Updated: Apr 16
without spending a fortune on massage mitts, guns or whatever the latest trend is!
There’s no need to spend a tonne on fancy equipment when you can get a better result with just your hands, all it takes is a little practice.
So how can you get started if you’ve never massaged your dog or horse before?
If you’re worried your pet has any pain or restriction you need to speak with your vet and vet physio (you can email me here at firstname.lastname@example.org) before starting a massage programme but if your pets fit and healthy and you want to add massage to their fitness routine or just give them a little treat here’s your 5 step guide to getting started with at-home pet massage.
1. Find a quiet spot with a comfy bed
This allows your dog or horse to get comfortable and aids in their relaxation meaning they’ll be much more receptive to your massage and less likely to fidget or move away. If your pet is a bit unsure to start with you can use treats to settle them or ask a second person to hold them using a headcollar and lead rope in your horse's or a lead and collar for your dogs. It’s important never to tie your pet up as you massage them in case they get spooked or scared at any point.
Over time your pet will know what to expect and naturally start to relax as soon as you take them into your designated massage space making it quicker and easier for you so stick with the same space and set up each time.
2. Ensure your pet is clean and knot-free
Massaging when your pet is wet, dirty or knotty makes it 10 times harder for you and isn’t very comfortable for your pet. It can feel like your pet is never clean and dry in winter but I often find first thing in the morning is a great time to get started before they’ve had the chance to venture out into the mud.
Giving your pet a brush before you get started will ensure you don’t have any knots and all the loose hair is removed so you don’t end up looking like this!
3. Get started with an effleurage stroke on your pet’s neck and back
Effleurage massage is the simplest stroke to get started with and a staple of any massage. Effleurage is a slow even stroke used to warm up the muscles and help your pet relax. Essentially it is an elongation of a stroke you might give your pet normally but with a more purposeful hand.
Take a look at the video below to see the stroke you’re aiming for.
The best place to start with your pet’s neck and work down into their back. This gives you a large area to practice your stroke. And not only that your pets likely used to being touched in these areas so it slowly gets them used to what you are doing too, helping them relax and enjoy the experience.
Trust me once you’ve mastered the effleurage stroke you’ll be just as relaxed as your pet.
4. Move to the forelimbs
Once you’ve done your pet’s neck and back you can use the same effleurage stroke on the forelimbs. You should focus on the area above the elbow, this is because the area below the elbow has no muscles only tendons and ligaments which don’t need massaging to work at their best.
5. And the hindlimbs
Don’t forget the hindlimbs! Just like the forelimbs you want to work down to the hock but don’t need to massage the tendons below hock level.
All in all, you want to spend at least 5-10 mins on every area of your pet (back, neck, forelimbs and hindlimbs), so a full body massage will take you around 30-40min depending on your pet’s size.
If you just want to do a warm-up massage this can be half the time 15-20mins and should be performed 20 mins before the activity you want to perform.
So let’s recap the 5 steps you’re going to use when massaging your pet at home:
Find a quiet spot with a comfy bed
Ensure your pet is clean and knot free
Get started with an effleurage stroke on your pet’s neck and back
Move to the forelimbs
And the hindlimbs
And you’re done!
Full, effective and relaxing massage without all the gadgets!
Learn better by watching? Check out our latest YouTube video below.