Petting a dog is instinctive. Whether they have long, silky fur, a short, sleek coat or scruffy hair, if you’re a dog lover, you tend to just reach out to pet them. Research has shown that petting dogs is good for us. It lowers our level of cortisol, the stress hormone. And no dog owner will be surprised to hear that our fur babies love to be petted. But what about a dog massage?
Once your dog understands this is not some strange new grooming tactic that will lead to a bath, nail trim or worse, they will love getting a massage. It offers them the same benefits it us: improved circulation, muscle healing, lymph flow – and, of course, relaxation. Giving your dog a good rub down can ease the pain of arthritis too. If your dog joins for a run or works on the farm, regular massage after exerting themselves is a great way to help them avoid stiffness and pain. It’s not just a physical feel-good factor; massaging your dog is a wonderful way to boost your bonding.
How to Massage a Dog
Remember, your dog is very able to read your moods, but not your mind. They won’t know what you have planned, so it is important to pick a time when they are relaxed and expecting attention. You don’t need any oils or incense or relaxing recordings. Just sit with your dog somewhere quiet they can stretch out and you can reach them easily such as on their dog bed, the sofa or on your bed. A quiet spot without a lot of household traffic is best.
Talk calmly to your dog and begin to stroke their head and the back and sides of their neck with the palms of your hands. Use long, slow, firm strokes. Try rubbing in circles and in one direction to see which your dog prefers. Your dog’s reaction is the best guide for how much pressure to use. Avoid pressing directly on joints. Work your way slowly from the head down to the shoulders and along the back and sides.
Some dogs enjoy having their legs massaged, while others will tense up and resist. Most dogs dislike having their feet touched. The goal is to relax your dog, so avoid any area they don’t like having touched. After a few massages, they might be open to having those spots touched.
What If Your Dog Resists Getting a Massage?
Chances are, if your dog doesn’t initially cooperate, they suspect you have an ulterior motive. But don’t give up too quickly. Start very slowly, perhaps just getting into a routine of sitting in the same place and petting your dog while giving them a few treats. Gradually you can work up to massaging them, as they learn you really don’t have a pill or a nail clippers at the ready. Once your dog realises how wonderful massage feels, they will probably start reminding you when it is time for their regular rub down.
Blog by Irene Hislop