Wouldn’t it be good if every dog settled down to their massage session immediately? Of course, but that doesn’t happen. Some dogs get it straight away. We arrive. The massage mat goes down. They lie on it. And they’re away – lying down in the zone. Grins. Sighs. Snores. Others take a bit of time. They investigate the mat. They stay still for a few minutes then decide they need to get up and go for a walk coming back in a short time. This may go on for a while until, eventually, they ‘get it’ too. Trust building is important.
We would never force a massage on a dog. Therapy is on their terms. After all, as well as being beneficial, massage should be enjoyable. What we do will feel different to dogs than petting, even those who get petted all the time. And initially, we are someone new – although we quickly seem to become their new bestie.
We let the dog come into the massage space on their terms. It may be that in the first session, hands on therapy may only take half the time. But the dog is still experiencing its associated benefits.
Equally importantly, we are adaptable and the massage techniques we employ are also adaptable. If a dog won’t lie down, we run a whole workshop full of techniques that can be performed on dogs who prefer to sit during their therapy. Seated massage is frequently performed on humans, it made sense for us to develop similar techniques for dogs.
Even the dogs we have been visiting for a long time can display this pattern. I’ve been treating Ralph and Auntie Pearl since 2014. They are big solid dogs – Sussex Bulldogs. But with hearts of gold. When I arrive, I get squashed with affection and licks and paws and legs. They love their massage. But the position they adopt has to suit them.
Big Boy Ralph will happily sit right in my lap letting me work up and down his spine and over his shoulders but won’t lie down until he decides it is time. On the last session his front paws were slipping bit by bit down the mat until he went fully prone lying down. Now I could get to work on his hind legs and perform long myofascial moves.
Auntie Pearl was the same, except she likes to start by facing me while being massaged – she loves a quick sneaky nose boop – mine, not hers. She slips down into my lap rather than out of it like Ralph. With her, I can start work on her rear legs and then get to her front when she’s lying in my lap. But then she turns around and copies her brother.
By having a toolkit of massage techniques that can be performed with the dog sitting, standing or lying, both Ralph and Auntie Pearl receive the benefits of massage whichever way they decide to go.
Don’t worry if you think your dog won’t like it or doesn’t settle down immediately, we adjust and adapt to suit your dog.