As someone who is offers massage services to sport dogs and dogs with mobility problems, I can truly say that if the right person is performing the massage, it can enhance the quality of life of your companion. I would also caution that there is not a lot of available classes and many people are taking classes online. Buyer beware. Check out this article
RENEE LANE’S living room had been transformed into a spa. Candles twinkled on the coffee table; lavender oil scented the air; lilting guitar music played softly on the stereo. Grace, Ms. Lane’s 2-year-old caramel-colored toy poodle, leaped onto the sofa and, in response to Ms. Lane’s cooing invitation (“Want to lay down for Mama?”), got into position for her evening massage.
Ms. Lane took a deep breath and began making long stroking motions down the length of Grace’s back with her palms. With her thumbs, she kneaded the tissue around the dog’s delicate shoulders, and then began working her way toward the muscles in the dog’s legs. By the time the 20-minute massage session was done, Grace had entered a state of canine bliss, eyelids drooping, tongue lolling.
“Grace absolutely loves it — she just turns into a puddle,” said Ms. Lane, 43, a public relations and business development consultant in Edgewater, N.J. “I want to keep her around as long as I can, and I think it’s going to keep her healthy. She helps reduce my stress, so why shouldn’t I reciprocate?”
That is a question that a number of dog owners — and even some cat owners — have been asking themselves, buoyed by a belief that pet massage confers the same benefits as human massage: increased circulation, improved digestion, strengthened immunity, stress relief, comfort at the end of life and muscle relaxation after a hard day (even if it was spent at the dog park).
Some pet owners scoff at this idea. What’s wrong with regular old petting? they ask. And many veterinarians say that evidence of its benefits is flimsy. Nonetheless, pet massage workshops have flourished in recent years at pet stores, dog day-care centers, veterinary clinics, animal hospitals, massage schools and holistic institutes like the New York Open Center in Manhattan, where Ms. Lane and more than 75 other dog owners took a one-day class last summer.
“People realize more and more that what’s good for me, including massage, is probably good for my animal,” said Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, an animal massage therapist and teacher in Wellington, Fla., whose book “Canine Massage: A Complete Reference Manual” is considered the standard text.
“Today, you also have the baby boomers whose kids are gone,” Mr. Hourdebaigt said. They “have more time and money, and it’s easy for them to spend a couple hundred bucks on a massage seminar for their dog. The animal benefits, the benevolent action makes them feel good. Everybody’s happy.”
By most estimates, only a few of the nation’s pet dogs and cats — which the American Pet Products Association estimates
at 78.2 million and 86.4 million, respectively — are fortunate enough to receive massages. But the numbers may be growing. The International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork, a professional group in Toledo, Ohio, now has more than 500 members, up from just 200 in 2007. And a survey of more than 1,200 pet owners across the United States and Canada by the American Animal Hospital Association in Lakewood, Colo., found that the number who were pursuing alternative therapies for their animals — including acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and herbal medicine — rose to 21 percent from 6 percent between 1996 and 2003. (It may still be rising; the survey was discontinued after 2004.)
Many pet owners interested in massage hire professionals to perform the treatment. But the D.I.Y. approach — in which pet owners like Ms. Lane learn the techniques themselves — also seems to be gaining in popularity, as Mr. Hourdebaigt maintains. At the Northwest School of Animal Massage in Fall City, Wash., 170 people took the basic amateur workshop last year; eight years ago, only 24 people enrolled. At the Boulder College of Massage Therapy in Colorado, enrollment in a similar class has jumped 30 percent in the last two years.
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