With Puppies, Keep Expectations and Protocols in Check

Puppies get PetMassageTM

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to PetMassageTM several 4 week young Old English Sheep Dog puppies from a litter of eight. The sessions were brief and simple. Small words and short sentences. One responded well to rocking, another, to skin rolling, another to compression along the spine, and another, to gentle circles around the mouth and eyes. Even by this age, these little fur babies –not hairballs- had already begun developing personalities and preferences. Each was already a different, unique, being. They’d all had similar experiences. They’d all fed on the same teats, slept and wrestled on the same newsprint, been cuddled by the same strangers, were cared for by the same devoted humans, and corrected consistently by their mom. And, each already had a story. Each already had its own set of needs. Each mini-session was only 2-3 minutes. And each was different; and whole and complete.

Adapting your PetMassageTM for Special Needs

With more practice under your belt, you’ll learn to intuitively adapt your PetMassageTM to the uniqueness of each dog. The PetMassageTM routine is not set in stone. Make it your own.

For most dogs under the age of two, and dogs who’ve not cognitively matured beyond puppy level thinking, shorten the routine. Soften your intensity, just a bit. We need to adapt our sessions to animals who have shorter attention spans, like very young children.  Simplify. If you were speaking, you’d use small words and short sentences. When you are touching, work the same way. Direct, short duration touches. Concise and collected strokes and other manual techniques. Vary the sensations the dog feels. Keep her/him engaged continuously.


You learn a lot of individual skills in the PetMassageTM Foundation level workshop. You learn a general form within which you apply them. It is not essential that you apply everything you know during each session. Depending on the project, sometimes you need a hammer, sometimes, a screwdriver. Sometimes, especially for young dogs (and most labs), a vigorous scratch-a-thon around the hind end is what is most appropriate. There is no single routine that works for every dog, every time.

The Young Dog and the Short Attention Span Dog 

Working with a short attention span dog, choose an area, such as the shoulder and neck, and begin with gentle touch. Allow your hands to slowly work their way into the main torso. Take your time. Breathe. Smile. When you have (tissue and behavioral) compliance in that one area, you have a choice. You can continue, or you can be satisfied with what the two of you have accomplished, and go right to your closing grounding strokes and thymus thumps.

Always end on a positive emotion 

If you sense that the final assessment strokes or vectoring may annoy your dog, skip it. Always end on a positive emotion. If you have been able to help the dog to stabilize and initiate balance in one area, you have succeeded. Your work as facilitator is as complete as you can expect. The dog’s body will use what it needs for its own purposes. The new paradigm is manifested. What ever balance that has been restored will naturally distribute throughout the entire system. It will travel to where it is needed most.

The Lesson

Here’s the lesson: keep expectations and protocols for “fixing” in check. It is, truly and profoundly, the dog’s –the puppies’– PetMassage!

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