Who doesn’t enjoy a massage? You can’t beat something that feels so good and is good for you, too. Massage lowers blood pressure, reduces stress in both the giver and receiver, and takes only minutes a day.
Learning how to give your dog a massage is easy. Here are four simple procedures for different situations:
1. Daily massage
This “maintenance” massage takes just ten minutes a day. Use a flat palm to slowly touch all the parts of your dog’s body. Really focus on what you are feeling and pay attention to all the layers, from the hair through the skin, fat, muscle and down to the bone. After a few days, you will have a clear picture of what is normal for your dog’s body. In future sessions, you will be quick to notice any differences in surface temperature, sensitivity, localized swelling or muscle tension, poor coat quality or tight skin. Left undetected, these things can lead to problems requiring medical care. Knowing what feels normal for your dog can also help you provide better information for your veterinarian, trainer or massage practitioner. This is one way that regular massage can add to the length and quality of your pet’s life.
2. Calming the nervous dog
The distant rumble of thunder is rolling through your neighborhood. Your dog begins to whine, roll his eyes and pant. Is there anything you can do to reduce his stress? Massage may be the answer.
Massage therapists use a stroke similar to petting to relax the nervous system. Lightly rest the palm of your hand on top of your dog’s head or neck. Make long, slow, sweeping passes along the length of the spine and down the tail. Repeat this several times. You can gradually increase the pressure if your dog likes it. Do not press straight down on the lower part of the back. To finish, allow one hand to rest at the base of your dog’s head and the other hand to rest over the area of the sacrum (just above the hips and pelvis). These two areas correspond to the part of the spinal cord that controls the rest and relaxation responses of the body (for example sleep, digestion and tissue repair). This technique is useful any time your dog is nervous or fearful.
3. Warm-up massage for active dogs
If you work out or play a sport, then you know that warming up is a vital part of your fitness routine. Active dogs that compete, run, hike or just play hard also deserve a good warm-up. It may even help prevent injury.
Start with several minutes of petting strokes over your dog’s entire body. Briskly rub the large muscles (neck, shoulder, buttocks and thighs) with the heel of your hand. Gently lift and squeeze the muscles just as if you were kneading dough. Wrap your fingers around the lower leg and squeeze gently. Relax your grip and gradually advance your hand up the leg, squeezing as you go. Finish with more petting over the entire body to stimulate the nerves and circulation.
4. Relieving joint stiffness and soreness
Exertion, aging or inactivity can lead to soreness and stiffness in joints and muscles. To help, start by petting the area around the joints to warm the tissue. Then place your hand(s) over the area and apply gentle compressions. You can use your breathing or count slowly to establish a rhythm as you press and release the muscles. The pumping motion moves fluids through the muscles and takes tension from the tendons surrounding the joint. Never use sudden or direct force over a bone. Finish with more petting over the area to soothe the nerves.
Regular massage throughout your dog’s life may not only help prevent the stiffness and pain that contribute to arthritis, but also keep him free of stress and in overall good health. And if you believe in karmic retribution, just think of all the massages waiting for you down the road!
Please note that massage is not a substitute for veterinary care. Severe conditions require diagnosis and treatment by your veterinarian.