Friday, May 9, 2014

"Canine Massage? You've Got to be Kidding!"

EverythingDogBlog # 160: Benefits of Canine Massage for YOUR Best Friend
"Why would I massage my dog? I pet him every day so I don't need to massage him."

I have been practicing and teaching canine massage for more than ten years now and still hear comments like those above.
The who/what/where/when/why and how of canine massage

Who? I focus on the massage of the average, healthy dog by his dog-person to strengthen the bond between them. It is a simple activity you can quickly learn, to become closer to your dog. Canine massage is also something you can always learn more about – there are always more strokes to ‘pick up.’
What? Massage can be defined as the gentle, deliberate manipulation of muscles, skin, connective and adipose tissue to promote increased circulation. Its purpose is to relax, or stimulate (depending on the direction of the strokes and the amount of pressure used). Canine massage can be used daily, post-operatively to hasten recovery, before and after strenuous sports and exercise, and at other times – just like in us humans.
Where? You can massage your dog just about anywhere. I encourage people to set aside a certain towel that becomes the ‘canine massage towel’ (or piece of carpet or other material). This way you can take it with you in the car to the vet’s waiting room to relax your dog, to the dog park for ‘post-play’ massage (outside the park, of course), even on vacation. Once your dog learns (quickly) that when you get out the special towel, it means a good relaxing time, he will be ‘putty in your hands,’ so to speak.
When? You can massage your dog just about any time but setting aside a certain time and place a few times a week is best. A massage can last up to 45 minutes but can be effective in just a few minutes – a ‘spot massage for Spot!’
Why? There are many reasons to massage your dog. You have probably experienced a massage yourself and can recall how wonderful you felt afterwards – relaxed, rejuvenated, just plain happy with the world. Well, our dogs lead an even more active life and, especially those who are not canine athletes (agility, flyball, etc.), don’t use all their muscles every day. Consequently, some remain tighter than others. A massage is a wonderful way to ‘use’ those muscles and warm them up so they don’t tighten even more due to lack of use, thus, making them prone to tearing  or other injuries when they finally are used.
In addition, when you massage your dog, it strengthens the bond between the two of you. This is my primary reason: canine massage is a healthy activity you can do just about anywhere, any time and your dog will love you even more for it!
Thirdly, it is the rare occurrence that when I do a demo massage of a dog at a dog walk, e.g., that I don’t find bumps the owner has missed by merely petting the dog the same way each time. So, I often recommend a vet visit to get those lumps checked out (sometimes they are merely missed ticks). So, for health reasons, also, massage your dog!
How? Canine massage is something you really need a good introduction to, by attending at least one seminar or workshop and then, repeatedly brushing up on your technique so it doesn’t get out of whack (back to the basics). In addition, there are times when massage is counterindicated and places on your dog that he probably won’t welcome touch (over the spine, for example).
For more information:
I will be giving a two-part seminar/workshop on canine massagethat is free to the public (location: Columbia, MD) on Monday May 12 and 19 at The Other Barn from 6:30-7:30 p m. For more information and to RSVP, check out the flier above and then call 410-884-6121 or email to reserve your spot.
The first session will be a PowerPoint presentation and we will practice some strokes. Bring the largest stuffed animal you can beg, borrow or otherwise find (or you can practice strokes on someone else or yourself in lieu of a stuffie).
The second session will be outdoors with your dog (live and friendly, or stuffed) where we will go over strokes and a routine. You will get more out of it if you come to both sessions but if you can’t you will still come away with plenty of good information!
See you there! Your best friend will thank you for it!
(This first appeared on on 9 May 2014.)

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