Giving your dog a massage gives you the opportunity to spend quality time with them and care for him at the same time. A gentle massage that will help relax your pet, assist with grooming, and cement that relationship between you and your pet.
When to Do a Massage
Ideally, giving your dog a massage should be calm and relaxing for both of you. So choose a place where you and your pet will both be comfortable. In the living room in front of the TV is fine, it is also the perfect time to perform those tasks like brushing, combing, teeth cleaning, and so on—as well as giving your pet an all over health check.
Before you begin, make sure you have your pet’s grooming tools at hand. Depending on your pet’s coat and what you use to groom him, have a brush, comb, nail trimmers, ear cleaner, and teeth cleaners.
- Invite your pet to lie down, but don’t turn this into a wrestling match. Think calm.
- Begin by petting your pet, especially on the spots you know your pet enjoys.
- Then, as you feel him relax under your hands, begin petting with long strokes of your hands to relax him even more.
- When he sighs and stretches out under your hands, you know he’s relaxed.
- Begin the massage at his head, gently moving your hands in small circles, and gradually work your way over his entire body.
- Use small soft movements with small dogs, and larger movements with bigger dogs.
- When you first begin massaging your dog, just do it for one to two minutes; just enough to introduce your pet to it. As you begin to feel more comfortable with what you’re doing and your pet relaxes under your hands, you can increase the time. A small dog massage covering the entire body might take four to five minutes. However, if you have a large dog, eventually it may take ten minutes to massage the entire dog.
Do not try to do deep tissue massage; this is not a therapeutic massage but instead is a relaxing one. Pressing hard and trying to manipulate the muscles could be painful and would cause your pet to dislike the massage and perhaps even bite. Instead, keep the massage gentle.
If your pet has some health issues and some known sore spots, handle those areas gently. Let your pet tell you if it’s okay to massage those areas. If he flinches, pulls away from your hands, growls, or otherwise shows discomfort, stop. If your pet shows discomfort and you don’t know why, call your veterinarian and have her take a look at your pet.
Teach Your Fingertips to Know Your Pet
As you massage your dog pay attention as your hands—and especially fingertips—touch your pet. It’s hard to see your pet’s body under the hair but your fingertips can learn what’s normal.
A good way to practice this is to give your pet a calming massage until he’s relaxed. Then begin massaging again at your pet’s head, using your fingertips rather than your entire hands, and either close your eyes or look away. Concentrate on what you’re feeling. Using your fingertips work your way to the shoulders, back, abdomen, and all over your pet’s body.
As you do this, you can learn what your pet feels like. Then, should a problem arise—perhaps a lump under the skin, an engorged tick, or an atrophied muscle—you’ll notice it. You can then either take care of the problem or call your veterinarian.
Once you have given your pet a massage, from head to tail, while he’s still relaxed begin brushing or combing. You want to maintain that relaxed state, so continue to be gentle. Check for tangles in the coat, fleas and ticks, and grass seeds in the paws.
Save the nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth cleaning for last. These will wake your pet up. However, these grooming chores usually only need to be done once or twice a week and not every day.
Is Your Pet Resisting?
As you begin the massage, your pet may initially resist your efforts. After all, if he’s never had a massage this will be new to him.
If, as you begin the massage, you find that your pet is getting tense under your hands, slow down your movements and see if that helps. If it doesn’t, stop, and let your dog get up and stretch. Stretching is good for the body but it also helps the animal relieve stress.
Then, on the next day, see if your dog will relax a little more under your hands. As your pet relaxes, he will learn that the massage feels good. Be patient, introducing this massage may take some time.
Massaging your dog is a wonderful way to spend time with your pet. Not only can you both relax, but you can keep your pet well groomed at the same time. Plus you will learn what his body feels like so you can keep track of any health problems. Just remember this should be relaxing for both of you. If your pet is worried, stressed, doesn’t feel good, or is hurt, massage only while your pet is accepting of it. If your pet is uncomfortable, let him go and massage later.
by Liz Palika, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats