An anxious dog isn’t easy to deal with.
And there are times when their anxiety is up all the time.
And you’re left wondering,
“What can I do to help my dog?”
Keep reading to discover:
- 3 easy ways to calm down an anxious doggo.
- 7 best techniques to massage your dog for anxiety.
- 3 anti-anxiety medications most prescribed by vets.
- What never to do when your pooch doesn’t like a massage.
- And many more…
Table of contents
Where is the best place to massage a dog?
The best place to massage a dog is on their back and neck. Long strokes from their head to their tail calms their anxiety. Other places are their ears, which you can rub and circular motions on the chest. Effleurage, petrissage, and raking techniques on all parts of their body are also effective.
7 best dog massage techniques
The CCSPA tells us that regular massage sessions work wonders on anxious dogs.
Because it relieves the tension of the muscles experienced during anxiety.
The AKC says that it happens mostly in dogs who have gone through traumatic experiences.
And they experience it when they expect that something bad is going to happen.
For example, this study says that noise sensitivity is the most common anxiety trait in dogs.
It appeared in 32% of 13,700 dogs.
So dogs who have storm phobias will start displaying the signs even when it rains lightly. Or when thunder starts to sound.
This is why some dogs get stressed with fireworks bursting all around their house. Especially during the 4th of July.
Further reading: 15 Reasons Why Dogs Are Suddenly Scared Of Everything
Anxiety isn’t an easy thing to correct in your pooch. And some have such a severe form of it They need medicines to manage their behavior.
“How do I know that my dog is anxious?”
They’ll display the following behavior:
- Escape behaviors.
- Sucking/licking their body.
There are also medical conditions that cause your dog anxiety.
One example is canine dementia caused by aging. It’s a fast degradation of their brain.
Your dog gets confused. They can’t remember commands or even where to go.
“So how does massage help my dog?”
It helps your pet to relax. Human-animal interactions help to reduce high blood pressure and slow heart rates. This study says that it occurs both ways.
#1: Calm them down
This is the first step when massaging an anxious dog.
Touching them while they’re panicking might reinforce their behavior. And it will make their anxiety worse.
Do the following steps to calm them down.
Remove source of anxiety
There are different causes for your dog’s anxiety.
According to the Merck Vet Manual, the most common causes are:
- Separation anxiety.
So if your dog experiences anxiety when meeting other dogs, the best thing to do is move your pooch to a safe place.
Do a few commands
The repetitive actions often give dogs the opportunity to chill out.
It helps to redirect their focus onto something familiar.
So there is a greater chance that they will calm down.
This is a technique known as counter-conditioning. It teaches your pooch to do something positive in place of anxiety.
Chew toys or lick mats
These are toys that allow your pooch to take their mind off their anxiety.
As chewing or licking is a soothing behavior for dogs.
You can fill a chew toy, such as a Kong with food. And give it to your pup before they get anxious.
Here are a few options to choose from:
- Wet kibble.
- Peanut butter.
- Favorite treats.
- Cream cheese.
- Cooked/ground meat.
You can also put the ingredients above on lick mats.
These are silicone mats with ridges or bumps. And licking these will stimulate endorphin production for your dogs.
#2: Long strokes down the head to the tail
You can do this technique once they’ve calmed down.
Let your dog lie down. Keep them near you.
Make full sweeping motions starting at the top of their heads. And then down to their tail.
Note: Be careful. Some dogs don’t like their tails touched. If your dog panics when you do this, back off and give them space.
The long strokes help them to relax. It also prepares your doggo for the coming massage.
Don’t press too hard on their muscles. Remember that the whole goal of this is to let your pooch calm down.
This is a massage technique that can aid in calming your dog.
Because it uses repetitive figure-8 movements. Which releases any tension that they might feel.
You can also use your hands or palms on their body in the same motions.
Use light to moderate pressure when incorporating this technique.
You can use this all over your doggo’s body.
It’s also a way to feel for any abnormal growth. Or any painful spots your pooch has.
Note: If you notice any of these in your dog, take your concerns to your veterinarian. Or a certified animal massage therapist.
In this way, you can prevent physical issues with your doggo’s body before they get worse.
This technique imitates the strokes of the effleurage. But you use your fingers as a rake over their body.
So with this method, the pressure is on your fingertips.
It allows you to have a deeper massage.
But it’s not like actual massage therapy where the goal is to rehabilitate muscles.
Remember the goal of this is to calm an anxious dog. Not as a supplement to medical treatment.
Petrissage is a technique that involves skin rolling and wringing.
In massage therapy, therapists use this to get deeper into the body tissues. It uses moderate to deep pressure to treat muscle pain and spasms.
But you can still modify this to fit your anxious dog.
Focus on the loose skin in their necks. Dogs can’t reach their necks. So this feels great for them.
Pick up the loose skin. And roll and wring it. As if you’re kneading bread.
But don’t put too much pressure.
And use this after the effleurage techniques. When your pooch is more relaxed.
#6: Ear rubs
There are a lot of nerve endings in your dog’s ears. So they are very sensitive.
Just like the pooch in this video:
“So how do I massage my dog’s ears?”
PetMD has detailed instructions on a simple way to do this.
Step 1: Start at the base of their ear. Your index finger should be over it. And your thumb at the base.
Step 2: Use your thumb to massage deeper into the muscles at the ear base.
Step 3: With gentle pressure, move your thumb to the tip of the ear in slow motion.
Step 4: Once you reach the tip, give a little pull.
#7: Circular motions on the chest
The final technique I found is very simple.
It’s best to do this technique with dogs who are in a “Sit” position. Easier to reach their chest that way.
In gentle circular motions, stroke your dog’s chest. Make sure that you’re doing this slowly.
Fast movements contribute to your dog’s high arousal. And it worsens their anxiety.
Adjust the pressure according to what your dog likes.
Warning: If your dog pulls away at any time that you’re having this session, don’t force it.
The cause of their anxiety might be painful medical conditions. And dogs might flinch from you during those times.
Let your dog’s reactions guide you. Remember that you’re doing this to help your dog relax.
“What do I do if a massage doesn’t help my dog?”
If your dog still displays signs of anxiety after your massage, here are a few things to do.
Have your dog in a regular exercise regime. This releases endorphins and dopamine in their body.
When this happens, it counteracts the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol. Which is present when they’re anxious.
According to Fitzroy Vet Hospital, It also helps them be:
- Behavioral-problem free.
Some dogs have such severe anxiety. That it interferes with their daily lives.
So these are supplemental to the treatments your vet prescribes for them.
Here are a few of the common medicines used and their purpose from PetMD:
|Moderate to severe situational anxiety
|Separation anxiety/generalized anxious tendencies
Behavioral enhancement training
Anxious dogs are often like that because of their phobias.
But with help from an animal behaviorist, dogs can conquer it.
The training takes a lot of time.
As it involves counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques.
Counter-conditioning introduces a new behavior to your pooch. They will do this instead of panicking.
While desensitization is gradual exposure to your dog’s source of fear or anxiety.
Trainers often use these techniques together.
For example, your pooch gets anxious around other dogs.
The training might go like this:
Step 1: Stop your dog a safe distance from another. This must be before they get over their threshold.
Step 2: Wait until your dog notices the other dog. Then call your pooch. If it’s far enough, they should find it easy to turn to you.
Step 3: If they do Step 2, then give them a treat. And lead them away.
Step 4: Do this a few times, until your dog relaxes. And heading away is automatic for them.
Step 5: Do Steps 1-4 but move a few steps nearer to the other dog.
This is a gradual process. And pushing your doggo too hard can destroy all the previous work.
So do this with an experienced professional.
If your dog displays signs of anxiety, search for a behaviorist or a certified trainer near you.
You can check out the AKC training clubs for more information.