Disclaimer: The information contain in this article "How to Massage Your Dog" is meant only for pet parents who wish to give their family dog a gentle massage.  Please check with your vet before starting any program of massage for your dog.  Massage is not a replacement for veterinary care.  When in doubt, do not massage. Ask your vet!  This article is meant for information purposes only.  It does not replace a formal education in Canine Massage, nor does it replace advice given by licensed medical practitioners.  Bev Spotton and Mobile Canine Care specifically disclaim any liability for any injury whatsoever incurred by those that read this article, as unlikely is the possibility.  The reader assumes all possible risks and liabilities for the use of these techniques.

Before you start:

Massage contraindications

Do not massage your dog if s/he has:

Fever (ie feels hotter than normal), open wounds, infections, or has just had surgery.

If your dog has an autoimmune disease and/or is on medication for a condition, then please give your vet a quick call before you begin a program of regular massage, to make sure massaging your dog is okay.

If your dog has a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, massage is contraindicated.

Pregnancy – double check first

When in doubt, check with your vet

NB – do not massage just after your dog has eaten, and ideally let dog have opportunity to relieve itself before starting massage.

To Start:

Purposefully and intentionally put yourself into a calm state before starting to massage your dog.

Get comfortable, and please make sure your dog is comfortable.

Then: laying on of hands – simply put your hands on your dog – areas where you know your pet is comfortable being touched.  Let your hands rest quietly.  Relax and just let your hands relax. And breathe!  Smile a little!  If your dog stays and relaxes, you can take that as permission granted to massage!

Then begin to feel around – moving hands around dog’s body to really feel it – do slower movements – like your hands are searching – smallish circles give a good picture of tissues and textures – some areas you can try light squeezes (on limbs, for example).  Intention: to become more familiar with what your dog’s body feels like normally.

As you go, name what you are feeling – this helps focus attention. For example: tissues underneath: springy/hard; fur texture: rough/smooth; temp: warm/cool; you can feel the bones distinctly/don't feel any bones distincly, etc – naming them individually to start will develop your ability to assess more comprehensively.

Watch for dog’s responses/calming signals. Click here to go to page that explains more about Calming Signals video for more information, and has a link to a video that gives a good demonstration and explanation.

You will be able to tell when your dog really likes what you are doing when their eyes start to droop, they may give a big sigh, they may start taking deeper breaths. 


After you have been massaging for a few minutes, take both your hands off and just sit a minute.  If your dog stays beside you or leans into you, or maybe licks your hand while you take this little pause, then continue on with the massage. 

But if your dog gets up and moves away, give them a minute, then gently call them back (as an ask, not as a command).  If they come back to you, then continue on.  If they do not come back over, then they are letting you know that they have had enough for that session.  Please respect that, and call it a day.

Once you’ve given your dog a good feel over (on the parts where he/she is comfortable, or the parts you have decided to work on that day, perhaps with some stealth work on less comfortable areas).

Perhaps you noticed an area where the muscles felt a little tight.  Put your hands there and start warming the tissue up by gently moving it around a bit.  As it warms up, you may notice it becomes a little easier to work.  So lean in a little more with your hands – you can stroke in one direction, or you can do gentle little squeeze/releases, making a pumping motion.  Don't do this for too long - just a couple of minutes, to get things loosened up. Then use long strokes with a gentle pressure moving towards the heart (as best you can) to help move any fluid that may have been released out of the area you worked.

Any areas where you notice heat, take the heat off by imagining the heat as sticky taffy that you pull off and throw away.

Try skin rolling: lightly grasp a small handful of skin - over the rib cage is often the easiest and the most enjoyed. Moving your hand along, smooth out the skin. Only do it if skin comes up fairly easily. Not to be done on the soft tissues of the abdomen.

 Things to remember:

Start relaxed.

Stay relaxed.

Remember to breath.

Stay in a comfortable position. 

A special mention:

Do not massage lumps or lesions!  Take note if you find a little lump or lesion while working on your dog. Do not massage the lump or lesion. Work around them. If the lump or lesion is new, and haven’t been checked by your vet, be sure to give your vet a call for advice.

Another special mention: Take note if there is an area you worked on their body where they seem to be signalling to you that they are very uncomfortable.  If it is not an emergency issue (like a gaping wound – in which case you will want to get your dog to the vet ASAP), then make an actual note about what area you were working (you may think you will remember without written notes, but trust me, written notes help a lot!).  If it continues to be uncomfortable, you will want to mention it to the vet at your next visit.

A side note: taking annual pictures of your dog help you keep track of any overall changes generally.  Take pics of your dog while dog is standing 1) facing dog’s left side, 2) right side, 3) looking at them from the front, 4) looking at them from the back, 5) standing over them looking down. Ideally, do this before your dog’s annual visit to the vet, and review the series before your annual visit.  Mention to the vet if there is anything notable.

Supplementary to Dog Massage: Tellington Ttouches

Click here for a link to a sample lesson from Janet Finlay, a Ttouch Instructor, who has an online course.

This sample contains information for both the ear slide and a helpful touch called the zigzag, as well as a mouth touch that can be useful for soothing your dog.  This sample lesson also contains some useful reading material.

For another lovely calming touch called the abalone, click here for a link to another Janet Finlay video (with apologies about the Xmas music at the beginning)

It also contains the heart hug touch, which is useful for calming yourself! One precaution – try first with one hand only, especially if you have low blood pressure. Do not continue if doing it makes you feel light-headed.

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Questions, or want to know more? Do get in touch!   416 574-7797