Canine Massage Basics with David Feldman of Skillful Hands Therepeutic Dog Massage

Dingo’s Dogsitting was proud to host David Feldman of Skillful Hands Therepeutic Dog Massage to our facility on Saturday June 9th. David is a certified dog massage therapist. He offers direct therapeutic massage for your dog as well as individual or group instruction for you to learn how to massage your dog.

For the past 25 years, he and his wife Catherine have pursued a mission of care and love for animals by exploring the animal-human connection. They live on a small farm in Ipswich surrounded by horses, dogs, cats, ducks, chickens and even a rooster. Their mission has included therapeutic riding for children and adults with special needs, training their dogs as MSPCA therapy dogs to visit nursing homes, and directly working for and supporting both local and national animal shelters.

As David reiterated to our staff on Saturday, canine massage has the ability to create many benefits for both dog and owner (or caretaker). For a dog, it brings strength to weakened muscles, disperses pain in tensed areas, reduces stress and restores and maintains mobility and flexibility.

For the person performing the massage, it can aid in early injury detection; it also allows for both dog and care-taker to bond in a new way.

David’s approach to massage combines both knowledge and sensitivity. Knowledge includes the basics of anatomy, physiology and dog behavior. Sensitivity relies more on the intuitive abilities we all possess to connect with our dogs. The combination of these two approaches leads to the best results.

Benefits of Dog Massage
• Decreases soreness, stiffness and pain
• Decreases muscle tension and spasms
• Decreases stress
• Increases circulation – cardiovascular and lymphatic
• Increase flexibility and range of motion
• Aids in early detection of abnormalities
• Builds trust
• Enhances the health of all the body’s systems
• Helps to tonify tissue
• Elongates and softens connective tissue

Massage Techniques

• Gliding – one hand / two hands
• Circling
• Kneading
• Compression
• Direct Pressure

Things to Note During the Massage

• Breathing: is your dog panting heavily? Is his breathing labored? Ideally, the breathing should be relaxed.
• Pressure: Too much pressure and the dog will flinch and move away from your touch.
• Temperature: A lot of heat around a muscle can indicate soreness or an infection.
• Speed: Most massage is done very slowly.

Basic Massage Routine (12-24 minutes)

Preparation (2-4 minutes)
Take a deep breath, observe your dog. Say hello. Are his movements stiff or shuffling? How does she carry her head? Tilting? Notice the facial expression – happy/sad? Are the eyes soft or hard? Use your voice to help your dog settle in. Soft and happy sounds work well. Talk to your dog and tell her what you are about to do. Then place your dog in a comfortable position, on his side / sitting up, resting on paws, perhaps on the couch. Make light gliding strokes from head to tail.

Scapula– (2-4 minutes)
Find the area between the two Scapulas and make circles in that area. Depending on the size of your dog, use one or more fingers. Then trace the scapula on each side separately making gliding and kneading motions. Follow the bottom of the scapula down the front legs squeezing gently as you go. Use gliding motions over the area to complete this section

Back – (2-4 minutes)
Find the mid-line of the back (vertebral column) and the upper ridges (dorsal processes) of the vertebrae. Having located this reference point, begin to make circles on one side of the spine (maybe an inch or two from the spine) starting from the scapula towards the sacrum. Do one side at a time. Feel for any lumps or bumps, tightness, etc. Then use gliding strokes over the same area. Pick a few spaces (valleys) along the muscle and apply direct pressure (using your thumb or finger) and holding for 10-30 seconds. Use direct pressure three times on each side.

Neck and Head – (2 -4 minutes)
Start at the base of the skull with light circles which can become deeper as your dog relaxes .Do 10-12 circles in both directions. Move to the area below the ears and continue with circles. Rub the ears from the head to the end of the ears. Do each ear separately at least 3-5 times. Make an ear sandwich. Move to the top of the head and gently massage the face.

Hip, Hind leg and Thigh (2-4 minutes)
The muscles of the thigh generally allows for deeper pressure. Use slow gliding strokes using the palm of the hand. Do each side separately. Then continue with circles and kneading. Move down the rear legs with squeezing and gliding strokes.

Chest and Belly (1-3 minutes)
Massage the pectoral (chest muscles) with kneading and gliding strokes. Rub the belly with gentle circles.

Closing – (1 minute)
Say good-bye and thanks with gentle gliding strokes over the body.


*All of the content contained above comes directly from David’s handouts, which we are happy to share with anyone interested.

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