5 Dog Massage Techniques That Will Melt Your Pup's Tension

Help your pup paws and relax by learning how to give a great dog massage (with step-by-step instructions!)

Published June 30, 2023
A person petting a happy senior dog

After a long day, having someone rub your shoulders or feet can be so relaxing, and trust us, your dog will appreciate the same treatment. Dogs love massage. For most dogs, a good massage may be the greatest thing ever. Discover the easiest dog massage techniques you can try on your pup right now to create your own little doggy spa right at home.

What Kind of Massage Do Dogs Like?

Dogs to best with gentle massages. Deep tissue is off the menu, but they will appreciate light pressure. Anytime you stroke or rub your dog, a whole lot happens in their brain. Their levels of "feel-good" neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, go up, and massage also reduces cortisol, which is the stress hormone. All of this is to say that massage can have a relaxing and positive effect on dogs, just like it does on humans.

Ways Massage Can Help

Not only does it feel great, but dog massage can offer your fur child (and you!) a lot of benefits:

  • Lower anxiety and stress
  • Improved circulation
  • Reduced pain
  • Better mobility
  • Strengthened bond between you and your dog
  • Opportunity for you to feel their body for bumps or parasites
Fast Fact

Studies show that petting and gazing into your dog's eyes can boost your own feel-good chemicals, so doggy massage time can actually benefit both of you.

Areas to Be Careful Around

Just like people, dogs aren't crazy about being touched everywhere. Your dog might feel pain somewhere on their body, may have had a bad experience in the past with a specific area, or might just have a preference for not being touched there. Be especially careful when massaging your dog in these areas:

  • Back
  • Neck
  • Legs
  • Paws
  • Hips
  • Head
  • Face

You can still rub these areas, but go slow, and make sure your dog appreciates the touch. Most dogs like to have parts of their back and shoulders rubbed (with appropriate pressure), but feel your dog out (yes, pun intended) to see what they like.

Need to Know

Never force your dog to endure a massage. If their behavior shows you that they don't enjoy it or are uncomfortable, stop and move to a different area or try again another time.

5 Dog Massage Techniques to Try Today

Are you ready to try out a massage on your dog? Create a quiet, calm place for your session so your dog isn't distracted or fearful. Because it's a new experience, speak smoothly to reassure them. I perform these five massage techniques on my dog every night; try each one out to see which your dog prefers.

1. Ultimutt Neck Relaxer

A dog's neck muscles are incredibly strong and play an important role in protecting their windpipe. You won't want to work on the throat area, but your dog might enjoy having the back and sides of their neck massaged.

  1. Begin with your dog sitting comfortably in front of you.
  2. Temporarily remove their collar (only if you're in a secure place and it's safe to do so).
  3. Use your thumbs to apply gentle pressure in a downward motion on either side of their neck.
  4. Move to the back of the neck with your fingertips and massage in a circular or downward motion.

2. Forehead Stress Soother

Dogs have an acupressure point at the center of their forehead called Yin Tang. Massaging this point can help soothe stress and even promote focus. Try this one if your dog keeps getting distracted during a training session or any time they need a moment of chill.

  1. Begin with your dog sitting or lying comfortably in front of you.
  2. Place your thumb on the center of their forehead between their eyes.
  3. Apply very gentle pressure with your thumb as you massage in a circular motion.
  4. You can use your other hand to stroke your dog's head or massage their ear or neck at the same time.
Need to Know

Remember to always use gentle pressure when massaging your dog. They can't tell easily communicate if you're using too much pressure, so take their body language cues into consideration.

3. "All Ears" Massage

A dog's ears are one of the most sensitive places on their body and are packed with nerve endings. Massaging your dog's ears might just make them melt into a relaxed puddle on the couch.

  1. Begin with your dog sitting or lying comfortably in front of you.
  2. Take the tips of their ears between your thumb and index finger and gently rub them in a circular motion.
  3. Gently work your way along the length of the ears all the way to the base.
Need to Know

Some dogs don't like to have their ears touched, much less rubbed, so make sure your dog is OK with this type of massage before beginning.

4. Calming Shoulder Rub

A Golden Labrador is treated with canine massage therapy by a specialist, for an injury to his shoulder

Because dogs walk on all fours, their shoulders get quite a workout. They also can't reach this area themselves, so it's likely in need of some major TLC. Give your dog a nice shoulder massage at the end of the day with this technique.

  1. Begin with your dog sitting comfortably in front of you.
  2. Place your hands on their shoulders just at the base of their neck and use your thumbs to massage the muscles in a circular motion.
  3. Work down their shoulders between their scapula, but be careful not to push too hard on bone.
  4. Work your way down to massage their little triceps and biceps with your fingertips, stopping above the elbow.
  5. You can repeat this pattern several times, working in segments to really turn up the relaxation.

5. Lower Back and Hip Loosener

Your dog's back end might benefit from a gentle massage. Many dogs prefer not to be touched around their tail area, so watch their behavior as you move your hands around their hips and back. Skip this one if your dog has a history of hip pain or arthritis.

  1. Begin with your dog lying comfortably in front of you.
  2. Place your hands on their hips and use your thumbs and palms to massage the muscles in a circular motion.
  3. Work your way down to their thigh and gently massage using the same circular motion.
  4. You can also work upwards from their hips, staying in the muscle around the spine.
  5. Make sure you aren't rubbing too far down their sides, as these areas have less muscle and pressure here can be uncomfortable.
Fast Fact

Dog massage isn't just for fun; it can have practical benefits for your dog's overall health. Studies indicate that gentle massage can improve dogs' quality of life and reduce symptoms of pain.

Dog Massage Will Help You Build a Stronger Bond

Massaging your dog can be a fun way to give them some extra attention and help them relieve stress. This practice is fairly intuitive; simply watch your dog for cues that they're enjoying the massage and stop if they give you any indication that it hurts. After a few sessions, you'll find out what they like.

Trending on LoveToKnow
5 Dog Massage Techniques That Will Melt Your Pup's Tension