How to Give Your Dog a Massage

Have you been thinking of ways to pamper your dog even more? Rather than taking your dog to a doggie spa (which could be very expensive), consider giving it a massage at home. Just like for people, a massage could relieve your dog’s stress, increase its blood circulation, and decrease muscle pain.[1]You can even strengthen your bond with your dog by giving it a massage. Start slowly, be gentle, and eventually, your dog may grow to love the extra pampering.If your dog is suffering from any medical conditions, speak to a veterinarian before giving it a massage as issues like tumors or skin conditions can actually be made worse with massage.

Method 1 Giving Your Dog a Basic Massage

1.Establish a massage routine. There are different reasons to massage your dog (e.g, calm his nerves, warm him up for physical activity, relieve joint stiffness), each of which involves a slightly different massage technique.On most days, though, a basic massage will suffice for your dog. To set up a routine, come up with a word or phrase (e.g, ‘rubdown,’ ‘It’s massage time!’) to let your dog know it’s massage time.

  • Pick a time of day for the massage. It is best to wait until your dog has gone to the bathroom, and at least 15 minutes after he has eaten.

2.Prepare the massage area. The massage area should be quiet and distraction free. Play some soothing music, such as nature sounds or soft classical music.

  • Set up an area for your dog. The surface on which he will lay should be flat (no pillows or cushions), firm, and soft.  A layer or two of comfortable blankets on the floor would work well.
  • Prepare the massage area so you can sit comfortably to massage your dog.

3.Stroke your dog from head to tail. Have your dog  comfortably on his side. With your palm facing down, use broad, light strokes to touch your dog from the back of his head to the tip of his tail. This will probably feel like normal petting to him, and will help get him ready for the massage.

  • There is no set amount of time for you to do this. Move forward with the massage when your dog looks calm and settled.

4.Massage along your dog’s spine. Starting at your dog’s shoulders and working back to the base of his tail, massage the muscles alongside his spine—do not place direct pressure on his spine. First, use your fingers to make small circles (clockwise, then counterclockwise) down his back.

  • Next, use your thumbs to apply gentle, vertical pressure down his back.
    • As you massage along the spine, gently lift up small sections of your dog’s skin and slowly knead it between your fingers.
    • Throughout the massage, pay attention to your dog’s body language.  If he is not enjoying the massage and wants you to stop, he will use such body language as tensing, holding his breath, growling, and flinching.

5.Rub your dog’s sacrum. The sacrum is at the very end of your dog’s spine between the hips.With your palms facing down, use light pressure and make slow circular movements with your fingers.

  • Massaging this area improves the mobility of the hips and spine.

6.Rub your dog’s legs and paws. Use the thumb and fingers of one hand to rub his leg muscles, starting from the top of each leg.  When you get down to the paw, gently squeeze the muscles between his toes and individually move his toes up and down in a wiggling motion.

  • Flex and rotate each paw to release any tendon pressure. You can also give each paw a gentle squeeze.]
  • Not all dogs like their paws being handled. Read your dog’s body language when you start massaging his paws.

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