys it, continue down to her paws. Gently massage the pads, being sure to keep the touch gentle.
- Thighs — Use a thumb-circle technique and gentle pressure to massage your dog’s back legs and glutes. Press both thumbs into the area, making a backward “c” and moving in clockwise circles throughout the region. This can also be used on the base of the neck, an area where dogs can’t reach.
- Ears — Ear massage can be both calming and therapeutic. With your thumb on the inner side of the base of your dog’s ear, and your index finger on the outside, make gentle strokes in an outward motion, ending with a slight, gentle pull.
There are plenty of reasons to try out a nice dog massage on your pup. Take your time, follow these techniques and tips, and chances are, you’ll have your pet drooling in now time!
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