Surely you didn’t laugh when you read our headline! The fact is, massage can provide multiple benefits for your dog, just as it can with people. Anyone who has ever had a massage knows it is a soothing, healing, uplifting experience. Here at PacPet we’re all about canine relaxation, because a calm dog is the happiest traveler.
Massaging dogs is nothing new. It has been used for thousands of years in India and other countries. It gained widespread popularity in the 1980s, and within the last decade dog massage has become an increasingly hot trend in the US. So much so that veterinarians now recommend massage for many of their canine patients, and veterinary technicians can become certified for this. You can even find pet salons devoted primarily or exclusively to dog massage therapy.
But it’s not difficult to learn how to massage your dear pooch right in the comfort of your own home. Think of it as a more formalized type of belly rub.
Why is massage so great for dogs?
The time you spend giving your pup a well-orchestrated massage is a bonding experience, just like when you play with her, work on her training, or hang out on the couch together. But massage can do a lot more than bring you two closer together. For example:
- Relieve anxiety and stress. Whether your dog suffers from separation anxiety or worries about thunder and firecrackers, sudden movements, strange people or situations, or other stressors, massage can help reduce her tension.
- Boost internal well-being. In addition to lowering your dog’s blood pressure, massage can boost blood flow and improve function of the liver, kidneys, immune and digestive systems.
- Stimulate and speed healing. If your pup has had surgery or suffered an injury, your vet may prescribe massage to speed her recovery. Massage can help reduce pain as well as tissue swelling, helping heal muscles, joints, and bones.
- Improve flexibility. Regular massage can help keep your pup limber. That can be especially valuable for older dogs that suffer from the pain and stiffness of arthritis, but massage can help restore range of motion in an injured dog of any age.
Pet parents also benefit from massaging their dogs. In effect, you’re using your hands to learn about your dog’s physical body and response to touch. If something changes – you feel something unusual or she reacts differently – you’ll know there could be a problem. Early detection is important to keep your girl healthy and comfortable. Besides, the simple act of massaging your dog will help you feel more relaxed, too.
Types of massage for dogs
The techniques recommended for dog massage are gentler than some of the techniques used on people. You want to soothe, not hurt, your dog – especially if she is older. There are three types of strokes you will want to incorporate into your massage regimen. You’ll probably recognize these from your own massage experiences:
- Long, smooth strokes, called “effleurage,” are used to gently warm up tissues at the beginning and provide a sort of cool-down at the end.
- “Petrissage” manipulates the skin and underlying tissues with careful kneading and twisting motions.
- Gentle, rhythmic compression, or pressure, helps get the blood pumping and relax muscles.
How to perform doggie massage
Well-known dog behavior expert Cesar Millan suggests an easy-to-follow 7-step process to give your furry companion a full body massage. It’s important to note, however, that you should use somewhat different techniques depending on your goal.
For instance, longer, petting style strokes work best for stress relief. Some dogs respond even better if you place one hand on the back of their neck while petting and rubbing. Resist the urge to hug your dog, though, as this can actually induce stress in some canines.
If your dog has arthritis or is otherwise in pain, use effleurage strokes as a warm-up, then gentle compressions to relax muscles and soft tissues and improve circulation, then finish with more slowly soothing strokes.
If you want to use massage to help your girl recover from an injury or surgery, talk to your vet first. The doc can confirm (or not) whether the treatment will be helpful and also tell you exactly how to go about it.
Massage can help calm pre-flight jitters
If you’re planning a faraway holiday or an international move with your dog soon, add massage to your last-minute to-do list. That will help him be calm as he departs on his journey. And if travel isn’t in your immediate future, so what? Who needs an excuse to treat your best friend to a soothing, healthy massage!