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Massage for Dogs (Part 1) – benefits and differences.

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At Arfit Dog Therapy Chicago, we use a variety of massage techniques to improve your pet’s well being.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could provide some additional relief for your pet at home?  Well, here’s how to get started.

Benefits of Massage

We all know the many ways massage benefits humans such as; improved circulation, pain reduction, increased range of motion and a general improvement in well being.  But, can our canine counterparts also get good vibes with a little hand loving?  The answer is YES!  Current clinical research has found similar improvements in circulation, range of motion and function for dogs that was found in humans.  In addition, pet massage can improve mood and decrease chronic anxieties such as dog and food aggression and separation issues.

Differences between Human and Canine Massage

Dogs, like people, are comprised mostly of water (and other fluids).  Dogs’ have blood, saliva, spinal and synovial fluid like us, but they do not perspire through their skin.  Instead, they pant through their mouth and release moisture between their paws.  Massage enhances fluid mobility and balance in all systems of the body.  And because we can’t communicate verbally with our dogs, we can’t really use the “no pain no gain principle” we tell people.  If you hurt your dog with massage, he won’t forget and your chances of helping them are greatly reduced.  As a result, gentle and firm techniques must be used.  The time spent on some areas can be longer or shorter depending on your dog’s response.   In addition, humans aren’t covered in fur so our techniques will be different.

Petting versus massage

We all know how to pat, rub and pet a dog. Dogs love receiving it.  We love giving it.  But pet massage is actually a lot more.  Think about the difference between someone patting you on the back and a one hour deep tissue massage at the spa.  A massage session with your dog will consist of a warming / calming period, positioning, massage, stretching followed by a gentle return to function.

Mindfulness and Massage

Pets live in the moment.  They aren’t distracted by world politics and gas prices.  (They could definitely teach us a few things.)  During massage, it’s crucial for you to be mindful as well.  Be aware of your body language and depth of touch and how it affects your dog.  Sudden movements such as sitting up quickly or sighing heavy can change your dog’s response and mood.  In addition strong fragrances, though delightful for us, can be offensive to some dogs and may inhibit any benefit from the treatment.  Also, dogs are very sensitive to our human smell and it’s changes depending on our mood.  Therefore, only work with your pet when you are calm and capable of taking your time and not rushing the session.

To sum things up, dogs benefit from massage just as much as we do.  Although the technique is quite different, we can all learn to pamper our pooch and share the benefits of a little extra quiet time and mindfulness.

Tod Miner, PT CCRP

Arfit Dog Therapy Chicago



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