If you’ve ever had a really good massage, you know how wonderful it is–and how much better you feel for hours or even days afterward. And you’ve probably already realized how much your dog loves a good ear- or tummy-rub. It’s no surprise, then, to realize that the benefits of massage just might apply to your dog, too. A good massage can
All of which is a good thing. And it’s a proven medical fact that massage lowers the level of stress hormones in the body. The positive effects on relaxation and energy are obvious, even if they’re still being measured.
And besides, massage feels great for dog and owner alike and brings the two closer on a regular basis. What’s not to like?
How to find a massage therapist
There are professional dog therapists in all major American cities, and you can find them in phone books or online directories, but a referral is your best source. Talk to friends or family who’ve tried pet massage, and ask your vet for a recommendation. When you find a therapist, ask for references as well as proof of training and experience. You’re literally putting your dog in this person’s hands, so you have a right to feel 100 percent comfortable with your choice.
When to do it yourself
You may not need to resort to a paid professional unless your dog has a serious health problem or you’re hoping for significant health benefits. There are a number of books and DVDs available that will give you complete instructions. You may find that your dog likes your technique just fine, as long as you’re careful and not overly eager.
What’s more, starting out with a little at-home massage is a great way to see if your dog will respond at all. Many really love it; others just never quite get used to the idea. It’s good to know what’s up with your own dog before you invest in professional attention.
How to massage your dog
Dog massage involves the same techniques that are used on humans. There’s effleurage (long, slow strokes), friction (pressure without moving the skin) percussion (drumming with the fingers or hands), and petrissage (kneading). You can use all four on Fido. You can massage the entire body (with a few exceptions) or concentrate on special spots–or even on acupuncture points if you’re familiar with them.
What to do:
What not to do:
Remember, this is supposed to be enjoyable for everyone involved. If your dog isn’t having a good time, what’s the point? And don’t forget: keep it light and gentle. Serious, deep massage should only be done by a trained and certified practitioner whom you trust.
If all goes well–and it probably will–you may find you’ve put your dog right to sleep by the end of the session. And that’s a good thing. (You might even want to join in. See? Now everybody’s relaxed.)