Happy International Dog Day: Give Your Dog a Massage!

by Aug 26, 2021

In 2016, a controversial study was conducted and its findings caused dog lovers everywhere to become very upset.  The study was undertaken by a retired college professor and through his non-peer-reviewed data, he came to the conclusion that our beloved dogs don’t enjoy our physical affection.  According to this lone researcher, our four-legged friends don’t want us to hug them, pet them, or even rub their bellies. They just tolerate these displays of affection to keep us humans happy, says the non-peer-reviewed scientific study.

Because the study was so full of holes and not peer-reviewed, the experiment really didn’t prove much of anything at all.  Sure, some dogs get anxious when they’re met with affection — their personalities, temperaments, likes and dislikes are just as diverse as those of humans!  But if your dog is anything like mine (pictured above, cutest boxer-beagle in the world), then you’re likely being bombarded with cuddle requests on a regular basis.  And if your dogs like cuddles, then there’s a good chance they’ll also like massage!

Did you know that animal massage therapy is an actual profession?  That kind of sounds like the best job ever!  Getting paid to pet dogs? How is that a thing?!  As it turns out, massage therapy provides the same physiological and emotional benefits for animals as it does for humans.  Let’s talk about why you should get (or give!) your dog a massage!

I would like to credit the 1997 computer game All Dogs Go to Heaven Activity Center for teaching me everything I know about dogs.

Why Get Your Dog a Massage?

Relieve Muscle Tension

Our dogs might spend 12-14 hours sleeping per day, but they still get tight muscles just like the rest of us.  Think about how your muscles feel after an intense workout — our dogs’ muscles are going through the same thing when they’re done chasing the ball, or the squirrel, or whatever they like to chase.

Reduce Pain and Swelling

While all dogs can suffer from muscular pain, stocky dogs with stubby legs are at higher risk for this.  Bulldogs, for example, are weighty and awkwardly shaped, putting them at risk for hip problems. I’m sure your hefty friend is worn out and would love some body work!

Improve Circulation, Decrease Blood Pressure

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a higher risk of heart disease than any other breed of dog and this is unfortunately a genetic problem. Healthy blood pressure is obviously good for any living creature, but it’s especially important for these pups.

Promote Easier Breathing

This can be really helpful for dogs with pushed-in faces, like wrinkly little pugs. Their short snouts and short windpipes cause them to have difficulty breathing.

Reduces Anxiety, Improve Mood

Anxious dogs tend to respond well to slow strokes.  Watch how your dog reacts to gentle, mindful touch.

Hyperactive dogs can be calmed by massage.  The only hard part is getting the crazy animal to sit still before you get started.

Aids with Digestion

If your dog has digestive issues, rubbing its belly can relax the stomach muscles.

Strengthen Immune System

Body work promotes with flow of lymph, which is rich with disease-fighting white blood cells.

Massage also speeds up the recovery time for any discomforts our pets might be enduring.

Now Go Get a Dog Massage!

Even though animal massage therapy is a real thing, you can learn how to massage your dog on your own at home.  There are plenty of educational videos online (pay attention to the ratio of likes and dislikes from the viewers!) with step-by-step instructions on how to give your pup a relaxing and health-promoting massage session.

Things to consider

You might want to talk to a vet beforehand if:

  • You just adopted your dog. Your new friend might have some trauma and touching certain parts of its body could be triggering.  Get to know your buddy a little better first.
  • Your dog is a senior. Older dogs might have brittle bones, which puts them at risk for joint or internal organ injury if you apply too much pressure.
  • If your dog has any medical conditions that would make massage unsafe.
  • You want to try essential oils. Ask which oils (if any) will be safe for your dog.

Now go give your dog some love!

Katrina Jenkins

Katrina Jenkins

Author, Licensed Massage Therapist

Katrina Jenkins graduated from Towson University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and worked as a nurse’s aide briefly before pursuing her true passion. She graduated from the Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado in April 2016 with honors and completed the Touch of Healers Scholarship Program the following summer. She has been a part of the Moyer Total Wellness Team since the summer of 2017.


Bonnie (2019). Dog Massages: Top Techniques You Can Do At Home – Canine Therapy. [online] Bonnie and Clyde Pet Goods. Available at: https://bncpet.com/blogs/news/the-latest-in-canine-therapy-dog-massages-top-tips-and-tricks-to-help-relax-your-dog.

Photo Credit

Canva by Barna Tanko from Getty Images

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