Canine aquatic massage and underwater treadmills

The Benefits of Hydrotherapy was the topic this week on Dr Karen Becker’s blog on the Healthy Pets Mercola website.

Karen discusses aquatic therapy from the perspective of her holistic veterinary practice. Her subtitle: Soothes Sore Joints and Muscles, a Godsend for Injured or Obese Pets. I’d like to add my perspective to her presentation; coming from a practitioner and instructor of canine aquatic massage.

Most dogs are buoyant. That’s the first benefit we think about. Movements they may have been straining to perform suddenly become easier. It becomes a non-weight bearing activity.

There’s a big difference between the underwater treadmill experience and canine aquatic massage. Think of comparing a workout session with your personal trainer at the gym and a massage. The treadmill work is like supervised repetitive exercise on equipment. The two are very different processes. Their approaches to working on the dog’s body is different. PetMassage canine aquatic massage facilitates dogs rediscovery of balance and harmony.

Consider what happens when you combine the life-affirming characteristics of dry canine massage with water. Water becomes more than an environment. It’s a support system. It’s a bubble of nurture in a disinterested environment.

Besides its buoyancy and wetness, another significant attribute of water, is its temperature. The water temperature that we work in is around 83 degrees. It’s pleasant.

During their canine aquatic massage dogs develop strength, stamina, balance, and confidence. They are guided through the motions of swimming and treading water which provides their mild cardio workouts. Guided into their controlled floats and glides, they sink and paddle, stretch and join up, twist and straighten, and emotionally and energetically, realign. They are getting massage!

The water’s warmth stimulates dogs beyond their body physical. As we move them through the water, we the Canine Aquatic Massage Practitioners, maintain constant physical and emotional contact with the them. We direct them, encourage them, and challenge them. We can feel their cognitive and emotional shifts. We actively participate while dogs optimize their lives.

Every session is life affirming, validating, and joyous. We are in the water with the dogs, observing and moving with their every move. The joy we feel is like a contact high. Let me rephrase this because it’s important: every session with every dog is genuinely ecstatic. Compare that to any other type of job description!

Who are your clients? Think about the dogs who have been restricted while waiting for their injuries to heal. How about the dogs that are obese, or arthritic? How about the apartment bound dogs whose owners do not take them out to get sufficient exercise? How about the agility dogs who come up lame or need a venue for off season conditioning? Canine aquatic massage helps dogs with confidence issues, behavioral issues, structural issues and flexibility issues. Then, there are senior dogs whose metabolisms are slowing. Imagine how, with just the gentle stimulation by the waves in the pool, lymphatic flow and peristalsis in the gut is supported.

Is this complementary to treadmill therapy? Yes, you bet! Treadmill work is straight forward. Massage is circular. Combine them. Ally your practice with rehabilitation veterinarians they will refer their patients to you.

Training and Certification

The PetMassage Training and Research Institute offers a training program for you to learn canine aquatic massage. The complete program includes a home study module in Basic Canine Anatomy so you can better visualize how the dog’s body ought to move and function. The on-site, hands-on 6-day workshop is training that’s as enjoyable and rewarding as your new career will be.

This is vocational training. You are training to create your own:

  1. rehabilitation facility for injured dogs, working with veterinarians
  2. body toning and wellness maintenance workout facility for canine athletes
  3. gentle cardio program for older, and in-hospice dogs
  4. program for maintaining strength and support for partially paralyzed dogs
  5. weight loss programs for dogs
  6. soothing, emotional relaxing session for grieving and traumatized dogs

We call it Canine Aquatic Massage not because we work in the water; rather, because we rely on the water to do much of the “work.”

In PetMassage Canine Aquatic Massage workshops you will learn specific hands-on techniques, protocols, and sequences. You’ll learn controlled floating, myofascial releases, water stretching based on the mechanics of canine anatomy, and aquatic massage skills with dogs on a submerged platform.

You’ll learn about dog handling, gait observation, water, pools, pool selection, filtration, installation and maintenance, legal restrictions, developing a business, and marketing.

By the completion of the workshop you are trained in what you need to know to support and complement both the rehabilitation work of veterinarians and the strength and conditioning demanded by dog caregivers and sport dog enthusiasts. You will be ready to start your business and help dogs.

Here’s a Link [] to a video that demonstrates how this therapeutic session is done as a dance. While it may not be obvious, this dog is getting everything he needs and fun besides. Just look at his face! As the Practitioner, I’m having the time of my life, too.

The PetMassage approach is effective, holistic, spiritual, and flat out fun. PetMassage Canine Aquatic Massage, is a most enjoyable and rewarding form of canine massage.

Is this the career you’ve been searching for?


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