Jack adores a good massage. The little blond Pomeranian closes his eyes and goes limp while I rub the muscles around his shoulder blades, rib cage, and back legs. He opens his eyes only when I stop, as if to say, "Hey, you aren't done already, are you?"
Most dogs love a gentle massage, and the others can learn to enjoy it. Like people, some dogs prefer more pressure or less pressure, or being rubbed in certain areas such as the chest or the back. And surprising as it may seem, pet massage can he a beneficial part of the normal grooming routine as practical as it is luxurious.
You've probably heard that you should give your pet a good goingover before grooming, to catch any lumps or skin changes. Massage not only accomplishes this body check but goes a step further. It loosens dead hair for easy removal with the brush. It stimulates oil production, which is good for the skin and coat. It also increases circulation and relaxes your dog so he feels calmer and less stressed.
For some short-coated breeds, massage can even take the place of a bath during the winter months, when the dog doesn't spend much time outside. During the cold, dry weather, your own skin probably feels drier, and your dog's skin may dry out, too. A bath may strip away coat oils, but a massage stimulates them. Follow up with a good brushing to remove the shed hair and distribute those skin oils throughout the coat. Your dog will look dean and shiny.
Pet massage can also be a great way to spend some relaxing bonding time with your dog. No, that doesn't have a direct impact on grooming. But the more relaxed you both are, the easier grooming chores are likely to be.
THERE'S THE RUB
You can take your dog to a pet massage therapist-a professional can help dogs with hip dysplasia, arthritis, and other degenerative conditions, postsurgical recovery, or injuries. But for grooming purposes, you don't aced a pro: You can massage your dog yourself. Here's how.
- Heavy petting. Begin by petting your dog all over. Dogs like petting and it's a familiar touch, so this will encourage your dog to stay put and relax. Use firm pressure. For some dogs, this will be enough for an initial massage session.
- Move from head to tail. Once your dog is calm and relaxed, begin gently massaging his head, ears, and neck with the tips of your fingers. Move into his shoulders, rubbing all around his shoulder blades. At this point, many dogs will lie down. Move down the back, rubbing on either side of the spine to the base of the tail and down the back thighs.
- Pressurize, if your dog tries to move away or shows any sign of discomfort, you may be rubbing too hard. If your dog barely seems to notice what you're doing, try rubbing into those muscles with just a little more pressure.
- Undercarriage rub. Have your dog lie down on his side (if he isn't lying down already), or even on his back in your lap. Now rub his chest, massaging between his ribs and along his sides. If he will let you, rub each foot, pressing gently on his paw pads.
- Getting the brush. Finish off with a good brushing, to remove all the hair and skin that rubbed free during the massage.
A massage doesn't have to take very long. Pay attention to how your dog reacts, and adjust what you're doing until you find the kind of massage that suits your dog. if he closes his eyes and goes limp the way my dog does, or even jumps into your lap and flips onto his back with his paws in the air and an expectant expression on his face, you'll know you've got a new massage client. Plus, you've just added another great move to your goodgrooming repertoire.