How to Massage A Dog [Expert Interview]
Guess what is the oldest form of medical care.
Well, it's massage and its first known documentation was in 2700 BC in China.
And also the history of canine massage dates back to ancient times. It was Julius Caesar who traveled with a personal masseuse that also worked on his war dogs.
Although people had been performing some form of massage on animals throughout history, modern massage was used primarily for horses just until recently.
An endurance race horse receiving a post-race massage
When people realized all of the benefits of equine massage, the trend quickly spread to dogs and canine massage grew in popularity.
While it might seem silly to massage your dog, it’s extremely beneficial for your pup.
But what does dog massage even mean?
You probably know that it stands for touch with a purpose and that it yields many physical and emotional benefits but which one?
Is it to relax a dog? Or is it to relieve muscle spasms? Or maybe it's the bonding tool.
Yes, yes, and yes — it’s all of that and more.
But let’s start this Dog Massage 101 at the beginning.
Definition: Canine massage is a branch of massage therapy that promotes health in dogs. Specifically, canine massage therapy is a form of alternative therapy the benefits of which may include relaxation, increased oxygenation, relief from pain, improved joint flexibility, as well as miscellaneous benefits to the immune system.
We've decided to dig deeper into dog massage and asked an expert Anja Zakelj about it.
Dog Massage 101 with a dog masseuse Anja Zakelj
What is dog massage?
Similar to human massage, it is kneading of a dog's muscles in a way to relieve its tension or pain. It is also a perfect bonding experience and if we do it regularly, it will not only improve our dog's health and wellbeing but give us another opportunity to connect and bond with our four-legged best friend.
What are the benefits of dog massage?
There are many physical and emotional benefits of canine massage such as reduction of muscle tensions, pain relief, improving blood circulation (bringing nutrients to the whole body that speed up the recovery especially after injuries) and improving range of motion. We can even detect possible abnormalities in the dog's body and we know that timing can be crucial in those cases! Besides, you will create a whole new bond with your dog and keep her healthy, happy and fit.
Is dog massage appropriate for all dogs?
Yes, dog massage can be performed on all dogs, however, if your dog has a medical condition, you should consult your veterinarian for assessment and allow them to determine if massage is appropriate. Otherwise, the main thing we have to be very well aware of when performing dog massage is to be careful with the pressure of our touch, especially with smaller breeds and senior dogs or the ones that are recovering from surgery and might be much more sensitive.
Does dog massage help with anxiety?
Yes, dog massage can greatly improve the dog's behaviour. Since dogs can easily get stressed or anxious due to loud noise or a thunderstorm or many other things, we must ease the dog’s tension and relax him into comfort so he forgets about his worries. And this is exactly what massage does.
When we do it regularly, we start to communicate through our hands and we know exactly what kind of strokes help our dog to relax. The usual issue is that most of the owners start to calm down their dog only when there's a certain action already present (for instance fireworks), so it is difficult for a dog to develop some good feelings around it. That's why I always encourage people to do it regularly and also when there is no stress present.
Can we practice dog massage at home?
Of course, anyone can learn the basics and we can practice it in every calm environment. My advice is to first start slow and with a gentle touch. Eventually, your dog will show you what kind of pressure feels good (or not). But we should never take over the veterinarian's role - in case you detect any painful area or abnormality, please go show it to the medical professional.
How did you become a canine massage therapist?
Actually, because of my own sports injury! After I was injured it was a therapeutic massage that helped me a lot with getting back on my feet. And then when my dog Tisa became older and developed a health condition due to fatty lumps, I started searching for similar ways to help her too. We were always running together and I wanted to find a way to improve her health and wellbeing, just like I did with mine through different therapies and massages. Looking back, I would never believe this injury would bring me so much good. Now I hope to spread this joy for therapy to all dog parents.
A special tip...
Dog massage is not the only natural way to relax your dog. Lila Loves It Pillow Calming Spray soothes your dog with a pleasant fragrance, designed for your dog’s happy well-being. The essential oils in the spray are 100% natural, relaxing your dog in stressful situations such as a car ride, visit at the vet, or any other strain. After using the spray, your dog’s demeanor will be calm and easy.