Dim the lights, put on some relaxing spa music, light the peanut butter scented candles… you’re on the right path to give your dog a wonderful relaxing and rejuvenating massage! Just like the scent of your candles would be different to appeal to your pooch, so should your massage technique. Dogs are often very stoic creatures, and especially if it is their beloved owner, they will not react or let you know if you are massaging too hard. This is just one tip I learned from a certified professional canine massage therapist who is helping my senior dog feel as good as she possibly can in her golden years. We’ve had wonderful success with acupuncture helping her arthritis and other issues, but after one really amazing squirrel chase resulted in serious injury (of my dog, the squirrel is fine of course), we needed something more. Part of that “more” is massage. While I can’t safely teach you how to give your dog an injury rehabbing massage in a single blog article, what I can do is explain how to give a simple, gentle, and safe massage to a non-injured pet. Gentle massage can have wonderful benefits for both physically for the dog being massaged, and when done by a caring owner or foster parent, can be an enjoyable way of strengthening the bond between human and canine.

Note: This is a gentle massage technique for healthy, non-injured dogs to promote bonding and relieve stress. This should only be done on a dog you know well.

  1. Pick a time of day when your pet is most relaxed. For some pets this is after their morning walk, during a mid-day snooze, or at the end of the day before bed.
  2. Ask them to lie down in a comfortable, quiet place. If they don’t want to lie down, sitting or standing is fine too, though lying down is best.
  3. Start petting them in their favorite spot to be pet. Most dogs prefer their chest, neck, or back. The petting should be slow and soothing, so each stroke of the pet ise a full second. You can count in your head to get the hang of it, saying “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.”  Count to ten.
  4. The strength or pressure of your stroke should be the same gentleness you use for regular pettingNOT the strong pressure used in a human massage. You can do more harm than good with too much pressure.
  5. Move to their second favorite spot, then their third. As they relax, you can try the petting massage on other spots too, like their ears, between their eyes (with your finger tips), their thighs, the sides of their chest.
  6. You can cycle through all the spots they enjoyed as long as you both are enjoying it! You can also alternate the petting strokes with small circles using the tips of your fingers.

If your dog wants to move away or shows any other sign of not enjoying the massage petting at any time, you of course should let him or her move away and stop. You can try again another day. Most pets enjoy this kind of “petting massage,” but some don’t, so be respectful of your pet’s desires. For those that enjoy it, but not for long, you can build up the length of your massage sessions slowly. The goal is a relaxed and happy pet!

To get the full benefits of massage, such as increased circulation, decreased muscle pain, enhanced flexibility, and improved autoimmune response, have your dog massaged by a certified canine massage therapist, or have on safely teach you the proper technique on your dog. You can ask your vet for a recommendation to a certified doggie masseuse near you.

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