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When is Massage Not A Massage?

Golden Retriever massage Jenny YoudanIf massage conjures up images of relaxing, a special treat or a pampering session, well, as lovely as that is, it’s not what the Canine Massage Guild therapists do.  To us, Canine Massage is a remedial therapy used to rehabilitate soft tissue injuries.

Whilst we can provide relaxing techniques that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (owners know this as rest & digest), we specialise in identifying muscular injuries and applying bodywork treatments to reduce your dog’s pain and keep them more mobile.  Think of a human sports massage, but for dogs.

All Guild Therapists are trained in 4 disciplines of massage:

  1. Swedish
  2. Deep Tissue
  3. Sports
  4. Myofascial Release

Within each of these disciplines there are numerous different techniques and these are just our basic entry levels.  More experienced therapists will have completed additional training each year and therefore have further techniques available at their disposal.

How Does This Help Your Dog?

Basically it means a Guild Therapist can not only locate a muscular injury through the art of palpation – which is not a skill to be overlooked given the amount of musculature within the dog’s body – but they can also find a technique that will suit your dog.

Different injuries in different locations suit different techniques.  However, some dogs cannot tolerate a specific stroke, be it too painful & uncomfortable or maybe the dog cannot lie in the position required.  Therefore we have alternative techniques to overcome these issues.

Which Technique Works Best?

There is no one technique fits all.  Obviously, it depends on each individual case:

  • What is the injury?
  • Where is the injury?
  • How long has the injury been there?

And so on.

For example let’s consider that my client has restricted range of movement in their hind leg.  You, as the owner, might see that in your dog’s gait – they might knock poles if they compete in agility or there may be a change in jumping style for either agility or flyball dogs.

Having palpated your dog, i.e. checked the muscles to locate a potential injury, how would I treat it?  There is no prescribed routine, each session is tailored to each individual dog.  Ideally I want to warm the muscle(s) in question, so I would select a Swedish technique.  This introduces the dog to touch and prepares the body for further massage.

My next move depends on the injury and its location.

Should the injury lie within a deeper layer of musculature, I would need to apply a Deep Tissue technique to be able to access the muscle & mobilise the hind leg.  Maybe the first technique I apply is too painful for your dog, so I use an alternative approach.

Equally, if remedial or rehabilitation work is required, this will most likely need a Sports technique.  Maybe your dog slipped or somehow stretched its leg beyond its normal movement resulting in pulling or tearing some of the muscle fibres (this injury is referred to as a strain).  The strain then healed with scar tissue which reduced the flexibility in that muscle, hence the restricted range of movement.  Using my knowledge of muscular anatomy I will isolate the specific muscle & locate the injury.  Next, I use scar tissue remodelling to restore the muscle’s flexibility.


As a result of Canine Massage Therapy, you will see a better range of movement in your dog. They are enjoying their walks again and have become more active. For those sporting dogs in the world, handlers can see an improvement in performance.

This is just ONE example of ONE injury in ONE muscle in ONE dog.

I hope you can now appreciate why I say Canine Massage Therapy is more than just stroking your dog.  There is a significant level of knowledge of the dog’s anatomy and physiology required, in addition to the skilled application of the various massage disciplines and techniques.

For Results You Can See & Your Dog Can Feel!

Author:  Jenny Youdan

For more information please visit Jenny Youdan‘s biography