In the New Year, take control; take leadership of the journey

The PetMassageTM lessons help you understand and take control of yourself so that you can develop a confidence, comfort and strength. From this platform, you can control the world.


Developing and maintaining leadership is all about

1 Controlling and developing awareness to foster positivity and censor negative self talk

2 Developing awareness and controlling posture to foster positivity in movement and censor negative self walk

3 Developing presence/awareness of you in your space in relation to the dog in the dog’s space

I was helping a recent Foundation Level student who is developing a very prosperous business. She loves dogs and has an abiding sense of obligation to help them. She has a good handle on all the mechanics of the manual skills for PetMassageTM with one big exception. Her respect for their space and feelings are so profound that she is reluctant to show dogs who is in charge.

It was difficult to hear, but she needed to be reminded that she had to become the leader.

PetMassageTM is always gentle and supportive

In PetMassageTM workshops it is stressed that the massage must be gentle and supportive. To the beginner, that is often interpreted as light-as-a-feather touches, tickling rather than scratching, cradling rather than holding, and imploring rather than restraining.

Gentle does not mean that you are not the leader. You can lead gently. And you can, and must, establish control of your environment; control of the session. Within the session, you are constantly taking cues from the dog’s breathing, posture, and other signals; and, you, the human, is still the one who decides what to do in response to said cues. Your dog may raise his paw for you to massage it. If you are involved with another part of his body, you do not have to drop what you are doing and follow his direction. You continue so that your session flows and evolves.

But, when dogs notice a void in the leadership role, they intuitively take up the mantle. Over the millennia dogs have developed their own social etiquette. They have determined that they are only secure when they know there is a leader present. As our dog handling instructor, Monica Bernhoffer, says, “The leader will make sure that the pack is led to safety, food, and rest.” It is not that they want to, or find pleasure in, usurping authority. But, someone has to be in charge; otherwise chaos may ensue.

Dogs do not lead by force or coercion. They lead with breath, posture, and confidence.

Who, what, why, when, and where? Good questions!

For the newbie PetMassageTM Practitioner– and the dog’s PetMassageTM, it is the job of the leader to decide when, how, and where the PetMassageTM experience takes place.

The leader knows when – and decides when – the session begins and ends. The leader knows how to choose and use the skills that are most effective to make each PetMassageTM a specialized event in the dog’s life. The leader knows how to use her breath and body language to communicate where the session will take place.

PetMassageTM is administered on a table

Sessions begin and end on the ground. That’s where the dog is walked for the gait, posture, balance, and behavioral observations. Between the few minutes at the beginning and the end, the rest of EVERY PetMassageTM is on a table, or raised surface.

The dog must be removed from his natural ownership of turf and placed on the area that is owned by the practitioner. This is essential. This is a professional activity, following the form of a human massage.

And like when giving a human massage, the PetMassageTM practitioner must learn to position herself so that she can use correct body and breath mechanics. A strong and vital PetMassageTM (which is still gentle and supportive) cannot be administered when you are kneeling, squatting, sitting, or lying on the floor. Your balance must be steady and from any position other than standing, you can neither push from your feet nor fall back into your heels.

The only exceptions are if the dog is threatening to bite or if the dog is too compromised, ie from painful joints, a recent trauma, or surgery, to be picked up comfortably.

That was the big concern with this student. She wanted to know what she could do to keep the dogs on the table. Her dogs refused to stay on the table. They recognized immediately that they would be rewarded (with freedom) when they balked while being lifted. They figured out they could have a ton o’ fun if they could jump down whenever they wanted. Why? Because, they could.

Leadership, at least for the 30-40 minute session had been ceded to them.

This is the experience for a lot of students. It lasts until they figure out why it is important and how to assume leadership.

That’s the reason the Foundation Level workshop begins with a basic course on dog handling. Students learn to use their breath, posture, and body language to establish themselves as leaders during the PetMassageTM session. They prepare for the workshop by reviewing the DVD we created with Monica Bernhoffer, “Dog Handling in Canine Massage, Yoga Consciousness.”

If you have already attended Foundation Level or Dog Handling workshop, please review the DVD.

Links that you may find helpful:

Foundation Level workshop:

Foundation Refresher:

Confident Dog Handling home study:

“Dog Handling in Canine Massage, Yoga Consciousness.” DVD

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