Why (and how) should I massage my dog at home?
Have you ever noticed that your dog really leans in when you scratch his neck, or rolls over for an even better belly rub? Sometimes she even initiates a good session by presenting herself for a pat.
A great cuddle session with your dog is obviously beneficial as it stimulates the feel-good endorphins for both of you, all the while strengthening the connection between you.
A “proper” massage does the same thing, with the added benefit of improving your dog’s overall body function. Like us, a gentle massage with good technique helps relax and soothe a strung-out mind and body.
Here’s some great reasons to massage your dog:
Reduces stress and anxiety:
It’s a big wide world out there which can be overwhelming to dogs of any size. When we add in the changing relationship and lifestyles between dogs and their humans, it’s no wonder that anxiety is a rising problem for dogs.
Even the excitement of going out and about, chasing a ball or (in Marlo’s case) geckos, can stimulate cortisol, the stress hormone.
A quiet massage at home can ease stress of the mind and body. It will soften and relax your dog’s muscles for a restful experience.
Overcoming mild injuries and conditions:
This one comes with a recommendation to discuss with your canine remedial therapist and/or vet first to see whether massage is appropriate. Massage is an effective tool to help heal strains and pain – even for rehabilitation after acute injury or surgery, but only when performed safely and should be done with care.
Helps to spot problem areas:
With extra hands-on time, you’ll notice possible health problems as they arise, such as lumps, bumps, dental disease or sore spots. Early detection means that you’ll be able to save your dog discomfort by resolving problems before they become a real issue.
Improves mobility and strength:
Even a gentle massage can help loosen muscles, increase blood circulation and improve the range of movement of joints. It can help strengthen muscles by reducing fatigue and tension and promote the desire for activity in your dog.
Try it for yourself!
Tips to massage your dog at home:
Any massage done at home is aimed at promoting overall wellbeing. Any remedial, therapeutic or targeted massage treatments must be performed by a certified canine remedial massage therapist.
- Be gentle. Think of your massage as a “pat with purpose” and an opportunity to bond with your dog. Your dog will not appreciate an intense massage.
- Encourage a calm state of mind. Start the massage when your dog is already laying beside you or in a comfortable position. Avoid the urge to wake them up from a sleep or to start when they are already in a mental overdrive.
- Start with long warming strokes over the length of your dogs’ body. Avoid obvious “no-go zones”. If your dog has sensitive ears, paws or tail for example, avoid these areas.
- Go over the same areas again with circular motions using the flat of your hand. You can add a little pressure here, be aware of your dog’s response.
- Good areas for massage are the neck, shoulders and rump. These areas have big muscles doing a lot of work, most dogs love it. Don’t push it, if they don’t like it, that’s ok, move to another area.
- Finally, finish with the long gentle soothing strokes.
- Remember, always work with what your dog is offering. If they tell you they don’t like it, leave it.
Give it a try for yourself and remember – less is more.