Dogs spend as much of their day running, jumping, and playing as they can. All of that play can make our pups' muscles and joints stiff and achy, especially as they age. We're going to teach you the best dog massage techniques to keep your puppy flexible and free from pain.
Giving your dog a massage may seem a little silly at first, but it’s quite a useful tool to maintain their physical and mental health without costing you a dime.
Dogs age much faster than we do. By the time a pup turns seven, they're considered a senior, with the associated pains and aches of being well past their prime.
They get a shorter time, and they definitely make it worthwhile. Dogs go hard. Dogs love to engage in athletic acrobatics regularly, running hard, jumping high, and sprinting to catch the nearest squirrel in the yard.
As much as they enjoy it, dogs get sore after all of this activity, and a massage can help relieve pain and keep their muscles loose, to keep joints in good health.
You likely already spend quite a bit of time giving your dog some loving attention and affection.
Instead of the regular old petting that you give to your furry little buddy, try our easy techniques to massage your dog in just ten minutes a day.
The Benefits of Dog Massage
Massaging your dog keeps your dog's muscles in good shape and offers a range of other benefits similar to the ones you'd get from a massage yourself.
Here are the biggest reasons to give your pup a proper rub:
- Stress and anxiety relief. Dogs are compassionate beings that can quickly become overly stressed or anxious. They aren't great at emotional self-regulation, so a soft, gentle massage is a useful tool to help them let go of their fear and worry.
- Improves circulation. A manual massage helps to warm and move muscles, which improves blood flow, blood pressure, and lymphatic drainage, which brings toxins out of the body. Better circulation helps almost every other bodily system in a dog, like the immune system, digestive tract, and kidney and liver function.
- It helps to heal injuries. An all-over massage helps keep all muscles in better shape, but it's conducive to recovering an acute injury from a painful fall or accident. Once it is over the initial phase, massaging the injured area can help rehab the area, break up scar tissue, reduce pain and swelling, and heal the injury faster.
- Strengthens your bond. Touch is a vital bond builder between a dog and its owner. A daily massage with gentle pressure can help bring you even closer together and will be well-appreciated by your doggo.
How to Massage Your Dog
We're giving you an easy, ten-minute method to give your pup a massage from head to tail. The technique is broken down into areas to massage a dog, to make the process more straightforward.
Find a quiet time and space in the day when you and your pup both feel good and can fully relax. You can use a dog bed ramp to take a sore dog up onto their favorite bed, then get started with the massage.
1. The Head
Start your massage at the top with a dog head massage. Dogs can keep their tension in this area, causing muscle spasms and stiffness.
A dog's head has ample blood flow and nerve endings, so they love when we touch their heads. First, we'll do the rest of the head, then focus on the ear area.
Massage the top of your dog's head with your fingertips, then tap lightly on its face to stimulate blood flow. Apply pressure to the sinuses on the bridge of the nose and above the eyes, and then finish by rubbing along the gums, chin, and down the neck area to the jaw muscles.
2. The Ears
Now, move on to the ears. Use gentle pressure to pull the ear flaps and massage lightly to increase blood flow to the ears.
Rotate the flaps on dogs with floppy ears to open the pup's ear canal and improve the circulating air. Many breeds are prone to ear infections, so a gentle massage and opening of the area can be a very beneficial tool for prevention.
3. The Neck
Like humans, dogs can easily injure their neck area, leading to stiff, sore neck muscles that have lost most of their mobility.
If the injury is a strain or another potentially severe injury, take them to your vet, who can conduct a thorough exam of the neck area.
Remove the dog's collar and gently check the dog's neck for any stiff or sore areas. When you happen on any part of a muscle that feels pinched or tight, press your fingers into the spot and make a pinching motion, pulling your fingers toward your palm.
Repeat the process on the back, sides, and front of the neck while avoiding the very front and center area at the windpipe.
Your dog may struggle with the neck massage, as it will likely be a bit uncomfortable when you're squeezing those tight muscles. Give your pup treats to keep them calm and stop the process if they're getting too agitated.
4. The Back
There are two useful methods to massage a dog's back:
- Flat hand massage. This massage stroke is all about getting your dog to relax, body and mind. Place one hand on your doggo's chest to stabilize its body as you make a flat palm with your fingers together, thumb apart. Press down into the body with gentle pressure, which gets firmer over time—stroke from head to tail.
- Rolling massage. This cross-fiber technique applies pressure to your pup across muscle fibers using a back-and-forth rolling motion with your fingertips. Starting at the bottom of the neck, slide your hand down the back and curl fingers in toward the palm with a slight pinching motion, then move a little further down, and repeat.
5. The Stomach
You can access your dog's organs with a stomach massage, which can improve their many functions, such as digestion.
Use gentle circular massage motions on your pup's belly to relax them as you improve their organ health.
6. The Legs
A dog uses and abuses his legs. These strong limbs are excellent at lightning-fast movements, but they're not remarkably resilient and can be prone to stiffness and injury.
Try using a compression massage technique, pushing down on the thigh muscles with a flat hand toward the bone. When the upper leg is warm, grab the leg in both hands and use semi-circle strokes, moving toward the paw.
Repeat on all four of your dog's legs.
7. The Paws
Your pup's feet may be pretty sore, so start with gentle pressure while you massage the paws.
Pick up the first paw in one hand, and use your other hand to rub the bottom of the pads gently. Then begin gently rubbing between all the toe pads. Once you finish the paw's bottom, use your thumb to rub the top of the foot.
And with that, your doggie massage is complete!
Conclusion: Post-Massage Activities and Dog Massage Therapist
Once you finish the massage, your dog will hopefully melt into a puddle of relaxation. Try this massage right before bedtime as a wind-down routine that makes you both a little sleepy.
While this at-home massage technique works well for our pups' minor pains and stiffness, consult your vet if your pup is dealing with a severe injury to ensure the massage won't worsen the condition.
If your dog is in bad shape, consider heading to a certified massage therapist for dogs who is an expert at dealing with our fur friends' anatomy.