If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how effective it can be for alleviating stress and enhancing your sense of well-being. While you may think your dog has an easy life, he may be experiencing his own unique brand of “doggie distress.” The simple act of you leaving home to go to work in the morning can be extremely stressful for your dog. And certain breeds are inherently “high strung” and could benefit from calming, tender loving care now and then.
Benefits of Massages for Dogs
Just like people, dogs can experience a wide range of benefits from a well-executed massage. Many dogs equate a massage with the soothing act of petting, which helps them relax and feel loved. Massaging can also strengthen the owner-dog bond.
If your dog suffers from health issues such as arthritis or muscle stiffness, massaging can enhance his mobility and improve his flexibility. Massaging is also known to facilitate blood circulation in dogs. Your vet may recommend massaging as part of the post-treatment protocol after surgery, or for administering end-of-life-care to a terminally ill dog.
How to Properly Massage Your Dog
You don’t have to spend a fortune on a professional masseuse or become a massage therapist to properly massage your dog. You can quickly learn to perform specific massage techniques based on his unique needs:
- Massage for maintenance. Set aside five to 10 minutes each day to give your dog a soothing maintenance massage. Keep your palm flat and gently rub it over every area of his body. He’ll love this extended “petting” session, and it will probably have a calming effect on you, too! As you massage, take note of any sensitive reactions that could be a sign of pain or a potential health issue.
- Massage during a stressful event. Your dog may be frightened by rumbling thunder or other stress-inducing situation. Massaging is an excellent way to calm him down and reassure him that the threat has passed. Place your hand on the top of his head and slowly sweep it down his spine and tail. Repeat this motion several times, and gradually increase the pressure if he will allow it. End the massage by resting one hand on your dog’s head and the other at the pelvis (the area above his hips).
- Massage to alleviate joint stiffness. If your dog is arthritic or suffers from joint pain, place your hands on the afflicted area and apply gentle compressions. Slowly press and release in a rhythmic manner, while paying close attention to any signs of pain. End by petting the area to calm his nerves.
- Massage as an exercise warm-up. If you have an active dog who loves to walk, hike or run with you, a massage can serve as an excellent warm-up and help to prevent injury. Begin by briskly rubbing the heel of your hand over the large muscles of his body. Then gently knead (lift and squeeze) each muscle. Next, gradually move your hand up each leg, gently squeezing as you do so. Finish by petting him over his entire body.
The next time your dog is stressed — or needs a good warm-up before your jog — consider treating him to a massage. You’ll be surprised at its ability to calm your dog.