Case Study – Settling the Anxious Dog with Massage

Full Title: Case Study – Settling the Anxious Dog with Massage

Author: Danielle Wagener, RVT

Date of Publication: February 16, 2022


Research Paper Text:

Before starting my paper, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Danielle and I am a registered veterinary technician that has been working in the emergency field for approximately 4 years. I signed up for the PetMassage Foundation Level Course for several reasons – the first of which involved, my recent rekindled desire to further my career in holistic medicine and secondly to help heal my personal anxiety. I felt that a journey going through the PetMassage training process would be a great means to help quell my anxiety and for me to learn to be the source of calm for animals. Because in truth, how can you calm and settle another soul’s anxiety, if you are the most anxious one in the room. Thus, that is why I started my journey in PetMassage – I want to help the body heal itself in more natural ways and I want to heal myself along this journey. The research paper topic that Jonathan requested of me really fits into what I need to go through to better myself as a PetMassage practitioner, as well as a person. This paper revolves around working with dogs that have cases of anxiety and my journey of helping calm them through the massage process. I feel that I have found 3 cases in particular that I believe fall into the category of anxious, uncomfortable dogs. I will give a brief description of each of these dogs, describe my initial massage and their response, as well as their growth related to their follow-up massage.

Massage Session #1
Date: 9/14/21
Duration: 25-minute massage

Note: Muzzle used per owner request.

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: When Kira and her owner arrived at the clinic, I greeted Kira’s owner first while in mountain pose and focusing on my breath. During this time, I kept my eyes on her owner and above Kira while we discussed the massage process and the owner’s concerns. While we were talking, Kira had a very guarded stance and was pulling the owner with her leash. Kira’s body language signs included; having her ears down, keeping her head low, and having her hackles slightly raised. Due to this, I acknowledged Kira while remaining calm and made her sit. I then continued to talk to her owner. After our discussion, Kira’s owner placed a muzzle on her and we went outside, so I could observe Kira while she was being walked. During the owner’s assessment walk, I watched Kira closely, while in mountain pose to determine how her gait was and how she responded to her owner. Kira appeared to have some tenderness in her right hind leg and she, as her owner previously claimed, was at a constant pull during their walk. Afterwards, I took lead of Kira for our assessment walk. When our walk began, Kira started to pull almost instantly and was not interested in me taking the lead. Thus, I remembered to keep my breathing relaxed and my heart calm and began to lead with my hips while remaining in a tall stance. After around two to three minutes, Kira began to relax a bit and after several laps around the clinic and numerous correction touches, she allowed me to fully take lead on our walk. After Kira established me as the leader of the walk, we continued to walk for around 5 minutes before I brought her back inside the clinic for the massage.

Massage: After our walk, I lead Kira into the exam room that I perform my massages in – she seemed much calmer after our walk and her establishing me as the leader. When we reached the exam table, I slowly knelt toward Kira to pick her up. I placed one arm around the base of her neck and the other under her abdomen – since she does not like her hind end being touched and I picked her up. She flailed around some, but ultimately she allowed me to place her onto the table. Once Kira got onto the table she began to act anxious, started breathing heavily and salivating through her muzzle, and began to whine. In response, I placed my hands on her and began to focus on my breathing and calm my heart rate. We sat in silence together for 2-3 minutes before she began to relax and acknowledge my touch. In response, I began to perform vectoring. Kira remained calm and did not try to jump off the table during my vectoring – but she did show some adverseness during my hip to hip vectoring position. During this time, she turned back to me quickly and may have snapped at me if her muzzle was not in place. After my vectoring, I continued to the assessment stroke portion of my massage. During each pass of my assessment strokes, I felt that Kira was more willing to allow me to perform them. She did not growl at me during the hind-end portion of the strokes, but she did tense up slightly. During my strokes, I felt that her lumbar vertebrae were very warm and her muscles surrounding them were quite tense. Thus, I knew that would be an area that I would put extra attention to. After my assessment strokes, I continued to the next portion of my massage, but due to Kira’s earlier adverse reaction to her hind end being touched, I decided that I would start my massage at her head and slowly introduce my techniques caudally to get her further accustomed to my touch, before I would finally reach her hind end. In addition, since this was our first massage experience together, I decided to limit the number of my techniques at first, so I could scope how she would respond to my touch and if her response was positive I would continue to perform more. The first technique that I performed on Kira’s head was using my thumbs to smooth across the center of her face to her ears. I performed this in a slow, yet firm repeated motion. Kira appeared to enjoy it very much. I then continued with thumb walking around her eyes. Kira in response pushed into me during this technique – like she was asking me to continue performing it – so I repeated the technique several times. Afterwards, I began to work on Kira’s ears. I massaged her ear flaps, pulled on her ears, and applied firm pressure with my fingers at the base of her ears. I then applied pressure to her shock points, which Kira in response, got quite excited and I had to calm her by placing my arms around her for a few moments before she stopped moving around rapidly. Due to Kira wearing a muzzle and the limited techniques I could perform because of such, I decided to continue to the neck portion of her massage. I first performed joint mobilization of her neck, by placing my mother hand at the base of her skull and gently placing my other hand around her mouth. Kira had a slight aversion to me taking control of her head. So, I assured her by holding in stillness with her for a few moments and then slowly continuing the stretch. I first stretched her neck laterally and then in an upward and downward motion – she in time allowed me to perform this technique without any resistance. Afterwards, I decided to perform positional release on her neck area and she continued to remain calm. I then performed skin rolling on her neck and eventually frictioning. She did not show any signs of aversion during that time. I then continued to the thoracic portion of my massage, I started with skin rolling around her thorax – which she seemed to relax to, and then I ran my fingers up and down her rib cage – between her ribs, and I performed cupping. I felt that due to Kira being jumpy earlier that I would start only with a minimal amount of cupping. When I began to cup, she responded poorly by growling, so I decided to perform this technique very slowly and after a short amount of time, she began to get accustomed to it. Soon after, I began to work on her shoulders and forelegs. Kira’s owner previously discussed with me that her forelegs have been experiencing minor popping. Because of this, I wanted to spend an extra few minutes determining where it was occurring in her forelegs. The first techniques that I performed, included stroking and frictioning along Kira’s left shoulder and foreleg to bring blood flow to the area – I performed these in both parallel and perpendicular directions. I then performed compression to each portion of the shoulder and foreleg and repeated on the other side. Finally, I decided that it was time to stretch Kira’s forelegs and determine how her mobility was, and possibly determine where the questioned popping noise was coming from. Thus, I picked up Kira’s left foreleg to begin the exercise, Kira in response, was slightly adverse to me picking up her leg and she pulled it back immediately and growled. I then continued to breathe with my hands on her arm and attempted the technique again. She in response, allowed me to hold her leg, we sat in stillness for a few moments, and I then stretched her foreleg forwards and backwards within its range of motion, during this time I noticed there was a slight clicking noise coming from her elbow. I repeated the stretch on her other foreleg and observed the same sound from her right elbow as well. I also compressed her humerus into her scapula as well on both forelegs. After these techniques, I began to work further down her left foreleg at her carpus, when I first attempted to grab per paw, Kira looked at me quickly and began to act uncomfortable. So I again sat with her in stillness for a few moments and decided to massage the top portion of her paw to get her accustomed to me handling her paws. She then allowed me to grab her paw and I performed compression, and frictioning on that area, as well as joint mobilization. Afterwards, I tried to massage her toes and her webbing, she tensed up some for a moment, but ultimately allowed me to massage her paw pads as well. I then repeated all techniques on her other forepaw. Immediately after, I continued to the spinal portion of her massage. The first technique that I performed was something I knew that Kira would enjoy and that was skin rolling. Kira, like I thought responded very well with it. Afterwards, I performed positional release and frictioning along her spine – but I began to notice the further I went down her spine the tenser she became. I was unsure if it was because of the anxiety of her hind end being touched or it was another issue entirely. Because of this, I tried to be extra cautious of this area – while still giving it the attention it needed. Other techniques that I performed included; scratching along her spine with my hands in a claw form, with my knuckles, and with my thumbs and heavy raindrops. She seemed to really enjoy both and she began to relax tremendously. Due to her relaxing, I decided to slowly work along her spine again with stroking until I reached her tail. Afterwards, I attempted to massage along her tail, which she was slightly uncomfortable with, but in the end, allowed me to do. After performing my massage techniques on all other portions of Kira’s body – I felt like it was the moment of truth. Thus, I began the hip and hindleg portion of her massage, but due to the tenseness related to her hind end being handled, I chose not to perform joint mobilization or any techniques related to picking up her hindlegs – I decided to slowly introduce my techniques and during our next visit – attempt to fully handle her hindlegs. The first technique that I performed involved slowly stroking on her hind leg, I started from her hip and slowly down her leg to her toe. Kira was very tense in response and growled some. I slowly repeated the motion numerous times and her growling eventually ceased. I then performed light frictioning and compression of the leg. I then repeated these techniques on her other side. Kira was still slightly tense, but she did not growl again or attempt to snap at me. I then continued to perform compression and stroking along her tarsus and toes. I also tried to massage the webbing on her toes, but only on the top portion of her paw, due to not picking her feet up. I repeated these techniques on her other paw and decided to end this portion of the massage. After I finished my hindleg techniques, I repeated my assessment strokes, but in reverse pressure order, repeated my vectoring, and then connected the dots. Kira’s response to connecting the dots was not what I expected. When I touched her stomach, she jumped up quickly and looked at me with her ears lowered, in response I continued to breathe calmly and placed my arms around her to calm her. After a minute or so, I reattempted to connect the dots and she allowed me. I then grounded Kira and by this time she seemed comfortable with me performing my grounding on her hindlegs – she did not growl at me or attempt to turn her hind end away. Afterwards, I performed 3 thymus thumps on Kira’s chest, Kira’s eyes widened as soon as I performed it, and she tried to jump off the table. I placed my arms around her calmly for a few moments to hold her still and she calmed down. She then performed a lofty integration shake and I placed her onto the floor. Once I lowered her to the floor, she appeared to have relaxed tremendously and was wagging her tail – which her owner claimed is not like Kira whatsoever. I then took Kira outside for a bio-break and she continued to allow me to take lead while we were together.

Owner’s Response to Massage: Kira’s owner was very surprised Kira allowed me to walk her without pulling and allowed me to perform most of my massage techniques.

Massage Session #2:
Date: 9/28/21
Duration: 30-minute massage

Note: Muzzle used per owner request.

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: When Kira and her owner got into the clinic, I acknowledged Kira’s owner and talked about what we were going to try on our second massage session and the owner’s concerns. At this time, Kira was sitting and then came up to me and nudged her head against my legs – asking me to pet her. I made her sit and petted her and I took her outside for an assessment walk. Kira allowed me to lead during our walk – after a few correction touches, due to her excitable nature. After we walked around the clinic a few laps, I took her into the exam room for her massage. Her owner was very pleased with Kira since her first massage, she seemed different and was asking her owner to pet and massage her by nudging at her with her head and would not snap at her when she would reach around her hind end. Her owner thought it was very sweet and would like to continue the massages to see what further progress we can perform.

Massage: During my second massage, I gained enough experience to know what Kira liked and what she was adverse to. I also knew what areas I needed to work on and what new techniques I wanted to perform to break the barriers that I needed to with her. Thus, I decided to work more thoroughly on her hind end – including performing a wheelbarrow stretch, joint mobilization, and other techniques related to picking up her hind legs and handling her hind paws. In truth, I really saw so much improvement – even when I touched her hind end she did not try to snap at me and she did not growl at me once during the entire massage. She did tense up some during her hind end and hind leg portion of her massage, but she ultimately did not try to snap at me. She was very relaxed by the end of her massage and even her owner was relaxed. During our first massage, I definitely felt that Kira’s owner was quite nervous, but that nervousness decreased significantly during our second massage.

Massage Techniques That Kira Most Relaxed Too: Skin rolling, frictioning, and scratching.

My Thoughts After Both Massages: To be absolutely honest, after my second massage with Kira I felt like I was working entirely with another dog. Out of all of the dogs that I have massaged so far, she has had the absolute best growth. I feel that she just needed to be understood and given a chance to be handled without fear. I honestly believe that the fear and judgment from those around her is what amplified Kira’s anxiety and aggression. During my second massage is when I noticed that once I felt calm and comfortable with her, is when I felt her respond in kind and become much more relaxed with me. We have worked together much since these first two massages and I feel like we are growing together every time we meet.

Case 2: Lexie the Beagle

Lexie is a 10-year-old Beagle – that is currently experiencing moderate anxiety related to the recent loss of her owner. Because of this, Lexie recently has been uninterested in food, acting distant and lethargic, and doing activities that she normally does not do – like hiding, and having increased episodes of barking. Lexie’s current owner has been concerned not only due to these newly developed issues but because Lexie recently fell down the stairs and reignited an old hind leg injury. To further explain, Lexie is a clinic regular that I have performed laser therapy on almost weekly for approximately 2 years. She is in a sense, one of the main reasons why I decided to change my field into therapeutics – due to seeing her significant improvement from performing aquatic and laser therapy without the use of heavy conventional and narcotic medications. When we first started working with Lexie at the clinic – she was unable to properly use her right hind leg due to injury. Due to this, Lexie’s owner decided to try using NSAIDs, glucosamine, and chondroitin to aid in her condition. This, in turn, gave some relief – but still, Lexie was unable to use the affected leg well. Thus, my veterinarian and I discussed with the owner about trying alternative therapy to aid in Lexie’s condition and within 2 weeks of laser and aquatic therapy, Lexie’s mobility began to improve significantly and she is completely free from taking medications. But even with all of our time together, I started noticing changes in Lexie after her recent injury and changes in her household. She has not been holding still during our usual laser therapy sessions, she has been hiding behind her owner, pacing around the exam room, and has not been allowing me to put her onto the table. Thus due to these newly developed issues, Lexie’s owner and I agreed that massage therapy might be the tool needed to help her through this newly developed anxiety and to help with her recent reignited injury.

Massage Session #1:
Date: 9/20/21
Duration: 30-minute massage

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: When Lexie and her owner arrived at the lobby of the clinic, I walked around the main desk to greet them both. I first greeted Lexie’s owner and began to discuss what her concerns were and the PetMassage process. During this time, Lexie was hiding behind her owner, which is something she just recently started doing. Usually, Lexie is a very outgoing and happy dog, but as of late, she has been much more skittish and clingy to her owner. Due to this, I stopped my conversation for a moment and took Lexie’s lead. I made her sit and petted her to help calm her. I then decided it was time for us to perform an assessment walk. Lexie is usually very docile and will establish you as the leader of a walk instantly – but, as soon as I took her lead and walked away from her owner – Lexie almost immediately began to start whining and started pulling toward her owner. Thus, I felt like it was a good idea for us to perform an outdoor assessment walk together and spend some extra time to calm Lexie. Once I led Lexie outside, I handed her owner the lead and asked her to walk along the clinic yard, so I could observe Lexie’s gait and reactions. When her owner was walking Lexie, I remained in mountain pose and focused on my breathing to calm my heart rate and help establish myself as pack leader. During their walk, I noticed that Lexie was only putting around 70% of her full body weight on her right hind leg and that it appeared quite stiff. Thus, I knew that would be an area that would need to be thoroughly worked on. In addition, I noticed that Lexie was very nervous acting and jumpy around loud sounds; such as a car passing by – that indeed was something else I knew we would need to work on. Once the owner returned to me, I took Lexie’s lead and I continued to keep my heart rate calm and relaxed, so I could in response help Lexie to relax. I also placed myself between her and any stressor; such as a car or a passing dog during our walk. We then walked around the clinic two times before we all went back inside for the massage.

Massage: After our walk together, I brought Lexie into the exam room. She was much more relaxed than earlier and allowed me to pick her up onto the table. But, when I placed her on the exam table, she began to panic and started to slip out of my grasp to go toward her owner. Due to this, I decided to allow Lexie’s owner to be near her so that she could help calm Lexie with vocal cues and physical touch while I massaged her. After I allowed this to happen, Lexie was much more compliant throughout the entire massage process. After calming Lexie, I began to perform vectoring and she, in turn, responded well. She allowed me to perform all vectoring positions without any aversion. I then continued to my assessment strokes. During my medium depth assessment strokes, I noticed Lexie began to tense up heavily, especially when I stroked her right hind leg. She jumped slightly in response, as if she may have been sore. I then proceeded to my deep assessment strokes, and once I revisited that area I felt that she was still very tense and was acting like she was expecting to be painful before I even touched her leg. After my assessment strokes, I continued to the head and neck portion of the massage, because like with Kira I felt that starting the massage cranially and proceeding caudally to her more sensitive area would be wise. The first technique that I performed on Lexie was thumb walking around her eyes, I then proceeded to smooth my thumbs across her forehead to her ears repeatedly. She appeared to like both very much. I then continued to a technique that I could not earlier perform on Kira and that was massaging and stimulating her gums. Lexie was a little uncomfortable with this technique, so I only performed it for a minimal duration. Afterwards, I performed strokes along her muzzle and massaged her ears. Lexie enjoyed me gently pulling at her ear base and liked having the shock points of her ear tips squeezed. Soon after, I continued to the neck portion of the massage. Firstly, I performed joint mobilization of her neck – both laterally and in an upward and downward motion. She allowed me to perform the technique in both directions without much resistance, but her neck did tense up moderately during her downward stretch. Thus, due to this tenseness, I knew that I would need to work in this area a bit more thoroughly. Afterwards, I performed strokes and frictioning along her neck to help bring blood flow to the area, as well as performed positional release. I then proceeded to perform skin rolling on her neck – Lexie in response screamed very loudly and began to panic, as she struggled her way to her owner to hide her head. I then held her in silence while focusing on my breath, as her owner petted her and after a few minutes she calmed down and we continued the massage. Due to her negative response, I decided to continue with another massage technique. After Lexie was fully calm, I continued to the thoracic portion of her massage. I decided to avoid skin rolling of this area and will re-attempt the technique during our next massage. Thus, the first technique that I performed was running my fingers between her ribs along her rib cage. Lexie felt very relaxed during this technique. Afterwards, I performed strokes along her thorax and decided to gently introduce percussive therapy. I personally felt that percussive therapy would be extra beneficial to Lexie due to her history of allergies and her owner’s constant concern of her being “phlegmy”. The main percussive technique that I used during the massage was cupping. Cupping involves forming your palm into a cup shape and using the convex portion of the palm as the point of contact to the rib cage – while loosely using your wrist as the driving force. Lexie started lightening up and coughed several times during this technique. I performed cupping on both lateral and ventral portions of her rib cage. I then continued to the shoulder and foreleg portion of the massage. I first performed parallel and perpendicular strokes and frictioning along Lexie’s left shoulder and foreleg to increase blood flow to them. Afterwards, I chose to perform shoulder compression, but as I picked up Lexie’s left foreleg she began to act resistant, so I held her leg in stillness for a few moments until she relaxed and then continued the technique. Thus, I compressed Lexie’s humerus into her shoulder and then stretched her foreleg within its range of motion in both forward and backward motioning. There were no signs of clicking noises or tenseness. I then proceeded to massage Lexie’s carpus and forepaw. I first performed compression along the carpus and paw and performed frictioning and joint mobilization of the carpal bones. I then picked up her paw and performed joint mobilization of her toes and massaged her paw pads, as well as the webbing between her toes. At that time, I could very much tell that Lexie started to enjoy her paws being massaged. I then repeated all shoulder and foreleg techniques on Lexie’s other foreleg with no signs of resistance. Afterwards, I decided it was time to massage along Lexie’s spine. The first technique that I performed was positional release along her spine. I then decided to go into stroking and frictioning. Lexie seemed pleased and did not show any signs of adversity. I then performed scratching along her spine in a claw form, with my thumbs and my knuckles. Furthermore, I tried to spend extra time on the cervical portion of her spine, due to the earlier tenseness she displayed during her neck mobilization. In addition, I also performed heavy raindrops and rocking. I performed rocking of her neck, her thorax, and along her spine to her hind end. Rocking itself aids in flexibility and the circulation of body fluids, as well as strengthening muscles and aiding in balance. I felt that spending a decent amount of time rocking could aid in Lexie’s hindleg issue. She responded quite well with this technique. I then continued to the tail portion of the massage. I first held the base of Lexie’s tail and allowed her to pull forward – this in turn aids in aligning and stretching the components of her tail. I then circled her tail in both clockwise and counterclockwise motions. After her tail massage, I finally continued to the hip and hindleg portion of the massage – which I felt were the areas that seem to be the most sensitive to Lexie. Due to that, I decided to work with Lexie’s left hindleg first, due to it being less sore – which I felt in doing so would give Lexie more time to understand what to expect to occur with her other more painful leg. I first began with stroking and frictioning and then performed compression along the leg. Afterwards, I performed joint mobilization of the leg and gently stretched it in both forward and backward motions – but, when I stretched her leg backwards I could hear a slight clicking noise at her stifle. Due to this, I placed her leg down and performed extra frictioning and stroking along the joint to aid in blood flow and relax that area. I then continued down her leg and performed stroking, frictioning and compression along her tarsus and hind paw. I then performed joint compression and mobilization of the tarsal bones, as well as, toe rolling. I also massaged her paw pads and the webbing between her toes. I then decided it was time to repeat these techniques on her other leg. Once I began to stroke Lexie’s right hindleg, she tensed up heavily, so I started very lightly and got more thorough as time went on with my strokes. I then performed frictioning all over her leg muscles and at her stifle joint – which displayed moderate signs of clicking. I then continued to work over these areas with compression and more stroking. Lexie over time, relaxed as I continued to work down her leg to her tarsus and paw with these techniques. Afterwards, I decided to pick up her leg to perform joint mobilization and she, in response, jumped up skittishly when I raised her leg. She nudged her head toward her owner – so I allowed her to place her head against her owner as I performed the technique gently. She allowed me to stretch her leg within its range of motion. I then performed joint mobilization of her tarsal bones and performed toe rolling, as well as massaged her paw pads and toe webbing. Lexie as time went on stopped hiding her head as I massaged her right hind leg – which I felt showed signs of progress. After working on both hind legs, I performed a thorough wheelbarrow stretch, which I was quite pleased that Lexie allowed me to do, and then used my thumbs to massage the back portions of her legs to help relax her muscles. After finishing my techniques, I repeated my assessment strokes, from deep, medium to light, and repeated my vectoring. Lexie was much less tender and averse when I performed my assessment strokes on her right hind leg – which I believe is good progress. Afterwards, I connected the dots to bring Lexie’s attention back to her center line and performed three thymus thumps on her chest. I then placed Lexie onto the floor – she then performed a vigorous integration shake and seemed very relaxed. I petted her, took her outside for a bio-break, and offered her some water.

Owner’s Response to Massage: Lexie’s owner was very pleased with the massage and liked that Lexie allowed me to perform massage techniques to help with her right hind leg. Lexie’s owner also said she was very relaxed during the entire massage process and that she wished I performed human massage. Which I personally, thought was very sweet.

Massage Session #2:
Date: 9/27/21
Duration: 30-minute massage

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: Once Lexie and her owner arrived at the clinic, I acknowledged Lexie’s owner first, and Lexie in response, hid behind her owner. I then in reply, grabbed Lexie’s lead and made her sit – while I discussed her owner’s thoughts and concerns. Afterwards, I took Lexie outside and decided that I would allow her owner to walk beside me during my assessment walk with Lexie. Lexie in turn responded very well to this technique – I personally felt that performing this would be less of a dramatic change for Lexie and that in time I will slowly create some distance from her and her owner so that she can easily go on a walk without issue. During our assessment walk, Lexie allowed me to take lead almost instantaneously. We performed two laps around the clinic and went inside – there were no passing cars or neighborhood dogs at the time of the walk. Also, during our assessment walk, I could certainly tell that Lexie’s right hind leg appeared to be less tender to her. I then took Lexie inside and brought her into the exam room. Once we reached the exam table, Lexie was wagging her tail and easily allowed me to get her onto the table. She was a bit skittish when I first placed her on there, but like last time, as soon as her owner was within her reach she relaxed heavily. Lexie’s owner was very interested in me performing more techniques on Lexie to see what we can do to further improve her mobility and anxiety. In addition, Lexie’s owner was very pleased with how Lexie responded to her first massage – she said that Lexie was running up and down the steps like a puppy again, which made me feel quite happy to hear.

Massage: From my first massage with Lexie, I knew several techniques that I needed to work on more in-depth and what areas were the most sensitive to Lexie – such as her right hind leg. So from what I learned, I knew that I would try my best to strategically introduce skin rolling to Lexie’s second massage. Thus, I decided to perform a very light skin rolling, then go to another massage technique that I knew that Lexie would enjoy; such as fractioning, and then perform a few more skin rolls and then finally repeat the process. When I conducted this method, Lexie did not scream or act anxious in response. I in turn feel that doing this strategy will in time, allow Lexie to learn to understand and enjoy this particular massage technique. I also worked more thoroughly with her right hind leg – and spent an extended time with all my techniques on that particular sensitive area. Lexie in response did not yelp, but she did hide her head against her owner while I performed them. I feel in time she will come to relax more thoroughly and be less timid, but overall I have seen much improvement with her since her first massage.

Massage Techniques That Lexie Most Relaxed Too: Frictioning and slow rocking

My Thoughts After Both Massages: I personally feel that after performing these first two massages with Lexie, I have started to learn a lot about her bodily and emotional cues. I also noticed that as I performed each massage, Lexie and I were beginning to get closer and she was beginning to relax and trust me more. Thus, I believe that with continued massages Lexie’s anxiety will begin to decrease and she will be more comfortable physically, as well as emotionally. Her owner also believes such and will be returning weekly for my massages to help ensure Lexie’s future growth.

Case 3: Boss the Boston Terrier Mix

Boss is a 2-year-old Boston Terrier mix – that has a very excitable nature and has much difficulty staying still and having a heartbeat that isn’t going 100 million beats per minute. According to his owner, Boss is the type of dog that when you ask him to go outside, he will run around the couch approximately fourteen times like Dale Earnhart Jr. before finally getting to the door to get his lead on. In addition, he is very nervous around strangers and will bark and growl when they approach his owner, his house, or his owner’s car. Boss also gets nervous when placed on the exam table at his regular veterinarian and when he gets his nails trimmed. Thus, Boss’ owner and I discussed that massage might be the means to help with his anxiety, as well as, help him get accustomed to human contact and procedures, such as getting his nails clipped.

Massage Session #1:
Date: 9/20/21
Duration: 25-minute massage

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: While I was preparing the exam table for Boss’ massage, Boss and his owner came into the exam room. Boss was very excited and performed “zoomies” throughout the room and was practically bouncing off the walls. Due to this, his owner grabbed his lead and we began to discuss what her concerns and desires for Boss were. Boss continued to spring off his owner’s legs and would not calm down no matter how hard his owner tried. I in response, remained in mountain pose, focused on my breath, and grabbed his lead. I then guided Boss around the room – directing him with my hips while performing several correction touches on his flank to get him to stop running. I then made Boss sit and stay still. Boss was panting heavily, but he continued to sit while his owner and I discussed her concerns and the massage process. Due to Boss’ excitable nature, I decided that we would go on an extended assessment walk so that we could get extra acquainted and I could thoroughly establish myself as pack leader. Once we were outside, I made Boss’ owner assessment walk him first. While watching them, I remained in mountain pose and focused on my breath to calm myself. During their walk, I noticed that Boss was pulling his owner around and guiding her wherever he wished to go. The owner tried to take lead of Boss, but it did not occur. I decided after a few minutes that I would perform my assessment walk. Before taking Boss’ lead from his owner I made him sit and stay. Once I grabbed the lead, I put myself in an angled stance to appear larger to Boss and began to direct him with my hips in a circle to get him accustomed to me leading. Boss was at first a bit resistant and began to pull. I continued with this technique for a minute or so before we began our actual walk. Once our assessment walk began, Boss immediately tried to pull me and in response, I stood my ground in a deep weighted stance and held my elbow close to my side to lock my arm in place – so he could not pull me. I then performed several flank and jaw correction touches on him and made him sit again. I then started up our walk again and after numerous more correction touches and prompts, Boss established me as the leader of the walk. We then proceeded to walk around the clinic twice before going in for the massage.

Massage: Once we returned to the exam room, I immediately placed Boss onto the table. In response, he began to wrestle out of my hands and refused to stay still. I in reply placed my hands on him and focused on my breath to calm both him and myself. After a minute or so, Boss began to calm down some but still was acting somewhat uncomfortable and panting. After a few moments, I continued to the vectoring portion of his massage. During this technique, Boss refused to stay still, so I decided to make him sit and stay to perform all vectoring positions. I felt that him sitting down was allowing him to settle himself. I then proceeded to my assessment strokes. At this time, I made Boss stand so I could perform all my strokes thoroughly. He moved around some during this technique but eventually allowed me to perform it – though when I touched his paw during my strokes, he would pull them away from me. Thus, I knew that was definitely going to be one of my main areas to massage to get him used to having his feet handled in a positive way. Also, during my deep assessment strokes, I felt some sensitivity to the muscles of his shoulders – which would be another area I would place extra attention to. Now, like Kira and Lexie, I decided to massage all areas on Boss that were not sensitive to him first – so he could get adjusted to my touch and know what to expect once I eventually got to his sensitive areas – mainly his paws. After my assessment strokes, I continued to the face portion of his massage. Firstly, I smoothed my thumbs across Boss’ forehead repeatedly – he appeared to like it, but he was beginning to move around the table as I performed the exercise. I then continued to perform thumb walking around his eyes and stroking along his short muzzle. Soon after, I stroked along his jowls in a downward motion and performed positional release of his jaw. Boss, in response, was moving during these techniques but was not adverse to them. Afterwards, I performed tapping on his head, but once I did Boss got incredibly excited and tried to jump off the table, thus I felt that was a technique that I could perform at a later time. I then moved on to massage his ears, which I felt was the technique that he enjoyed the most out of the entire massage. I massaged along his ear pinna, pulled at his ear base, and squeezed his shock points, and as I squeezed them, Boss attempted to lick me repeatedly on my face. I then proceeded to massage his neck – the first technique that I performed was joint mobilization. Boss got quite excited when I attempted to move his head, so I held my hands in position on the base of his neck and muzzle for a few moments to get him accustomed to my touch before proceeding to move his neck within its range of motion. Afterwards, I performed thumb walking along the vertebrae of his neck, positional release, as well as stroking along all the aspects of his neck. Next, I decided to proceed to the spinal portion of my massage. I first started with thumb walking along each of his vertebrae. He did not show any signs of tenseness along his spine. I then performed skin rolling and cross skin rolling – which Boss really enjoyed. I then continued to frictioning – which excited Boss some. Afterwards, I decided to perform rocking on Boss – I first performed it in forward and backward motions and then proceeded to lateral motions. Boss in response, thought I was playing with him and tried to wrestle with me. I then held him again to calm him and reattempted the technique, but even slower than previously. He appeared to relax to it much better that way. I then attempted scratching. Boss’ energy began to sky-rocket as I scratched in an upward motion along his spine and he tried to jump off the table. I grabbed him and held him again in silence to calm him and then decided to continue to the next portion of his massage. Usually, after my spinal massage techniques, I continue to the dog’s tail – but according to his owner, Boss was not exactly born with a tail – it basically is a small skin flap that barely extends beyond an inch. With that in mind, I attempted to perform strokes and compression on what I could and continued to the thoracic portion of my massage. The first technique that I performed on Boss’ thorax involved running my fingers up and down his rib cage, as well as stroking along his thorax. I then stroked repeatedly on the front portion of his chest and along the front of both shoulders, since his shoulders seemed quite tense earlier during my assessment strokes. I then performed frictioning and skin rolling throughout his thorax. Boss enjoyed all of these techniques and attempted to lick me on numerous occasions during them. I then decided to perform cupping along his rib cage. When I began this technique, Boss got very excited and tried to play with me. I in response, held him in my arms for a moment to calm him. After a few moments, I decided to repeat the technique, but at a slower pace than I usually would – since he responded so excitedly earlier. Boss responded much better to this method, though he was still wrestling around a little bit with me during it. Afterwards, I decided to massage Boss’ forelegs and hindlegs and due to Boss not liking getting his nails clipped, I decided that I would spend an extra amount of time introducing my massage to his paws. From my experience working with animals in the veterinary field, is that it is quite common for dogs that are nervous about nail trimmings – to act more negatively to their forepaws being handled and trimmed than their hind paws – since they can see the act done and resist to prevent it. Because of this, I performed the hindleg portion of the massage before the foreleg – so Boss could understand what I would eventually perform on his forepaws. The first technique that I performed on the hip and hindleg portion of his massage was stroking. I stroked along Boss’s left leg from his hip to his tarsus. I continued to friction along this area as well. Boss responded well to frictioning and seemed to enjoy it very much. I then performed compression on his left leg and decided to continue to the joint mobilization. Once I raised Boss’ leg, he got very anxious and tried to shake his leg out of my grip and began to panic. I then released his leg and held him in silence for a short period to calm him back down. I then attempted to repeat the technique – but this time by grabbing his leg at his stifle area instead of his tarsus. After a few moments of resistance, Boss allowed me to move and stretch his leg within its range of motion. Soon after, I decided to massage his tarsus and eventually his hindpaw. The first technique I performed on his tarsus was light stroking – I stroked his tarsus repeatedly in a smooth, calm fashion and then began to perform frictioning of the area. Boss did not try to pull away, but he began to feel as if he was starting to get anxious. I then proceeded to gently pick up his paw so that I could perform joint mobilization of his tarsal bones. He attempted to pull away and began whining, but I continued to calmly hold his leg and stroked it lightly – after a few moments, I began to perform the technique. Boss allowed me to perform it without incredible resistance. Afterwards, I placed his paw back on the ground to give him a few moments of rest before I would attempt other techniques such as toe rolling. During our break, I decided to gently massage along the tops of his toes. I gently stroked them and began to stroke the toe webbing between them that I could without raising his paw. After the break, I picked up his paw again, rolled his toes, and began to more intently massage the webbing between his toes. He made a few sounds and pulled away some, but he allowed me to massage them. I then worked on his paw pads and eventually placed his foot back down. I repeated all of these techniques on his right leg, as well as his forelegs – he did show some signs of aversion, especially with his forelegs – but every time he did – I paused for a moment and calmed him by holding him and focusing on my breath. Afterwards, I repeated my assessment strokes and I could definitely sense that Boss was much more relaxed in comparison to my initial attempt earlier in the massage. I then repeated vectoring – but this time I ensured that Boss was standing during the entirety of the technique. He stayed much stiller than earlier as well – which I felt was progress. Afterwards, I brought Boss’ attention back to his centerline by connecting the dots. I then decided it was time to ground Boss. Due to this, I felt like this was the moment of truth to see how Boss would react with two of his paws being touched at the same time during this technique. I performed this technique extra slow while focusing on my breath to lower my anxiety related to his possible negative response. Thus, I touched both sides of Boss’ nose, glided my palms across his body to his forepaws, and drove my hands past them to the table. Boss raised his head up excitedly and began to lick my face in response. I felt a rush of relief knowing that he didn’t jump or try to wrestle out of my hands. I then repeated the technique to his hind paws and he did shift some of his weight away from me, but he did not react adversely. I then finished my massage with 3 light thymus thumps and as soon as I performed them, Boss squealed playfully like Boston Terriers do and jumped in my face to lick me rapidly, and then attempted to jump off the table. I caught him and placed him onto the table for a moment longer while in my arms to help calm him. Once we both relaxed some, I allowed him back to the floor. He then performed a good integration shake and went to his owner. Afterwards, his owner and I took him on a bio-break and brought him some water.
Owner’s Response to the Massage: Boss’ owner was quite pleased with how Boss responded to me – and enjoyed the entire experience of the massage. She believes in time Boss will get used to people handling him at the vet and that she would like us to spend even more time on his feet during their next massage.

Massage Session #2:
Date: 9/8/21
Duration: 25-minute massage

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: Once Boss and his owner came into the clinic, Boss attempted to run to me as fast as possible while pulling his owner with him. Once Boss came up to me, I acknowledged his owner first and then made him sit. He was resisting his playful nature, but even so, he remained in a sitting position. I then talked to his owner about Boss’ progress and what she wanted to be done for his massage today. After our talk, I took Boss’ lead and petted him on the head as he continued to sit. Afterwards, we went out for an assessment walk, so I could thoroughly establish myself as the pack leader with him. I then walked Boss around the clinic three times before we returned inside. During our walk, Boss’ gait appeared well, but he attempted to pull me on several occasions. In response, I had to perform numerous correction touches – he responded well to the touches and allowed me to take lead of the walk. Afterwards, I brought Boss back into the clinic, so we could continue to our massage.

Massage: From my previous experience with Boss, I knew that he was incredibly anxious and fearful of being placed on the exam table. Because of this, I allowed him to relax with me in the exam room first, to get him used to his surroundings before placing him onto the table. When I performed this, I felt that Boss was much more relaxed this way – instead of being immediately placed on the table. In addition, I focused on my breathing more, as well as, keeping myself calm for him – one way I did this was by first making Boss lay down, while I performed deep breathing with him before we continued to vectoring. I also performed my vectoring even longer this time – which I felt made Boss much more relaxed before we continued to the other more physically active portions of the massage. Though during our massage, Boss did try to wrestle out of my hands several times, in response, I just held him and performed deep breathing which relaxed him. In addition, once we reached the portions of the massage where I handled his paws, he was still resistant but was much more passive than the first massage. I personally feel that Boss did much better in this massage than the last, and even after my thymus thumps he did not try to jump off the table – which made me feel like we have definitely made progress.

Massage Techniques That Boss Most Relaxed To: Ear massage and eventually vectoring

My Thoughts After Both Massages: I honestly feel that after performing my first two massages on Boss, I started to learn how important it is to focus on your breath and to calm yourself. I learned that my calmness had to exceed Boss’ incredible excitable nature, and the more I acted on that the better Boss began to respond. So with that, I will remember to keep focusing on my breath and being the center of calm in my massage. After Boss’ second massage, his owner stated that he was even calmer than his first and believes he has made great progress. She will be returning weekly for continued massages, so we can further work on Boss’ excitability and work with his feet more.


I strongly feel that PetMassage is helping me tremendously with my anxiety, as well as helped me to understand how to aid dogs in a different, yet strong way other than conventional medicine. After some time, my massages started making me feel so at peace, knowing that I can help comfort dogs that some people dare not touch. I will especially continue to work with aggressive and anxious dogs to help them get more accustomed to the human touch and help them with their physical and emotional ailments as well. Furthermore, I must say that it is very interesting to learn the differences in each dog’s preferences and perspective. Each of the dogs that I have worked with so far have had their particular quirks and likes and dislikes – it has made me realize how special each session is with each animal – it is like a whole new experience with each dog – like a new conversation from body to body and from spirit to spirit. In addition, I have very much enjoyed seeing their growth between each session – especially in trusting me to perform more techniques and me personally feeling their body conditioning improving. I feel like I have grown much in the last few months of training and I am forever grateful to be on this path and will continue to better myself in it, as I learn more and apply it to the animals at my job.


1 Comment

  1. Connor Becker on June 29, 2023 at 3:43 PM

    I just like the helpful information you provide in your articles. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge

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