I’m not  your “New-Agey, Touchy-Feely, Transcendant Being”, kind of guy.  I like beer, beef jerky, and hunting.  I’m happiest in Wild Places miles from Cable TV, Cell-phone coverage, World News anything, and batteries.  I like eating broiled meat off the tip of my belt knife (which I may have scratched my back with only moments ago), and drinking coffee from a pot that has egg shells in it, from over an open fire.  And I love eating bacon from a cast iron skillet that also has trout merrily frying away in it.  I like chain saws, and double-bitted axes, and campfires that overlook blue water in deep, boreal forests.

With that manly and testosterone injected disclosure, I approach the subject at hand with an enthusiasm that shocks even me.  I have seen the benefits, the connections and the results of Massage for my Dogs.

Hopefully, your dog works hard, plays hard, and spends his days burning calories and fulfilling his need for activity.  Whether he is practicing  Agility, Schutzhund, Trieball, catching bad-guys, playing fetch, or shredding your $2000.00 leather sofa, he gets tired and in need of relaxation.  It’s also a great bonding between you and your dog.  That’s right, this is not about getting a massage for your dog, but about Giving your dog a massage yourself.  Strengthening the bond between you…

The Internet has a great variety of sites dedicated to Massage Therapy for Dogs…as per usual, some of them are just crazy.  Place hot rocks on a dog’s body?  Yeah that’ll be real successful.  Not that this treatment doesn’t feel GREAT to a human!  Dogs just don’t sit still for such goings-on lightly.  One other site asks you to help your dog “Meditate”.  Riiiggghhhhttt…The deepest thought on most dogs mind is, “Hey…I pooped in the middle of the yard…”    (Use THAT as a mantra!!!)

But, in the middle of all the chaff, are a couple of wheat stalks.  These are the benefits that I’ve gathered regarding Canine Massage:

Dog massage therapy promotes and improves the physical and mental health of our canine partners. This non-invasive technique of hands-on deep tissue massage can enhance the health and performance of our four-legged friends by:

  • relieving tension
  • relaxing muscle spasms
  • lengthening connective tissue
  • improving muscle tone
  • improving circulation
  • increasing flexibility
  • accelerating recovery time

I gathered this litany from a site found here.  http://canine-massagetherapy.com/Home_Page.html   This is a business that will do the job for you, near Point Pleasant, New Jersey.  I like this site for the tone it takes.  They treat this as a Physical treatment for pain, strength building, health, and welfare of your dog.  It’s a Doctors practice, not a voodoo hut, or Pixie-dust dispensary.  While it doesn’t teach you to do the job, it explains the benefits very nicely.

Each of my dogs react differently to massage treatments.  My 3-year-old working GSD Hans, becomes a big lump of soft-serve German Shepherd, and often ends up asleep before we finish.  On the other hand, it seems to energize our year and a half old female GSD.  We have learned that doing massage before practice or competition, fires her up!  Holly also enjoys a heating pad (set on LOW, and NEVER without supervision!!!)

My technique follows no rules that I know of from the professionals.  I just observe what the dog enjoys, and they gladly communicate too me what they enjoy.  I have however, made canine anatomy an area of intense study.  The muscles, nerves, and bone structure of the dog is important to understand, as attempting to extrapolate knowledge about YOUR own anatomy on to the dog is impossible. In other words,what feels good to you, might not be so good to your dog.  My advice is to find a good book on Anatomy, and give it more than a cursory read.  Here are a couple of  good examples that are not crazy expensive.  http://www.amazon.com/Dog-Anatomy-Coloring-Robert-Kainer/dp/1893441172/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353256641&sr=1-1&keywords=canine+anatomy

http://www.amazon.com/Canine-Muscular-Anatomy-Anatomical-Company/dp/1587795043/ref=sr_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353256641&sr=1-12&keywords=canine+anatomy

and, finally, a Massage Specific book:  http://www.amazon.com/Canine-Massage-Complete-Reference-Manual/dp/1929242085/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353256641&sr=1-11&keywords=canine+anatomy

A brief description of how I massage my dogs will be a starting point for you.  I highly recommend that you do some research for yourself, and your dog …

First, I make sure that I am calm.  This also guides the  dog to be in a calm state of mind.  I will sit in a straight-backed chair and put the dog in a Sit, facing me.  I first begin by gently stroking the dogs snout in small, circular motions with fingers only, above the upper tooth line, externally.  Take your time, and work this all the way to the top of his head until you feel a “crest” on the cranium, up the center of the skull.  At this point, begin to widen the circles outward, until you are behind the dogs ears.  Then, move forward on the skull, following the contour of the ear bases, and then down the jaw line.  Work this area, and don’t forget to rub gently around the eye-socket.  Facial massage feels good too many dogs, as long as it is slow and gentle.  Use this time to lift the jowls of the dog to inspect his teeth as well.  (While I recommend that you BRUSH YOUR DOGS TEETH daily, don’t interrupt his massage.)

Now begin working backwards towards the dogs upper neck.  Work your way in circular motions to the topline just behind the cranium.  Work your way down the neck to the upper shoulder.  Then begin working your way forward lower on the sides of the dog’s neck to the chest area.  By the time I reach this stage, my dogs are trying to lie down.  If so, allow the dog to do so.  If not, work the dog’s neck and jaw line a bit more, in a firm but very gentle manner.  Depending on his level of relaxation, it may seem that your dog wants to collapse…Success!!!  Now that your furry friend is lying down, (either side is acceptable),  give the dog long strokes down the dogs side, in the mid-line.  Go slowly!!  The idea is to straighten out the dog’s body and put the muscles in a relaxed position, as well as the skeletal frame.  Give this time to happen, say 5 minutes of gentle stroking…Then begin working forward to the dogs front chest region.  It’s okay to give the dog a fingertip scratch in this area, because they are unable to reach the area, and it feels very good to them.  Don’t dig in, but do scratch the area for 1 or 2 minutes.  Too much time spent here might cause the dog to attempt rising, so if he begins moving, move to the next area.

I now begin moving down the dogs leg structure, starting at the scapula.  Small. circular motions!!  Then I will grasp the leg in both hands and begin massaging downward towards the joint.  As I reach the joint, I will watch closely as the dog will react to any pain he may feel in the joint.  Remember: This is about communicating with the dog…IF you detect any pain in the joint, STOP!  Concentrate on holding the joint between your hands, providing warmth.  In older dogs, this is common.  Please consult your Veterinarian for chronic joint pain, or that which may come from an injury.

Now we reach my dogs favorite part:  His foot rub.  Before massaging, I will gently inspect the toes, webs, and pads for anything stuck there, or small lacerations or blisters.  Remove anything stuck to the toenails, and watch for what can be considered “Nail snags”.  I massage the feet with “Tuff-Foot” if the pads appear sensitive, or one of several other creams that treat the pad and keep them supple.

I concentrate on rubbing each toe-pad softly, and then move to the webbing between the toes, taking my time.  This usually has my 3-year-old “Hans” stretched out on the floor and doing his best cat impersonation.  If he was properly equipped, he’s PURR…

After a few moments of focusing on his feet and ankles, I’ll roll the dog onto his back and give him a brief belly scritching as a break.  This puts him into a position where its possible to inspect his underside for bug bites, lumps, lacerations, or anything out of sorts.  It’s very important to look and feel for these sorts of things for the sake of your dogs health.  Be observant, and thorough.

I finish the treatment by rubbing down the sides of the dogs spine.  Flat handed, circular motions from shoulder to base of the tail, finally checking the hips and knees of his hind quarters.  By this time, the dog is usually quite relaxed.  It takes less than 15 minutes to carry out this massage, and I have found that it provides a bond with the dog.  It also aids your Veterinarian when he or she has to examine your dog, as the dog is accustomed to physical touch, and not fearful.

Before I wrap up this post, I want it to be clear that this post is about a “Relaxing Massage”.  Before competition, or practice, I do a more aggressive warmup massage, designed to get the blood flowing.  That will be another post, allied with thoughts on getting the dog ready for strenuous activity…

For now, try developing a program of massage with your dog.  Do a little homework about where all the parts are, and get started.  You will find that this contact will deepen the relationship you have with your dog.  Start with whatever the dog will allow you to do.  Try focusing on one region at a time, perhaps the head and neck, or the feet and ankles…Whatever seems to please the dog most.

Enjoy the time together, speak calmly, and feed your dog calm soothing energy.  Try it, and see the benefits for both of you…

“After my massage, please draw my bath…”

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