Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Do Dogs Like Massages? Is There a Good Way to Massage a Dog?

Kerry-Ann Kerr

By Kerry-Ann Kerr

staffordshire bull terrier stretching

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Vet, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

The thought of giving your dog a massage might seem silly, but that could be because you’re visualizing a human experience when you see the word “massage.” Actually, that type of deep, intense massage you’re familiar with could hurt your pet, so when it comes to a dog massage, you’re going to use a different technique that many dogs will love.

Read on and find out the benefits of dog massage and how to do it. There could be something you could try right now if your dog is nearby and wants some attention.

Divider 2

Benefits of Dog Massage

Physical touch connects you and your pet, but it can also be healing. Here are the top reasons you might want to start massaging your dog:

1. Strengthens Your Relationship

He’s always loved it when you give him cuddles, pats, and belly rubs, and this is just another way for you both to bond. He’ll feel relaxed, and there are also benefits for you. Studies have shown that your heart rate and blood pressure lower when you’re petting a dog or cat. Just touching your pet releases a hormone called oxytocin, which causes sensations of bonding and love.

French Bulldog snuggling beside owner
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

2. Stress and Anxiety Reduction

Is your dog prone to anxiety? It can be down to anything, separation anxiety, a loud noise, or another dog barking outside. Whatever the reason, a massage will help work away some of this anxiety and tension.

Stressed Dog
Featured Image Credit: Alberto Ziveri, Flickr

3. Healing Touch

Massages are extremely beneficial if your dog has hurt himself. Massaging can help heal sprains faster, reduce pain and swelling, and reduce the need for medications.

However, please be aware you can cause more damage if you don’t know what you’re doing. Always ask your veterinarian if you want to try a therapeutic massage; they may give you tips to try at home or refer you to a certified animal massage therapist if they think it will help your pet.

owner hand shakes his australian shepherd dog
Image Credit: Rebecca Scholz, Pixabay

Divider 1

Simple Massages to Try at Home

While it’s advisable to leave the therapeutic massages to the professionals, there are some gentle techniques you can try at home.

Gentle Backstrokes

This is the perfect massage to start with because it probably isn’t all that different from how you pet him when he’s lying next to you, and you’re watching TV together. Start at the back of his head and move your hand down his whole body and back up, with your fingers on either side of his spine. Keep the pressure gentle and stay off the bone. This type of massage is particularly good for anxious pups, especially those who are fearful of human touch, like a rescue.

dog and owner in the grass
Image: Jan Steiner from Pixabay

Circle Massage

This technique can be used on the thigh, gluteal, and base of the neck and shoulders. Keep the pressure gentle again and press both thumbs into your dog’s muscle and trace a circle. Repeat this across the whole muscle.

If you have a small dog, use smaller motions; if you have a bigger dog, use bigger motions. Some dogs don’t like being touched on the legs, if he flinches away from you, don’t continue.

This massage will benefit all dogs, especially senior dogs, because it will keep the muscles loose and flexible. Your dog will particularly appreciate the attention on his neck and shoulders because he can’t reach these places himself.

Head and Ear Rubs

It isn’t just his body that can benefit from a massage; you can also massage your dog’s ears and head. Start at his nose and gently run your thumb over his nose and head as many times as he likes.

For his ears, start with your thumb on the inside base of his ear flap and your index finger on the other side. Using gentle pressure, stroke to the end of his ear and repeat by starting at the top again.

pug dog massage by owner
Image Credit: Chanita Chinnawong, Shutterstock

Where to Rub a Dog to Calm Them Down?

If your dog is already anxious, it may feel unnatural to go into a massage, but it is a useful technique to help calm them. By placing a hand gently on the base of your dog’s neck, you will assure him you’re there, and your presence will provide security and stability. Sweep your other hand down your dog’s back and over the tail, continuing until your dog calms.

dog hugging owner
Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock

How Do You Know if Your Dog Likes Massages?

Just like every human, every dog is different, so it’s important to listen to your pet when giving them a massage; watch his body language and back off if he’s becoming anxious or irritated.

Communicating with one another in this way will be a real bonding experience and could also help him if he’s a rescue or suffers from anxiety.

dog laying gets a massage
Image Credit: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

A Word of Caution

When massaging your dog at home, skip the essential oils. Many essential oils are highly toxic to dogs, even when applied topically. Never apply or give any product or remedy to your beloved pup without your vet’s approval.
Divider 2

Conclusion

Not only do dogs like massages, but they can also benefit from them. Whether your dog is a senior, dealing with trauma from a previous home or time spent in a shelter, or just likes spending time with you in any way he can, massages can be healing and a beautiful bonding experience.

So, next time you’re chilling on the sofa together, try out some of these techniques and see what he likes the best!

 

Featured Image Credit: Melounix, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database