Avant toute manipulation, prenons le temps de vérifier que notre chien a réellement envie d’un contact, de caresses ou d’un massage. Un chien qui apprécie les caresses de manière générale, peut ne pas avoir envie d’être caressé à un moment précis de la journée ou de la semaine (excitation, fatigue, douleurs, soif, besoins,…). Si notre chien est forcé (en le retenant physiquement ou en lui donnant l’ordre de rester par exemple), la séance de caresses ou de massages ne pourra lui procurer aucun bienfait.
Certains chiens apprécieront un simple contact, comme l’apposition de la main, en posant le dos ou la paume de la main, doigts décontractés, sans bouger.
Prévoyons un endroit confortable pour notre chien: une pièce calme et un matelas ou une couverture. Le matériel de couchage (matelas ou couverture) sera l’endroit réservé aux séances. Si notre chien souhaite faire une pause, il lui suffira de sortir de la zone de couchage. A nous de respecter ses limites et ses envies.
Massage is always given in the direction of the hair and muscles, and one hand is always in contact with the dog (outside the massage area). We can also use both hands, making sure that one hand remains in contact with the dog. However, two moving hands may not be recommended for nervous dogs. For small dogs, we can use two fingers instead of the full hand (index and middle finger).
When the session begins, let’s think about giving him the opportunity to take a break and leave: we just have to take off our hands and watch our dog’s reactions for 5 seconds. Through his body language, his postures or his attitudes, he will tell us whether he wants the session to resume, to end or if a short break is necessary.
If they do not want to be touched, some dogs will simply move away as soon as they understand our intention. Others, will be more subtle and show calming signals such as:
- turning the head
Respect his personal space
If humans hug and kiss each other at will, it’s not the same for dogs. This can be far too invasive for a dog; when being hugged, the lack of freedom of movement may put our dog in an (very) uncomfortable position. Most dogs learn to tolerate these invasions and rudeness from humans, but that does not mean they find it pleasant or comfortabl
How to start
The easiest technique to learn is “effleurage » : the hand is flat, the fingers joined, and a light pressure is applied. Our dog will tell us if the pressure should be lighter or heavier. It feels like stroking , but the intention is different: let’s focus on the feeling in our hand(s). What information do we receive through the palm of our hand? Do we feel heat, knots or soft tissue, or tension in our dog’s body?
Here’s how to proceed:
- Let’s settle near the massage area (a comfortable cushion or blanket);
- Let’s sit or kneel beside our dog (we do not bend over him or face him);
- Let’s place the palm of one hand on our dog, this hand will stay on our dog the whole time
- Let’s place the palm of our second hand, on our dog’s shoulder, and gently, making slow and calm movements, we slide our hand from the shoulders to the flank, respecting the direction of the hair and muscles (3x on each side);
- We can also use both hands, one after the other (one hand is better for a nervous dog);
- During the session, we will be aware of our own body language and avoid looking at him (let’s only stroke the flank that is on our side)
- Let’s take breaks (5 seconds) to make sure our dog still wants to be touched
- We should let him leave whenever he wants to
- Then let’s move from the top of the shoulder to the chest (3x on each side);
- Let’s go back to the top of the shoulder and follow the spine downwards (not on the spine itself, but right next to it) (3x on each side);
- Let’s make sure our dog still wants to be touched;
- Let’s go o the neck, placing our hand behind his ear and slowly slide it towards the shoulder (3x on each side);
- We can also massage the thighs: let’s be careful to hold the knee joint with one hand, while the surface of the thigh is massaged by the other hand.
If our dog is ready to carry on, we can offer him an ear massage: the ear is held by the fingers and massaged by the thumb, slow movements in the direction of the hair (from the top of the ear towards the edge).
It has been proven that appropriate massages help to lower the dog’s heart rate. The dog is relaxed, the experience is positive.
Massage positively influences the lymphatic system and the circulatory system and helps healing. Let’s remember that the veins carry stale blood while the arteries carry oxygenated blood. If a muscle is blocked by a knot or tension, it is full of venous blood (waste) that cannot circulate properly. By stretching the muscle, arterial blood (oxygen) is allowed to nourish and repair the muscle.
Massage leads to the production of oxytocin. It is a neurotransmitter that has an effect on the limbic system, the emotional centre of the brain, which promotes feelings of satisfaction, reduces anxiety and stress. During a massage, the masseur and the dog both produce this hormone of well-being. Massage tends to elevate the levels of dopamine and releases endorphins and serotonin into blood vessels that improve mood and create happiness.
Muscle massage reduces muscle spasms, cramps and adhesions. It also prevents malfunction of muscles and fasciae (tissue that surrounds the muscles as well as the nerves, bones, blood vessels, …).
Massage is obviously known for its relaxing effects, both physiologically and psychologically.
By respecting the wishes of our dog (give him the choice to stop the massage, adapt the pressure to his needs, the massage areas, …), the relationship between our dog and us, can only improve.
We do not massage
- within two hours of meals,
- when the dog is sick (dehydrated, fever, swollen ganglion, …),
- when the dog is injured (open wound, infected skin, …),
- when he is tired or breathes heavily,
- in case of clinical shock,
- immediately after an accident or impact,
- in case of persistent pain (without diagnosis),
- a lump, protuberance or tumor,
- if the dog does not want to be massaged.
LET’S KEEP IN MIND that
- It’s up to us to observe and understand what our dog enjoys;
- We should offer to massage our dog in a specific place (cushion or blanket) that our dog can leave whenever he wants to;
- We should adapt the massage (zones, pressures, …) to the reactions of our dog;
- We should be aware of contraindications.
Activities for happy dogs