canine belly massage

When massaging dogs sometimes “just go with it”

Since I began formally massaging canine’s I’ve found that using the traditional massage sequence I was taught is not always the most effective course of action. Sometimes, you have to just go with what works, what the dog tells you and accomplish what you can in the short time they will give you their attention.

When I meet a dog for the first time they often “tell” or show me what is most active for them. I can tell by their body posture, attitude and behavior where their issues are most active. It’s also incredibly difficult to get certain breeds to sit still and concentrate long enough to go through a complete massage sequence.

So, I start with what they show me first.

canine belly massage

In this picture is our GSD Vixen, who is a dominant and social working dog. She has quite the personality and will tell you exactly what she wants, when she wants it. Normally her deltoids are what need the most work but, in this session, after briefly working her neck and deltoids she immediately showed me her belly to have her pectorals worked on.

As a massage therapist it’s important to listen. She didn’t need much work but she needed a bit to assist with the stretching of her forelimbs. This posture is what some behavior books will call “Crazy legs” with the dog totally on their back and their paw extended in the air; it’s a sign they are secure and happy. But, I believe, when this appears in the massage that the animal is also stretching their muscle with you and releasing their trapped energy as they change emotional states.

What’s the take away? If you are a massage therapist listen to your animal. If you are an owner, watch carefully what happens in your massage session and how your dog responds. I guarantee you see similar issues over and over again as the emotional issues of their home life and behavior show up in their body.

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The release of the Atlas

The release of the Atlas is one of the first steps in an equine massage.

If you are a dressage rider who has spent any time studying many of the classical masters, you may know about the flexion of the jaw. My late trainer Jean Claude Racinet devoted his life to the study of lightness and the work of Francois Baucher. This is a helpful excerpt of an article from JCR on flexion of  the jaw and its purpose and origin. Net, it is a tool riders can employ to relax the whole of the horse.

Similarly, using pressure on the atlas points behind the ear at the start of a massage session can often help create an initial sense of relaxation that can set the tone for releases needed through the rest of the session.

As you can see in this video, despite being distracted, the atlas release overwhelmingly relaxes the horse, softening eyes, lowering the head and then active attempts to release the poll tension in the TMJ joint.

Reactions differ. Any lowering of the head or licking and chewing is a good sign.

As you get your horse worked on by a massage therapist, you should note however if there is chronic poll tension. This may be where you want to have a conversation with your trainer or your equine dentist to see if there are other underlying issues to be addressed.