by Joanne Lang
Dog massage is gaining in popularity, and if you've ever benefited from a therapeutic or relaxing massage, you know why.
Dogs, like people, can develop aches and pains from bumps, bruises or trauma. For example, your dog might have hurt his leg by jumping off the sofa. He favors that leg because he feels pain. His limping puts his body out of balance, which creates soreness in his back and other limbs. Even dogs that are simply getting older might have a decrease in muscle flexibility from a lifetime of living like a dog. When your dog is not acting like his old self, dog massage is a great tool for bringing back his sparkle and making him feel special.
Dog Massage: Swedish or Shiatsu?
The massage style you would pick at a spa is a matter of personal preference. It's different for dogs.
Do you want to reward your buddy with an all-over dog massage that makes him feel great and also helps strengthen your bond? Many videos, books and classes teach owners how to do the equivalent of rubbing your spouse's shoulders when they're tense. At the Lang Institute for Canine Massage, we sell videos that help pet parents understand massage at a basic level.
Basic Dog Massage Techniques
Some dogs take to massage right away, but others have to learn to enjoy the session. If you want to try giving your pet a feel-good massage, try one of these techniques:
This technique relaxes and calms. Using light pressure with the palms of your hands or fingertips, start at the shoulders and slowly glide your hands down your dog's back all the way to the tail. Think of spreading bread dough, and pretend you are trying to make your dog as thin and long as possible. You'll know you're doing it right if your dog relaxes and takes a deep breath.
This technique works for sore necks and shoulders and is especially good for leash-pullers. Starting behind the ears, use a circular motion and lightly push your fingertips into the neck, working down toward the shoulders. Keep your fingertips together and think of the motion of an ocean wave. Keep your motion rhythmic and calm. If your dog begins to softly yawn, you're doing a good job!
When to Go to a Dog Massage Therapist
If your pet needs a therapeutic massage to help with a specific problem, like relieving a muscle spasm, it's best to seek out a professional who is trained in canine anatomy as well as in the different techniques such as petrissage, pincher palpation, release and wringing. Massage therapists for humans must learn about disease, physiology and orthopedic pathology, and a qualified therapist for canines will be trained in these disciplines too. Ask your veterinarian for a referral, or do an online search for the term "certified canine massage therapist."
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Pets | Dogs: Does Your Dog Need a Massage?