Hands up, who could do with a massage right now? I know I could.
One way to get some of the relaxation benefits of massage is to give someone else a massage. Even better if that someone else is your dog. You might have noticed that we keep going on about the benefits our animal besties can have on our mental and emotional health. Dog massage is a great way to help your dog relax and reap some benefits yourself. Stroking (furry) animals has been found to reduce blood pressure and reduce stress in the humans doing the stroking.
We have researched dog massage and boy is there a lot out there. There are massages to help calm nervous dogs, daily massages, warm-up massages for active dogs and also massages to help dogs with any aches and pains they might have. If you’re looking for a specific type of massage, we suggest doing your own research. If you just want to give a good old relaxation massage a go then have a look below. We have tested out different techniques and found the ones that Stanley enjoys most. Have a go with your dog. If he/she doesn’t like any of the moves, try something else. The aim of this activity is to help you both relax and enjoy the time you have together. Don’t waste time on techniques that don’t feel right for either of you.
Okay, so full disclosure. Stanley is a nervous wee mite, who loves his cuddles but is highly suspicious of anything new. So, if these techniques work for him, they must be good.
Set the scene. The most important thing is to start with a calm dog so chose a time when your dog is already relaxed. It’s easier to carry out the massage if there are no other distractions. You might find early morning or evening best for you after you return from a walk, or at whatever other time your dog likes to laze about and relax. Every dog is different so find what works best for you. We chose our massage time outside, after a little lie in the sun.
You’ve probably seen me write about the benefits of music or background noise before. Music helps to disguise outside noises that can distract your dog, but it also helps you to feel more relaxed. Your dog will pick up on your mental state, so the more relaxed you can be whilst perform the massage, the better. I like to listen to ‘relaxing music for dogs’ which can be found on YouTube. I won’t put a link as there are loads of different videos to choose from.
Use a low and calming voice before, and during the massage, and watch your dog’s body language closely. A dog who is enjoying the massage will appear calm and relaxed and one who is not enjoying it will be watching you closely, might try and escape and could even growl. If your dog displays displeasure at any time during the massage, stop. Some dogs might enjoy the experience so much that they almost go to sleep. That hasn't happened to use yet, but Stanley is certainly a lot more relaxed, both during and, after his massages.
Start with long gentle sweeps from the head down the length of the body on either side of spine. This is a technique that many sources recommend for nervous dogs. It is also a good technique to start with to introduce the idea of massage to your dog. I actually tend to use this technique with Stanley anyway when he is uptight as it naturally seems to calm him. Alternatively, you could start with the areas which you know your dog likes to be stroked. One thing that I did notice was that Stanley moved his body in response to my hand so that I was massaging him in the areas that he preferred.
Neck and shoulders - Dogs tend to love this technique as they can’t reach this area themselves. Use your fingertips to make small circular motions around the area where your dog’s collar usually lies. I found it easiest to use my thumb. Remember to use only gentle pressure.
You can then move down to the shoulder area, as shown in the photo opposite, before completing the session by massaging your dog's back, using circular motions going up and down either side of the spine.
End with the long strokes down the length of the body that you started with.
Set the scene
Use gentle movements
Follow your dog's lead
Hopefully, at the end, you, and your dog, with feel a lot more relaxed.