Relaxed Knees

By PetMassage | December 9, 2020 |

Full Title: Relaxed Knees

Author: Rosemarie Hughes

Date of Publication: December 8, 2020


Research Paper Text:

This paper will explore why a person would want to work with “soft” versus “locked” knees. I’ll be discussing the benefits of keeping your knees relaxed as well as what can happen if you work with them tensed or stiff. I’ll also be taking a look at some information that states it’s not necessarily bad to “lock” the knees.

When I went through training to be a massage therapist in 1993 there was quite a lot of talk about “body mechanics”. I must have paid attention to what they had to say because 27 years later I’m still a body worker and have very few aches or pains. I recall things being said like,”While massaging the client keep your knees flexed and shift your weight between the lead and trailing foot as needed to maintain balance.” (Brothers, 2018, 7 Principles of Highly Effective Massage Therapy Body Mechanics. Retrieved from But perhaps the words of wisdom that stuck with me the most was the profoundly simple, “Work smarter not harder”, which I just learned originated in the 1930s by industrial engineer Allen F. Morgenstern. He was the creator of the work simplification program that was intended to increase the ability of people to produce more with less effort.

Prior to my hearing such phrases in the world of body workers I had also been told similar things regarding knees by the U.S. Army. I was in basic training in 1988 and besides shouting at us to, “Drink Water!” the drill sergeants were also loudly instructing us, “Do NOT lock your knees!” To illustrate just how serious they are regarding the knees, here’s a somewhat humorous passage from the book, Basic Training for Dummies, “Warning: If you don’t remember anything else, do not forget to unlock your knees when you’re participating in stationary drill. Bend your knees just enough so that it is not visible that you’re doing so but enough to allow the blood to flow smoothly through your legs. Failing to unlock your knees will impede the blood flow to your brain so that, after a time (and you will find that stationary drill in the military often requires you to stand still for long periods), you’ll grow faint and pass out. It’s not a pleasant experience to suddenly find yourself abruptly kissing the asphalt of a parade grinder or the steel of a ship’s deck.” (Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2011, Understanding Stationary Drill, from Basic Training for Dummies. Retrieved from

According to the American Chiropractic Association, there are several factors to physically standing properly including bearing your weight primarily on the balls of your feet and keeping your knees slightly bent. Through the years, I have found that keeping my knees soft when working, along with proper foot placement, gives me a sense of grounded strength and stability. Keeping one’s body loose and relaxed assists with the easy flow of energy, that might otherwise block Chi. Related to Chi and energy flow, I’ve also heard talk about “locking knees” in the world of yoga.

During various yoga classes in which I’ve participated, I recall being told that I actually should lock my knees. “Locking the knee is NOT jamming your knee back as far as you can and trying to balance on it.” “There are 4 muscles in the quadricep femoris muscle group in the front of your leg. The one that is hardest to “turn on” is the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) on the inside of the leg just above the knee.  Its job is to extend the length of the thigh and to stabilize the patella (knee cap) so your knee tracks correctly. The VMO muscle is a common centre of weakness in many people because it will not become fully strengthened unless the leg is regularly extended fully.  It becomes more fully activated when the knee is at a greater angle, especially when the leg is completely extended.” (Birkram Yoga Brookvale, Why Locking the Knee is so important in Bikram Yoga. Retrieved from Understandably, this led to some confusion which I came to realize was an issue of semantics.

I had previously understood locking knees to mean making them stiff and hyperextended.“ The word ‘lock’ implies making something fixed.  Movement is dynamic, and while we need to be stable, we are not looking to overly grip on any joints, but for a balanced muscle activation.  What we do look for in many Pilates exercises, is a full extension of the knees – an active drawing upward of the kneecap toward the hip bone. Working or standing with locked or hyper-extended knees brings that joint aligned slightly behind the ideal line with gravity, putting compressive stress and wearing down of the joint. Long term, a major ligament, commonly referred to as the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), responsible for nearly 100% of your knee stability is weakened.  In general, every time you hyperextend the knee, you are compromising yourself to injury. (Embody Movement Pilates Studio Blog, 2015. A Locked Knee is Not Secure. Retrieved from 

Edward Mohr, LMT conducted a field study that focused on testing the strength capability of 18 massage therapists. The results show that stacking and locking joints and properly transferring body weight allows massage therapists to achieve the same amount of pressure while decreasing the amount of effort needed. (Note: for individuals with lax knee joints, do not hyperextend the knee when “locking” the knee). (American Massage Therapy Association. Work Smarter, Not Harder: Body Mechanics for Massage Therapists. (2014). Retrieved from I also found studies that said things like, “People with hyperextension of the knees need to retrain what “straight” feels like and learn to not go to their “bony end-point”. They don’t get the pleasure of standing with a “locked out” knee. When the knee is locked it is very stable ligament-wise and it is easy to stand with little to no muscles needed. Keeping your knees “soft” takes some muscular work, including core work, and it’s hard to remember.” (Herman, 2017, Knee Hyperextension: Its All In Your Mind! Retrieved from

As I stated earlier, if there’s a discrepancy, it seems to be a matter of semantics. Be extra careful if you have a tendency to hyperextend? Of course. Stabilize the patella so your knee tracks correctly while holding yoga poses? Definitely. But I think it would also be helpful to use different words instead of summing all these different movements up as “locking”.

When it comes to soft vs. locked knees for bodyworkers, however, I agree with yoga practitioner, Maren Hunsberger, “If you lock your knee joint when standing, the ball and socket of the joint is forced ever so slightly out of place, usually overextended backward. In the long term, this can damage the joint cartilage and lead to aching, creaky, and even arthritic knees.” (Hunsberger, Ask A Yogi: Is Locking the Knees in Yoga Poses a Bad Thing? Retrieved from

Works cited

Giordano, C. How to Work Harder, Smarter, and Better: Quotes From Famous People on Work. (2020). Tough Nickel. Retrieved from

American Chiropractic Association. Maintaining Good Posture. Retrieved from 


American Massage Therapy Association. Work Smarter, Not Harder: Body Mechanics for Massage Therapists. (2014). Retrieved from

The Trager Approach

By PetMassage | December 9, 2020 |

Full Title: The Trager Approach

Author: Dawn Shiffman

Date of Publication: December 8, 2020


Research Paper Text:

The Trager approach was developed by Milton Trager, MD. He began to develop his approach when he was 18. The idea behind the approach was to rediscover the ease of movement in our bodies similar to when we were children. The sessions involve a mind body approach in which gentle movements, stretching and rocking can bring a client back to a feeling of wellbeing.

The body holds onto pain both mentally and physically.  This is our way to protect ourselves and move on post trauma. Muscle tension, pain, stress and poor gait patterns are just a few survival methods developed post injury and can be corrected by using the Trager approach. As a therapist, we must be aware of these tension patterns and help guide our clients to release them during their journey to recovery.

How does the Trager approach apply to dogs?  I’m really not sure but I did have  a “light bulb” moment while reading an article about Trager.  One of the techniques Trager uses is called “taking out the slack.”  He is referring to the skin as slack and how to avoid just sliding over the skin and moving it around.  As you move the skin gently but firmly, you are preparing the body to be able to reach the deeper tissues.  I am reminded of myofascial release while reading about the taking out the slack method and how many emotions can be released with such a gentle intended movement.  The fascia that is connecting the skin to the underlying tissues webs throughout the body and affects muscles, blood vessels, nerves and even organs.  When the fascia is released it can be felt throughout the body because of its far-reaching nature. Once the slack is out of the skin, gentle rocking and stretching can occur. The stretching consists of gentle methodical movement which allows the stretch to lengthen with each movement.

I decided to give the Trager approach a try on my neighbor’s dog.  Her name is Piper and she is a mixed breed that the owners believe is part Beagle and Labrador Retriever.  When Piper was a young puppy, she was very excited to see me and ran into a fence while trying to come to me. She fractured all of her metacarpals in her front right paw.  I have never heard a puppy cry as much as Piper did that night.  To say the least it was a traumatic event for a puppy and I was there for the entire healing process.  During one of my PetMassage sessions with Piper, I tried to help her release some of those terrible memories that have surely caused her pain and gait dysfunction for years.  I was steady with my breathing and tried to rid my mind of her accident. My intentions went immediately to her shoulder and I started with taking out the slack.  She and I were very much in harmony as I stretched and rocked her affected arm. I do believe she improved with work to her shoulder and paw. Piper is usually guarded with any touch to her paw.  As I massaged, she let me work between each pad, through her wrist and on up to her shoulder without any resistance.  Obviously a dog can’t tell you how they are feeling after a session but Piper  did make it quite obvious that she appreciated it. She rolled onto her side, gave me a quick kiss and refused to get off my table.

In conclusion, dogs and humans are deeply affected by touch.  The Trager approach can be another tool in your toolbox for both if you see value in it.  The Trager approach is a gentle, methodical technique that can deeply affect a life for the better and create balance at the same time.


Juhan, Deane. “Taking Out the Slack.” Trager International, 2020, Accessed 25 October 2020.

My personal vision for providing the best integrative care alternatives for our dogs is shared and supported.

By Anastasia Rudinger | December 3, 2020 |

Request for donations for new indoor PetMassage hydrotherapy pool.

By Jonathan Rudinger | December 3, 2020 |


I’m requesting small favor from you. If you are comfortable donating $5, $10, $25, or more, please help us fund the installation of the new PetMassage hydrotherapy pool.

The new pool will be installed in the PetMassage school/clinic in Toledo Ohio and will be a valuable training, and wellness resource for area dogs who

  • need exercise to burn off excess enthusiasm
  • are athletes
  • are rehabbing from injuries or surgery
  • have joint stiffness
  • need to lose weight
  • are in hospice.

It will also be the state-of-the-art pool for Canine Aquatic PetMassage vocational training workshops.

Our goal is $40,000. That’s the amount we need to prepare the PetMassage building and install the pool. Please help us. We’d like to install the pool January, 2021. That’s just 2 months from now!

I invite you to learn more about the PetMassage Natatorium.

Here’s a [link] to a PDF you can download that describes the pool project.

If you are uncomfortable opening these links, please call, text, or email me. We’d be happy to talk to you and mail information about the PetMassage pool project to you.

When you donate your $5, $10, $25 on our website at [link] your name or company will be inscribed as a sponsor on the wall of the PetMassage Natatorium. Or choose from one of our 6 gift categories.

There is a running total of the amount raised on the website. Please follow it with us to watch it grow.

Thank you.

We wish Happy Healthy Holidays to you and your pets.

Jonathan Rudinger
PetMassage Institute
2950 Douglas Road
Toledo Ohio 43606
Call or text 01.419.475.3539

Wishbones: more than you probably wanted to know.

By Jonathan Rudinger | November 25, 2020 |

We humans have an innate need to have some sense of control of our futures. We believe that with focus and intention we can influence the making of our dreams to come true. We believe in Karma. We believe in the power of prayer, affirmations, goal setting, and plans of action.

The act of wishing is valuable in itself. Wishing, choosing what to wish for, helps us define what we want. When our goals are definable, they are attainable.

And, once a year, we allow our hopes and dreams to ride on the snap of the clavicle of a toasted turkey. The wishbone.

So what exactly is a wishbone? And, does a dog have one?

The wishbone is a forked bone found in birds and some other animals. The Latin term for the shape of the wishbone is furcula, which means “little fork.” It is formed by the fusion of the two clavicles.

What’s a clavicle?

The clavicle in mammals is part of the axial skeleton. It’s a doubly curved short bone that connects the arm (upper limb) to the body (trunk). Its location is directly above the first rib. Place your thumb and forefinger around the base of your neck and the bones you feel when you press downward are your clavicles. They’re also known as “collar bones”.

Medially, it articulates with the manubrium of the sternum (top of the breast-bone) at the sternoclavicular joint. At its lateral end it articulates with the acromion of the scapula (shoulder blade) at the acromioclavicular joint.

The clavicle in mammals serves several functions. It serves as a rigid support from which the scapula and free forelimb are suspended. This arrangement has the function of keeping the upper limb away from the thorax (ribcage) so that the arm has maximum range of movement. Acting as a flexible crane-like strut, the clavicle allows the scapula to move freely on the thoracic wall. Its surface features are attachment sites for muscles and ligaments of the shoulder.

In birds, its primary function is in the strengthening of the thoracic skeleton to withstand the rigors of flight. The furcula works as a strut between a bird’s shoulders, and articulates to each of the bird’s scapulae (shoulder blades). In conjunction with the coracoid and the scapula, it forms a unique structure called the triosseal canal, which houses a strong tendon that connects the supracoracoideus muscles to the humerus. This system is responsible for lifting the wings during the recovery stroke.

Dogs don’t fly; so, they don’t have a furcula.

Most mammals have at least a vestigal remnant of a clavicle, although it is in varying degrees of development. The reason some animals have either a reduced or no clavicle is that this bone supports muscles used in climbing. If the animal doesn’t climb, it doesn’t use it, doesn’t need it, and it devolves.

Climbers like cats do have clavicles. So do squirrels, monkeys and humans. We all need the bones to support the muscles useful in climbing trees. We can also rotate our limbs (especially forelimbs) outward to help grasp tree trunks and limbs. So, animals that can climb trees have clavicles.

Dogs really can’t climb trees! Do dogs have any remnants or versions of clavicles?

Animals that run, like horses and dogs, really don’t have a need for a clavicle or the support it provides. They have a “floating shoulder.” This improves running efficiency because once the shoulder blade is no longer restrained by the clavicle, it can act almost like an extra limb segment.

The vestigial remnants of dogs clavicles are about the size and shape of buttons and function as sites for muscle attachment. Dogs are designed for speed.

Do dogs wish on wishbones too? At them, or for them, not on them. Lying at your feet under the Thanksgiving table, you can be sure that your dogs are living in the moment without the control issues that we have. They don’t envision needing a bigger crate or more toys. They are simply present; tantalized by the aromas of the feast above and willing with all their might that something -anything- will drop.

Designed, yes; functioning and motivated? As you lock eyes with your dog under the table, you think, “Yeah, at eating.”

As you grasp the turkey wishbone this Thanksgiving holiday dinner, and express your gratitude for the prosperity you are creating, and your friends and loved ones, please know that everyone at The PetMassage School includes you in their prayers. Thank you for your continued interest in, and passion for, canine massage.

What happens in Vegas.

By Jonathan Rudinger | October 27, 2020 |

What happens in Vegas. We’ve all heard (or said), “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Or New York, or Chicago, or Miami, or —-. Canine massage is not like that. What happens on the table (except if the dog is incontinent) doesn’t stay on the table. It stays with, and becomes, part of who the dog is.

Do you remember that time when you had that heart-to-heart conversation with someone you were getting to know. It was that evening when you began sharing confidences at dinner. You only noticed the time when the brightening sky transformed the ambiance of the room. It was a new day. You two had talked until dawn.

The conversation was all-consuming. It was alive. Organic. You listened. You shared. You were heard. You understood and were understood. Your worth was recognized. Appreciated. You realized that you had the capacity to let down your guard and connect deeply with another. To love.

You may not remember what you talked about or even who you were with; it was the experience of it that stays with you.

Canine massage is that focused. That intense. That immersive. That personal. That open. With that depth of sharing. With that candor. With that intimacy. That level of trust.

That night, building on who you thought you were, your self-awareness expanded to include new insights. These memories will become part of the fabric of your inner-garments. They will influence all your future relationships. They, and variations of them, will randomly surface for the rest of your life. Hundreds of times. This one night was an event that changed your life’s course.

This is how dogs experience massage.

Intentional touch, and its potential to do good, is the mainstay of massage. Every touch elicits a response. A response is an acknowledgement. A reaction. That reaction might be acceptance, with a lick, a look, or softening. It might be resistance, with bracing, lowered ears, or raised lip. It might be repulsion, with pulling away, turning, grasping the table surface with claws, or tensing. It might be suspicion, with quicker respiration, tightly closed mouth, wide eyes with whale eyes, the white sclera visible. It might even be disregarding, seemingly ignoring, non-acknowledgement. There is always a response.

Each response is a cycle.
1. the inhalation of the essence of the pressure into the body; and
2. an exhalation that chooses how to respond and integrate it.

Are the effects transitory? Are they limited to singular moments of transference and transition?

The touch of massage flips dogs’ internal mind and body toggle switches. It adjusts their little knobs, opens passageways, redirects traffic, and turns processes on, then off, then on again, like updating your phone. Dogs signal that they feel it. They recognize it. They own it. Each of their massages, like your special night, enables them to become expanded versions of themselves. Optimized.

Their life’s compilation of unique and meaningful experiences now includes their canine massage insights. Massage enables dogs to become enhanced versions of themselves, newly formatted, redirected, moving into their new life. It’s a new day.

What happens on the massage table doesn’t stay on the massage table. It stays with and becomes, a tiny facet of who the dog is.

Each canine massage I give is a special, life-changing event for the dog.

By Anastasia Rudinger | October 27, 2020 |

Fascia, scar tissue and holding patterns

By PetMassage | October 26, 2020 |

Full Title: Fascia, scar tissue and holding patterns

Author: Alice Reynolds

Date of Publication: May 23, 2016


Research Paper Text:

Scar tissue is the fibrous, connective tissue that forms after a strain as the body attempts to repair a torn muscle. This forms a haphazard pattern over the injury as the muscle tries to join the torn fibres together. Scar tissue is not the same as the tissue it replaces. It is tough and fibrous and not as flexible as muscle tissue. Therefore, scar tissue can reduce the muscle’s flexibility and range of motion and increase the risk of re-strain, unless the scar tissue is broken down and remodeled.

Because the new, tough, fibrous type of connective tissue lays down after a muscle is torn after a strain, the body needs to repair itself. This can take from one week to three months, depending on the grade of strain. Because of the holding process, many dogs will be diagnosed as having arthritis. The dog seems old and lame overnight. This orthopedic condition has become a blanket term for lameness in dogs.

Once one area is injured, the dog will overcompensate. Often a dog will be treated for front right lameness, but the issue is actually on the back left.

A strain with scar tissue will also result in compensatory issues. One injury can result in a host of problems and become a cyclical issue. The detection of scar tissue lies in the art of muscle isolation and palpation.

Tissue is not mindless. Tissue is full of sensations, feelings and old memories. In fact fascia has more sensory nerves than any other tissue in the body. So, as you release fascia, you are waking up the body’s sensations. Moving from the past to the present. Underneath most of our myofascial holding patterns is repressed emotional trauma. Emotional trauma is held in the soft tissue of the body.

By relaxing muscles and reducing tension, massage frees the pattern where the unconscious feeling is being held. Once the tension is gone, the unconscious mind loses its grasp and an emotion may emerge.

Holding patterns may be the result of a dog compensating for a past injury or they may be caused by past emotional trauma. If a dog experiences change, uncertainty, fear or pain, he will armor himself for protection. As part of the sympathetic nervous system, fight or flight mechanism, the muscle will brace in flexion, the breath is held, digestion stops, self-restrictive postures, such as slinking, crouching and cowering are implemented, reducing oxygenation, circulation and overall flexibility. Holding patterns affect the unconscious way muscles are held in emotional or physical situations. Therapeutic massage, such as Petmassage TM, helps to re-educate the muscle memory held in a dog’s body, allowing for more freedom of movement and new choices in which to move, behave and respond.

Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt , L.M.T. states in his book Canine Massage A Complete Reference Manual, “This stretching and softening will help release muscle tension, contractures, trigger points, stress points and spasms, eventually breaking down scar tissue.”

Canine Massage Guild Case Study: Buddy the Sheltie

Buddy, an 8 year old Sheltie, lost his footing in an agility tunnel, flipped over and exited on his back. He was taken to a physiotherapist who recommended x-rays. No injury was found. After courses of Metacam and Loxicom had finished, he was no better.

A year later he was given a superficial palpation. Extensive scar tissue was found from strains along the muscles that run down each side of his spine and signs of a strain to one of his gluteal muscles. Three massage sessions within a three to five week period was recommended.

Buddy was running on walks and playing like a puppy after his first session. After the second session he was playing chase with the other family dogs and jumping on the sofa and bed. He now goes on long walks and happily trots along under his own steam.

This wonderful story of Buddy, his injury and scar tissue recovery, including a video taken after his first massage session, can be seen on the Canine Massage Guild website. Go to the blog Canine Massage – A case Study.




Sources   – Canine Massage – A Case Study Catriona Dickson – Canine Massage Clinic – Canine Massage Therapy Centre Worcestershire UK

Biodynamic Breath and Trauma Release Institute – Satyarthi Peloquin – Working with Emotional Trauma in Bodywork Sessions – Cathy Ulrich Freedom for Feelings – Therapeutic Bodywork and Energy Healing

Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT – Canine Massage A Complete Reference Manual

I lead dogs through paths that have never been trod. We go on easy, loving journeys.

By Anastasia Rudinger | October 16, 2020 |

Canine massage is therapy for dogs’ minds and spirits.

By Jonathan Rudinger | October 16, 2020 |

The more I practice canine massage, the more I appreciate that there is so much more that I am influencing than the anatomical nuts and bolts, fluid dynamics, and interdependent physiological systems.

Touch, no matter how structured and clinical, also therapeutically influences the functioning of mind and spirit too.

Dysfunction is always a result of the body’s response to stress and stressors. The stress may be in the form of a disease, a break or a tear. It could also be from the memories associated with long-healed physical injuries and forgotten and buried psychological ones.

This softer, energy-based attribute fascinates me. I write about it so often because this is what winds my clock.

Mind and spirit responses cannot be measured or predicted as they might be in double-blind studies. They are subjective. They can only be felt and/or interpreted from observation. They are unique to the time and place and situation for this dog.

What are the felt and/or subjective observations? Owners describe how their dog’s quality of life is better when they get massage compared to when they don’t. Their dogs are happier. Their dogs must feel better, because they are more alert, more present, more interactive, more affectionate.

Every massage transcends dogs’ physical channels and pathways that we can see and feel. Our experience -the dogs and mine-happens in and through mysterious intra-, epi-, ultra-, and supra-dimensional pathways. This is what students learn in PetMassage workshops.