Massaging your dog sounds a little crazy, sure — but if you want to pamper your pet, there may be real benefits to giving your dog the spa treatment.
If your dog likes being petted, then they will probably enjoy a massage. The two main benefits are stress relief (being a dog is hard!) and building a stronger connection with your pup. Massage sessions relax both of you and give you special time to bond together in a calm environment.
Some of the other benefits that are commonly believed to come from dog massages (but that haven't been studied by science) include pain relief, improving circulation and healing, reducing tension in muscles, and dealing with illnesses like arthritis. If you decide to use dog massage for medical reasons, check with your vet first to make sure your dog doesn't have issues that could be exacerbated by massage.
You can easily get started by watching videos (like the one above or this one from eHow). Classes are becoming more popular, but they can be expensive and you'd want to vet the instructor or institute to make sure they know what they're talking about when it comes to dog anatomy. If you want to give dog massage a try, keep these tips from The New York Times in mind:
- Get comfortable. Lay down a towel, blanket, yoga mat or pillows so your dog has a comfortable place to stretch out. You also want to make sure your back and legs are supported, so you might want to put your dog on a table or other raised surface so that you're not kneeling or sitting on the ground. Set up a relaxing environment that's free of noise distractions, including other pets or family members.
- Go slowly and maintain an even pace. Aim for about one stroke a second, which is likely much slower than when you just pet your dog. Keep the pace and pressure even and get into a rhythm. Use lighter pressure than you would when massaging a human to avoid injuring your dog or making them feel uncomfortable.
- Learn palpation techniques. These will help you find any questionable lumps, bumps or overly sensitive areas that you might want to consult your vet about.
- Let your dog take the lead. Listen to your dog's body language and behaviour. If he gets up and wanders off, then the session is over. If he looks uncomfortable, try using less pressure or testing if he has a sore spot that should get checked out.
All the benefits of dog massage aren't yet confirmed, but at the very least you'll have a stronger relationship with them and you'll both be more relaxed. You can try this technique with cats as well... but if they lose their patience, they're more likely to try and kill you.