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How to Massage a Dog

Three Parts:Massaging CorrectlyHelping Your Dog Feel ComfortableMaking it a Healthy Ritual

Massaging your dog is a great way to bond with your pet and spot potential health problems, like tumors or sore spots, before they get out of hand. Massaging a dog is different from massaging a person; instead of doing a deep tissue massage to loosen muscles, the aim is to use gentle motions that help your pet relax and feel comfortable. Consider pairing massage with a grooming session to help your dog feel healthy, happy and loved.

Part 1
Massaging Correctly

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    Begin with gentle petting. Pet your dog in the spots you know he likes best. This will help him settle down and get relaxed enough to enjoy the massage. Pet him on the head, tummy, back, and other spots using gentle strokes.
    • Let your dog sit, lie or stand in a comfortable position.
    • Have a calm, relaxed demeanor and speak to your dog in soft tones to help him destress.
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    Massage the dog's neck. Use the tips of your fingers to make a circular motion just below the head. Apply gentle pressure, but not so much you make your dog uncomfortable.
    • If you have a small dog, use smaller motions. For a larger dog, use larger motions.
    • Don't press your dog's body so hard that he flinches. Remember, you're not trying to do a deep tissue massage. You just want to rub his body to help him feel calm and bond with him.
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    Move down to the shoulders. Slowly work your way down the neck and to in between his shoulders. This is usually the dog's favorite spot, because it is one of the only places he can't reach himself, so spend extra time there.
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    Next do the legs and the chest. Some dogs don't like being touched on the legs; if your dog flinches, remove your hands and move to the next part of the body. If he likes it, see if he wants a paw massage, too.
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    Massage your dog's back. Work your way back up to between the shoulders and slowly travel down the back. Use small circular motions with your fingers on either side of the spine.
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    Finish with the back legs. Continue massaging until you end up at the base of the tail. Gently massage down the dog's back legs. Continue to the paws if your dog enjoys having his feet picked up.

Part 2
Helping Your Dog Feel Comfortable

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    Massage at a peaceful time of day. Do it during a time when you and your dog are already in a relaxed state of mind, like at the end of the day after dinner. This will make it easier for your dog to relax under your touch.
    • Don't massage your dog when he's worked up for some reason or another; it's better to wait until he's already pretty calm.
    • Don't massage right after an exercise session; give him a half hour or so to rest first.
    • Don't massage your dog if he's not feeling well; simple petting will do, but he might not be up for getting massaged.
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    Work your way up to a five or ten minute massage. Your dog may not like the massage at first, and it could just be that he's not used to it. See if your dog likes being massaged for about a minute, then work your way up to longer massages. As long as your dog enjoys it, there's no limit to how long you can massage him, but five or ten will give you enough time to massage his whole body thoroughly.
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    Stop if your dog doesn't like it. The point of a massage is to help your dog feel happy and relaxed, so don't do it if he doesn't like it. If he's happy being massaged, he'll stretch out and breathe easily. If he's not, he may exhibit the following behavior:[1]
    • Stiffening when you move from simple petting to massage
    • Flinching
    • Growling
    • Biting at your hand
    • Running away
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    Consider grooming your dog as part of your massage session. Since your dog is already calm and relaxed, it might be a good time to groom him as well. Only do this if your dog actually enjoys the process of being groomed. Otherwise, he'll come to associate massage time with discomfort and anxiety.[2]
    • Brush your dog's fur from head to tail
    • Trim his nails if they're getting long
    • Trim hair that's getting long around the dog's face, legs or tail

Part 3
Making it a Healthy Ritual

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    Help ease your dog's arthritis pain. If your dog is on the older side and suffers from arthritis, massage can help. Very gently massage around the area that's affected, using a kneading motion to help relieve the pain. Do not press too hard, and do not massage directly over the affected area.[3]
    • You can also gently bend and stretch your dog's legs to help ease the pain.
    • Some dogs enjoy this, while others do not. If your dog flinches, don't continue massaging. Forcing it could cause your dog to feel worse instead of better.
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    Feel for lumps and areas that are inflamed. Massaging your dog regularly is a great way to examine his body for sore spots that might need attention from a vet. Take note of lumps or bruised areas that you haven't noticed before. Pay special attention if your dog yelps when you touch him in a certain spot. If you notice something alarming, take your dog to the vet to have it checked out.
    • The best way to feel for lumps is to run your hands over your dog's body in a smooth, long stroke. Feel the stomach, legs, chest, and back. Make sure you don't miss any spots.
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    Leave deep tissue massage to a professional. If you think your dog could benefit from a good deep tissue massage, make an appointment with the vet. Deep tissue massage can be beneficial for animals, but if you're not intimately familiar with dog anatomy you could actually end up injuring your pet.


  • Don't forget that your dog needs some relax time too!
  • Taking the collar off can make it easier to get all of the neck areas.
  • Dogs love having their tummies scratched, take a bit of time to just pat them and love them up too.
  • With smaller dogs just use your finger tips, but still apply pressure as needed.
  • Dogs also love having their ears massaged too!
  • Don't apply pressure to or massage a German shepherd's back end because they are very fragile.
  • Massage time is also a good time to groom them.


  • Do not apply too much pressure.
  • Never forget to put the collar back on after the massage, especially if the dog often runs off without human supervision.

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