How to Massage Your Dog
Massages aren’t just for people. Your pooch can benefit from a good rub down too. It can be quite soothing for your dog, especially if he has sore muscles or arthritis. Just like with humans, massage provides numerous health benefits for dogs by increasing circulation and stimulating blood flow. But you don’t have to take your dog to the vet or to an expensive pet spa to give him the benefits of a massage. It’s something you can do conveniently at home. Just set aside ten to fifteen minutes. So how do you go about giving your canine pal a massage?
First, check to see if your dog is relaxed. Don’t try to get him to sit still or lie down if he’s in an excited mood. It depends on your dog’s personality, but wait for when he is calm and have him lie on the floor on a mat or rug with you sitting next to him. Make sure the surface is comfortable for him. If you have a small or toy-sized dog, set him on your lap as you sit on a chair or couch.
Start like you would normally pet your dog, but make the strokes longer, more connected and softer. That way it feels more soothing for him. Don’t press too hard; begin softly and adjust the pressure to your dog’s liking. If he seems more responsive to softer strokes, stick with that. If he likes a firmer touch, go with that. Be careful if your dog has arthritis or very achy muscles. Usually a softer touch works best in those cases. Stroke along the length of his body, from his head, along his back, to his tail. Spend several strokes doing this to set your pooch at ease and help him relax.
Then focus attention on his head, and scratch behind his ears (most dogs love to be scratched behind the ears). Take two fingers and stroke at the top of his head between his eyes to relieve tension, moving from the eyes to the base of his head all the way to the base of his neck. Stroke under his chin too. Take each ear between your fingers and gently rub.
Knead the tops of your dog’s shoulders if you sense a lot of stress and tension in his muscles. You can also use your fingertips and rub in small circles over his shoulders. Then open your hands, place them on your dog’s chest and then rub in a slow, circular motion. Move to your dog’s legs and gently stroke them, starting with his front legs, working all the way down to his paws. Pet each of his paws or give them a gentle squeeze in the palm of your hand (depending on if your dog likes his paws handled), then stroke his back until you reach his back legs. If you sense tension or stress in your dog’s thighs, repeat the circular fingertip movements you used on his shoulders. Then stroke his hind legs and back paws.
Repeat these movements over your dog’s body as many times as you want. Be careful not to put any direct pressure on your dog’s spine or sore joints. It’s essentially like you are petting your dog, but in a slower, more deliberate and soothing manner. Pay attention to how your dog responds as you massage him. He should appear relaxed as you stroke him. If he seems uneasy or agitated, wait until he’s more relaxed, and then try again later.
So the next time you’re spending quality time with your pooch, turn it into a massage session. All you need are a few minutes of free time and the desire to soothe your pet. Make it a point to massage at least once every couple of weeks, once a week if you can. You will be amazed at how much calmer and happier your dog will appear when you take the time for massage.