Massage for Dogs

If you like being massaged, you may want to try it on your dog to see if he enjoys it
too.

Touch is therapeutic, and is good for his body and mind. Massage has been shown
to reduce stress by increasing the amount of serotonin and dopamine in his brain.

These two chemicals make him feel happy and content. The physical act of
kneading and rubbing his muscles increases his flexibility and relaxes him.

Massage Techniques

The two main massage methods that are used in dogs are effleurage and petrissage. The first method involves rubbing along the muscles with an open hand, using long firm strokes. The effect of this is to increase blood flow to that part of his body and to help him get used to being touched. Effleurage can be used at the start of a massage, to warm up the muscles, or at the end to sooth the massaged tissues.

Petrissage is the technique you may be most familiar with, and involves firmly kneading the muscles using both hands. It's great for stiff tired muscles, as it helps them loosen and relax.

A third method that can be used is tapotement, or percussion, which is tapping on his body with your palm or a cupped hand. It's not as soothing as effleurage and petrissage, and your dog may not like this technique.

Learning to Massage

Even if you don't know how to give a professional massage, stroking and kneading your dog's muscles will help him feel good. Start by reading some massage guidelines either in a book or online, and just start. He won't mind that you may not be doing it exactly right. Give it a go, and with practice you're sure to improve.

You don't need to use any creams or lotions when you massage your dog. However, if he is a bit sore, you may want to use an arnica rub which helps to reduce inflammation in his muscles. Always make sure you use a product that is registered for use in dogs, as he will be very likely to lick it off his fur.

When to Massage

Don't just save massage for when you get home from a long walk, when your dog's muscles are weary. It's great as part of his treatment for injury or after orthopedic surgery. It can also help with alleviating the pain of arthritis, thanks to the release of endorphins and feel-good brain chemicals. Under these circumstances, check with your veterinarian before massaging your dog. After all, you don't want him to feel worse. Also, never massage him if he has any active inflammation in that area, or if he has a bleeding disorder.

There's one benefit of massaging your dog that is at least, if not more, important than the physical and emotional effects mentioned above. That is the impact it has on your relationship. When you spend time with your dog, stroking and massaging him and making him feel good, you are strengthening your relationship and building a closer connection with him.