Quick Simple Dog Massage Therapy at Home

Dog massage therapy at home sounds relaxing and like something dog parents would like in on as well, right? What are the benefits of dog massage therapy at home? Can a dog parent even do it properly? Is it safe? Or is it just a bunch of feel-good stuff that someone made up? Today, let’s dig into the world of dog massage therapy at home.

Spoiler: My dog, Henry absolutely loves a good dog massage.

*Updated: June 27, 2023
a dog enjoys dog massage therapy at home
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Budget Tip:

Massaging your dog may not seem like there is any budget tip to it. But there most definitely is and a couple of great ones in fact. By massaging your dog you may help to improve or extend your dog's health. Thus, you get to cut down on unexpected vet visits and additional medication that's often prescribed as our dogs age. That's a priceless added value reason to snuggle up to your dog and begin a massage therapy session. It's a major win-win!

Benefits of dog massage therapy at home

There are many benefits of massage for your dog. A few of them include:

  • Relaxes and reduces stress and anxiety (there’s even a special massage for dog anxiety)
  • Increases circulation
  • Aids in injury recovery and rehabilitation
  • Reduces pain
  • Helps to identify potential health issues
  • Improves quality of life for your dog
  • Can decrease veterinarian visits 
  • Saves on professional dog massage therapist bills 
  • Increases bonding between dog and human

NOTE: If your dog is recovering from an injury, has pain, or specifically hip pain, ask your veterinarian for specific massages for your dog’s so you don’t make the pain worse.

When should I give my dog a massage?

Now you know the benefits of dog massage therapy, you may be asking, “How on earth, am I going to fit this into my day?” Fair question. I mean who can squeeze much more out of a jammed-packed day? The best thing to do is look at when it’s convenient for you and your dog. Here are a few prime times for massaging your dog at home, which may work:

  • After or before brushing or bathing
  • While you’re petting your dog
  • During a bonding session with your dog
  • After a training session or an outing exploring nature with your dog
  • Before or after mediation with your dog

Have you ever meditated with your dog? In this article, I walk you through the benefits.

Do you feel like you’re not as bonded with your dog as you would like? In this article, I share simple and free ways to strengthen your relationship with your dog.

Is there anything I should know before I begin a dog massage therapy session?

If you don’t have time or your dog doesn’t want a full dog massage, don’t worry. You can do a “spot” dog massage, which is perfectly fine. However, I do recommend you check your dog fully at least once a week to keep track of his/her overall physical health. 

In case, that was a bit confusing, basically, you want to put your hands on your dog at least once a week. In doing this, you’re looking for lumps, bumps, hidden wounds, sensitive areas (where your dog flinches or pulls away from), and anything out of the ordinary. These areas you’ll pay close attention to and only give a dog massage if allowed. Additionally, you may want to touch base with your veterinarian on these areas if they are concerning to you. I always like to err on the side of caution. I’ve discovered many things on Henry simply by laying my hands on him regularly.

Are you stressed because your vet doesn’t feel like a good match? In this article, I talk about how to find the best veterinarian for you and your dog. 

How do I give my pup dog massage therapy at home?

There are various ways to approach massaging your dog. You may want to lay your dog on his/her side before you begin. If your dog does not want to lie down, then do what your dog is comfortable with at the beginning and let your dog experience the massage. 

I always recommend starting your dog massage slowly and then increasing strength as is comfortable for your dog. Remember that your dog is much smaller than you (even if it’s a big dog) and a deep massage will leave your dog sore, just like it will you. The point is to loosen the muscles and joints, to relieve pain, and anxiety, in a relaxing environment where your dog finds it enjoyable. If there’s any discomfort, then the goal will not be achieved and your dog will not want to participate. 

cute puppy relaxes with dog massage therapy at home

Additionally, I like to begin with long sweeping motions right off the body and then move to more of a tighter circular motion. I always keep my eyes on my dog’s eyes, ears, and tail for him to show me how he feels. A head up will mean “OUCH! Back off!” Your dog may growl or show teeth as an indicator to back off. Each dog is an individual and how they react to you is their communication mechanism. Be aware of what your dog tells you. 

However, when my dog, Henry shuts his eyes or leans into the dog massage, I know he is enjoying it and wants a little more attention in that spot. Your dog may do something similar. 

Never, ever overstay at any one spot.

Body breakdown of how to do a dog massage

For the sake of ease, let’s look at your dog in parts and examine how to massage a dog with each part in mind. 

Jaw

I know I just said I do long sweeping motions to start. The exception is the head. At the jaw, I do tiny little circles. My dog doesn’t like too much attention here. I normally will only do about 45 – 60 seconds.

Eyes 

Then I move to a circular motion around the eyes. I make sure to get the bones and again only stay until I get the shake that it’s time to move.

Ears 

The ears are special. Doing a dog massage of the ears can help with dog anxiety. It has calmed mine on several occasions. However, it’s been a mild anxiety attack. The way to massage a dog’s ears is to put your index finger (in a J or L shape) inside the ear and your thumb outside the ear at the base of the head and pull gently, but firmly from the base to the tip of the ear. Do this, again until your dog tells you to move on. 

TIP: Some dogs don’t like their ears touched. If this is your dog, just go slowly and do what you can as your dog will allow it. Over time, normally, this will improve. 

puppy falls asleep with dog massage therapy at home

Top of head 

Most dogs generally, like the top of their head massaged. Use a circular motion. Try to do it for 1 minute and then work toward the neck.

Neck 

If you can, I recommend removing the dog collar. Start with a long sweeping motion from the neck down the back, down the legs, and chest. Do this several times and if your dog is comfortable, move to a circular motion. However, keep the dog massage moving down and away from the neck. Think of it as a forward (or as known in, mediation, a grounding motion).

Front legs 

You can use one or two hands and go down the legs. Check the joints for motion and pain. Again, start with a long sweeping motion. Then you can either move to a circular motion or an agitation motion (like rolling a pencil back and forth between your two hands) to loosen the muscles. Work down to the paws and massage them as well. Massage the dog pads as well and check for foreign objects between the pads.

Chest 

Start from the neck and work toward the stomach area. Again, I recommend long sweeping motions. Looking for any lumps, bumps, scraps, hidden wounds, and sensitive areas. Keep your eyes on your dog for any reaction. You can move to a more circular motion here as well. Only stay until your dog tells you to move. Remember that your dog is small and the pressure should be relatively light.

Stomach

The stomach can be a sensitive area. Or it can be a playtime area. You will be able to tell if your dog’s belly is full or not. Be respectful of your dog’s digestive tract needs. Go extremely gently and work towards the tail.

Back legs 

If your dog has hip issues, please discuss with your veterinarian the best dog massages for your pooch. The back legs are very similar to the front legs. You will want to begin slowly and gently with long sweeping motions taking you completely off the leg and paw. Check for joint motion. As your dog allows, change your massage motion to more of a circular or agitation motion. Massage each dog paw and pads. Remember to check between the pads for any foreign objects.

Back

This is my dog’s favorite part of a dog massage. He has been known to fall asleep during his back massage. Not a bad life for a rescue dog. At any rate, to give your pup a back dog massage, begin at the neck and do a long sweeping motion to the tail and off. As your dog allows, bring your motion tighter with a smaller circular pattern always working toward the tail. You will want to massage the sides as well as down the spine. The spine is of particular interest. However, you want to put your hands on all parts of your dog and this is your chance.

Tail

If your dog has a stub tail, don’t worry, it still needs care. My dog was bobbed at some point too. A tail can be a sensitive part as well. Massage from the base out and off. Try to do a long sweeping motion and try to do smaller circular motions if your dog is comfortable. Pay attention to your dog’s reaction.

Privates (genitals and anus) 

The privates shouldn’t need too much massaging. However, it’s a good thing to inspect your dog’s nether regions to make sure there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on in these areas. This is especially true if your dog is extremely furry and these parts aren’t easily visible. Beware these areas can be extremely sensitive and can evoke an immediate response. You may want to inspect these areas with your dog leashed and held during a time you’re not doing a dog massage. This way there’s no association with the massage. A good idea is to mark a monthly inspection on your calendar, kind of like a once-of-month self-breast exam. 

How often should I give my dog a massage?

As you massage your dog, you’ll notice if there’s a spot that needs special attention. With Henry, that’s his back. He’s even gotten to the point that he wants a back dog massage daily. He’ll show me his back and then look at me as if to say, “what are you waiting for?” I generally, accommodate his needs. However, he may only get a full massage once a week. A full massage is more to keep your eyes on your dog’s physical health rather than a spot massage. As you start your dog massage journey, you will quickly know what your dog needs. 

What if I find a lump or something while giving my dog a massage at home

dog massage therapy at home being enjoyed by an adult dog

This does happen. I have found a few lumps with Henry. Lumps can be nothing or they can be something. I always recommend erring on the side of caution and checking with your veterinarian. One of the bonuses of dog massage therapy at home is that you can keep close eyes on your dog’s physical health and be ahead of anything that should pop up. 

Do you know how to prepare for an emergency vet visit? When it’s done properly you may even save a bit of money. In this article, I share with you what you need to know.

I love the idea of dog massage, but my hands hurt too much. Is there an alternative?

Yes, there are many ways to give a dog massage. Using your hands is just one of the ways. 

  • Water bottle. This gives you more space to put your hands on when giving your dog a massage. You can even chill the bottle with water for the added benefit of a cooling dog massage. However, there are certain spots, like the ears, which will be difficult with a water bottle.
  • A small slice of a pool noodle. Again, this gives more space for your hands to rest while still giving your dog a great massage.
  • Medicine bottle. Wrapping an old, empty medicine bottle in cotton, or other cushions, provides a smaller massage tool, yet more space for your hands to rest. You can even use your palms to push the bottle for the dog massage, which is often a lot easier.
  • Cylinder clear quartz crystal. This is a fun one with maybe some added benefits. Clear quartz is considered the master healer. It’s said to have a multitude of physical healing attributes. While people have meditated with clear quartz before, it can also be used as a tool to do a dog massage, if it’s in the right form (cylinder). There’s more space for your hand to rest, you can use your palm, and your dog may receive added benefits of healing quartz crystals. 
Henry dog birthday idea #1 massage
Henry falls asleep during his massage sessions.

Curious if crystals can help your dog? In this article, I discuss how dogs are experts in healing crystals. 

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Summary of dog massage therapy at home

The benefits of dog massage can be massive. They even outweigh human massage benefits when you factor in the savings on veterinarian visits and professional massage therapists. If your dog has any health issues, make sure your veterinarian says it’s advisable to do dog massage therapy at home. Dog massage is an easy process and it doesn’t take much time. Which is great, since we are all short on time.

Thus, the main thing to keep in mind is to go slowly and pay attention to your dog’s reaction and then you act accordingly. A dog ear massage can even calm an anxious dog. Plus, you get to know your dog better and can zone in on the areas your dog needs the most. If you have a hand issue, you can still give your dog a massage with a variety of different tools. It’s a fun activity to try with your dog and a huge payback. Henry highly endorses dog massage therapy.

a cute puppy enjoys the benefits of dog massage therapy at home

Have you ever tried giving your pup a dog massage? Will you try now?

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About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

14 thoughts on “Quick Simple Dog Massage Therapy at Home”

  1. Wow! I knew about spa places for dogs and also heard about the advantages of massage, but I did not realize that benefits also include improved quality of life and a decrease in vet visits. Who knew? Thanks for sharing this informative post. I’m also glad to see you noted alternatives for those who suffer from hand/wrist injuries or are unable to perform massage manually. It’s good to know there are alternative tools you can use to massage your dog.

    Reply
    • I’m glad you enjoyed this article on dog massage at home. Yes, keeping a dog limper and knowing your dog physically should help you decrease vet visits. I tend to have hand and wrist issues from time to time and try to think of ways to do things in a more gentle way. Thanks for your positive feedback! I appreciate it!

      Reply
  2. Very interesting! I hadn’t thought about how rubbing a dog’s ears might be related to anxiety. I don’t have a dog right now, but I will have to try a massage on my cats and see if they enjoy it. They do love to be petted.

    Reply
    • Oh yes! My cats use to LOVE having their ears massaged. They would purr and push each other out of the way trying to get their turn first. I hope your cats enjoy ear massages as well.

      Reply
  3. Fantastic post and I need to massage Layla more as it relaxes her, I try every night before she goes to sleep after her groom and she loves that quality time.

    Reply
    • My dog loves a massage with his grooming as well. He often falls asleep during his massage. I’ll wake him up because I need to move and he seems so annoyed that his massage has ended and his dream time is over. I’m glad you liked this article on dog massage. Enjoy your bonding massages with Layla!

      Reply
  4. My guys LOVE being massaged. I’m surprised at the amount of pressure they enjoy as they are pretty small. This is a great reminder of how important it is to connect with and check for health issues. Massaging our dogs is also great therapy for us!

    Reply
    • I’m glad to hear you’ve got a massage program for your dogs and do physical checks on them. You are absolutely right, some dogs do enjoy a lot of pressure. However, I still recommend starting with very gentle pressure and building for those newbies to dog massage therapy at home. Thanks for sharing your experiences of dog massage! I’m really happy to hear that it going well for you and your dogs.

      Reply
  5. Two of my dogs love a massage any time of the day. The third one only seems to enjoy them late at night. I think she’s too busy guarding against squirrels during the day to relax.

    Reply
    • That’s kind of funny that your third dog likes an evening wind down massage. Smart pup! I bet she sleeps better with her massage. Your other two dogs are more like mine. He’ll also take a dog massage any time any where. I’m glad your dogs are enjoying their massages. Thanks for sharing your experience with dog massage therapy at home.

      Reply
  6. Massage is great therapy, and most dogs love it. It can have many benefits. My only problem is that, apparently, I am too gentle to get serious results.

    Reply
    • Great observation! You can use a tool to help get a bit more pressure in a gentle way, such as a special ball only used for massage. Or anything with a rolling motion will work. The goal is to start gently and then increase pressure as your dog is comfortable. I hope this helps. Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Reply
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