- Schedule a regular time, five to 10 minutes at first, but not before a walk or right after eating.
- Provide a relaxing atmosphere and maybe some soft music.
- Have your dog lie on a firm but comfortable surface, and start with your own petting style.
- After a few moments, use your fingertips to rub in small, soft strokes behind ears, on the top of the head, around the eyes, and along the cheeks.
- Now using the flat of your hand and fingertips, make several longer strokes in the direction of fur growth along the neck and back.
- Using fingertips only, move from hip to knee on the hind legs with long strokes, both with and against direction of fur growth.
- Placing your thumb on one side of the spine and your index finger on the other, move along the muscles from neck to tail in small, circular motions.
- Throughout the session, praise your dog in a quiet and reassuring tone.
- Watch for clues — restlessness or changes in breathing — to adjust your level of pressure or to end the session.
- Conclude with your own petting style, and freshen the water bowl.
Never massage a dog you don’t know well, and never force a massage on your own dog.
For more on massaging your dog, read The Healing Touch for Dogs by Michael W. Fox (Newmarket Press, 2004).
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