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Do dogs need to lie down to get a massage?

27 Sep, 2019

When we imagine canine massage, we typically think of a dog lying on its side, half asleep receiving a treatment. This image however doesn’t reflect how many dogs receive an effective myofunctional treatment, at least not the first treatment.

For dogs that have never received a massage treatment, they don’t know the nature of a massage treatment and they don’t have an understanding of their relationship with the therapist.

Initially, massage can be unsettling for dogs. It is not like a “normal” pat. The therapist touches the dog very intentionally. They use their hands and body in unfamiliar ways, they touch parts of the dog’s body that are not normally examined and they move about the dog in unfamiliar ways. Additionally, the therapist may treat areas that are sensitive or potentially painful for the dog.

The dog’s first interaction with the massage therapist is also unfamiliar to them. For many dogs, the interaction with a “therapist” type person may be a negative one especially, if they needed to have a veterinary or grooming type procedure when they were in pain or anxious. Further, previous interactions with “therapists” may not have involved any choice on the dog’s part which may have contributed to negative feelings. Finally, the environment in which previous treatments occurred may have been noisy, confined, smelled of other animals or had slippery flooring.

As we can’t tell dogs what to expect at their first massage treatment, the therapist’s job (with the assistance of the dog’s carer) is to set up the environment and the treatment in such a way as to show the dog their role and that of the therapist’s in a massage session. The therapist’s role is to work through their treatment plan to the degree that the dog feels comfortable. The comfort of the dog in the session is paramount. To this end, I allow the dog to play their role by “telling” me when they need a break from treatment or would prefer I didn’t work a particular area. I also allow the dog to dictate the position they want to receive a treatment.

While there are some benefits to the dog lying prone on their side, it is certainly not a requirement to receive an effective massage treatment. In my practice, I have dogs that stand, sit, lie down with their head up, and lie down with their head down to receive a treatment. As dogs become familiar with massage, they will find a position that suits them and many of them will choose to lie on their side.

Full Stride provides remedial canine massage treatments in the Brisbane area to keep dogs active and support rehabilitation from injury.

Until next time, enjoy your dogs.

Image by Roy Buri from Pixabay