I still hope to post Holly the Shih Tzu's first massage, pretty much from beginning, right to the end of her very first appointment...but in the mean time...
Check out Ziggy's first massage!
As I discussed in Parts 3 & 4 of my What's Involved in K9 Massage blog series, I first assessed Ziggy's stance by having him stand stacked on the floor on all fours…I reviewed his “posture” from the front, back and side at their level. Then I assessed his gait. I watched Ziggy walk, then jog away and towards me, and then from the side, again, at his level (on the floor). Then I palpated Ziggy - stroking down from the base of the skull (about an inch or so away from the spine) to the base of his tail, then raked (splayed fingers) down through his hips/haunches, then barrel, then shoulders/arms — all this first on one side, then the other. In doing this, I’m feeling for temperature, muscle tone, and sensitivity.
At last, Ziggy got to the massage part of his appointment (Ziggy's session is condensed in the video)!
I began with what’s called the effleurage stroke (pressure in the base of my palm, fingers together as much as possible and hovering slightly above) down either side of Ziggy's neck. This warms the muscle tissues and prepares the area for a deeper stroke — raking (fingers splayed, pressure in the tips), which I do down the neck with the lay of the fur. A stroke called petrissage follows (done with my thumbs, in a ‘punching bag’ kind of motion). I finish with at least three strokes of effleurage before moving on to the next region.
A similar routine follows, but also includes kneading after petrissage, down through the shoulders and arms (and hopefully all the way down to the digits of the paws — it depends on what each pet is willing to allow, and in this case, Ziggy doesn't like having his paws touched). The barrel region is next, with effleurage an inch down from the spine (followed by petrissage), raking between the ribs, followed by some petrissage between the ribs and in the abdominals. Some work in the pectorals will happen before or after this area, depending on how the animal is positioned (Ziggy ended up "asking" for work in his pectorals by showing me he wanted belly rubs). I finish with some strokes up from the sternum and through the abdominals towards the stifle/hip.
I also often do stimulating strokes (sometimes just tapotement, which is a piano playing like motion, other times including what’s called “cupping” and “hacking”, but not for Ziggy) across the shoulders and barrel. In Ziggy's case, tapotement just made him feel itchy, so I didn't do too much of this stroke at all (and no hacking).
Then I finish up in the hip area, working down past the stifles, down to the digits (not for Ziggy, though), with both the soothing and stimulating strokes previously mentioned (again, not for Ziggy). I will sometimes do some soothing strokes, along with tapotement, in the facial and cranial regions right at the end, too, and since Ziggy loves facial massage, I did some soothing strokes in his superficial facial and cranial muscles.
As I go along, if I find a spot that is cold, stiff or knotted, I can also stop there and work on that area with acupressure (this happened once for Ziggy). This involves either direct pressure, pulsing pressure, or rotations (depending on your pet’s tolerance) with my thumb on the knotted/tight/cold spot to relieve the tension.
Sign up for my monthly newsletter and stay up to date on all things pet massage, along with other fascinating pet-related topics and pets available for adoption!
Regan is a certified Canine Massage Therapist (CCMT), has certification in First Aid and CPR for Pets, and some beginner training in Herbal Remedies and Aromatherapy for personal use.