How to Give a Dog a Full Body Massage

Easy
10 - 30 Minutes
1 Day

Introduction

Dogs get sore muscles just like we do. A massage can ease soreness by relaxing muscles and increasing blood flow to tired tissues or injured ligaments and tendons. But there are other reasons a massage can be beneficial for your canine friend. Massages reduce stress and anxiety and build a social bond between you and your pup. Massages can promote healing by increasing blood supply, which improves oxygenation to tissues, provides nutrients to that area of the body and carries away toxins. Massages also improve body functions like the movement of lymphatic fluids, stimulation of organs such as those used in digestion or to process waste and remove toxins, and improves respiration by encouraging deep breathing. There is some evidence that massaging your dog can even improve his immune system. Regular full body massage promotes overall well being, makes your dog feel good, and provides stimulation and energy. An added benefit is that a full body massage gives you a chance to look your dog over and reveal whether he is experiencing pain or issues in his body. A regular massage will get you familiar with how your dog's muscles, joints and deeper tissues work and feel, so you will recognize when something is wrong and be able to make adjustments or get medical advice sooner.


Dog's Perspective

Most people like getting a massage, but will your dog? Yes, if done correctly. Most dogs will not appreciate a deep massage, like humans might enjoy, so don't be too aggressive or apply excessive pressure to deeper tissues. Use gentle motions to relax and stimulate blood flow. Pay attention to your dog, and take your cues from him, if he is uncooperative being touched somewhere, or in a certain way, you may need to adjust your technique. Not all dogs are the same, what one dog enjoys, another may not. Read your dog and let him guide you when giving him a full body massage.

The Gentle Circles Method

Effective
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Step
1
Relaxing walk
Take a relaxing walk to put your dog in a calm submissive state, and burn off extra energy.
Step
2
Introduce touching
Stroke your dog all over, petting him to get him comfortable with being touched and relaxed.
Step
3
Make circular motions on chest
Start making circular motions with the palm of your hand, using gentle pressure at the chest, which is not a sensitive area that your dog will find too invasive.
Step
4
Massage neck
Move up to the neck, which is an area where muscles and nerves that connect to the rest of the body can benefit from being manipulated to relax muscles and stimulate blood flow.
Step
5
Massage rest of body
Work down your dog's shoulders and run your hand gently backwards over your dog's back and torso. Don't forget the tail; gently run your hand along your dog's tail wrapping your hand around it. Do the same for his legs. Start with gentle pressure, work your way up to providing more pressure and stimulation.
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The Deep Kneading Method

Effective
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Step
1
Prepare
Walk your dog to burn off energy, and start with your dog in a relaxed mood. Stroke your dog all over his body to see if there are any sensitive spots, and get your dog comfortable with being touched all over his body.
Step
2
Massage large muscles
Start massaging large muscles, like the neck, shoulders buttocks and thighs with the heel of your hand, lift and squeeze the muscle between the palm of your hand and your fingers.
Step
3
Massage legs
Wrap your hand around the dog’s leg and gently squeeze as your work your way down each leg, starting with the front legs.
Step
4
Increase pressure
If you find an area where there is tension, and your dog is not experiencing discomfort, apply more pressure and then release in that area.
Step
5
Relaxing strokes
Rub your dog's belly gently, and finish with long gentle strokes and petting all over your dog’s body.
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Caution & Considerations

  • Do not provide too much pressure, dogs do not appreciate the same type of deep tissue massage that humans do.
  • If your dog indicates discomfort, stop, or reduce pressure to avoid causing injury.
  • Look for skin and coat condition issues while massaging your dog's full body. Also, take note of sensitive or sore areas, or areas where there is discomfort when manipulating joints, and get veterinary advice if necessary.  Look for signs of parasites, infection, or injury during the full body massage.
  • A trained veterinary massage therapist may be able to provide advice on techniques, and how much pressure to apply if your dog is experiencing discomfort in a certain area.
  • Let your dog guide you as to how much pressure to provide and where to touch him. Don't force your dog to let you massage a certain area, or apply more pressure than he is comfortable with.

Conclusion

The benefits of massage to your dog are many. Massage relaxes sore muscles, decreases pain, improves joint movement, decreases blood pressure, improves breathing, organ function, immune system functioning and it is a great way to spend relaxing time with your dog, building trust. Use gentle strokes, circular motions, kneading, or pressure and release, to massage your dog all over his body. Work from front to back, staring at neck or chest, working down his body and over his legs, and don't forget belly and tail. Listen to your dog so you know what feels comfortable for him. Do not force your dog to let you massage him anywhere or anyhow, look to him for feedback on what feels good and is benefiting him. Your dog will be relaxed and cooperative next time you go to handle him if he is comfortable with full body massages and you have gained his trust.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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