How to Massage Your Dog: Benefits and Techniques

After a ruff day, we all love a good rub—and your pup is no exception! If you’re looking to learn more about how to massage your dog, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for more info on dog massage benefits and how massage can help reduce anxiety, alleviate pain, and improve mobility in your #1.

Benefits of Massaging Your Dog

There are so many benefits for your dog, it’s hard to keep pup! Here are a few of the very best reasons to learn how to massage your dog: 

Massaging Your Dog Reduces Pain

No matter what stage of life, implementing massage is good for everypawdy! “Massage can help improve flexibility and mobility in older dogs,” explains Dr. Francisco, owner and PT at TheK9PT in Chicago. “For a young but active dog, it’s a great idea to include massage after long periods of strenuous activity, like after a day at the forest preserve or dog park.” Additionally, it reduces recovery time after surgery, provides relief from joint discomfort or muscle tension associated with aging, and works to rehabilitate dogs who are recovering from injury, too.

Massaging Your Dog Relieves Stress

Hey, it’s hard being a dog. And after the year we’ve had, I think we could all use a little TLC. Massage increases your dog’s sense of well-being, provides a calming effect, elevates mood, and alleviates emotional pain. All of this stress relief also helps your pup navigate through transitions as well. “Massage helps them get in a more relaxed mindset if they’re dealing with separation anxiety issues, especially now as people have to return to work,” says Dr. Francisco. 

Massaging Your Dog Strengthens Your Bond

Massage just makes a good boy feel loved, okay? “It’s really creating a connection between you and the dog,” says Dr. Francisco. Incorporating massage into your daily routine boosts trust, helps shy or fearful puppers get more comfortable with human touch, and enhances bonding between pup and pawrent.

How to Massage Your Pup

1. Get Ready for Massage

Before you begin, select a comfortable spot in your home on the floor where you can both sit down comfortably. “The one thing I always recommend people do is to have a yoga mat or blanket or towel that is The Massage Blanket or The Massage Towel that you’re only using for those sessions,” says Dr. Francisco. “That way, over time the dog associates it with the massage and already starts decreasing their stress and settling down because they know it’s time for the massage.” Sounds good to us!

2. Dog Massage Techniques

With just basic techniques, you can be prepared to give a great at-home canine massage. Whether you’re massaging for anxiety management or pain reduction, your approach will be pretty similar. “It’s more or less the same, the technique doesn’t really change much; you sometimes just change the amount of pressure you put in with your hand,” explains Dr. Francisco.

It won’t be too hard to fit daily dog massage time in, either. “When you’re massaging a dog, it’s not going to be like us going to the massage therapist and laying down for an hour,” he says. “With most dogs, if you can get 5-10 minutes, that’s good. So usually these are going to be shorter sessions with just a couple main techniques.” 

Start with a broad stroke technique, which can be best described as a firm, full-length pet down your dog’s whole back. “It helps anxious dogs relax a bit, and it helps warm up the tissue as you begin,” explains Dr. Francisco.

From there, you can move onto a wringing technique, where you knead the affected areas with your thumb and fingers, alternating hands as you go.

Woof to the wise: consult with a pro before attempting any more advanced techniques so as to avoid any inadvertent injury.

3. After Massaging Your Dog

After your pup’s massage, offer her loads of clean water and be sure to tell her how wonderful she is for how well she participated. Sitting still for that long takes some serious focus for a dog! It’s always a good idea to do some big stretches to extend the spine (the sternal extension we told you about here is perfect). As time continues, make note of any improvements you’re seeing, and let your vet know if it seems like your pup’s pain is persisting.

Treat Your Pup!

If massage is working well for your pal, consider leveling up. Take a class to learn more about at-home massage (check out Dr. Francisco’s Canine Massage & Wellness for Pet Parents here), or bring her to a professional who can teach you more advanced techniques.

Above all, be sure you do your homework to ensure you’re only entrusting a properly trained massage therapist with your dog. “There are people who are trained and certified to do massage with dogs and physical therapists who use massage as a modality of treatment,” says Dr. Francisco. “The most important thing is to find someone who has gone through the extensive training in one of those fields.” Because after all, doesn’t your buddy deserve the very best?

In summary, massage is a worthwhile addition to your pup’s day. What questions do you have about how to massage your dog? Woof at us in the comments and share with a pet parent who ruvs learning about pup wellness.

Featured photo: Mithul Varshan

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