Case Study – Settling the Anxious Dog with Massage

By PetMassage | February 17, 2022 |

Full Title: Case Study – Settling the Anxious Dog with Massage

Author: Danielle Wagener, RVT

Date of Publication: February 16, 2022


Research Paper Text:

Before starting my paper, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Danielle and I am a registered veterinary technician that has been working in the emergency field for approximately 4 years. I signed up for the PetMassage Foundation Level Course for several reasons – the first of which involved, my recent rekindled desire to further my career in holistic medicine and secondly to help heal my personal anxiety. I felt that a journey going through the PetMassage training process would be a great means to help quell my anxiety and for me to learn to be the source of calm for animals. Because in truth, how can you calm and settle another soul’s anxiety, if you are the most anxious one in the room. Thus, that is why I started my journey in PetMassage – I want to help the body heal itself in more natural ways and I want to heal myself along this journey. The research paper topic that Jonathan requested of me really fits into what I need to go through to better myself as a PetMassage practitioner, as well as a person. This paper revolves around working with dogs that have cases of anxiety and my journey of helping calm them through the massage process. I feel that I have found 3 cases in particular that I believe fall into the category of anxious, uncomfortable dogs. I will give a brief description of each of these dogs, describe my initial massage and their response, as well as their growth related to their follow-up massage.

Massage Session #1
Date: 9/14/21
Duration: 25-minute massage

Note: Muzzle used per owner request.

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: When Kira and her owner arrived at the clinic, I greeted Kira’s owner first while in mountain pose and focusing on my breath. During this time, I kept my eyes on her owner and above Kira while we discussed the massage process and the owner’s concerns. While we were talking, Kira had a very guarded stance and was pulling the owner with her leash. Kira’s body language signs included; having her ears down, keeping her head low, and having her hackles slightly raised. Due to this, I acknowledged Kira while remaining calm and made her sit. I then continued to talk to her owner. After our discussion, Kira’s owner placed a muzzle on her and we went outside, so I could observe Kira while she was being walked. During the owner’s assessment walk, I watched Kira closely, while in mountain pose to determine how her gait was and how she responded to her owner. Kira appeared to have some tenderness in her right hind leg and she, as her owner previously claimed, was at a constant pull during their walk. Afterwards, I took lead of Kira for our assessment walk. When our walk began, Kira started to pull almost instantly and was not interested in me taking the lead. Thus, I remembered to keep my breathing relaxed and my heart calm and began to lead with my hips while remaining in a tall stance. After around two to three minutes, Kira began to relax a bit and after several laps around the clinic and numerous correction touches, she allowed me to fully take lead on our walk. After Kira established me as the leader of the walk, we continued to walk for around 5 minutes before I brought her back inside the clinic for the massage.

Massage: After our walk, I lead Kira into the exam room that I perform my massages in – she seemed much calmer after our walk and her establishing me as the leader. When we reached the exam table, I slowly knelt toward Kira to pick her up. I placed one arm around the base of her neck and the other under her abdomen – since she does not like her hind end being touched and I picked her up. She flailed around some, but ultimately she allowed me to place her onto the table. Once Kira got onto the table she began to act anxious, started breathing heavily and salivating through her muzzle, and began to whine. In response, I placed my hands on her and began to focus on my breathing and calm my heart rate. We sat in silence together for 2-3 minutes before she began to relax and acknowledge my touch. In response, I began to perform vectoring. Kira remained calm and did not try to jump off the table during my vectoring – but she did show some adverseness during my hip to hip vectoring position. During this time, she turned back to me quickly and may have snapped at me if her muzzle was not in place. After my vectoring, I continued to the assessment stroke portion of my massage. During each pass of my assessment strokes, I felt that Kira was more willing to allow me to perform them. She did not growl at me during the hind-end portion of the strokes, but she did tense up slightly. During my strokes, I felt that her lumbar vertebrae were very warm and her muscles surrounding them were quite tense. Thus, I knew that would be an area that I would put extra attention to. After my assessment strokes, I continued to the next portion of my massage, but due to Kira’s earlier adverse reaction to her hind end being touched, I decided that I would start my massage at her head and slowly introduce my techniques caudally to get her further accustomed to my touch, before I would finally reach her hind end. In addition, since this was our first massage experience together, I decided to limit the number of my techniques at first, so I could scope how she would respond to my touch and if her response was positive I would continue to perform more. The first technique that I performed on Kira’s head was using my thumbs to smooth across the center of her face to her ears. I performed this in a slow, yet firm repeated motion. Kira appeared to enjoy it very much. I then continued with thumb walking around her eyes. Kira in response pushed into me during this technique – like she was asking me to continue performing it – so I repeated the technique several times. Afterwards, I began to work on Kira’s ears. I massaged her ear flaps, pulled on her ears, and applied firm pressure with my fingers at the base of her ears. I then applied pressure to her shock points, which Kira in response, got quite excited and I had to calm her by placing my arms around her for a few moments before she stopped moving around rapidly. Due to Kira wearing a muzzle and the limited techniques I could perform because of such, I decided to continue to the neck portion of her massage. I first performed joint mobilization of her neck, by placing my mother hand at the base of her skull and gently placing my other hand around her mouth. Kira had a slight aversion to me taking control of her head. So, I assured her by holding in stillness with her for a few moments and then slowly continuing the stretch. I first stretched her neck laterally and then in an upward and downward motion – she in time allowed me to perform this technique without any resistance. Afterwards, I decided to perform positional release on her neck area and she continued to remain calm. I then performed skin rolling on her neck and eventually frictioning. She did not show any signs of aversion during that time. I then continued to the thoracic portion of my massage, I started with skin rolling around her thorax – which she seemed to relax to, and then I ran my fingers up and down her rib cage – between her ribs, and I performed cupping. I felt that due to Kira being jumpy earlier that I would start only with a minimal amount of cupping. When I began to cup, she responded poorly by growling, so I decided to perform this technique very slowly and after a short amount of time, she began to get accustomed to it. Soon after, I began to work on her shoulders and forelegs. Kira’s owner previously discussed with me that her forelegs have been experiencing minor popping. Because of this, I wanted to spend an extra few minutes determining where it was occurring in her forelegs. The first techniques that I performed, included stroking and frictioning along Kira’s left shoulder and foreleg to bring blood flow to the area – I performed these in both parallel and perpendicular directions. I then performed compression to each portion of the shoulder and foreleg and repeated on the other side. Finally, I decided that it was time to stretch Kira’s forelegs and determine how her mobility was, and possibly determine where the questioned popping noise was coming from. Thus, I picked up Kira’s left foreleg to begin the exercise, Kira in response, was slightly adverse to me picking up her leg and she pulled it back immediately and growled. I then continued to breathe with my hands on her arm and attempted the technique again. She in response, allowed me to hold her leg, we sat in stillness for a few moments, and I then stretched her foreleg forwards and backwards within its range of motion, during this time I noticed there was a slight clicking noise coming from her elbow. I repeated the stretch on her other foreleg and observed the same sound from her right elbow as well. I also compressed her humerus into her scapula as well on both forelegs. After these techniques, I began to work further down her left foreleg at her carpus, when I first attempted to grab per paw, Kira looked at me quickly and began to act uncomfortable. So I again sat with her in stillness for a few moments and decided to massage the top portion of her paw to get her accustomed to me handling her paws. She then allowed me to grab her paw and I performed compression, and frictioning on that area, as well as joint mobilization. Afterwards, I tried to massage her toes and her webbing, she tensed up some for a moment, but ultimately allowed me to massage her paw pads as well. I then repeated all techniques on her other forepaw. Immediately after, I continued to the spinal portion of her massage. The first technique that I performed was something I knew that Kira would enjoy and that was skin rolling. Kira, like I thought responded very well with it. Afterwards, I performed positional release and frictioning along her spine – but I began to notice the further I went down her spine the tenser she became. I was unsure if it was because of the anxiety of her hind end being touched or it was another issue entirely. Because of this, I tried to be extra cautious of this area – while still giving it the attention it needed. Other techniques that I performed included; scratching along her spine with my hands in a claw form, with my knuckles, and with my thumbs and heavy raindrops. She seemed to really enjoy both and she began to relax tremendously. Due to her relaxing, I decided to slowly work along her spine again with stroking until I reached her tail. Afterwards, I attempted to massage along her tail, which she was slightly uncomfortable with, but in the end, allowed me to do. After performing my massage techniques on all other portions of Kira’s body – I felt like it was the moment of truth. Thus, I began the hip and hindleg portion of her massage, but due to the tenseness related to her hind end being handled, I chose not to perform joint mobilization or any techniques related to picking up her hindlegs – I decided to slowly introduce my techniques and during our next visit – attempt to fully handle her hindlegs. The first technique that I performed involved slowly stroking on her hind leg, I started from her hip and slowly down her leg to her toe. Kira was very tense in response and growled some. I slowly repeated the motion numerous times and her growling eventually ceased. I then performed light frictioning and compression of the leg. I then repeated these techniques on her other side. Kira was still slightly tense, but she did not growl again or attempt to snap at me. I then continued to perform compression and stroking along her tarsus and toes. I also tried to massage the webbing on her toes, but only on the top portion of her paw, due to not picking her feet up. I repeated these techniques on her other paw and decided to end this portion of the massage. After I finished my hindleg techniques, I repeated my assessment strokes, but in reverse pressure order, repeated my vectoring, and then connected the dots. Kira’s response to connecting the dots was not what I expected. When I touched her stomach, she jumped up quickly and looked at me with her ears lowered, in response I continued to breathe calmly and placed my arms around her to calm her. After a minute or so, I reattempted to connect the dots and she allowed me. I then grounded Kira and by this time she seemed comfortable with me performing my grounding on her hindlegs – she did not growl at me or attempt to turn her hind end away. Afterwards, I performed 3 thymus thumps on Kira’s chest, Kira’s eyes widened as soon as I performed it, and she tried to jump off the table. I placed my arms around her calmly for a few moments to hold her still and she calmed down. She then performed a lofty integration shake and I placed her onto the floor. Once I lowered her to the floor, she appeared to have relaxed tremendously and was wagging her tail – which her owner claimed is not like Kira whatsoever. I then took Kira outside for a bio-break and she continued to allow me to take lead while we were together.

Owner’s Response to Massage: Kira’s owner was very surprised Kira allowed me to walk her without pulling and allowed me to perform most of my massage techniques.

Massage Session #2:
Date: 9/28/21
Duration: 30-minute massage

Note: Muzzle used per owner request.

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: When Kira and her owner got into the clinic, I acknowledged Kira’s owner and talked about what we were going to try on our second massage session and the owner’s concerns. At this time, Kira was sitting and then came up to me and nudged her head against my legs – asking me to pet her. I made her sit and petted her and I took her outside for an assessment walk. Kira allowed me to lead during our walk – after a few correction touches, due to her excitable nature. After we walked around the clinic a few laps, I took her into the exam room for her massage. Her owner was very pleased with Kira since her first massage, she seemed different and was asking her owner to pet and massage her by nudging at her with her head and would not snap at her when she would reach around her hind end. Her owner thought it was very sweet and would like to continue the massages to see what further progress we can perform.

Massage: During my second massage, I gained enough experience to know what Kira liked and what she was adverse to. I also knew what areas I needed to work on and what new techniques I wanted to perform to break the barriers that I needed to with her. Thus, I decided to work more thoroughly on her hind end – including performing a wheelbarrow stretch, joint mobilization, and other techniques related to picking up her hind legs and handling her hind paws. In truth, I really saw so much improvement – even when I touched her hind end she did not try to snap at me and she did not growl at me once during the entire massage. She did tense up some during her hind end and hind leg portion of her massage, but she ultimately did not try to snap at me. She was very relaxed by the end of her massage and even her owner was relaxed. During our first massage, I definitely felt that Kira’s owner was quite nervous, but that nervousness decreased significantly during our second massage.

Massage Techniques That Kira Most Relaxed Too: Skin rolling, frictioning, and scratching.

My Thoughts After Both Massages: To be absolutely honest, after my second massage with Kira I felt like I was working entirely with another dog. Out of all of the dogs that I have massaged so far, she has had the absolute best growth. I feel that she just needed to be understood and given a chance to be handled without fear. I honestly believe that the fear and judgment from those around her is what amplified Kira’s anxiety and aggression. During my second massage is when I noticed that once I felt calm and comfortable with her, is when I felt her respond in kind and become much more relaxed with me. We have worked together much since these first two massages and I feel like we are growing together every time we meet.

Case 2: Lexie the Beagle

Lexie is a 10-year-old Beagle – that is currently experiencing moderate anxiety related to the recent loss of her owner. Because of this, Lexie recently has been uninterested in food, acting distant and lethargic, and doing activities that she normally does not do – like hiding, and having increased episodes of barking. Lexie’s current owner has been concerned not only due to these newly developed issues but because Lexie recently fell down the stairs and reignited an old hind leg injury. To further explain, Lexie is a clinic regular that I have performed laser therapy on almost weekly for approximately 2 years. She is in a sense, one of the main reasons why I decided to change my field into therapeutics – due to seeing her significant improvement from performing aquatic and laser therapy without the use of heavy conventional and narcotic medications. When we first started working with Lexie at the clinic – she was unable to properly use her right hind leg due to injury. Due to this, Lexie’s owner decided to try using NSAIDs, glucosamine, and chondroitin to aid in her condition. This, in turn, gave some relief – but still, Lexie was unable to use the affected leg well. Thus, my veterinarian and I discussed with the owner about trying alternative therapy to aid in Lexie’s condition and within 2 weeks of laser and aquatic therapy, Lexie’s mobility began to improve significantly and she is completely free from taking medications. But even with all of our time together, I started noticing changes in Lexie after her recent injury and changes in her household. She has not been holding still during our usual laser therapy sessions, she has been hiding behind her owner, pacing around the exam room, and has not been allowing me to put her onto the table. Thus due to these newly developed issues, Lexie’s owner and I agreed that massage therapy might be the tool needed to help her through this newly developed anxiety and to help with her recent reignited injury.

Massage Session #1:
Date: 9/20/21
Duration: 30-minute massage

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: When Lexie and her owner arrived at the lobby of the clinic, I walked around the main desk to greet them both. I first greeted Lexie’s owner and began to discuss what her concerns were and the PetMassage process. During this time, Lexie was hiding behind her owner, which is something she just recently started doing. Usually, Lexie is a very outgoing and happy dog, but as of late, she has been much more skittish and clingy to her owner. Due to this, I stopped my conversation for a moment and took Lexie’s lead. I made her sit and petted her to help calm her. I then decided it was time for us to perform an assessment walk. Lexie is usually very docile and will establish you as the leader of a walk instantly – but, as soon as I took her lead and walked away from her owner – Lexie almost immediately began to start whining and started pulling toward her owner. Thus, I felt like it was a good idea for us to perform an outdoor assessment walk together and spend some extra time to calm Lexie. Once I led Lexie outside, I handed her owner the lead and asked her to walk along the clinic yard, so I could observe Lexie’s gait and reactions. When her owner was walking Lexie, I remained in mountain pose and focused on my breathing to calm my heart rate and help establish myself as pack leader. During their walk, I noticed that Lexie was only putting around 70% of her full body weight on her right hind leg and that it appeared quite stiff. Thus, I knew that would be an area that would need to be thoroughly worked on. In addition, I noticed that Lexie was very nervous acting and jumpy around loud sounds; such as a car passing by – that indeed was something else I knew we would need to work on. Once the owner returned to me, I took Lexie’s lead and I continued to keep my heart rate calm and relaxed, so I could in response help Lexie to relax. I also placed myself between her and any stressor; such as a car or a passing dog during our walk. We then walked around the clinic two times before we all went back inside for the massage.

Massage: After our walk together, I brought Lexie into the exam room. She was much more relaxed than earlier and allowed me to pick her up onto the table. But, when I placed her on the exam table, she began to panic and started to slip out of my grasp to go toward her owner. Due to this, I decided to allow Lexie’s owner to be near her so that she could help calm Lexie with vocal cues and physical touch while I massaged her. After I allowed this to happen, Lexie was much more compliant throughout the entire massage process. After calming Lexie, I began to perform vectoring and she, in turn, responded well. She allowed me to perform all vectoring positions without any aversion. I then continued to my assessment strokes. During my medium depth assessment strokes, I noticed Lexie began to tense up heavily, especially when I stroked her right hind leg. She jumped slightly in response, as if she may have been sore. I then proceeded to my deep assessment strokes, and once I revisited that area I felt that she was still very tense and was acting like she was expecting to be painful before I even touched her leg. After my assessment strokes, I continued to the head and neck portion of the massage, because like with Kira I felt that starting the massage cranially and proceeding caudally to her more sensitive area would be wise. The first technique that I performed on Lexie was thumb walking around her eyes, I then proceeded to smooth my thumbs across her forehead to her ears repeatedly. She appeared to like both very much. I then continued to a technique that I could not earlier perform on Kira and that was massaging and stimulating her gums. Lexie was a little uncomfortable with this technique, so I only performed it for a minimal duration. Afterwards, I performed strokes along her muzzle and massaged her ears. Lexie enjoyed me gently pulling at her ear base and liked having the shock points of her ear tips squeezed. Soon after, I continued to the neck portion of the massage. Firstly, I performed joint mobilization of her neck – both laterally and in an upward and downward motion. She allowed me to perform the technique in both directions without much resistance, but her neck did tense up moderately during her downward stretch. Thus, due to this tenseness, I knew that I would need to work in this area a bit more thoroughly. Afterwards, I performed strokes and frictioning along her neck to help bring blood flow to the area, as well as performed positional release. I then proceeded to perform skin rolling on her neck – Lexie in response screamed very loudly and began to panic, as she struggled her way to her owner to hide her head. I then held her in silence while focusing on my breath, as her owner petted her and after a few minutes she calmed down and we continued the massage. Due to her negative response, I decided to continue with another massage technique. After Lexie was fully calm, I continued to the thoracic portion of her massage. I decided to avoid skin rolling of this area and will re-attempt the technique during our next massage. Thus, the first technique that I performed was running my fingers between her ribs along her rib cage. Lexie felt very relaxed during this technique. Afterwards, I performed strokes along her thorax and decided to gently introduce percussive therapy. I personally felt that percussive therapy would be extra beneficial to Lexie due to her history of allergies and her owner’s constant concern of her being “phlegmy”. The main percussive technique that I used during the massage was cupping. Cupping involves forming your palm into a cup shape and using the convex portion of the palm as the point of contact to the rib cage – while loosely using your wrist as the driving force. Lexie started lightening up and coughed several times during this technique. I performed cupping on both lateral and ventral portions of her rib cage. I then continued to the shoulder and foreleg portion of the massage. I first performed parallel and perpendicular strokes and frictioning along Lexie’s left shoulder and foreleg to increase blood flow to them. Afterwards, I chose to perform shoulder compression, but as I picked up Lexie’s left foreleg she began to act resistant, so I held her leg in stillness for a few moments until she relaxed and then continued the technique. Thus, I compressed Lexie’s humerus into her shoulder and then stretched her foreleg within its range of motion in both forward and backward motioning. There were no signs of clicking noises or tenseness. I then proceeded to massage Lexie’s carpus and forepaw. I first performed compression along the carpus and paw and performed frictioning and joint mobilization of the carpal bones. I then picked up her paw and performed joint mobilization of her toes and massaged her paw pads, as well as the webbing between her toes. At that time, I could very much tell that Lexie started to enjoy her paws being massaged. I then repeated all shoulder and foreleg techniques on Lexie’s other foreleg with no signs of resistance. Afterwards, I decided it was time to massage along Lexie’s spine. The first technique that I performed was positional release along her spine. I then decided to go into stroking and frictioning. Lexie seemed pleased and did not show any signs of adversity. I then performed scratching along her spine in a claw form, with my thumbs and my knuckles. Furthermore, I tried to spend extra time on the cervical portion of her spine, due to the earlier tenseness she displayed during her neck mobilization. In addition, I also performed heavy raindrops and rocking. I performed rocking of her neck, her thorax, and along her spine to her hind end. Rocking itself aids in flexibility and the circulation of body fluids, as well as strengthening muscles and aiding in balance. I felt that spending a decent amount of time rocking could aid in Lexie’s hindleg issue. She responded quite well with this technique. I then continued to the tail portion of the massage. I first held the base of Lexie’s tail and allowed her to pull forward – this in turn aids in aligning and stretching the components of her tail. I then circled her tail in both clockwise and counterclockwise motions. After her tail massage, I finally continued to the hip and hindleg portion of the massage – which I felt were the areas that seem to be the most sensitive to Lexie. Due to that, I decided to work with Lexie’s left hindleg first, due to it being less sore – which I felt in doing so would give Lexie more time to understand what to expect to occur with her other more painful leg. I first began with stroking and frictioning and then performed compression along the leg. Afterwards, I performed joint mobilization of the leg and gently stretched it in both forward and backward motions – but, when I stretched her leg backwards I could hear a slight clicking noise at her stifle. Due to this, I placed her leg down and performed extra frictioning and stroking along the joint to aid in blood flow and relax that area. I then continued down her leg and performed stroking, frictioning and compression along her tarsus and hind paw. I then performed joint compression and mobilization of the tarsal bones, as well as, toe rolling. I also massaged her paw pads and the webbing between her toes. I then decided it was time to repeat these techniques on her other leg. Once I began to stroke Lexie’s right hindleg, she tensed up heavily, so I started very lightly and got more thorough as time went on with my strokes. I then performed frictioning all over her leg muscles and at her stifle joint – which displayed moderate signs of clicking. I then continued to work over these areas with compression and more stroking. Lexie over time, relaxed as I continued to work down her leg to her tarsus and paw with these techniques. Afterwards, I decided to pick up her leg to perform joint mobilization and she, in response, jumped up skittishly when I raised her leg. She nudged her head toward her owner – so I allowed her to place her head against her owner as I performed the technique gently. She allowed me to stretch her leg within its range of motion. I then performed joint mobilization of her tarsal bones and performed toe rolling, as well as massaged her paw pads and toe webbing. Lexie as time went on stopped hiding her head as I massaged her right hind leg – which I felt showed signs of progress. After working on both hind legs, I performed a thorough wheelbarrow stretch, which I was quite pleased that Lexie allowed me to do, and then used my thumbs to massage the back portions of her legs to help relax her muscles. After finishing my techniques, I repeated my assessment strokes, from deep, medium to light, and repeated my vectoring. Lexie was much less tender and averse when I performed my assessment strokes on her right hind leg – which I believe is good progress. Afterwards, I connected the dots to bring Lexie’s attention back to her center line and performed three thymus thumps on her chest. I then placed Lexie onto the floor – she then performed a vigorous integration shake and seemed very relaxed. I petted her, took her outside for a bio-break, and offered her some water.

Owner’s Response to Massage: Lexie’s owner was very pleased with the massage and liked that Lexie allowed me to perform massage techniques to help with her right hind leg. Lexie’s owner also said she was very relaxed during the entire massage process and that she wished I performed human massage. Which I personally, thought was very sweet.

Massage Session #2:
Date: 9/27/21
Duration: 30-minute massage

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: Once Lexie and her owner arrived at the clinic, I acknowledged Lexie’s owner first, and Lexie in response, hid behind her owner. I then in reply, grabbed Lexie’s lead and made her sit – while I discussed her owner’s thoughts and concerns. Afterwards, I took Lexie outside and decided that I would allow her owner to walk beside me during my assessment walk with Lexie. Lexie in turn responded very well to this technique – I personally felt that performing this would be less of a dramatic change for Lexie and that in time I will slowly create some distance from her and her owner so that she can easily go on a walk without issue. During our assessment walk, Lexie allowed me to take lead almost instantaneously. We performed two laps around the clinic and went inside – there were no passing cars or neighborhood dogs at the time of the walk. Also, during our assessment walk, I could certainly tell that Lexie’s right hind leg appeared to be less tender to her. I then took Lexie inside and brought her into the exam room. Once we reached the exam table, Lexie was wagging her tail and easily allowed me to get her onto the table. She was a bit skittish when I first placed her on there, but like last time, as soon as her owner was within her reach she relaxed heavily. Lexie’s owner was very interested in me performing more techniques on Lexie to see what we can do to further improve her mobility and anxiety. In addition, Lexie’s owner was very pleased with how Lexie responded to her first massage – she said that Lexie was running up and down the steps like a puppy again, which made me feel quite happy to hear.

Massage: From my first massage with Lexie, I knew several techniques that I needed to work on more in-depth and what areas were the most sensitive to Lexie – such as her right hind leg. So from what I learned, I knew that I would try my best to strategically introduce skin rolling to Lexie’s second massage. Thus, I decided to perform a very light skin rolling, then go to another massage technique that I knew that Lexie would enjoy; such as fractioning, and then perform a few more skin rolls and then finally repeat the process. When I conducted this method, Lexie did not scream or act anxious in response. I in turn feel that doing this strategy will in time, allow Lexie to learn to understand and enjoy this particular massage technique. I also worked more thoroughly with her right hind leg – and spent an extended time with all my techniques on that particular sensitive area. Lexie in response did not yelp, but she did hide her head against her owner while I performed them. I feel in time she will come to relax more thoroughly and be less timid, but overall I have seen much improvement with her since her first massage.

Massage Techniques That Lexie Most Relaxed Too: Frictioning and slow rocking

My Thoughts After Both Massages: I personally feel that after performing these first two massages with Lexie, I have started to learn a lot about her bodily and emotional cues. I also noticed that as I performed each massage, Lexie and I were beginning to get closer and she was beginning to relax and trust me more. Thus, I believe that with continued massages Lexie’s anxiety will begin to decrease and she will be more comfortable physically, as well as emotionally. Her owner also believes such and will be returning weekly for my massages to help ensure Lexie’s future growth.

Case 3: Boss the Boston Terrier Mix

Boss is a 2-year-old Boston Terrier mix – that has a very excitable nature and has much difficulty staying still and having a heartbeat that isn’t going 100 million beats per minute. According to his owner, Boss is the type of dog that when you ask him to go outside, he will run around the couch approximately fourteen times like Dale Earnhart Jr. before finally getting to the door to get his lead on. In addition, he is very nervous around strangers and will bark and growl when they approach his owner, his house, or his owner’s car. Boss also gets nervous when placed on the exam table at his regular veterinarian and when he gets his nails trimmed. Thus, Boss’ owner and I discussed that massage might be the means to help with his anxiety, as well as, help him get accustomed to human contact and procedures, such as getting his nails clipped.

Massage Session #1:
Date: 9/20/21
Duration: 25-minute massage

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: While I was preparing the exam table for Boss’ massage, Boss and his owner came into the exam room. Boss was very excited and performed “zoomies” throughout the room and was practically bouncing off the walls. Due to this, his owner grabbed his lead and we began to discuss what her concerns and desires for Boss were. Boss continued to spring off his owner’s legs and would not calm down no matter how hard his owner tried. I in response, remained in mountain pose, focused on my breath, and grabbed his lead. I then guided Boss around the room – directing him with my hips while performing several correction touches on his flank to get him to stop running. I then made Boss sit and stay still. Boss was panting heavily, but he continued to sit while his owner and I discussed her concerns and the massage process. Due to Boss’ excitable nature, I decided that we would go on an extended assessment walk so that we could get extra acquainted and I could thoroughly establish myself as pack leader. Once we were outside, I made Boss’ owner assessment walk him first. While watching them, I remained in mountain pose and focused on my breath to calm myself. During their walk, I noticed that Boss was pulling his owner around and guiding her wherever he wished to go. The owner tried to take lead of Boss, but it did not occur. I decided after a few minutes that I would perform my assessment walk. Before taking Boss’ lead from his owner I made him sit and stay. Once I grabbed the lead, I put myself in an angled stance to appear larger to Boss and began to direct him with my hips in a circle to get him accustomed to me leading. Boss was at first a bit resistant and began to pull. I continued with this technique for a minute or so before we began our actual walk. Once our assessment walk began, Boss immediately tried to pull me and in response, I stood my ground in a deep weighted stance and held my elbow close to my side to lock my arm in place – so he could not pull me. I then performed several flank and jaw correction touches on him and made him sit again. I then started up our walk again and after numerous more correction touches and prompts, Boss established me as the leader of the walk. We then proceeded to walk around the clinic twice before going in for the massage.

Massage: Once we returned to the exam room, I immediately placed Boss onto the table. In response, he began to wrestle out of my hands and refused to stay still. I in reply placed my hands on him and focused on my breath to calm both him and myself. After a minute or so, Boss began to calm down some but still was acting somewhat uncomfortable and panting. After a few moments, I continued to the vectoring portion of his massage. During this technique, Boss refused to stay still, so I decided to make him sit and stay to perform all vectoring positions. I felt that him sitting down was allowing him to settle himself. I then proceeded to my assessment strokes. At this time, I made Boss stand so I could perform all my strokes thoroughly. He moved around some during this technique but eventually allowed me to perform it – though when I touched his paw during my strokes, he would pull them away from me. Thus, I knew that was definitely going to be one of my main areas to massage to get him used to having his feet handled in a positive way. Also, during my deep assessment strokes, I felt some sensitivity to the muscles of his shoulders – which would be another area I would place extra attention to. Now, like Kira and Lexie, I decided to massage all areas on Boss that were not sensitive to him first – so he could get adjusted to my touch and know what to expect once I eventually got to his sensitive areas – mainly his paws. After my assessment strokes, I continued to the face portion of his massage. Firstly, I smoothed my thumbs across Boss’ forehead repeatedly – he appeared to like it, but he was beginning to move around the table as I performed the exercise. I then continued to perform thumb walking around his eyes and stroking along his short muzzle. Soon after, I stroked along his jowls in a downward motion and performed positional release of his jaw. Boss, in response, was moving during these techniques but was not adverse to them. Afterwards, I performed tapping on his head, but once I did Boss got incredibly excited and tried to jump off the table, thus I felt that was a technique that I could perform at a later time. I then moved on to massage his ears, which I felt was the technique that he enjoyed the most out of the entire massage. I massaged along his ear pinna, pulled at his ear base, and squeezed his shock points, and as I squeezed them, Boss attempted to lick me repeatedly on my face. I then proceeded to massage his neck – the first technique that I performed was joint mobilization. Boss got quite excited when I attempted to move his head, so I held my hands in position on the base of his neck and muzzle for a few moments to get him accustomed to my touch before proceeding to move his neck within its range of motion. Afterwards, I performed thumb walking along the vertebrae of his neck, positional release, as well as stroking along all the aspects of his neck. Next, I decided to proceed to the spinal portion of my massage. I first started with thumb walking along each of his vertebrae. He did not show any signs of tenseness along his spine. I then performed skin rolling and cross skin rolling – which Boss really enjoyed. I then continued to frictioning – which excited Boss some. Afterwards, I decided to perform rocking on Boss – I first performed it in forward and backward motions and then proceeded to lateral motions. Boss in response, thought I was playing with him and tried to wrestle with me. I then held him again to calm him and reattempted the technique, but even slower than previously. He appeared to relax to it much better that way. I then attempted scratching. Boss’ energy began to sky-rocket as I scratched in an upward motion along his spine and he tried to jump off the table. I grabbed him and held him again in silence to calm him and then decided to continue to the next portion of his massage. Usually, after my spinal massage techniques, I continue to the dog’s tail – but according to his owner, Boss was not exactly born with a tail – it basically is a small skin flap that barely extends beyond an inch. With that in mind, I attempted to perform strokes and compression on what I could and continued to the thoracic portion of my massage. The first technique that I performed on Boss’ thorax involved running my fingers up and down his rib cage, as well as stroking along his thorax. I then stroked repeatedly on the front portion of his chest and along the front of both shoulders, since his shoulders seemed quite tense earlier during my assessment strokes. I then performed frictioning and skin rolling throughout his thorax. Boss enjoyed all of these techniques and attempted to lick me on numerous occasions during them. I then decided to perform cupping along his rib cage. When I began this technique, Boss got very excited and tried to play with me. I in response, held him in my arms for a moment to calm him. After a few moments, I decided to repeat the technique, but at a slower pace than I usually would – since he responded so excitedly earlier. Boss responded much better to this method, though he was still wrestling around a little bit with me during it. Afterwards, I decided to massage Boss’ forelegs and hindlegs and due to Boss not liking getting his nails clipped, I decided that I would spend an extra amount of time introducing my massage to his paws. From my experience working with animals in the veterinary field, is that it is quite common for dogs that are nervous about nail trimmings – to act more negatively to their forepaws being handled and trimmed than their hind paws – since they can see the act done and resist to prevent it. Because of this, I performed the hindleg portion of the massage before the foreleg – so Boss could understand what I would eventually perform on his forepaws. The first technique that I performed on the hip and hindleg portion of his massage was stroking. I stroked along Boss’s left leg from his hip to his tarsus. I continued to friction along this area as well. Boss responded well to frictioning and seemed to enjoy it very much. I then performed compression on his left leg and decided to continue to the joint mobilization. Once I raised Boss’ leg, he got very anxious and tried to shake his leg out of my grip and began to panic. I then released his leg and held him in silence for a short period to calm him back down. I then attempted to repeat the technique – but this time by grabbing his leg at his stifle area instead of his tarsus. After a few moments of resistance, Boss allowed me to move and stretch his leg within its range of motion. Soon after, I decided to massage his tarsus and eventually his hindpaw. The first technique I performed on his tarsus was light stroking – I stroked his tarsus repeatedly in a smooth, calm fashion and then began to perform frictioning of the area. Boss did not try to pull away, but he began to feel as if he was starting to get anxious. I then proceeded to gently pick up his paw so that I could perform joint mobilization of his tarsal bones. He attempted to pull away and began whining, but I continued to calmly hold his leg and stroked it lightly – after a few moments, I began to perform the technique. Boss allowed me to perform it without incredible resistance. Afterwards, I placed his paw back on the ground to give him a few moments of rest before I would attempt other techniques such as toe rolling. During our break, I decided to gently massage along the tops of his toes. I gently stroked them and began to stroke the toe webbing between them that I could without raising his paw. After the break, I picked up his paw again, rolled his toes, and began to more intently massage the webbing between his toes. He made a few sounds and pulled away some, but he allowed me to massage them. I then worked on his paw pads and eventually placed his foot back down. I repeated all of these techniques on his right leg, as well as his forelegs – he did show some signs of aversion, especially with his forelegs – but every time he did – I paused for a moment and calmed him by holding him and focusing on my breath. Afterwards, I repeated my assessment strokes and I could definitely sense that Boss was much more relaxed in comparison to my initial attempt earlier in the massage. I then repeated vectoring – but this time I ensured that Boss was standing during the entirety of the technique. He stayed much stiller than earlier as well – which I felt was progress. Afterwards, I brought Boss’ attention back to his centerline by connecting the dots. I then decided it was time to ground Boss. Due to this, I felt like this was the moment of truth to see how Boss would react with two of his paws being touched at the same time during this technique. I performed this technique extra slow while focusing on my breath to lower my anxiety related to his possible negative response. Thus, I touched both sides of Boss’ nose, glided my palms across his body to his forepaws, and drove my hands past them to the table. Boss raised his head up excitedly and began to lick my face in response. I felt a rush of relief knowing that he didn’t jump or try to wrestle out of my hands. I then repeated the technique to his hind paws and he did shift some of his weight away from me, but he did not react adversely. I then finished my massage with 3 light thymus thumps and as soon as I performed them, Boss squealed playfully like Boston Terriers do and jumped in my face to lick me rapidly, and then attempted to jump off the table. I caught him and placed him onto the table for a moment longer while in my arms to help calm him. Once we both relaxed some, I allowed him back to the floor. He then performed a good integration shake and went to his owner. Afterwards, his owner and I took him on a bio-break and brought him some water.
Owner’s Response to the Massage: Boss’ owner was quite pleased with how Boss responded to me – and enjoyed the entire experience of the massage. She believes in time Boss will get used to people handling him at the vet and that she would like us to spend even more time on his feet during their next massage.

Massage Session #2:
Date: 9/8/21
Duration: 25-minute massage

Initial Reaction and Assessment Walk: Once Boss and his owner came into the clinic, Boss attempted to run to me as fast as possible while pulling his owner with him. Once Boss came up to me, I acknowledged his owner first and then made him sit. He was resisting his playful nature, but even so, he remained in a sitting position. I then talked to his owner about Boss’ progress and what she wanted to be done for his massage today. After our talk, I took Boss’ lead and petted him on the head as he continued to sit. Afterwards, we went out for an assessment walk, so I could thoroughly establish myself as the pack leader with him. I then walked Boss around the clinic three times before we returned inside. During our walk, Boss’ gait appeared well, but he attempted to pull me on several occasions. In response, I had to perform numerous correction touches – he responded well to the touches and allowed me to take lead of the walk. Afterwards, I brought Boss back into the clinic, so we could continue to our massage.

Massage: From my previous experience with Boss, I knew that he was incredibly anxious and fearful of being placed on the exam table. Because of this, I allowed him to relax with me in the exam room first, to get him used to his surroundings before placing him onto the table. When I performed this, I felt that Boss was much more relaxed this way – instead of being immediately placed on the table. In addition, I focused on my breathing more, as well as, keeping myself calm for him – one way I did this was by first making Boss lay down, while I performed deep breathing with him before we continued to vectoring. I also performed my vectoring even longer this time – which I felt made Boss much more relaxed before we continued to the other more physically active portions of the massage. Though during our massage, Boss did try to wrestle out of my hands several times, in response, I just held him and performed deep breathing which relaxed him. In addition, once we reached the portions of the massage where I handled his paws, he was still resistant but was much more passive than the first massage. I personally feel that Boss did much better in this massage than the last, and even after my thymus thumps he did not try to jump off the table – which made me feel like we have definitely made progress.

Massage Techniques That Boss Most Relaxed To: Ear massage and eventually vectoring

My Thoughts After Both Massages: I honestly feel that after performing my first two massages on Boss, I started to learn how important it is to focus on your breath and to calm yourself. I learned that my calmness had to exceed Boss’ incredible excitable nature, and the more I acted on that the better Boss began to respond. So with that, I will remember to keep focusing on my breath and being the center of calm in my massage. After Boss’ second massage, his owner stated that he was even calmer than his first and believes he has made great progress. She will be returning weekly for continued massages, so we can further work on Boss’ excitability and work with his feet more.


I strongly feel that PetMassage is helping me tremendously with my anxiety, as well as helped me to understand how to aid dogs in a different, yet strong way other than conventional medicine. After some time, my massages started making me feel so at peace, knowing that I can help comfort dogs that some people dare not touch. I will especially continue to work with aggressive and anxious dogs to help them get more accustomed to the human touch and help them with their physical and emotional ailments as well. Furthermore, I must say that it is very interesting to learn the differences in each dog’s preferences and perspective. Each of the dogs that I have worked with so far have had their particular quirks and likes and dislikes – it has made me realize how special each session is with each animal – it is like a whole new experience with each dog – like a new conversation from body to body and from spirit to spirit. In addition, I have very much enjoyed seeing their growth between each session – especially in trusting me to perform more techniques and me personally feeling their body conditioning improving. I feel like I have grown much in the last few months of training and I am forever grateful to be on this path and will continue to better myself in it, as I learn more and apply it to the animals at my job.


The Effects of Pet Massage On Laryngeal Paralysis

By PetMassage | December 22, 2021 |

Full Title: The Effects of Pet Massage On Laryngeal Paralysis

Author: Kathleen M. Keller

Date of Publication: December 15, 2021


Research Paper Text:

“He’s a healthy dog as long as we can keep him breathing…”  I made that statement back in 2019 after rushing my 11 year-old Labrador Pal to his vet. 

I had come home from work on a beautiful summer day and let the dogs out to run.  As I sat on the swing, I noticed Pal laying on the ground acting like he was trying to throw up.  As I approached him, I saw white froth coming from his mouth.  I thought he was choking, so I grabbed his muzzle and opened his mouth to do a finger sweep.  To my dismay his gums were blue.  He couldn’t breathe!  I rushed him to the vet’s office where he was given oxygen with albuterol and then placed into an oxygen cage.  Then I was introduced to the reality of Laryngeal Paralysis.

Laryngeal paralysis, also known as “lar par”, is a condition that affects the larynx in a dog’s throat. The larynx contains cartilage and sits over the trachea which allows air to flow from the nose and mouth into the lungs. Muscles pull the cartilage of the larynx away from the opening of the trachea to allow air in and it closes when a dog is eating and drinking. With laryngeal paralysis, the nerves of these muscles weaken and/or become paralyzed resulting in these muscles relaxing causing the cartilage to fall inward.  This results in an obstruction of the airway since the cartilage of the larynx is partially blocking the opening and compromising the dog’s ability to breathe.

The cause of laryngeal paralysis can be either idiopathic or congenital.  The majority of cases are considered idiopathic, or unknown.  However, in certain cases, trauma to the throat or neck, tumors in the throat or chest, and hormonal diseases such as Cushing’s and hypothyroidism have been associated with laryngeal paralysis.  In some cases, dogs are born with congenital laryngeal paralysis.

Laryngeal paralysis can affect any dog breed.  However, it occurs more often in medium to large breed dogs and more frequently in males than in females.  The most commonly affected breeds for idiopathic laryngeal paralysis are Irish Setters, Golden, and Labrador Retrievers.  The congenital form, where clinical signs usually occur early in life, is seen in Siberian Huskies, Bull Terriers, and Dalmatians.

Research has shown that idiopathic laryngeal paralysis is actually part of a progressive general neuropathy or neuromuscular disease and that the laryngeal paralysis is one of the first signs of this disease.  The condition eventually affects the esophageal function and leads to generalized neurologic dysfunction, especially in the back legs. The term Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis and Polyneoropathy (GLOPP) has been applied to describe these findings.

The clinical signs of laryngeal paralysis can vary widely and be quite subtle.  Laryngeal paralysis is probably more common than is diagnosed. This is mainly due to the fact that the initial signs often only involve shortage of breath, noisy breathing, or a cough.  In Pal’s case, the initial sign of a cough first occurred in January 2019: five months before his collapse.  This initial episode was treated as bronchitis.  At that time, the vet addressed the possibility that the cough could be related to laryngeal paralysis.  Pal was put on a treatment plan for bronchitis and rechecked two weeks later.  At that time, he showed improvement yet still had a loud pant while exercising. The plan was to monitor his progress.

The most common sign is coughing, especially after exertion or exercise, followed by difficulty breathing, stridor, which is a high-pitched whistling sound when taking in a breath, exercise intolerance, and a change in the bark.  While the dog is eating, gagging or coughing may occur due to the flaps not closing entirely to protect the airway.  In sudden, severe cases, the dog may develop respiratory distress with bluish mucous membranes in the mouth and possible collapse.  Pal experienced the latter in June 2019.

Diagnosing laryngeal paralysis starts with a complete physical exam and is based on medical history and clinical signs.  The vet will listen to and watch the symptoms the dog is exhibiting.

Bloodwork, and possibly urine work, may be performed to check the function of the adrenal gland and thyroid to ascertain if there are any other medical issues present.  A chest x-ray will be performed to identify the condition of the lungs, esophagus, and if aspiration pneumonia has occurred. An examination of the larynx with an endoscope or laryngoscope can be performed to ascertain the condition of the larynx.  This is done under mild sedation.  An ultrasound scan, done by an experienced radiologist or ultrasonographer, produces images of the neck area and evaluates the movement of the muscles in the larynx.  In Pal’s case, although the vet was fairly certain in her assessment of laryngeal paralysis, he underwent all of the testing to confirm. 


Once Pal’s diagnosis was confirmed, within days he was scheduled for surgery.  His case was considered severe due to his sudden collapse.  The goal of surgery is to open the airway, help reduce stridor, and improve respiratory distress.  Pal underwent Arytenoid Lateralization Larynoplasty surgery better known as ‘tie back’ surgery.  This involves tying back the collapsed cartilage to the larynx with a single suture.  This allows for the airway to be permanently open enough to prevent airway compromise or future breathing episodes.  The downside to this surgery is that with part of the airway tied open, risk of aspiration pneumonia is increased.  

There are, however, other options to treating laryngeal paralysis.  In mild cases where there is no history of respiratory distress, changing to a harness from a collar puts less pressure on the upper airway. Feeding the dog from a raised platform, using canned or moistened food and slowing down water intake can help to reduce coughing and aspiration.  Other options include restrictions on exercise in warmer weather to reduce airway swelling, weight loss, and anti-inflammatory medications to assist in swelling reduction.  In dogs who have lar-par and have separation anxiety or storm fears, sedatives or tranquilizer medications have been recommended.

Another treatment option is acupuncture, a Chinese Medical Philosophy, in which fine needles are inserted into specific locations in the body known as acupuncture points.  These needles are then manipulated which trigger the release of endorphins, increase blood circulation, and stimulate the nerves.

Finally, there is a drug called Doxepin that may provide some relief.  However, a recent publication on a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial concluded that Doxepin did not appear to improve any measures of owner-assessed quality of life in the dogs.

So where does pet massage fall into the treatment of laryngeal paralysis? The main goal of pet massage is to create balance within the dog.  Massage is in the body of the dog, not on it.

Through a series of touches, the massage reaches every part of the body.  A light touch brings awareness not only to the coat and upper layers of connective tissues, but the surrounding superficial muscles.  A stronger touch brings awareness to the deeper muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments.  Mobilization of the joints encourages body-movement awareness and allows for self-exploration in the movement to rediscover a place of comfort.

In her blog Naturally Healthy Pets, Dr. Judy Morgan, who practices both holistic and traditional medicine, suggests that following traditional Chinese Medicine, massage could play a part in helping dogs with laryngeal paralysis.  Through this method, there are four presentations and different therapies for laryngeal paralysis based upon the color of the tongue.  Although the food therapies are different for all four presentations, three of the four benefits from massage along the sides of the neck, lower jaw, and thoracic inlet.  These massages should last for three to five minutes and be done twice daily.

With this in mind, I have placed more attention on the front of the neck in my full body massages.  By utilizing several massage techniques, the hope is to at least provide some relief for dogs who have laryngeal paralysis, but more so to prevent the occurrence of it altogether.  I start with scratching of the neck and lower jaw by gently rubbing up and down from the chest to the jaw.  This helps to stimulate cardiovascular, neurologic, and lymphatic circulation.  Then I knead and roll the skin and coat on each side of the neck which helps to increase blood circulation and lymphatics deep within the muscles as well as releasing superficial restrictions between the skin and underlying tissue.  Lastly, I perform positional release over the neck.  My hands cradle the area around the larynx and I am still.  During this holding pattern, the body takes control as it shifts internally, experimenting with different ways of positioning itself.  The rest of the massage covers the rest of the body including the other area of concern with laryngeal paralysis: the hind legs which has been shown to be a result of the progression of GLOPP.   I believe these techniques are beneficial to the health of a dog with laryngeal paralysis.  There have not been any scientific studies done to confirm this.

While there is no cure for laryngeal paralysis, with the above-mentioned treatments including massage, the outlook for dogs who have this condition can go on to live full natural lives.  It is important for their owners to remain vigilant and seek medical attention immediately should there be any noticeable changes.


The Spruce Pets. com;  Adrienne Kruzer; 5-21-21; American College of Veterinary Surgeons

First; Dr Tina Pilgrim; 9-9-21

American College of Veterinary Services

VCA; Krista Williams, Ernest Ward;  Doxepin;  Mark Rishniw; 5-17-21

Wholistic Paws;  Dr Krisi Erwin

Naturally Healthy Pets; Dr Judy Morgan; 8-10-21

Canine Massage for Passionate People; Jonathan Rudinger; 2019

The; Pippa Elliot; 12-31-18


TPLO Surgery of the Canine Knee

By PetMassage | December 17, 2021 |

Full Title: TPLO Surgery of the Canine Knee

Author: Julie Mut

Date of Publication: December 15, 2021


Research Paper Text:

A common injury for humans and particularly athletes is an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament)tear. Similarly, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in dogs can tear after extensive impact on the ligament or during a sudden injury. I have first-hand experience with a torn CCL and subsequent TPLO surgery with my Border Collie/Husky Mix Siena. Siena was diagnosed with osteoarthritis at the age of 1 ½ years old due to elbow dysplasia. At age 4 she tore her left CCL and we opted for a TPLO surgery. It was the right choice, and she made a full recovery. Siena is now 8 years old and is showing signs that her arthritis is getting worse. She is the main reason I wanted to learn canine massage so that I can help maintain her quality of life for as long as possible.

There are two ligaments in a dog’s knee joint–the cranial cruciate ligament and the caudal cruciate ligament. These ligaments are responsible for helping the knee function as a hinge joint and help to prevent rotation between the femur (upper bone) and tibia (lower bone, a/k/a shin bone). The meniscus helps to function as a cushion between the tibia and femur.

A torn CCL causes pain and immobility. The level of immobility depends on the severity of the rupture. The diagnosis relies on an examination, X-rays, and manipulating the joint (called the cranial drawer test). This test measures the level of instability present in the joint. Over time, the joint will continue to degenerate, resulting in pain, chronic arthritis, and lameness.

To treat a CCL rupture, veterinarians recommend the Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO), surgery. TPLO is a surgical procedure used to treat cranial (or anterior) cruciate ligament rupture in the knee joints (stifle) of dogs. Most dogs achieve about 95% of their normal limb function and return to their prior level of activity approximately 10-12 weeks after surgery. Because of the success rate of the TPLO procedure, it is the most popular type of repair.

TPLO surgery is more often recommended for injuries affecting large dog breeds, but dogs of ALL breeds, sizes and ages can have this procedure if they have incurred a rupture of the CCL and have joint instability with mild to severe lameness.

Overview Of the TPLO Surgery

TPLO surgery involves making a curved cut in the tibia from the front to the back, much like half a smiley face. The top section of the tibia is then rotated backward until the angle between the tibia and femur are appropriately level. The stifle (knee joint) will then be stable for the dog when bearing weight. A metal bone plate and screws are then used to affix the two sections of tibia in the desired positions, allowing the tibia to heal in its new configuration. TPLO surgery helps to stabilize the stifle and reduce the likelihood of further osteoarthritis.

During TPLO surgery, the meniscus will also be evaluated and repaired if needed because a torn meniscus can be a source of constant irritation to the joint. If the meniscus is not damaged, the surgeon performs a “meniscal release.” This helps prevent it from being damaged in the future.

Usually, the dog will stay overnight in the hospital to be monitored and can go home in the morning. When we picked Siena up the next morning, we were shocked to see she could walk herself right out of the hospital. We knew we had chosen the right option for her.


The recovery period following a TPLO surgery will require rehabilitation, rest, and exercise restrictions for 8-12 weeks for the best outcome. This allows the incision and bone to heal and the knee function to return. Until the bone is completely healed, you will have to be incredibly careful and follow your veterinarian’s instructions explicitly.

Effect of Gait

A slight limp for a period of time after an extensive orthopedic surgery such as a TPLO is completely normal. By two weeks after surgery, the dog should be increasing the length of his walks on leash and by the eighth week he should be able to take two 20-minute walks each day. The dog will gradually resume normal gait and daily activities.

Can Massage Help?

Absolutely it can! I did not know this back then, but I certainly do now. Massage is a gentle, non-invasive way to help dogs recovering from TPLO surgery, or any kind of surgery. As long as it is applied GENTLY there are numerous benefits. A few of them are listed below:

  • Enhances human-animal bond and the dog’s quality of life
  • Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Decreases pain by stimulating endorphins
  • Improves blood circulation and lymphatic flow
  • Improves spinal/body alignment, flexibility, and range of motion
  • Decreases edema (excessive fluid collecting in cavities or tissues in the body)
  • Helps maintain muscle tone
  • Improves immune system function
  • Increases energy, which can aid in weight loss

On the flip side, there are some circumstances in which you would not want to massage a dog after surgery. If the dog has an open wound or incision, skin infection, or fever, you should wait on massaging the dog. Always be mindful of the veterinary care the dog receives and only proceed when the massage is agreeable with the dog’s veterinarian.

Muscle Groups Affected

It is vital that the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups are maintained as they control flexion and extension of the stifle joint. If these muscles become weak the stifle can become vulnerable and at risk of further injury. Massage can help both muscle groups and it is important to remember that not only should you massage the injured leg, but you should massage all the legs as well as the entire body of the dog as well to keep everything strong, pliable, and to maintain balance.

Nerve Innervations

The main nerve supplying the cruciate ligament is the posterior articular nerve (PAN) derived from the tibial nerve. Three major articular nerves arise from the saphenous nerve, tibial nerve, and common peroneal nerve to innervate the periarticular tissues of the canine stifle joint.

Blood Source

The major vascular contribution to the center of the stifle joint occurs from branches of the middle genicular artery.


Below is a graphic showing a CCL tear:


Below is a graphic showing the TPLO repair:

References and Sources

PetMassage on The Dog Face

By Jonathan Rudinger | November 16, 2021 |

There are areas on your dog’s face that connect with internal organs and their corresponding meridians.

  • Forehead: bladder and intestines
  • Temples and ears: kidneys
  • Between eyebrows: liver and stomach
  • Nose: heart
  • Under-eye area: kidneys
  • Upper cheeks: stomach
  • Lower cheeks: lungs and liver
  • Nasolabial folds: large intestine
  • Upper lip: hormones, heart, and spleen
  • Chin: bladder, hormones, kidney, and stomach
  • Jawline: stomach

Each organ has its own physiological function. The organs and their meridian systems are all integrated and dependent on each other’s capacity to function. When any one system is out of balance, it affects the energy flow throughout the whole body. So while you are massaging the face, you can address and promote circulation all over the body.

In my practice, I often PetMassage the head and neck right after my full body assessment. Dogs are used to having their faces touched, so it’s a comforting way to introduce bodywork touch and begin their massage. Plus, if you are working intentionally, you can glean additional information about what needs attention in their body.

Apply fingertip compression over each area. It can be either steady or pulsating. The patterns can be still, back and forth, in tiny circles, or a combination of these.

Consider placing your thumb pads lightly on each area and imagining that you are writing the pattern of the Reiki symbol Cho Ku Rei, a seven with 4 concentric circles. Without increasing pressure, visualize that your thumb is cycling down into the tissues, rolling around the Tsubo whorls in your thumb tip. It is a very subtle movement. Yet, effective technique for charging the organs, directing intention, and facilitating balance.

Muscle Spasms and Tremors in Dogs Post Massage

By Jonathan Rudinger | November 3, 2021 |

Full Title: Muscle Spasms and Tremors in Dogs Post Massage

Author: Tracy Isard

Date of Publication: September 10, 2021


Research Paper Text:

During my PetMassage training my labradoodle Remi began experiencing a tremor or muscle spasm in his left deltoid area. When palpating the area, the muscle was in a fast twitch state the was continuous. I did not know where to begin to find the cause of the tremor. The class, however, taught me the importance of the light touch, palpation, and breath in a PetMassage session. Using these techniques, it allowed me to articulate the symptoms and provide an assessment. This allowed me to observe the tremor looking at Remi’s whole body and patterns and not just his deltoid. The conclusion I came to was that the tremor could have been part of Remington’s healing crisis.

So, what are muscle spasms or tremors and how do they affect a dog?

Involuntary muscle trembling is any repetitive muscle movement that is impossible for the animal to control. It can affect a single, isolated limb, or be a generalized movement that includes the entire body. It can happen when a dog is at rest or in movement. The trembling may be only a few seconds in duration, or it may last for an extended period. Very severe tremors can make it difficult for a dog to eat or stand and may result in serious complications if not treated immediately.

This is usually a result of chemical and neurological imbalance rather than weakness in the muscles. There can be many contributing factors including hereditary, environmental, and age-related issues. As well as being distressing to the dog, this may interfere with normal motor functions, and in very severe cases can be life-threatening. Involuntary Muscle Trembling in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost ( © 2021 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights

Remington has periodically had a limp in his left forearm after exercise or a long walk.  It would last a few days and then be gone. So, I did some digging on what can cause muscle tremors.

Most tremors are the result of a chemical or neurological imbalance in the brain. These imbalances can be caused by many different things. 

  • Hereditary

Many types of hereditary conditions can cause tremors. One of the most well-known is Generalized Tremor Syndrome which is the result of a congenital condition most common in small breeds like White Terriers and Maltese, although it can occur in any breed. It isn’t always apparent at birth but often appears between the first and second years of a dog’s life. Orthostatic Tremor (OT) is a postural tremor that only affects the dog while standing still. It is found sometimes in breeds of large dogs such as Great Danes and Deerhounds. 

  • Drugs and Toxins

Many drugs and toxins can cause tremors in dogs, including some which are safe for humans such as caffeine. Some drugs prescribed to dogs can also cause tremors as a side effect, so check the medications your dog is taking. 

  • Injury to the Brain

Tremors are often caused by abnormal brain activity. All types of brain injuries including trauma, stroke and brain tumors can cause this. 

  • Canine Distemper

Cerebellar related tremors and myoclonic seizure both occur as part of canine distemper, although this is an unlikely cause if your dog has shots. 

  • Age

Dogs can sometimes develop tremors as they age, called Physiologic and Essential Tremor Syndrome. These age-related tumors often involve the pelvis, and they can worsen with anxiety or intense emotions. The tremors can be very slight at first, but over time they may progressively worsen and cause balance and coordination problems. 

  • Seizure

Seizures can look very different on different dogs. Periods of pronounced shaking  can often be preceded by an initial anxiety period, and a post seizure period of disorientation, confusion, and weakness. Involuntary Muscle Trembling in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost ( © 2021 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights

There are some dog breeds that are believed to be predisposed to tremors, including chow chows, springer spaniels, Samoyeds, Weimaraners, Dalmatians, Doberman pinschers, English bulldogs and Labrador retrievers. Dogs that are prone to this condition are referred to as \”shaker dogs.\”
Published: Oct 06, 2010 PetMD

Remington did not seem to fit into any of the categories or explanations on the cause of muscle spasms or tremors.

Remi had a slight limp after exercise and sometimes in the morning.  Dogs carry about 60 percent of their body weight on their front legs. That means the shoulders work harder than the rest of the body and that’s why dogs of all ages often experience tight neck and shoulder muscles. Paulette Jolliffe  Published: October 19, 2015 Updated: April 24, 2019. 

He is a 7-year-old otherwise healthy Labradoodle. Arthritis came to mind as a possible attribute to his limping. During my Petmassage training Remi received many massages. Massage has a therapeutic benefit by increasing circulation and breaking up adhesions in connective tissue. Stretching the limbs lengthens constricted muscles, increasing flexibility and mobility, which helpes decrease inflammation and pain. Having massages on his deltoid that potentially had arthritis could have possibly led to a healing crisis.

A healing crisis according to Rudinger, Jonathan Canine Massage for Passionate Dog People PetMassage Media, First Edition (2019) is the process of self-restoration and healing.  PetMassage helps your dog unpeel to his deepest layers to resolve the real issues wherever they might be. Another way to say this is the therapeutic effects of massage affect the underlying, often deeply rooted causes that express or show themselves as behavior called symptoms. These unexpected responses are called a healing crisis.  They surface to be acknowledged and released so that your dog can continue his life journey lightened from his dysfunctional baggage.

Some common examples of a healing crisis may include:  Limping: as muscle memory has been stimulated and the memories held in the fascia are released.  Seizures:  the neural tube and dura matter have been stimulated.  Dopamine levels are rebalancing in the body.  Having received many massages on his deltoid, the muscle simply had a healing crisis releasing old memories as the fascia and surrounding tissues were relaxed and healing was introduced. Remi was utilizing the benefits that massage can provide and allowing it to contribute to his overall wellness.  Healing Crisis, The Nature of Animal Healing. Goldstein, Martin, DVM, pp. 163-164, Ballantine Publishing Group, 1999.



Involuntary Muscle Trembling in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost ( © 2021 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights
Published: Oct 06, 2010 PetMD

Rudinger, Jonathan Canine Massage for Passionate Dog People PetMassage Media, First Edition (2019)

Healing Crisis, The Nature of Animal Healing. Goldstein, Martin, DVM, pp. 163-164, Ballantine Publishing Group, 1999






The Effects of the Vasovagal “Vagus” Nerve

By PetMassage | November 3, 2021 |

Full Title: The Effects of the Vasovagal “Vagus” Nerve

Author: Kelsey Gustafson

Date of Publication: September 5, 2021


Research Paper Text:

Massage is important to all dogs’ young or old. Canines who experience the benefits of massage have their minds and bodies connected resulting in a release of stress and tension. An integral part of dog massage is the vasovagal nerve, also known as the vagus nerve. This nerve is the longest in the dog’s body. During a massage, stimulation of the vagus nerve can help a canine with acute or chronic illness.

The vasovagal nerve starts at the brain and goes all the way to the large intestine. By definition, “the vagus nerve helps regulate the tension in the blood vessels against canine heart beats.” The nerve is also responsible for all regulation of internal organs.

According to the website, Working Dog HQ, “the vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve” and “…even plays a role in hearing, vision, and mental functioning.” Activating the vagus nerve, through something like a K-9 massage, activates the rest and digest system and deactivates the flight or fight response. This allows “for full body relaxation” to take place (McMicheal, 2020).

After a massage, a dog performs an integration shake as everything in their body comes connected together. In the experience of being a dog masseuse, this can be a powerful thing to watch as this is the beginning stage of their bodies healing with the help of massage.  Since the vagus nerve is the longest in the body, it’s always being worked on if you are working on the neck, chest, and abdomen.

Vasovagal nerve also controls a dog’s ability to digest and the digestion of nutrients in their food. Since the nerve runs through the canine’s esophagus, this can directly affect a dog breathing. Some breeds of dogs such as French bulldogs, pugs, boxers, and Boston Terriers are known as “brachycephalic breeds” and are prone to respiratory issues due to the fact their noses and faces are pushed in causing harder breathing practices. This can affect their vagal tone. Having a higher vagal tone means the body can relax faster after stress and vice versa.

Some dogs are pushed to their limit when their bodies are trying to control their vagal tone, which can result in something called “syncope” or fainting. According to VCA Hospitals, “syncope (or fainting) is defined as a temporary loss of consciousness that occurs when the brain does not receive enough oxygen.” The most common reason for decreased oxygen is an “abnormality in circulation, generally involving how the heart is beating” (Weir, Dowing).

The vagus nerve stimulates certain muscles in the heart that helps slow heart rate.

According to Denise Prisk from her article “Anesthesia of the brachycephalic patient,” “brachycephalic breeds have a high resting vagal tone, which results in a slow heart rate” (Prisk, 2019). With their heavier set heads and a tighter airway, these breeds have problems eating, drinking, and performing normal activities, such as going for a walk.

A French bulldog named “Peytia” was a prime example of a brachycephalic breed. Just from walking across a room, Peytia would become winded, so much so her mouth and tongue would turn purple until she could catch her breath. This would also occur when she was introduced to what she considered a stressful situation.

Through multiple massage sessions, and increasing her vagal tone, her breathing evened and made her remaining days more comfortable. Increasing her vagal tone allowed her to relax herself quicker.

In addition to its ability calm a stressed K-9, massages performed on dogs can also reduce joint stiffness and increase mobility. According to the article, “Hands Healing Hounds: The Power of Canine Massage” “canine massage can improve blood flow, alleviate stress reduce pain, relax tight and sore muscles, and help heal sprains and strains!” The article also explains that “many believe it also strengthens the immune system, improves digestion, and lowers blood pressure” (Day, 2019).

In American Bull Stafford mix, “Bear,” he had a shoulder lameness and alignment issues reducing his ability to run and play, which in turn effected his mood. With regular sessions and working the sore muscles, Bear’s mobility increased and improved his overall mood.

From the beginning of a dog massage to the end, the vasovagal nerve is having work done to it. With each client and experience, it will become easier to identify issues and how to properly manage the issues through regular massage sessions as well as identifying the vasovagal (vagus) nerve and each point it connects through in a canine’s anatomy.


Works Cited

Hands Healing Hounds: The Power of Canine Massage Jasey Day 2019

Working Dog HQ Keeping Working Dogs Safe Maureen McMichael

Anesthesia of the brachycephalic patient Denise Prisk BSAVA Congress Proceedings 2019 pp 257

Syncope (Fainting) in Dogs Malcom Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH; Robin Dowing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CRPP

Grieving Cat’s Aquatic PetMassage is Transformative

By Jonathan Rudinger | October 22, 2021 |

I just facilitated an in-hand swim session in the PetMassage heated indoor hydrotherapy pool…with Chloe…a cat.

Chloe’s mom was nervous, apprehensive about putting her kitty in water. Naturally.

For Chloe it was a very new experience, as it would be for most house-cats. Like most cats, she had never swum before. What Chloe shared with me was revelatory. It pointed out a potentially big reason for creating the hydrotherapy pool for pets.

Chloe is smart; she might say that compared to all the other cats she’s known, she’s brilliant. She’s also spiritually evolved. Naturally, that comes with being a cat.

And, like all cats, she craves stimulation. Adventure. As an indoor cat she’s figured out ways to experience the thrill of the hunt. She’s mastered the sneak, the stalk, the ankle ambush, the chase, the nuanced (tail curl and flip) and the extremes, like the arched hiss and the faux-frightened leap to the side.

As I carried her around in the pool she looked around and asked through her widened eyes and flattened ears, “How stimulated do you think we are perched on the backs of sofas, watching birds outside the window? How satisfied would you be, if that was all the intellectual stimulation you had?”

I thought about the intellectual stagnation I felt last year when we were all sheltering in place. It was stifling. I leapt at any excuse to get out and participate in life outside-the-house.

I recalled a walking tutorial I had back when I was in college, with another art student from Cincinnati whose gift was/is visual perception. I was directed to focus my attention on the intricate shapes, patterns, and combinations of colors in random objects around us. With every twig, stone and blade of grass I picked up, each cloud I watched, I appreciated, honored and deeply connected with their aesthetics and qualities (Kami spirits). I had defined myself as an artist. I knew how to look. In that one 20-minute walk, that sunny Spring afternoon, my abilities to perceive deepened. With this fundamentally transformative lesson, the world I knew shifted. I learned to see.

Chloe recently lost her best cat friend. They’d been together since kittens. She is in grieving mode. Since her housemate’s passing last August, she requests more time with her people, she’s lost weight, has a compromised immune system, and presents other signs of depression.

My sense is that she’s been stuck in a loop. She thinks about her companion and the emptiness and loneliness she feels since he left. It’s her only cognitive topic; because, nothing new has been presented that can refill that emotional space in her heart.

That changed today. Chloe had her 1st swim/Aquatic PetMassage session and she did wonderfully. It was an enrichment activity that worked her body, mind and spirit. Chloe got to experience something new and exciting.

After her brief session, still wrapped in her towel, she softened her gaze, and appeared to be looking inward. We could tell that she was processing what she’d just done. Then, pleased with her bravery and success, she calmly began grooming her paws.

Chloe is no longer the same cat who was wheeled into the PetMassage reception room in a shrouded baby carriage. She is now a cat who knows she is a master at overcoming apprehension, of remembering that she’s a swimmer, of trusting me, a stranger, to hold her safe while her mundane world confuses and expands. Her breadth of worldly experiences now includes everything she gained in her Aquatic PetMassage. New exciting experiences can now fill her thoughts. Chloe is transformed.

What kind of fresh new enriching intellectual stimulation have your house cats gotten recently? Can you see how enrichment exposure, both mental and physical, will help them? Chloe shows us just some of the benefits that cats get with swimming.

At PetMassage Aquatics, we are committed to holding a space for therapeutic enrichment for our friends of the feline persuasion. Wednesdays are strictly reserved for cats!

Canine Front Limb Dewclaw Removal and the Resulting Carpal Injury and Arthritis Risks

By PetMassage | August 10, 2021 |

Full Title: Canine Front Limb Dewclaw Removal and the Resulting Carpal Injury and Arthritis Risks

Author: Jennifer L. Manning-Paro

Date of Publication: June 26, 2021


Research Paper Text:

The canine dewclaw is the first digit of the paw, located on the inside (or medial side) of the front, and in some dogs, the rear legs. For the purpose of this paper only the front dewclaws will be discussed. It has long been a practice of most breeders to remove the rear (if present) and often the front dewclaws of puppies at about two to three days of age. This is thought to reduce the risk of injury to the digit and for aesthetic purposes. Resent findings have found that this practice is actually unnecessary and often detrimental to the dog’s physical wellbeing.

The functions of front dewclaws have historically been misunderstood, as many believe they serve no purpose. This however is not the case. The dewclaws function to stabilize the carpal joint when the dog is at a canter and/or making sharp turns. The dewclaw can actually be seen touching and digging into the ground as the dog makes a turn. This action provides extra traction and serves to reduce the torque on the front leg (2). The dewclaws are also used to grip objects, whether it be a toy, the ground, or the ice if they have fallen into the water. During these instances, if a dog does not have its front dewclaws, the leg will actually twist on its axis to overcompensate. This increases the pressure on the carpus and in turn, the rest of the forelimb all the way up to the shoulder (7). Those that advocate for the removal of the dewclaws believe that by doing so it will reduce the risk of them being torn off (6). However, this does not seem that great of a factor considering the benefits to the dog allowed to keeps its dewclaws. Thankfully, due to some resent research and studies, more and more breeders are opting to leave the dewclaws on their puppies.

The front dewclaws contain two bones, the proximal phalanx and the distal phalanx. Attached to these bones are four tendons and two muscles, the extensor pollicis logus et indicis proprius and flexor digitorum profundus. Once the dewclaw is removed, these muscles are then left to atrophy, weakening the entire structure of the carpus (7). With this weakening of the carpus, combined with the increased torque placed on the limb at high speeds, the athletic dog without its front dewclaws is placed at a higher risk of injury.

A recent study published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association surveyed the risk factors for digit injuries in dogs involved with agility type events. The injuries they saw were “classified as sprain or strain, fracture, arthritis, tendon or ligament injury, dislocation or subluxation, broken or ripped nail, or other injury”. They concluded that the absence of the front dewclaws was one of the greatest factors “associated with significantly increased odds of injury”. They went as far as to advise against the removal of the front dewclaws from dogs being used in agility type activities (3).

While it is predominantly the canine athlete that is affected by injuries due to absence of the dewclaws, the non-athlete can also feel the effects. Without the dewclaw during some activities the leg will still twist on its axis. Over a lifetime of this kind of torque and pressure on the carpus, and the rest of the limb, the middle-aged and senior dogs will start to show signs of painful arthritis in all joints of the leg.

Canine athletes that present with injury to the front limb, especially the carpus, can experience some relief through the application of PetMassage. These dogs will present with various symptoms including; inflammation and swelling, pain upon palpation, general limb weakness, muscle atrophy, and a noticeable limp. Some of these dogs will also present with symptoms of arthritis if the injures are chronic in nature. Massage techniques should be applied to all four limbs, since oftentimes the other limbs will be overcompensating for the injured one. Some helpful PetMassage techniques to utilize would be compression on the shoulder area, joint mobilization over all joints of the limbs, frictioning over the entire limb, and positional release applied to all four limbs (5). For those dogs presenting with arthritis, including the non-athletic ones, the use of PetMassage as part of their health routine will greatly increase their quality of life.

ASHGI. (2014, March). Dewclaws. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from
Cavachon Gazette. (2013, April 17). Dewclaws, Running and Arthritis….Is there a link? Retrieved September 17, 2020, from

Debra C. Sellon, Katherine Martucci, John R. Wenz, Denis J. Marcellin-Little, Michelle Powers, Kimberley L. Cullen. A survey of risk factors for digit injuries among dogs training and competing in agility events. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;252:75-83

Medalen, C. (2019, November). Stabilization of the canine dewclaw. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from

Rudinger, J. (2019). Canine massage for passionate dog people. Toledo, OH: PetMassage Media.

Rodriguez, I. (2020, August 27). The Dewclaws Debate – Keep Them or Lose Them? Retrieved September 17, 2020, from

Zink, DVM PhD DACVSMR, C. (2020, January 10). Do the Dew(claws)? Retrieved September 17, 2020, from
*Photographs obtained from

Those Blasted Research Papers – Awesome Info!

By Jonathan Rudinger | May 5, 2021 |

Sharing a message from one of the graduates of our PetMassage program.


One of my own rescued adult puppy mill dogs has just been diagnosed with luxating patellas – yep, both of them.

Immediately I thought of those research papers we all have to do.  What a wealth of information!

Thank you so much for making us do those darn things!


One of the requirements for completing the PetMassage Foundation Level Program is researching and writing short paper on a topic that has to do with dog anatomy, pathology, physiology, behavior, training, and/or bodywork. All of the papers are available as a resource for our dogcare community on the website at


Threshold Fears

By PetMassage | April 14, 2021 |

Full Title: Threshold Fears

Author: Codi Falley

Date of Publication: April 13, 2021


Research Paper Text:

When searching this topic online I discovered that the fear of walking through a doorway between rooms or in and out of the house is a real fear in dogs. They will hesitate, cower and flat out refuse to go through them. Owners are forced to push, drag and even carry their furry loved one in and out. Some accounts state that its a behavior a rescue dog came with, or dogs that have “suddenly for no reason” become fearful. While others still are of dogs that had a door close on them at one point with varying degrees of injury. Many owners feel helpless, responsible, and tend to treat the symptom and not the cause. By doing things like bribing their pet with treats, repetitive coercing, either nicely or negatively only reinforces the behavior.  The primary advice from experts that seems to pop up on dog related blogs is the too general term Obedience Training. They suggest things to try like, going through to other room sitting and calling for them to follow, offering treats and even repeatedly walking back and forth.  Obedience classes do provide the owner and the dog time to bond and speak to each other, but each individual case is different and there is no 100% answer.  By treating the symptom you are often reinforcing the fear, or worse making the dog more afraid of you than the doorway.

My experience with being a dog parent over the last 25 years has been educational to say the least. Different dogs present different problems, which in turn require different answers. Some fixes have come easy, some have come with several mistakes and some have yet to be answered at all. Doesn’t mean I stop asking the questions. It all comes down to communication. You can’t find out if the problem is with you or the dog if you can’t ask your dog. So we need to learn to SPEAK DOG.  One of my dogs of the past, a Rhodesian Ridgeback German Shepard mix named Latte-Chino was a very dominant, protective male. He grew up going to dog parks with his many step siblings. He came when called, he listened to his Mom most of the time. The problem presented itself “out of the blue” one day at the park he started a fight with a bigger dog. I of course reacted, separating the dogs and apologizing to the other owner and generally got emotional about it. Didn’t have any issues up until that day, but once he started he continued this behavior more and more often. I noticed that he would watch the gates and when a bigger dog would come in the park he would immediately walk up and show signs that he might want to dominate that dog. It didn’t always become a fight, sometimes he would just walk up, posture up, sniff, and walk away. Other times he would become obsessed with that dog and follow them until eventually I had to leash him and remove him to a different end of the park. This obviously upset me, I would be on edge and constantly be hyper vigilant. Many months passed, and many mini altercations, until I figured out it wasn’t a problem with Latte, it was a problem with me. He was just being an alpha dog, and he was picking up on my stress and acting as a leader protecting me. Once I understood what he was doing I could change what was wrong with my behavior to net the results I wanted from him. I am there to protect him not the other way around.  When we were near the gates, I would observe him but keep myself calm, by breathing slowly and deliberately moving around the park he sensed my confidence and didn’t feel the need to protect me anymore. I didn’t know it at the time but I was reasserting my role as leader and thus changed his behavior.

Going back to the fear of the doorway. Regardless of the why or the how the dog became afraid of going between rooms, if you can gain the trust of the dog you will have a better chance of getting them to work through their fear. Dogs will follow their instincts to be pack animals. If you are in fact the leader in the house, the dog will trust you and be less fearful if you earn that trust through example. Own that leadership. A dog will follow you if they sense that you are leading them to things they need. Walk confidently through your home. Show them there is nothing to be afraid of. If you let them go into a room first they have no one to show them that it is ok. Dogs pick up on very subtle things like breathing and heart rate. If they sense that you are unsure they in turn will be hesitant.  Verbal commands can come across to a dog as elevated stress because it is not how they communicate. Body language is more subtle and recognizable to them. Calm your breathing, slow your heart rate, confidently walk into the room and they will follow. If you turn and try to coerce them, call them, pull them or push them it is sending mixed signals. Some dogs will respond to one or the other but it’s not allowing them to conquer their fear, only know that they made it through that time. What about the next?  That is what being a leader in the pack is, if you want to maintain that role you have to constantly reinforce that trust bond by repetitive demonstration. We want to be loved by these furry little children, we want them to know that we love them. We can tell them all we want but they don’t speak human. We have to show them, lead by example and they will follow. Knowing and understanding your dog and their needs is essential to creating a safe and loving environment for both human and canine.