Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How to Give Your Dog a Massage

By Ruthie Bently

Have you ever gotten a massage? My grandmother Ruth used to go every week for one, and until I decided to treat myself to one, I didn’t realize the benefits of getting a massage. I was relaxed and calm, and none of my muscles hurt; in fact I was so relaxed I felt like a walking bowl of Jell-O. It made me feel like I could take on the world. Now, massage has been added to the list of alternative therapies we can have done for our dogs, and you can even give your dog a massage at home.

Massage goes back to the Greeks and Hippocrates who studied the benefits of regular massage on the well-being of humans. So it only follows what we humans have known for centuries, that if massage is good for us, it should be good for our dogs as well.

Before you begin shaking your head and wondering which planet I came from, consider the benefits. Some of the benefits from massaging your dog are enhancing or increasing the bond you have with them, while providing a comforting touch. It can help calm a nervous dog, increase their flexibility and circulation, and give them a general sense of well being. It can relieve stress, and make your dog feel more secure. Massage can lead to better muscle strength, lessening of pain and muscle tension. It can even improve your dog’s behavior and self-esteem.

When massage is used for younger dogs and puppies it helps with socialization, and increases their trust level. You can even use a mouth massage to ease your puppy’s teething problems. When you massage your older dog you can find illness sooner, as your fingers may find something your eyes have missed. For example, flaking or scabs can be a sign of parasites, swelling can also be a sign of parasites, cancer and even heart disease. By massaging your dog’s back, you may even find back problems or issues due to weight gain. Not only that, massage helps slow the aging process. Massaging a geriatric dog can reduce pain associated with arthritis and other illness, stimulate their circulatory system and help them maintain their mobility.

The massage that a certified massage therapist provides is different than what you can do at home, but this doesn’t mean that massaging your dog at home is any less important. The nice thing is that you can do it yourself and it doesn’t cost you a thing. There are two basic massage techniques you can perform at home – passive touch and effleurage.

Passive touch is done without pressure and involves holding your hand on only muscle groups. You hold your hand on the thigh and hip or on your dog’s shoulder, side or head without pressure for a few moments. It can be done any time whether you are relaxing, out for your daily walk or even while you are watching TV.

Effleurage is used to help warm your dog’s body tissues and involves a long, gentle stroke. You want to use an extremely light touch. You keep one hand on your dog all the time, while you use the other hand to move down your dog’s body. Start with your dog’s face and move your hand down their head, body, outside of their legs and finally their tail. First you want to move your hands in the direction that your dog’s hair grows. Then just as gently, stroke your dog up the inside of their legs, in the opposite direction of the way their hair grows. Try not to pull your dog’s hair while doing this. There are two other varieties of effleurage; centripetal is done toward the heart in a circular motion, and the other is done hand-over-hand with one hand beginning a stroke as your other hand is ending a stroke.

Before beginning to massage your dog, you should have them in a place that is both quiet and comfortable for them. It can be done on the couch, bed, the floor or even a table. Make sure the area is clean, has plenty of padding and that a fresh dish of water is available for your dog. You want your dog to be relaxed, so if your dog is not interested don’t force them to participate. Don’t massage your dog if they have a fever, and if your dog has any kind of lump, an open wound or an infection (like a hot spot) you should never massage that area.

When I have a few extra minutes I massage Skye, and have found that it does help to keep her calm and more relaxed. I think if you try this on your own dog, you will notice a difference as well. Why not give it a try? I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

Special thanks to Donna's dog "Lily" for posing for our picture.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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