Happy National Dog Day! Massage is an ideal approach to calm a dog in stressful situations, relieve soreness in over-used joints, as well as serve as a routine way to maintain your dog’s health and bond to you. By spending some quality hands-on time with your favorite four-legged friend, you will both receive the many benefits that massage has to offer.
Below we have outlined four of the sweetest spots to get you started with the art of at-home dog massages.
1. The Intervertebral Joints (Spine)
Get your dog started in a seated position, either on your lap or on the floor. You can make your dog extra comfortable by lying him out on a comfortable blanket or towel. Begin with slow strokes down the back, as you would normally pet him. As he sits, you can hold him in a seated position by gently holding the front of his shoulders. Feel for the natural start of the spine, near your dog’s head. Gently take your thumbs and index finger on both sides of the spine, and rotate them in circular motions while applying very light pressure as you work your way down the spine. At the end, once you’ve hit the lower back, open your palms and stretch down along the hips. This simple hip opener is a great way to stretch your dog before you perform daily exercise activities like walking or jogging together.
2. Carpus Muscles and Forward Limbs
Dogs walk on all fours, constantly placing pressure on their shoulders and forward wrists. Just as it feels good to prop up your legs after a long day, for a dog, complete relaxation only exists when they are lying on their back and all limbs are free of weight. Give your pup’s arms the special attention they need by a gentle arm massage. Begin with light circular strokes at the shoulder, working your way through the elbow, down to the carpus muscles. Once you’ve completed both legs, you can do a simple dog paw massage- similar to a human hand or foot massage. As the pads of the paw absorb all shocks from movement, and are constantly coming into contact with debris outside, it is good to rub the paws to make sure there are no abnormalities. Gently massage the back of the paw with your thumb in small circles for around 30 seconds, then lightly squeeze the paw in your hand for 3-5 seconds before you alternate to another paw.
3. Hips and Knees
A hip massage can be very good for increased circulation and reduction of pain, particularly for older dogs. As you can view in the demonstration picture, Eric is giving Jax a massage to Jax’s hip and knees simultaneously. He recommends taking your dogs hip and take long, slow effleurage strokes up towards the heart. Since these are very vulnerable spots, be careful not to pull any hair, and make sure that your dog is feeling comfortable. The most important part of a dog massage is feeling for what your dog enjoys, as a dog’s “sweet spots” will differ. Listen to your dog and follow his cues for the beneficial places to work. Massaging your dog should lead to an increased bond, as he feels your extended care for him, so it is essential that your dog enjoys every part of the process.
4. Face and Ears
It’s fairly common that the front-runner for dog’s favorite massage spot is the face and ears. To massage this area, hold your dog’s head by the muzzle and stroke the top of the head with your free hand. Repeat steady strokes until he seems fully relaxed. If your dog enjoys having the bridge of his nose pet, you can continue down through the bridge of the nose and between the eye area. As you work your way to the ear area, gently press the seam of the ear, where the base of the head meets the neck. Slowly pet the top seam of the ear to the bottom for around 30 seconds.
Many dogs love having their inner ear massaged. Jax loves this massage so much that his eyes will flutter to a close, and a huge grin appears on his face. To see if your dog is equally appreciative, you can hold your dog’s head and carefully move it from side to side, stretching out the neck. Slowly put the tip of your thumb into the ear, about 1/8” inside. Do NOT go too far in or move too quickly when within the ear canal. We recommend staying around this far, and working very slowly and gently. This also is a great time to make check on the cleanliness of your dogs ears, and you can take some time to clean the inside of his/her ears at this time.
Massaging your dog will lead to a closer relationship, as your dog will appreciate every moment you spend mending his body. It also serves as an excellent way to check-up on your dog, as massaging the body will allow you to notice swelling, adhesions, ticks, foxtails or muscles tension. We hope these tips encourage you to bring out your own massage therapist, with your soon-to-be most adoring client.
Let us know how these tips work for you. What are your dogs “sweetest spots”?
MPS and Central Core