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.
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 https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=petmassage+training+and+research+institute. 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 https://petmassage.com/store/petmassage-for-dogs-1-and-2-dvd-set/. These 2 DVDs are part of the set of texts we include in the PetMassage Foundation Level Program https://petmassage.com/petmassage-workshops/petmassage-foundation-level-program/.
As I said, if you hear the calling, follow your passion. I look forward to helping you on your journey.
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
We are inundated with information. It’s coming from everywhere. The content is on so many subjects that it is overwhelming. It’s hard to know what’s true, what’s not; what’s relevant, and what’s inconsequential. It’s confusing and all consuming.
This morning during my meditation, I was unable to quiet my mind. Too many thoughts. Each time I reconnected to Center, bringing my attention back to breath, another crisis emerged. Australia on fire, war in the Middle East, crises in Eastern Europe, in France, in Africa, in India, in China, and in the US. My thought energy is scattered— fraught with anxiety – my resources are becoming depleted.
Mindful Whack-a-Mole is not helping anyone. It keeps my mind so busy I’m unavailable to have fresh creative interaction with my empathy and intuition.
The effectiveness of my intention depends on how focused and grounded I am.
Focus. Remember to stay grounded. I cannot pour from an empty cup. And I certainly cannot drink when the cup keeps moving.
Because of the exponential increase of all the distracting dissidence, it is now more important than ever to find a way to focus; to stay grounded, especially during my meditative times that I need to recharge and tap into my intuitive processes.
I experience a surreal meditative state while I am massaging dogs. When I am in “open state” I exist in another level; one where my receptivity to creative thought is heightened. I breathe. I move in my breath. I respond to the dog’s breath; their shifting nuanced expressions of claws, eyes, ears and coat.
But when I’m in a state of uber-stimulation, I catch myself slipping into thought. I’m responsible for the quality of life in the precious spirit in my hands. And yet, my mind is elsewhere.
Thoughts are powerful. When my psychic energy withdraws, I feel it. I am not participating. I’m filling time. Taking up space. Adrift. The dog feels it too. They turn, look, grow restless, and think about jumping off the table. It makes sense. If I’m not available, what’s the point of sticking around?
How do I restore my oneness of mind-body-spirit?
Spontaneous clearing. My hands are still on the dog and it takes but a moment, one breathing cycle, to regroup and recast the experience.
Here are two techniques that I find helpful.
- Visualize a clear path. Feel yourself moving easily along this path. Breathe and swallow. Swallowing is punctuation. It’s a conscious exclamation mark.
- Tantric yoga Cobra breathing reinforces your focus by intentionally following the cyclic motion of one contained breath. Again, you are focusing on staying on the path.
The cobra breath is a tantric breathing exercise. We use our breath to move kundalini energy. With our inhale it moves up from the root chakra at the base of the spine to the crown chakra at the crown of the head. And then with your exhale you return the energy back to the root chakra.
Cobra breath. Press your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Open your lips and breathe in through the spaces on either side of your tongue. It will make a slight hissing sound. Like a cobra.
With your inhale, pull the energy up from your tailbone and feel it flow up your spine. Feel it rush to the back of your head and around the top to the crown of your head.
Keep your tongue pressed on the roof of the mouth. As it transitions across the gap from the pineal gland in the middle of your brain to the back of your throat, swallow. Feel the pop of liquid pressure in your ears.
Slowly breathe out. Keep your tongue pressed on the roof of your mouth. Close your mouth and exhale through your nostrils. Follow the path of your energy breath as it flows down your neck, sternum, belly, and into your pubic bone. As it jumps across from your pubis to your coccyx, swallow. Notice how the shift in the pressures in your ears helps the breath dance across your peritoneum. Your breath moves up the Governing Vessel, leaps the gap to the Conception Vessel and completes the cycle, leaping back to the Governing Vessel.
With practice you will only need one breath to restore continuity. Caveat: the cobra breath does take quite a lot of practice to master.
These are two techniques that I use to stay grounded, connected, and receptive. When you find your attention wavering during meditation or canine massage, try them. Let me know if they help.
Also, let me know if you have any other ways that you use. Describe them in your Comments at https://petmassage.com/in-times-like-these-we-need-to-learn-conscious-grounding/
Other subscribers to this blog would love to learn how you overcome mindfulness distractions as well.
I love to massage dogs. Even more than massaging dogs, I love training and mentoring others to massage dogs. I envision the workshops we teach as vocational training. I have a vision of canine massage as a serious, respected, and professional career.
I’m thrilled that the concepts I introduce during workshops, along with the manual skills, have integrated into the practice of PetMassage graduates.
One of the concepts I proffer refers to dogs’ psychosocial relationships with their people. Dogs are phenomenally empathetic. They are so profoundly connected with their person that they may mirror their symptoms. The mirroring may not be virtually kidney for kidney; rather they feel the emotional responses to living through the trauma, the survival, the treatments, the complications, the whole “story.”
We often have to have heartfelt conversations with people to make them aware of how impactful their personal traumas are having on their dogs. We remind them that every time they replay their tape in their conversations or in their minds their dogs experience it as if it were their story.
The 3 Gates of speech apply to our dogs as well as people. Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.
- Is it true?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind (to yourself and the ones hearing you)?
For my final “Jonathan’s Helpful Hints” blog of 2019, I’d like to share a holiday greeting we sent to our graduates and one of the responses we received. We are all members of a community of like-spirited, like-intentioned people. It represents the kind of continuing connection we strive to maintain with graduates of the PetMassage program.
It’s the end of the year. For me, it’s a time of reflection, gratitude, and connecting with people who have become special to me.
Thank you again for choosing PetMassage for your canine massage training. Please let us know how your practice is progressing. We are always available to talk and be your mentor resource.
Have a healthy, loving, and purpose filled holiday and new year.
Thank you for the holiday greeting. I am doing GREAT!!! 20+ clients for laser, a couple of whom have morphed into ongoing massages.
I just engaged with a herding dog – schnauzer/mix, female 12 years old whose owner has, in the last 18 months had a broken knee, breast cancer, broken hip and depression. We discussed how the poor dog has gone through everything the owner went through and then some. The pooch is untrusting (she spent 5 weeks with a pet sitter who had a bunch of construction workers through her home – it was not good). She is afraid, she doesn’t know her place and she’s very tentative of strangers.
I did all the right stuff: I sat and let her come to me as she wished . . . eventually, she settled enough for me to begin the massage . . . I checked and balanced the chakras as best I could (there are still a couple of blockages, but we will address them in future sessions). The owner was mesmerized and SO grateful for my assistance with Ashley.
This is the stuff of which your massage training is made! Thank you for your expertise and your continued education via videos and emails.
Have a great holiday season and stay in touch!
Many of the dogs I massage are “1 and done” clients. They get one massage. They are happy. They make the course corrections they need. And, I may not see them again for several years. I’ve learned to accept and trust the process.
Not all bodywork can be completed in 1 or 2 sessions. Many dogs require a series of massages. It may take a couple of sessions just for the dog to understand what’s going on and to develop feelings of sense of trust and safety. These are essential for effective bodywork. The treatment plan has each massage continuing and expanding on the massages that preceded it.
Buddy is a senior dog client who was extremely anxious throughout his first 2 sessions. There were occasional moments of connection-and they were sublime; but the main theme of these sessions was table shaking apprehension, confusion, and holding onto discomfort.
In sessions 3 and 4 Buddy began to trust. He was more comfortable with me and the clinic environment. Noticeably less apprehensive, noticeably more compliant, he began to connect the quality of his comfort after his massage to the massage itself.
At his 5th session, Buddy walked to the table and looked up, asking to be lifted onto the massage table. He had moved past the conditions of tolerance and willingness. He was at wanting! Throughout his massage he expressed appreciation and cooperation. He lifted his legs up for me to work on them. When he anticipated that I wanted to massage his other side, he stood up and shifted his position. He permitted me to touch areas on his spine that he had previously been guarding. Big loopy circles. That’s the description of how his tail moved.
Before and after each session, I observe dogs’ gait and demeanor while walking them back and forth across the room.
At the conclusion of Session 6, Buddy was so happy he continued to trot back and forth on his own. He was showing everyone how good he felt and how well he could move.
This is a dog who will benefit with continuing massage to maintain a good quality of life.
I was so moved that I posted a short video of his post-massage prance on my Facebook page. It’s also on the PetMassage.com website page https://petmassage.com/category/petmassage-blog/jonathans-helpful-hints/. Notice how elated he is, smiling back at us over his shoulder, tail spinning around like a propeller.
A Facebook Friend from Hong Kong commented, “And your new video about Buddy is truly heartwarming. God bless you and your work.”
I responded, “Thank you. Buddy has had 6 sessions so far. His first 2 were high in fear and anxiety. He shook nervously throughout the massages. Now, in the car on the way to a session, as soon as he realizes where he’s going, he gets excited. He runs from the car to our front door. By the time he enters the PetMassage clinic, he has already begun the stress-relieving process in his mind. He’s easy to keep on the massage table now. He just keeps grinning at me and wagging his tail in glee.”
I feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to help dogs with massage. The emotions I feel are indescribable. I encourage you to use massage to help your dogs, and experience the joy that I get to feel! That’s an amazing holiday gift!
We’ve created a collection of heartfelt instructional videos for you that are on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=petmassage+training+and+research+institute. If you find value in them, please let us know. “Like” them. Use them. “Share” them with your friends and clients. “Comment” about them.
Are you at the “Wanting” point for PetMassage instruction DVDs, books, and home study courses? Order from our website https://petmassage.com/shop/ and get free shipping in the US until January 10, 2020.
Are you “Wanting” to take a workshop? Take advantage of the big discounts we are offering as part of our drive https://petmassage.com/store/1500-level/ to accumulate funds to install a new canine aquatic massage therapy pool. Note the $1500 level.