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Do Dogs Like Massages? Vet Approved Facts & Tips

Written by: Kathryn Copeland

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by Dogster Team

Dog getting a massage

Do Dogs Like Massages? Vet Approved Facts & Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

We all enjoy getting a relaxing massage from time to time. Massages can work wonders for increasing circulation and decreasing stress. It can even help with conditions like headaches, anxiety, and back pain.

But what about dogs? They seem to appreciate plenty of pets and belly rubs, but would your dog enjoy a massage? Yes, dogs like massages! It can provide some of the same benefits for dogs as it does for us.

Below, we’ll discuss why it’s beneficial to massage your dog, the right ways to do it, and the easy techniques that you can use.

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The 4 Reasons to Massage Your Dog

Massages can help increase circulation, decrease stress, and provide other benefits for your pup.

1. Arthritis

If your dog suffers from arthritis, a gentle massage can increase circulation to the sore joints and muscles. The gentle pressure and kneading from your hands can cause the tissue to contract and increase blood flow.

If you try to massage your dog, you should always be gentle and stop immediately if your dog reacts negatively (flinching, yelping, growling, etc.). Speak to your vet before attempting a massage on an arthritic dog or on any area that is causing your dog pain.

woman looking at border collie dog while having vet check up
Image by: Tyler Olson, Shutterstock

2. Anxiety

If you’ve ever used a ThunderShirt on your dog, massage can have a similar effect. Deep pressure from a weighted vest can help relieve anxiety in dogs during stressful events such as fireworks and thunderstorms.

Gentle pressure releases endorphins, which make the dog feel calmer and happier. If you want to try this on your dog, start slowly and for short periods until your dog gets used to it.


3. Before and After Exercise

Just like we need to warm up our muscles before and after exercising, a massage for sore muscles after a workout can also help dogs. A gentle massage can increase the blood supply to the nerves, muscles, and joints and help prevent injuries and muscle soreness.

Overexertion, previous injuries, age, and insufficient exercise can lead to stiffness and discomfort. Massages can help relieve some of this pain.

Cute bulldog puppy getting a massage
Image by: Anne Shvets, Pexels

4. Bonding

One of the best parts of massaging your dog is that it can be a bonding experience. Touching your dog and giving them a calming massage is a great way to spend quality time with them. One study shows that petting a cat or dog lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. The body also releases oxytocin, a hormone that creates feelings of love and bonding. So, massaging your dog can make you both feel calm and loved.

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Before You Consider Massaging Your Dog

Many techniques used for massaging dogs are usually best left to professionals. Massaging a dog requires hitting strategic areas on the body with the right amount of pressure, which the professionals are trained to do correctly. It involves understanding the dog’s anatomy and knowing how much pressure to use that is safe.

However, this is primarily for deep massage over the entire body. There are a few simpler and safer massage techniques that you can try at home. Also, remember that many essential oils are toxic to dogs, so avoid using them when you massage your beloved pup.

French Bulldog snuggling beside owner
Image By: Mylene2401, Pixabay

Massaging Your Dog

First, your dog needs to be calm; taking them for a short walk can get them into the right mood. Also, only massage your dog in a quiet and stress-free environment.

  • Part 1: Pick an area to massage, and start by pressing your flat hands on your dog’s coat and gently stroking. Use slow, long, and sweeping motions, and stop if your dog seems uncomfortable or displays any signs of pain.
  • Part 2: Using long, sweeping strokes, start from your dog’s head and neck and continue to work your way down. If your dog enjoys the massage, you can gently increase the pressure as you go. Don’t press down on their bones or joints, and avoid areas where you know your dog doesn’t like being touched.
  • Part 3: Try gently massaging the base of your dog’s skull and the base of their tail. These areas can help your dog feel more relaxed. Remember to make this a pleasant and stress-free experience. You should stop what you’re doing immediately if your dog cries, recoils, or appears to be in pain.

Back Rub

This is one of the easiest methods for massaging your pup for the first time. It can be utilized while you’re already relaxing with your dog. Begin at the back of your dog’s head and stroke up and down along the side of the spine using light pressure. Remember not to touch the spine itself.

This kind of massage works quite well for dogs with anxiety issues since it can be relaxing. It’s an effective way to form that all-important bond.

Beagle getting a head massage
Image By: Kampus Production, Pexels

Head Rub

Experts say that most of the points that trigger a calming effect on dogs are on the head. One of the best spots is on the top of your dog’s nose. Using gentle pressure and starting at the top of the nose, run your thumb from the nose to over the head and back again. Continue this technique going back and forth gently and slowly; only apply light pressure.

Ear Rub

Dogs usually love getting their ears rubbed, but there’s a specific way to massage them. Start by placing your thumb on the inside of the ear at the base, then put your index finger on the outside. Using light pressure, pull your fingers along the ear to the tip, where you finish with a gentle pull. Repeat, and don’t forget the other ear!

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A Few Tips

Remember that you should only attempt to massage your dog when you are both feeling peaceful and relaxed. Keep the entire process, including your voice, quiet and calm. Be sure to observe your dog while you’re massaging it. Your pup’s relaxed body language should tell you if they’re enjoying it.

If your dog isn’t comfortable, your pup will feel stiff and might watch you closely. Stop massaging in that case, and give your pup some space.

a dachshund dog looks sick lying on its owner
Image By: Leka Sergeeva, Shutterstock

Other Treatments

There are a few other holistic treatments that can help dogs with pain and discomfort from conditions like arthritis:

  • Swimming
  • Weight loss
  • Cold-laser therapy
  • Gentle and appropriate exercise
  • Acupuncture

If you believe your dog might benefit from one of these treatments, speak to your vet.

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Conclusion

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most dogs enjoy a massage; after all, they love a good petting session! The benefits for your dog include pain and stress relief and even a general increase in overall health. It also helps build a stronger bond between you two and lets you become more familiar with your dog’s body. If you notice any changes, you can seek your vet’s help immediately.

Remember, if your dog needs a therapeutic massage, it should be left to a professional animal massage therapist. If you stay attuned to your dog’s comfort levels, you and your dog should enjoy the experience.


Featured Image Credit: Ekaterina Bolovtsova, Pexels

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