Is massaging dogs/animals as hard on the therapist’s body as it can be when massaging humans?

I received an email from someone who states “I am interested in your program to become certified in canine massage. I was a licensed massage therapist for about 15 years and “retired” the table last year after developing a back issue as well as hand/wrist issues.

I say all this to ask, is massaging dogs/animals as hard on the therapist’s body as it can be when massaging humans? Could you offer some information regarding what a massage session entails?

Working with animals in a healing capacity would be wonderful and something I’ve been interested in for a very long time, so any information you could provide would be very much appreciated.

Thanks so much. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Here’s my response.

Hi ——

Thank you for your inquiry. Massage is massage. We use our legs, backs, wrists, hands and fingers. Although not the thumbs nearly as much when we work with animals.

In my practice, I find working with dogs easier and much more enjoyable. In the PetMassage program I focus on teaching students to develop correct body mechanic habits. I have taught many MTs with back and/or hand issues. They learn to work effectively with dogs within their physical limitations. If you are drawn to massage dogs, there is a place for you. The dogs that you can help will be attracted to you.

Sessions begin with observing the owner walk their dog and then our walking the dog to assess gait, symmetry, coordination, anxiety, etc. We assist the dog in mounting the massage table, either by picking them up, or assisting them up a ramp or steps. I do not teach massage on the floor unless the dog is too anxious getting on a table. When dogs are on the table we have more control, better access to the entire body, and we can use correct body and breath mechanics.

The massage techniques we use are adaptations from Swedish, TCM Acupressure, TaiQi, Yoga, Energywork, and Orthobionomy Myofascial work, all contextualized for canine anatomy, psychology, kinesiology and pathology. Our scope of practice is similar to that of human MT. Substitute DVM for MD. So, massage!

You’ll use all the instruction we provide on canine behavior, inter-species body language, breathing and meditation during each massage session. So, canine massage!

At the conclusion of the massage, you’ll assist the dog back to the floor, observe his movement and demeanor, and schedule their next massage. So, massage as a profession!

I have several short videos you can watch on our PetMassage Training and a Research Institute YouTube channel These will give you an idea of my teaching style and philosophy of massage.  You can study demonstrations of full body sessions on our DVD series, PetMassage for Dogs 1 and 2 These 2 DVDs are part of the set of texts we include in the PetMassage Foundation Level Program

As I said, if you hear the calling, follow your passion. I look forward to helping you on your journey.

Warmest regards,

Jonathan Rudinger, PetMassage Instructor

If you would like to discuss transitioning from what you are doing now to a career in canine massage, call us: 800.779.1001

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