Tips on How to Massage Your Dog
The benefits of massage and the power of touch to promote wellbeing in humans are widely recognized. This will come as no surprise to your four-legged friend! In the animal world, it’s called social grooming and many mammals, including dogs, do it to establish an emotional connection. Dogs groom by licking each other and whilst no one is suggesting that you lick your dog, you can use another form of physical connection! This is why you need to learn more about dog massage!
Once you have learnt some dog massage techniques, you will soon see the benefit and feel a closer connection with your pooch.
Why Bother with Dog Massage?
Do dogs like massages? Yes they do and there are plenty of really good reasons why you should give your four-legged friend a massage. Here are the main ones.
It Reduces Anxiety
Sadly, dogs can suffer from anxiety in the same way as humans. Canine anxiety can be triggered by an external event such as thunderstorm or fireworks or it can be a general anxiety that lasts for a long time.
It Aids Healing
Dogs can get into accidents and scrapes and can end up hurting themselves. It has been shown that touch can help to reduce both pain and inflammation. Any strains or sprains that your dog has will heal faster and it may even help to cut down the production of scar tissue.
However, you should not interfere with the site of an injury unless you have checked with your vet first.
It Promotes Overall Health and Well-Being
It has been shown that massage and touch have a profound effect on the way in which the body works. Massage will help blood and lymph circulation and decreases blood pressure. It will also make the immune system stronger so that your dog’s body can fight off infection. Digestion will be improved and vital organs such as the liver and kidneys will work better. It also encourages slow and steady breathing which is good for the metabolism and vital processes.
If your dog could talk, they’d tell you that they were feeling revitalized and balanced. You may notice this in their improved behavior.
It Strengthens Your Bond
The bond between a dog and their human family (or the one special human in their life) is very strong but massage can make it even stronger. To your dog, it will feel like the leader of the pack is grooming them and your relationship will become even more solid.
It’s Good for You Too
Don’t forget that giving your dog a massage also has health benefits for you. Studies have shown that when we stroke and touch our pets, our own heart rate, and blood pressure falls. It also releases a hormone called oxytocin which makes you feel content.
How to Massage a Dog
If your vet has advised that your dog needs an intense massage for a particular medical condition, this is best left to a qualified animal therapist. But if you simply want to massage your pooch to make you both feel better, here’s how to give a dog a massage.
Start with a Back Stroke
If your dog has not had a massage before, a good place to start is with a simple back stroke. Make a start at the back of the head and then run your hands down one side of their spine and then the other. Keep the pressure gentle – more gentle than when giving a human massage. Also, avoid massaging bony areas such as the spine. This massage technique works particularly well for anxious dogs and rescue dogs.
Our top tip: Do not make a meal out of this. Introduce it naturally when you are sitting watching TV.
Try a Forehead Rub
Once you have mastered the back stroke, you can move on to a forehead rub. You need to start at the top surface of your dog’s nose where there is an acupressure point. Use your thumb to rub away from the nose and up and over the head and then back down again. Use gentle pressure only. This massage is great for calming nervous and anxious dogs.
Our top tip: Make sure that your pooch is in a calm mood before you start. It may help to do it after you’ve been on a long walk together.
Chest and Shoulder Massage
Your dog will enjoy this a lot because it is an area of the body that they cannot reach. Rub their coat with gentle, circular motions. Then move to the chest and do the same. This is especially useful for bonding with your dog.
Our top tip: Observe your dog carefully, if they don’t seem to be enjoying it – stop.
End with a Leg Massage
Some gentle rubbing of the legs can keep the muscles loose and can help with flexibility. It will focus on the hind legs and the joints where the legs meet the body.
A leg massage is especially suitable for older dogs who are suffering from age-related joint conditions (arthritis) and mobility issues. You use your two thumbs to apply gentle pressure to the thigh muscle and move anti-clockwise in a semi-circle. Use this action all over the muscle and up towards the hips. Some dogs also like to have the pads of their paws massaged
Our top tip: Some dogs hate having their paws touched and will automatically kick out so take care and proceed with caution!
Ear Rubs as an Extra Treat!
Even if your pooch does not seem that keen on the other types of massage, they will love having their ears rubbed! It’s also the simplest form of massage and can be quickly mastered by a beginner.
You use two fingers – your thumb and forefinger. Your thumb goes on the inside of the ear at the base of the ear flap and your index finger is on the outside. With a very gentle pinch, move your fingers outwards and end with a gentle pull. Dogs love it!