This weekend, I took my pup, Zuri, on his first hike! He bounded up the trail, leaping boulders and splashing through mud, all with a smile plastered on his face. The day after the hike was full of naps, downward dogs, and slow ambles. Unfortunately, the next day was the day of DOMS.
That’s right…dogs can get DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) too. Jumping from 3 mile runs to a 7-mile hike with elevation change and a boulder obstacle course was a recipe for severe doggy DOMS.
Thankfully, just like people, massage can benefit dogs too.
- Stress and anxiety reduction. Just like us humans, dogs can easily become stressed or anxious. A loud noise, car ride, crate, or thunderstorm can all set your dog into a frenzy. One way to ease your dog’s tension, while also helping him relax, is a quick massage.
- Healing aid. Have you ever pushed too hard during a run and hobbled around for a few days? Have you landed funny or pulled something? Your dog can do the same to their muscles. Massaging can help them heal and get back to Frisbee Academy in no time!
- Improves body functions. Massage does so much more than just feel good. A massage increases circulation and improves lymphatic fluid movement. Plus, the massage’s calming effect can decrease blood pressure, help digestion, and encourage deeper breathing. Pro Tip: Try gently massaging and stretching your pup’s ear. You might just get a puppy sigh.
- Strengthens your bond and relationship. Your dog might initially resist the massage. But after he realizes how great it feels, and realizes you’re the cause, he’ll love you all the more. Plus, some extra one-on-one time with the pooch is great for your bond.
You don’t necessarily want to massage your dog the same way you would yourself. A deep tissue massage will most likely have your dog yowling at you. Gentle and slow techniques is the best approach to making sure your pup is comfortable.
- Make sure your dog is already in a calm and relaxed state. Trying to force your dog into a submissive position while she is anxious or fearful will only increase the anxiety. Instead, catch your dog in a post-walk nap or relaxing before bed and then start the massage.
- Approach your dog calmly. Start the massage by petting your dog gently, and slowly, all over. Light touch is key here.
- Begin the massage at your dog’s neck. Slowly add pressure to your pets while moving your fingers in a circular motion at the neck. Remember to keep the massage gentle and calm.
- Work down your dog’s shoulders (an area your dog can’t reach). Again, keep small and calm circular movements.
- Move to the chest and front legs. If you’re dog doesn’t like her legs massaged, move on to a different part of the body. If she does like her legs massaged, see if he wants a paw massage too. FYI: some dogs have an automatic “kick” reflex when anything touches between their pads. Be careful.
- Massage your dog’s back on either side of the spine. Keep working your hands up and down the spine using those circular motions.
- Finish up with the lower back and back legs. Then, grab some cuddle time if you can!
By the time you work down to his back legs and even his tail (if he likes it), you’ll have one happy and relaxed pup. By massaging your dog often, you’ll learn your dogs body. Pay attention to any changes in her reaction to the massage. If she jerks when you massage a specific area, she might have strained something and need a day or two off running (with some extra massages) to get her muscles happy and healthy again.
Have you ever given your dog a massage? What tips and tricks work for you?