Sit on a stool while giving a canine massage.
Using a stool will make your canine massage practice easier and more enjoyable. You’ll experience less fatigue and discomfort. You’ll add longevity to your practice. You’ll have more options for positioning your body vis-a-vis the dog on the table. Every canine massage you give will be a far more effective therapeutic treatment.
The purposes of using a stool are to
- lower your angle of approach so you can have better access to the dog’s body
- relieve fatigue while maintaining a prolonged hold or position
- reduce hand movement
- Improve body mechanics
Angles of Approach
In my human massage practice I have one stool at the head of the table and another at the foot. When I’m perched on a stool, I can get into a lower, level with the table position where I can anchor my forearms, and work from the angle where I’m able to relax as I apply sustained fingertip support from below.
Whether I’m massaging bipeds, tripeds, or quadrupeds, I’m on and off my stool throughout the session. I go where I need to go, to do what I need to do. It depends on how long I project I’m going to spend still-holding, and how I need to fulcrum my wrists and still be comfortable. Giving a canine massage, I’m probably sitting at least 50% of the time.
During a recent canine massage session, as one knot resolved, another was exposed. And then another, and another.
As soon as I recognized that this was going to be a lengthy process, I pulled a stool over to the table and slid onto it. I could sit comfortably while I was supporting the dog’s bodywork. I keep my stool within an arms length from the table. That way, I can reach over and pull it toward me without removing my other hand from the dog.
It would have been both awkward and fatiguing to be standing for the 30 minutes this dog needed to rediscover his inner puppy. Had I been standing, I would have been distracted by my discomfort; and most likely missed much of what happened.
Sometimes, when we are massaging a very small dog, there’s just not a lot of body movement. Everything is done in hand, wrists to fingertips, massaging tiny spaces. We find ourselves taking compact little breaths. There is also a tendency to hunch our shoulders and cowl forward thereby compacting the space even more. This is a time when it is advantageous to be sitting on a stool. We can relax our legs, backs and necks, and breathe. From this posture we are less likely to project the stress of any tightness or fatigue we feel through our fingers.
Finding and Maintaining Stillness
The same is true when we are focusing our attention on a particular part of the dog’s body, such as a scapula or an elbow. We can only notice movement beneath the coat when it is experienced against contrasting stillness. We need to quiet and still our hands.
Each of the movements you are expressing in your hands begins in your feet. So first, we need to quiet our feet. So, sit. Stabilize your feet on the ground. And rest your hands on the table. Now you’re ready to observe from a place of stillness.
Releases usually need time to evolve. It often takes 4 or 5 minutes for muscle knots to release and let go. That’s a very long time for dogs to stay engaged. Stressors have their own patterns. Strung out with knots and kinks, they infiltrate adjacent bundles of nerves and muscles. As I described above, when one resolves, another is exposed. And then another. And so it goes. It’s possible to stay in one area for the entire session, facilitating a series of unwindings, all stemming out from the spot you are holding.
Sitting quietly, my hands resting on the dog, I observe, and play the witness. Understanding and supportive. Against the quiet and stillness, the dog’s body dissolves streaming layers of stressful holding patterns.
Body mechanics of PetMassage still apply while sitting. Your feet are still on the ground. You still move from them. You rise and fall, expand and contract, with the breath. Your back is still vertical. Your sternum and chin are lifted. Your body is still completely engaged. The differences are your knees are bent and you are shifting your balance, like a centered rider, from side to side and front to back, from one gluteus rumpus cushion to the other.
To increase pressure, you still rock into the dog’s space by leaning forward into the balls of your feet. To decrease pressure, you still rock back into your heels by pushing off from the soles of your feet. Pulling back, your hands follow (like a string of pearls) and lift away.
The stools I use are cushioned bar stools that I purchased from a local restaurant supply. I shortened their legs and added rubber cane tips from Home Depot so they’d be steady and secure when I rock back and forth on them. I would not recommend stools with casters. I’ve experienced firsthand how they can skate out from under you while you are moving quickly on to, or off from them.
Make using stools part of your canine massage. It’s important to have a support system that is reliably there to prop you up. One that is helpful, comfortable, safe, and secure.
Canine Aquatic Massage.
Massaging dogs in a heated swimming pool is an under-utilized therapy that is endorsed by many veterinary and animal rehabilitation resources. The trainers and handlers of sport dogs already know about it. They are seeking ways to access this therapy for their dogs. Let me introduce you to Canine Aquatic Massage, and give you a feel of what it’s like to experience working with dogs in water.
I call Canine Aquatic Massage: “PetMassage Canine Aquatic Massage” That’s because the action of the water does most of the work. It’s just like “bodywork,” in which the body is manipulated in such a way that its own natural abilities are engaged to do the “work” of healing.
Since ancient times, “taking the waters” has been a consistently effective therapy for many physical and emotional issues. It is still very evident in human sports medicine and rehabilitation therapy. Think of the warm baths recommended for relieving tension, anxiety, and sore muscles.
Some of the benefits of working in water are that you can more easily visualize how the environment is moving and how it’s impacting body movement. The water bounces off, streams away, and flows back. It’s remarkable. It’s mesmerizing. Intoxicating. Water elicits joy!
Do this experiment. Fill a large bowl with room temperature water. Raise your hand in front of you and snap your fingers. Then, place your hand on the surface of the water and snap your fingers again. When you snapped with your raised hand, the air patterns around your fingers were triggered; but not as much or as obviously as when you snapped and splashed the water. Do it again. It’s fun. It’s play.
Massage in heated water is a controlled session of massage, facilitated movement, and stretching. The heat enhances cardio and respiration, and softens the tissues. Buoyancy encourages muscle to actually float away from bone. For some movements the water provides resistance, and for others, it provides supporting inertia.
You can see the application of Canine Aquatic Massage for
- Injured dogs, working with owners and veterinarians.
- Canine athletes, working with trainers and owners for body toning and wellness maintenance.
- Older and hospice dogs, as a general cardio program.
- Partially paralyzed dogs, for maintaining strength, spirit, and support.
- Weight loss programs.
- Grieving and traumatized dogs, providing soothing emotional relaxing sessions.
- And, happy playful dogs, that need exercise and the strenuous play experience.
Canine Aquatic Massage takes the dogs therapeutic experience of massage to another level. It also takes the facilitating practitioner’s experience to a whole new level of appreciation, validation, and happiness. It’s not just a job. It’s a positive and healthy way of making a living! It’s fun!
Imagine yourself shoulder deep in a large heated pool, holding a dog suspended in the water in front of you. You guide the dog’s body in your arms in a set of movements across the surface. Feel the water drag at the dog’s coat and body. In your hands the dog relaxes. With each of your steps and turns, the dog’s skin, coat, and musculoskeletal structures float into, and away, from each other. Restrictions and holding patterns, soften and release.
Learn and become certified as a PetMassage Canine Aquatic Massage Practitioner. Our final Canine Aquatic Massage, for the year is in Kalamazoo Michigan, October 14-19, 2019 – https://petmassage.com/event/petmassage-canine-aquatic-massage-program-october-19-24-2020-kalamazoo-mi/
Dog swim clubs are becoming more popular. As a PetMassage Certified Canine Aquatic Massage Practitioner you can be an independent contractor, working your dream, at your local dog swim club.
Or, be the one to provide the therapy that is needed and not yet available anywhere else in your area. The opportunity is there for an independently operated indoor heated canine aquatic massage and rehabilitation pool.
Now’s the time for “taking the waters” to the dogs. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. You, your canine (and some feline) clients, their people, the rehabilitation vets, and dog swim facilities.
Please review the canine water massage descriptions on the www.PetMassage.com website and Canine Aquatic Massage videos on our YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTLn7J2DR9LIwM1WzXu5B3w
This discussion is part of a presentation that I’m preparing, and will be delivering, at the IAAMB/ACWT – NBCAAM Conference the last weekend of September in Seattle. In the presentation, I’ll be sharing my experiences, describing the processes and benefits of canine aquatic massage. I’ve been teaching canine aquatic massage workshops for 20 years. I know first-hand how valuable it is and am looking forward to sharing my expertise with you.
The conference by the way, is less than a month away, and you can still register and attend it. Here’s the link: https://www.nbcaam.org/conference
Lipomas, lumps and bumps, from the perspective of PetMassage canine massage. This discussion is part of the preparation for the continuing ed workshop I will be facilitating, at the IAAMB/ACWT – NBCAAM Conference this September, in Seattle. In the 4-hour workshop titled, “Canine Myofascial Release: Techniques to Discover and Track Movement,” we’ll be wrist-deep in fascia; identifying, influencing, and tracking canine myofascial movements.
The conference by the way, is an educational event that you, as a practitioner, a student, or a wannabe animal bodyworker, will surely want to attend. It is less than a month away. You can still register for it. https://www.nbcaam.org/conference
Since the lipomas, lumps and bumps are subcutaneous manifestations within the fascia, we need to understand what we can do with these disconcerting slippery globs of gunk. After my interpretation, I’ve included a couple of articles that define lipomas in more scientific terminology. They are at the bottom of this article.
WHAT IS FASCIA?
First, let’s define fascia. According to Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains, https://www.anatomytrains.com/product-category/books/ Fascia is “the biological fabric that holds us together, the connective tissue network. You are about 70 trillion cells — neurons, muscle cells, epithelia — all humming in relative harmony; fascia is the 3D spider web of fibrous, gluey, and Fasciawet proteins that binds them together in their proper placement.
‘Our biomechanical regulatory system is highly complex and under-studied — though new research is filling in the gap. Understanding fascia is essential to the dance between stability and movement — crucial in high performance, central in recovery from injury and disability, and ever-present in our daily life from our embryological beginnings to the last breath we take.”
Fascia is the tissue that makes up muscles, contains the bones, contains the muscle groups , encases the joints, surrounds the individual organs and organ systems, and is the matrix within which all of the neural messages flow. For the body to function, it’s disparate elements need to communicate with each other. The feet need to know what the eyes are seeing.
Fascia is constantly communicating – connecting with – articulating with – the fascia adjacent to it, near it, in its zone, in its pattern, as a function of being part of the whole.
Fascia is both the system and the support system. It has the functions of protective support. It’s a medium for relaying neural messages. It’s a filter. It’s the physical body’s reservoir of memories, past influences, experiences, and karmic lessons.
Lumps, bumps, lipomas. When I slide my fingers through the dog’s coat and feel a lump in the tissue beneath the skin, what I am palpating is more than a densely knotted tangle of fibers. Yes, it is a tumor; and the word “tumor” can be scary. Most often though, it’s just a confined dollop of fat. From my perspective, it’s a speed bump on the dog’s quality-of-life highway.
What does the dog need for optimal health, happiness, and quality of life? He/she requires good food and water, plenty of exercise, a secure and consistent environment, play, and love. Internally, it’s good circulation, optimal distribution and filtration of fluids, so that the dog’s sparkling life-force energy can flow effectively through the body.
Wherever there are aberrations in fascia, like lumps and bumps, the blood, and lymph, and chi that moves through it, cannot easily pass. That’s a conundrum.
They have two choices: stop, or find another way around. Stopping is stagnation. It’s the antithesis of smooth sailing wellness and life. Think of stickiness, tenacity, and stuckness. Fluids flow up against a dam. They build up, causing swelling, pressure, heat and pain.
Creating another way around is called developing collateral circulation. Intuitive body wisdom creates additional alternative cardiovascular and lymphatic vessels so the parts of its body beyond the obstruction, get the nourishment and attention they require.
The myofascial release applied in canine massage is effective in bringing the dog’s body’s awareness to the obstruction, thereby harnessing its natural tendency toward homeostasis. And then, facilitating its rediscovery of optimal function. Aka, Balance.
We can palpate and document the changes in the tissues. It is obvious when we feel lipomas soften, flatten, shift, slide, and shrink. Complete dispersion often takes several sessions.
Would you like to learn how to apply positional myofascial release for your dogs? Attend the aforementioned conference or the PetMassage Foundation Level Program Workshop.
Additional information: Here are a couple of articles.
WHAT IS A LIPOMA? https://www.1800petmeds.com/education/fatty-tumors-lipomas-dogs-48.htm
A fatty tumor (or lipoma) in dogs is one of several different types of skin tumors. It is a slow-growing collection of fat cells usually found just under the skin. Fatty tumors are different than normal fat because they form lumps rather than a flat layer under the skin.
Fatty tumors are benign, which means they are a group of cells that multiply without normal control but do not travel through the body (metastasize) or invade surrounding tissue. Even though fatty tumors are not destructive to other cells, they can cause health problems by growing so large they press on internal organs. Depending on where they develop, fatty tumors can interfere with your dog’s walking and movement. When fatty tumors interfere with movement, which is common when they grow between your dog’s front leg and body wall (in the axilla), friction can wear through the skin and infections can develop.
Key facts about fatty tumors in dogs and cats
- A fatty tumor (lipoma) is a soft, slow-growing swelling under the skin.
- Just because a lump in the skin is small does not mean it is innocent.
Infiltrative fatty tumors (lipomas)
Normally fatty tumors sit in a little pocket or fibrous case separated from surrounding tissues, but very rarely fatty tumors penetrate into the surrounding tissues, especially into muscle. This is an infiltrative fatty tumor. Although an infiltrative fatty tumor does not metastasize to other areas of the body, it is not as benign as a regular fatty tumor. Infiltrative fatty tumors, like regular fatty tumors, can develop in multiple locations on your pet.
Infiltrative fatty tumors usually do not feel like simple fatty tumors because they are firmer and are fixed to underlying tissues. They may also be painful because they interfere with muscle contraction. Some will cause lameness.
INFILTRATIVE LIPOMA IN DOGS https://m.petmd.com/dog/conditions/endocrine/c_dg_lipoma_infiltrative
Infiltrative lipoma is a variant tumor that does not metastasize (spread), but which is known to infiltrate the soft tissues, notably the muscles. It is an invasive, benign tumor composed of fatty tissue, and while it is known mainly for its penetration into muscular tissue, it is also commonly found in the fasciae (the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system), tendons, nerves, blood vessels, salivary glands, lymph nodes, joint capsules, and occasionally the bones. Muscle infiltration is often so extensive that surgery cannot be performed without severe consequences.
Infiltrative lipoma occurs much less frequently than does lipoma. When it does occur, it is usually in middle-aged dogs, and it tends to affect females more so than males. Labrador retrievers are suspected to be at higher risk.
SYMPTOMS AND TYPES
- Large, soft tissue mass
- Muscle swelling
- Infiltration of pelvic, thigh, shoulder, chest, and lateral cervical musculature (side of neck)
*There’s another definition of myo, that I find intriguing. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a mantra chanted in a sect of Buddhism that originated in Japan. The repeated vow, is an expression of determination to embrace and manifest our Buddha nature. It is a pledge to oneself to never yield to difficulties and to win over one’s suffering. At the same time, it is a vow to help others reveal this law in their own lives and achieve happiness.
The individual characters that make up Nam-Myoho-renge-kyo express key characteristics of this law…The Myo can be translated as mystic or wonderful, and ho means law. https://www.sgi.org/about-us/buddhist-concepts/the-meaning-of-nam-myoho-renge-kyo.html
Now consider “myo-fasciae” as the mystic or wonderful workings of the fascia!
Living the dream and including pets in Hospice care.
Living the dream. I recently overheard a fellow describing his job as “living the dream.” When he said it, he used air quotes. I sensed that he felt defeated. A meaningful vocation was beyond his imagination.
I too describe my life as “living the dream.” And, my dream is more than wishful thinking. My life is glorious.
Everyday is different, interesting, spiritually and emotionally fulfilling, and immensely gratifying. When I perform canine massage, my work enables the dogs in my care to feel and perform better. With each massage I get to help their owners resolve fears about their pets quality of life so they can more joyfully enjoy their dogs companionship. In workshops, and through my books, videos, and home study courses, I get to teach canine massage at the PetMassage School and help enthusiastic dog people who want to learn to massage their dogs and create successful careers massaging dogs in their communities.
Weekends are spent composing these “Jonathan’s Helpful Hints” blogs. There are now over 350 of them cached on the www.PetMassage.com site. Writing these articles gives me a way to continually reconsider what I consider to be valid and important.
Over the last 22 years I’ve taught hundreds of canine massage workshops. In every workshop, I learn something new. That’s how teaching keeps me refreshed in my skills, applications, and perspective. The PetMassage I practice and teach is as fresh and intoxicating today as it was back when I began. The dream I’m living* is about striving for self-awareness, self-fulfillment, and creative achievement; all, while doing good -and honorable- work, that benefits others.
The subject of this article is a program that I learned about during a discussion in a recent PetMassage Advanced Level workshop. https://petmassage.com/petmassage-advanced-level-program/ It’s a newly established program in Oregon that is having a profoundly powerful impact on the lives of people in hospice and their pets.
The program, as I understand it, recognizes the important role pets have in providing comfort and emotional support for people at their end of life. It addresses the needs of the pets by facilitating the pets healing relationships with their owners and making sure that they are cared for, as well.
For many people, their pets are their lifelines, their only intimate family. When they enter hospice, they are displaced from the familiar … and that includes their closest companion. In their new surroundings they may be lonely, scared, angry, weak, nauseous, and/or drifting in and out of consciousness. They may not want visitors to see them in this condition; however, they always welcome their pets. Their pets relate to them on a different frequency. Being themselves, they model complete presence. Their pets are a tonic. Being with them revives the feelings they’ve shared; of joy, pleasure, and familiarity. Their dogs and cats provide unconditional Love and Acceptance as only they can.
Dogs live for the pleasure they can give them; even if it’s simply moving close enough to be feebly stroked on the scruff of the neck. Cats might knock stuff off the bed and side tables onto the floor. For cats it’s all about Feng Shui. Clearing clutter off surfaces is a cat’s way of expressing love.
Pets are profoundly comforting. They accept their owners as they are; as they are becoming. No pretense. No judgement. No expectations. The presence of a loyal pet can be calming and comforting. When it’s integrated into the patient’s final experience, it can make the entire process gentler and more loving. With their pets by their side, their final “living the dream” moments move naturally into the slippery shift; shedding the physical body for spirit.
The program’s volunteers transport hospice patients’ pets from their homes to their hospital rooms, place them on the bed, and allow the magic to happen. The loving support, the companionship, the precious shared moments, provide a quality of solace that only pets have the capacity to provide.
When a grieving family is preoccupied with the one lying in a bed far removed, and absorbed in their own processing, this program helps the pets who may have been ignored, forgotten, and disregarded. These pets had been the patient’s closest family. They deserve to be included.
Volunteers help with veterinary and grooming care, daily exercise, feeding, boarding, and if they are unwanted by the patient’s family, re-homing. Pets who have spent their entire lives in loving caring homes can fulfill their needs and continue “living their dreams.”
The program provides training and support to hospice facilities. They spread their expressed mission of demonstrating compassion for surviving pets, their owners, their families, and hospice agencies. Part of their program is training hospice workers to expand the scope of their end-of-life care. It is so important and caring to include patient pets in the process. Everyone’s “living the dream.”
Here’s the link to find out more about this heartwarming nonprofit organization: www.petpeaceofmind.org. Please take a few minutes to watch the video on their “About” page and consider duplicating this service in your community.
Learn PetMassage techniques from the videos on the PetMassage Training and Research Institute YouTube channel.
This weekend, as you are searching for some meaningful entertainment on your mobile device, we invite you to visit our YouTube channel: PetMassage Training and Research Institute. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTLn7J2DR9LIwM1WzXu5B3w
Watch, share, laugh, learn, massage your dogs -and please subscribe.
Here’s an easy way to find it:
Visit our website at http://www.petmassage.com
Tap the little red YouTube arrow at the top of our homepage and it will take you there.
These are some of the 30+ short videos. Please take a few minutes to watch the Transitions video. It’s powerful and a good overview of the philosophy, practice and value of the canine massage that we teach at the PetMassage School.
- Time is Right for PetMassage
- Why Should You Massage Your Dog?
- Art and Essence of Canine Massage
- How Massaging Your Dog Helps You!
- Canine Massage is a Profession
- PetMassage Classroom Tour
- Canine Aquatic Massage WaterWork is PetMassage
- Massage with Dogs that Limp
- Massage for dogs to help with bad breath
- Dog Lips, The Flew
- Lethargic Dog Massage
- Massage in Canine Rehabilitation
- Massage for Dogs who get spring and summer allergies.
- Kennel Cough Helped with Massage
- You Got A New Puppy! Massage Time!
- Transitions (including End of Life Massage)
- How to Quiet Your Dog with Meditation
- PetMassage for Kids
- The PetMassage Assessment Stroke
- Keywords vs Key Actions
- Force Be with You – Stay Strong and Stable with Centered Awareness
- In PetMassage, Our Hands are our Primary Tools
- Hands to Paws: Application of Techniques for foreleg massage
- Prepare your hands before giving PetMassage
- Using your Elbows in Canine Massage
- Protect Yourself and Your Dog with Grounding & Clearing Your Energy Fields
- Massage Dog Lymphatics for Their Health and Happiness
- Tai Chi 8-Way Breathing in PetMassage
- Moving like a Potted Palm
- Canine massage on table vs floor
- PetMassage of The Thorax
- Massage skill: skin rolling