What Is Canine Massage And What Are Its Benefits?

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
Massages are both relaxing and therapeutic when it comes to us humans. But what makes them so beneficial to dogs? This article will reveal why canine massage is a good idea.

Massage is something many people enjoy in and benefit from – nothing new there.

Depending on the need and purpose, there are a lot of different types of massage. Relaxing, therapeutic and sports massage are just some of many.

But what about canine massage? Is it good for dogs? What is the purpose and what are the benefits of canine massage?

Dogs are very similar to us humans in some aspects, right? And it seems that massage is one of these things humans and dogs have in common and both benefit from. So, let’s discover why this is such a good idea for canines, but also find out more about this form of therapy!

History Of Canine Massage

Even though canine massage is a relatively new field of study, it isn’t new at all in practical terms. On the contrary. Canine massage has been present since ancient times. The first documentation of dog massage dates back all the way to 2700 BC in China! However, they were not the only ones developing dog massage as the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans, among other ancient cultures, did the same.

Over time, the massage techniques improved and spread more and more. However, it wasn’t until pretty recently, some time around the World Wars, that canine massage became recognized. The most common form is the Swedish massage, developed by Per Henrik Ling, and after being recognized in Sweden it slowly started spreading to other parts of the world.

Nowadays, since the 1970s, dog massage is referred to as therapy and is becoming more and more popular and developed because of the numerous benefits dogs enjoy. Let’s take a look at what they are!

What Are The Benefits of Canine Massage?

As with human massage, canine massage can have different purposes, and thus different benefits. Its purpose can be relaxation, rehabilitation or competition. As you can imagine, the benefits depend on the type of massage, but they’re equal to the benefits humans experience. The most common ones are:

  • Improves circulation. Massage improves blood flow and increases circulation by stimulating the muscles and body tissues. This leads to a better overall healing, as the oxygen released by circulation promotes faster healing if there are any wounds, inside or outside of the body. This is especially important for bigger breeds, as the distance between the heart and the extremities is bigger and makes circulation more difficult.
  • Provides relief. Massage in rehabilitation purposes is used to provide relief from lighter muscle tension and soreness to bigger problems, such as arthritis or hip dysplasia.
  • Increases flexibility. Massages are great in making the muscles more flexible and improving the overall state of the skeletal structure. As in humans, flexibility is extremely important as it reduces the chances of injuries. Bigger breeds will definitely benefit from this.
  • Develops muscle tone. Developing, and later maintaining, muscle tone is a very important important benefit from massage. Growing puppies will need the development, while the maintenance is for adult dogs.
  • Improves skeletal frame. Proper posture and stance is very important and skeletal frame plays a key part there. Massage can be really helpful in this area.
  • Helps after surgery. Dogs who underwent surgery, especially involving bones and muscle, will most definitely benefit from rehabilitation massage as it will relieve the pain and anxiety.
  • Early detection. Massages can be very helpful in detecting something unwanted on your dog’s body, such as lumps and various wounds. The sooner you detect something, the better. You will definitely detect it earlier by touching than looking.

These were only the most important body benefits of canine massage. But physical benefits are not the only ones that could come from massages!

Can Massage Have An Emotional Effect?

Besides the obvious benefits when it comes to improved body functions, massage can provide emotional well-being for the dog and its owner. Some of the most important benefits in this area are:

  • Relaxation. Besides physical relaxation of the muscles, massage can lead to mental relaxation. It’s proven that physical touch reduces stress and aggression . If your dog is anxious or nervous, a massage will most likely help.
  • Human interaction. By receiving massages, dogs get used to human interaction and will start associating human touch with something pleasant. This can be great when you’re trying to use your dog to the vet, as it can reduce the fear.
  • Time together. Both you and your dog can benefit from massage time. During the massage session you get to spend some time together and strengthen your bond. Most dogs, even the most independent ones, love getting a massage from their owner.
  • Relieves stress. Dogs, just like us, experience stress on a regular basis. Even though dogs can’t talk it through, you can still help your pet by giving him or her a nice massage. If you do it regularly, the negative effects of stress will be prevented.

Check out the video below which will lead us to our next subject before we continue!

What Types Of Massage Are There?

As mentioned, canine massage can have different purposes – relaxation, rehabilitation or competition. The massage can be given by professionals, but it can also be given by you at home. In this segment we’ll take a look at different types of massages you can do at home.

Daily Massage

Dog owners can give daily massages to their dogs. They are very easy and quick to do. A everyday massage should usually last about 10 minutes, and in such a short period of time the benefits mentioned above will quickly start to show.

Use a flat palm and touch your dog’s body slowly – everything from the hair, skin and the different layers of the body. This will contribute to a better relationship with your dog and a better health for your pet.

Warm-up Massage

As the name says, this massage should be conducted before an activity. If your dog is preparing to go swimming, play or take a longer walk, this could be a great idea in order to prevent injuries and strains. Dogs who regularly participate in activities like agility, retrieving competitions etc. will benefit the most from these massages.

This type of massage is a bit different than the daily massage. Start by petting your dog’s body everywhere. After that, focus on the large muscle groups – the necks, shoulders, thighs and legs. Lift and squeeze the muscles carefully. Finally, focus on the lower legs in order to improve the circulation.

Relief Massage

Just like people, dogs can suffer from sore muscles and joint problems. This is especially the case with adult dogs. If your dog is experiencing some kind of soreness issue, try helping him via massage.

The basic principle is to warm the tissue around the part of the body that hurts. The pressure should be gentle while you’re petting the area in question. If this doesn’t help after a while, take your dog to the vet as it could be dealing with a fracture or something more serious.

Relaxation Massage

As mentioned, massages don’t have physical benefits only. They are also helpful in relaxing the dog and making it calmer and less stressed. These kinds of massages can also be very beneficial to dogs who have been through a trauma or something of the kind.

When you want to give your dog this kind of massage, start moving your palm from the head, along the spine and all the way to the tail. This should be done very slowly and without much pressure.

What Are The Differences Between Human And Canine Massage?

We’ve already established that massage is beneficial to both people and dogs. We’ve also pointed out the benefits, which are pretty similar for dogs and humans. But when conducting a canine massage, what are the differences we should have in mind?

First of all, we always have to keep in mind that dogs and humans aren’t the same and that their body is quite different from ours. For instance, due to a soreness relief massage don’t put on warm compresses on your dog. Even though that’s probably what you would have done for yourself, the same compresses will be too hot for the dog’s body and can burn them.

Second, you have to stay very present when giving a massage to a dog if you don’t want the dog to walk away. We can tolerate something that doesn’t feel that nice and tell the masseuse what’s wrong, but dogs don’t have that ability. So, if they start to feel that the pressure is too strong, they will just move away from you and end the massage.

This is why you have to be completely focused and look out for the dog’s reaction. Don’t be distracted and look around, as the dog will notice you’re not present and won’t enjoy the massage a bit. Conduct the massage when you’re present 100%.

Finally, have in mind that dogs don’t tolerate as much pressure as humans do, so you should be more gentle than what you are when giving a friend a massage. Dogs are also more sensitive to odors, so having strong aromas around can only be distracting.


Massages can have different purposes and different benefits. The most common ones are – relaxation, rehabilitation and competition. Some of the biggest benefits are improved circulation, increased flexibility and development of muscle tone.

Last but not least – massage can reduce stress, anxiety and aggression in dogs. If your dog is dealing with any of these problems, a massage could be a great way to help your him or her.

As you can see, massage is in fact very beneficial to dogs! However, it’s not only the dog that benefits – you too will get a lot out of these times as you will bond with your dog during massage sessions. Why not make this a nice routine where you get some quality time together?