Massaging Dogs on The Floor

Quality Control

Sometimes it is impossible to get a dog up on a table because they are too heavy to lift, or if they are in so much pain you feel in danger of being bitten. In these rare situations, by all means, do what you can to massage them, even if it’s on the floor. Every dog benefits from PetMassage Dogs like these need PetMassage, too.

Anytime you are working from an awkward or compromised posture, it is reflected in the quality of bodywork your dog receives. Any massage you give when you are down on your knees is going to be less than optimal. So lower your expectations for the quality of your performance and for the benefits your dog may experience.

During a recent workshop one of our volunteer dogs was a large 9-year-old black lab named Smokey. This old boy was over 150 pounds. He stood and moved unsteadily, due to his compromised hind end. He was too big and heavy to lift. When we attempted to maneuver him onto some steps to climb onto a table, he lurched to the side, turning his head to give us “the look.” He was not happy.

I retained hold of his leash and took a step backward. He sank to the floor, side-lying, panting heavily. His distress was obvious. The class and I had to offer whatever we could to ease his discomfort. I knelt down beside him and reached down to assess him. He looked up, baring his teeth. The snap was more toward me than at me. I could tell he was showing restraint and patience. Smokey could have bitten if he wanted, so I interpreted it as a “soft” warning. I sat with him on the carpet and, within a few minutes, was able to establish some trust. I slowly lowered my hand through the layers of compressed etheric armoring until I was lightly caressing his swollen hock. There, he granted me a moment to offer PetMassage energy work.

Something Better Than Nothing

His entire session lasted less than 5 minutes. We, Smokey and I, did the best we could. That was all he could accept. It was all I could give. Perfect synergy. (Synergy: noun, the interaction or cooperation of two agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects)

It was all very awkward. Emotional connections were tenuous. Pressure control was lacking. The evenness and lengths of stroke were erratic. Symmetry of application, inconceivable. My ability to observe movement, obstructed. Energy channeling and grounding, difficult. And, most importantly, my ability to breathe, to maintain access to the life-sustaining oxygen I needed to recharge and share, was drastically restricted. From this position, my connection to my own life force was compromised. I was barely able to stay present with my intention, let alone maintain a connection with this dog.


The way the dog feels and interprets the presence of our life force, is by observing our hands. Every touch, every stroke speaks volumes. Our breathing patterns are the active expression of what we bring to the table: our life experiences, our present life condition, our life force.

Our dogs rely on whatever signals they can register to ascertain if they’re safe or not. Any restriction of breath sensed in our hands, signals that we’re either in pain, or we’re afraid, or we’re confused, or we’re deeply concerned about something. Lack of breath, like holding our breath, signals trouble. Dogs immediately go on the lookout for the cause of the trouble. Their apprehension flips them into fight or flight mode.

Downward Dog

No matter how you move, from a sitting or kneeling position, your breathing is restricted. If you lean forward, if you lean back, if you reach down to the paws, if you reach across to get to the ears or the tail, you feel it in your lungs. When you reach and stretch, stressing your arms and back, you and your breath cannot be fully present for your dog.

Whenever your arms are pressing into the sides of your chest, your upper chest breath is compromised. Whenever your chin is lowered, and your back is hunched, your ribcage crushes into your diaphragm; and you cannot physically access the air in the lower lobes of your lungs.

You may be breathing, but your breath, its functional oxygen-carbon dioxide transfer, is neither full nor complete.

Our breathing patterns keep us strong, vital, and present. Full breathing signals that we are well, safe, confident, secure, and on purpose doing what we’re doing. Good breath signals that all is good.

If your dog is lying on the floor, he can at best, experience a partial massage. From your position next to him, you’ll only be able to access the parts that are on top and closest to you. If the dog is standing up, then it’s an exercise in reaching, scrambling, and crawling around the dog to access wherever the dog allows you to touch.

I recall one time, before I knew better, a giant mastiff sat down on my hand, pinning it under his SIT bone against a concrete floor. When I attempted to push him, he turned (I swear he grinned), and licked my exposed and captive face.

Professional Behavior

Massaging dogs on the floor is neither professional nor efficient. Unless you live in Japan where it is culturally imperative to work on the floor or a low bench, or you are practicing shiatsu, applying pressure with your feet, work the dogs on a table. And, yes, I acknowledge that there is a trend to get down on the floor to dog level. The thinking is it will make the dog more comfortable, like speaking to them in a high falsetto voice. I do not agree with either practice. We cannot fool dogs. They know who and what they are. They are dogs. They’ve earned that distinction by enduring tens of thousands karmic incarnations. And, they know who and what we are, and, they can smell what our intentions are.

I often see photographs online and in trade magazines of dogs being massaged on the floor. I am sad for the dogs. Their massages may start okay; but I assure you, within a breath or two, they start diminishing in effectiveness.

Working on the floor is tough on the knees, strains the back, the shoulders, and, if you carry a little belly pooch like I do, makes it hard to catch your breath.

So, whenever possible, put dogs on a raised surface for their PetMassage. In those rare and extreme circumstances, when you have no other options, PetMassage them on the floor.

Not On The Floor Because…

There are practical reasons for massaging dogs on tables rather than on the floor. They have to do with safety, healthy body mechanics, comfort, and effectiveness.

One. The dog owns the floor. You own the table. Your safety is dependent upon who is in charge. By placing the dog on the table, you are putting him into the area where you are leader.

Two. If you and your dog were on the floor he could get up and walk away at any time. You’d be stuck there, arms outstretched, frantically grasping at the air behind him. I know. I’ve been there, done that. Won’t do it anymore.

Three. The leader is the one who can move and change positions easiest. He/she is the one who decides how the session proceeds. On the floor, dogs are more facile moving about on their four paws than we are on our two knees. Our bodies are designed to walk and move best when we are standing upright.

Four. A dog’s PetMassage is a special event. They remember what happens to them in a PetMassage. They appreciate it and anticipate a repeat of the experience. This is the reason dogs clamber to get out of their cars as they pull into our PetMassage clinic parking lot and dash excitedly to our door.

Table Resistance Resolution

Yes, it is true that many dogs are initially resistant to being placed on a table. The only other tables they’ve known have been the scary ones at groomers or vets. And their experiences and associations with them may have not been positive. So, at first, they may see the table and hesitate…strongly. They’ll only know the benefits of receiving massage on the table when you take up the mantle of leadership, decide for them, and put them on.

When dogs mount a PetMassage table, it is different. Five seconds of sniffing and they begin to relax. They do not smell the residual scents of other dogs that were scared, stressed, in pain, or dying. They smell the happy scents of dogs having “aha” experiences. They smell the scents of dogs blissing out!

High Value Experience

PetMassage is a high value experience. It is not done on the floor because what is done on the floor is ordinary, and not special. Dogs understand that receiving a PetMassage is an event. An important event. It is a high value gift. They learn with their first PetMassage that it makes them feel honored, special, and physically and emotionally balanced. They feel happy.

On subsequent sessions, dogs appear to view PetMassage as an opportunity to experience pleasure, comfort, respect, and that illusive feeling: grace.

They love the nurturing and the undivided attention and they look forward to receiving it again. Putting them on the table of happy fragrances reinforces the specialness of the PetMassage experience.

Dogs remember what a PetMassage is and what happens to them during a PetMassage.

Good Better Best
There are situations where good enough has to be good enough. We know the value of PetMassage. Dogs know the value of PetMassage. Dogs owners know the value of PetMassage. When the going gets rough, work on the floor because any PetMassage is always better than no PetMassage.


  1. Patti on August 30, 2017 at 10:12 AM

    I feel so honored to have made the “front page!” ???

  2. Susan K. Miller on August 30, 2017 at 11:42 AM

    I’ve been struggling with my every-other-Saturday massages at our shelter – 20 miles away. There is no room at all – I have been working in the bathroom, with a tiny spot for my table. I can’t get around the table – only one side and the front. The dogs can smell the food in the room, they can hear the voices and other dogs just outside the door in the lobby . . . last week I tried some massages w/o my table, placing the dogs on a couple of doggie beds and sitting on my improvised milk carton stool. I paid special attention to breathing, realizing I was in a compromised position. What I’ve seen is that something is better than nothing. The interaction we enjoy is real – the dogs seem grateful for the attention. I’ve made significant headway with a few of the more troublesome dogs and I can only hope that my work has helped them as they assume their place in their furever homes!

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