Have you ever had a massage yourself? Can you recall that feeling of being relaxed and peaceful, maybe even a little dopey? The tightness was gone from your muscles and joints, your stress level decreased, your heart rate slowed down and you may have experienced a feeling of serenity. Put yourself in your pet’s paws, and imagine those same feelings you had. Now, you can begin to understand the benefits of dog massage.
Having been a massage therapist myself for over 34 years, I have had the privilege of performing therapeutic massage on hundreds of individuals-both the two-legged and four-legged kind, and I have found that, though we are different species, we are all tactile creatures and crave a gentle, soothing, healing touch, delivered with an open-heart and loving intent.
I hope that you will read on and perhaps gain some insight from my experience, on the wonderful things that can happen for both of you, when your dog receives a massage.
During massage, the muscles and deeper connective tissues are stimulated. Just as in humans, massage techniques can increase the blood flow to these tissues and help eliminate the toxins and lactic acid that has built up. If your pet has had an injury, the increase in circulation will help bring oxygen to the damaged areas, thus speeding up healing. Even if an injury is old and has scar tissue around it, massage will help increase the blood flow to the area.
Just like people, many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Arthritis is a degenerative disease that, in dogs, can cause pain and soreness. The most common areas are their hips, knees and lower spine, but it could be anywhere. Very gentle stretching and light massage can help bring a greater range of joint motion, over time.
One very important aspect of massaging your dog is that, over time, you will come to be so familiar with the contours of your pet’s body that you will be able to detect any unusual swellings, or areas of tenderness, that were not there before. Your Vet, of course, can feel for anything unusual but doesn’t it make sense for you to familiarize yourself with your dog’s body so that you can be aware immediately of anything unusual?
On the subject of your vet, if you have any concerns about massaging your dog, you can always check in with your Vet to make sure this would be of benefit to your beloved friend. It may be contra-indicated for certain conditions and it is always wise to check.
Exchange of Energy
Connect with your dog and that good feeling comes back to you.
This is one of the greatest benefits of massaging your dog. That deep emotional bond you feel with your dog is strengthened by your touch and by your soothing voice. In my opinion, dogs are telepathic. They feel what you are feeling and think what you are thinking, often before you even know it yourself. This is how they communicate with each other as a pack and one of the reasons why they are so successful as a species.
They are so deeply connected to you that when you engage them in this wonderful, tactile sensation of massage, there is an exchange of energy that happens that, in my experience, is very tangible. It can manifest itself as heat or a tingling sensation. You may have to close your eyes and be still for a few moments with your hands resting lightly on your dog’s body, but I do believe that, in time, you will feel this.
With that exchange of positive energy between yourself and your dog comes a decrease in anxiety, perhaps for both of you. Therefore, a nervous or anxious dog can benefit tremendously from massage, too. Just remember, you must have patience. Take it slowly.
Be Your Dog’s Massage Therapist
The best massage therapist for your dog, in my opinion, is YOU! You are the one that is trusted and loved and familiar to the dog. I am not for a moment saying there are not great professionals out there who are very gifted, but I believe your dog is happiest being touched by you. You don’t need to be a professional massage therapist. The techniques are not difficult to learn. As with everything in life that is new, all you need is the right mindset, patience, and some practice.
Remember that it is not so much the technique that is of benefit, but the intent with which you are massaging your dog. Prepare yourself by being relaxed, unhurried and in a peaceful state of mind. As I mentioned before, your dog can read your emotional state.
If you are new to massaging your dog, I suggest you only do it for a few minutes at first because, usually, it will take the dog a few times of experiencing this new sensation before he/she is comfortable. On the other hand, your dog may love massage immediately and you will literally feel the body relax beneath your hands.
If your dog is not used to a lot of physical contact, you may need to come back a step before even starting massage. Just start petting your dog more, touching them all over and generally getting the dog more comfortable with physical contact. Ideally, you could do this after the dog has had a nice long walk or some other form of exercise and is naturally now a little tired and more relaxed.
However, you may have a dog that is already a couch potato that spends hours lying next to you, if not draped across you, all evening. In which case massage will be an easy, natural progression of what you are already doing.
You can use the floor or even the couch, to massage your dog. Ideally, pick a favorite location that the dog likes. You want yourself to be comfortable too because if you are straining your own body you will not be relaxed and your dog will pick up on this.
I would suggest some soothing music that helps you, the therapist, relax and maybe even low lighting or a candle or two. It just helps to ‘set the scene’ and these things may help you become more tranquil and, through you, your dog.
Start by gently stroking your dog’s back, as though petting him, then gently follow the contours of the body, slowly going down the legs. Most dogs do not care for their feet being touched, so I would suggest avoiding this area. Gentle, circular movements can then be added, again, allowing your hands to mold to the contours of the body.
Check for signals from your pup. If you have a more highly-strung dog, it may take a while for him to even begin to relax.
Try to pick up on cues from your dog. He or she may only be able to tolerate a few moments, or even less. Have a favorite treat on hand so that, after your session, you can reward the dog immediately. This, then, over time, will help the dog to associate the massage session as a positive experience. This is the basis of positive reinforcement training. By giving the dog something he/she likes as a reward for something you would like them to do, you are teaching the dog that this activity,(massage) is something to look forward to and they will be rewarded for doing it.
Makes sense, yes?
Different From Petting
Massage differs from petting your dog in a subtle way in that you are “palpating” (feeling with intent the muscles and tissues of the body), checking for any unusual lumps, bumps, tightness, or tenderness in the body. When you detect an area that seems tight (don’t worry this will come in time), just settle your hand there for a moment and use gentle, circular movements, encouraging the tissues to let go.
I hope you agree that the benefits gained from the power of touch between you and your dog are immense. Don’t overthink it, just do it and I believe that, in a very short time, you will be massaging your dog and enjoying this deep connection.
Have you ever massaged your own dog? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below if you have, or if you have any questions for me. In fact, this is a service we offer, free of charge, when we are petsitting and when requested to do so. Philip and I are both certified massage therapists and we have studied canine/feline anatomy and physiology and have massaged many dogs and cats.
Thank you for reading this article and please check back again soon with us at Riviera Maya Housesitting!
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