And Ballner says the benefits of massage surpass mere petting. Baller, who is a registered massage therapist, says, "Massage is physiologically a good thing. It increases blood flow (bringing more good nutrients to cells while at the same time releasing wastes), and relaxes muscles. For dogs with bad hips or other medical issues, it’s especially important. And it just plain feels good."
One more surprising fact about massaging your dog is that it’s therapeutic for you too. Ballner points out that it’s been proven scientifically that petting a dog lowers your blood pressure (and the dog’s). Well, massage takes it a step further because you have to concentrate on your efforts.
"Let’s say you’re really upset about something and you begin to massage your dog," says Ballner. "Your mind can’t handle dealing with whatever’s stressing you and the relaxing effect of you massaging your dog all at the same time. As you continue to massage, the stress will give way to love. What you’re doing right now takes over and you too actually start to relax and gain benefits because you’re massaging the dog."
Ballner says one basic massage to try is to massage your dog’s shoulders. Do glides over them with finger pads. Next, use knuckle nooks. Then, use fingertips, pressing with two fingers and then four fingers. You can also use an open palm.
The most advanced form is strumming the shoulders. Instead of taking your hand off the dog at the end of the stroke, keep your hand on as you stroke up and down. Bend your fingers and, just like strumming a banjo, work the shoulder area. Start at a slow speed, and eventually you can go fast ‘n frisky. When you’re both ready for a change of pace, switch to waving – like the action of a windshield wiper. On the shoulder area, there is no speed limit. But also start by going slowly and softly before very gradually speeding it up with added pressure.
Ballner says you can tell how good of a massage therapist you are by asking your dog. If your dog in any way appears uncomfortable, stop. Massage should be enjoyable for everyone involved.