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9 Ways To Massage A Dog To Sleep (How-to Guide)

How To Massage A Dog To Sleep

Is your pooch keeping you up at night?

Or do they have trouble settling down for bed?

Worry no more!

This article will teach you how to help them relax.

Keep reading and discover:

  • What you have to avoid when doing it.
  • 3 techniques for a good massage session.
  • 5 benefits of daily massage for your pooch.
  • 9 ways to massage a dog to help them sleep.
  • And much, much, more…

Can you massage a dog to help them sleep?

You can massage a dog to help them sleep by using sweeping motions on their back. And doing figure-8 motions on the whole body. Next, massage their facial muscles and find the tight areas. Such as their triceps, thighs, and glutes. You can also do their tail and ears.

How to massage a dog to sleep – 9 ways

Massage is a great way for you to bond with your dog.

And it does all these things for your pooch:

  • Relaxation.
  • Improves circulation.
  • Reduces pain or inflammation.

It also relieves anxiety and stress for your pooch. 

The touching motion increases oxytocin levels.

Research has long confirmed this.

This study tells us that petting dogs was the best physical contact. When dog parents do this there is a significant rise in oxytocin levels. 

These petting sessions can be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.

“Why is oxytocin so important?”

This hormone is rightly called the love hormone. In the sense that it builds up the human-dog bond. 

In other words, it strengthens your dog’s love for you.

And according to this study, the presence of oxytocin has positive effects. 

It enhances social reward. And it also stops stress-induced activity in the brain. 

So without further ado, let’s get started!

First, you need to make sure that you have a relaxed doggo.

Find a quiet spot in your home.  Preferable away from other people or other dogs.

Next use a firm bed or an orthopedic mattress. This prevents your dog from sinking as you massage them. You can also place a mat on the floor.

Always remember that your dog has to like touch. 

If they do warning signals, back off.

These can be any of the following:

When your dog looks comfortable, you can start with a massage.

#1: Use sweeping motions

Prepare your dog for the massage by making sweeping motions on its back. 

This relaxes your dog. 

You can start at the neck. Use a kneading motion at the loose skin there. 

According to Dr. Leilani Alvarez, it is a natural area of relaxation for dogs. 

When your dog starts to look like a floppy noodle, and they’re not pulling back, it means that they’d like you to continue.

#2: Figure-8 motions on the body

Start the massage by using the effleurage technique. 

It involves a continuous circular stroking movement using the palm of your hand. 

For dogs, you can incorporate your thumbs. And use figure-8 motions.

Use light to moderate pressure when you do this. 

Start at your dog’s neck. And move down their back and their limbs. 

Try to touch your pooch all over. This allows you to spot any abnormal growth or painful spots on their body.

#3: Massage their face muscles

Massage A Dog To Sleep In Their Face Muscles

Next spot to do is your pooch’s facial muscles.

Dogs like to use their mouths a lot. Especially when they’re eating food or chewing on their toys.

So the muscles on the muzzle can get really strained. 

There’s a huge one on their cheek called the masseter muscle. So-called because they use it a lot when chewing. 

Use the effleurage technique there. Circular repetitive motions are best.

And then move up to the eye area. Use your thumbs and massage around the eyes. 

#4: Massage on tight areas

Effleurage is an excellent technique, to begin with when you’re starting the session. 

With it, you can feel and notice the tight areas in your pooch.

Then you can use these techniques to target those areas:


This technique uses moderate to deep pressure on tissue and muscles. It treats muscle knots and spasms.

And according to ManchesterPhysio, it also:

  • Relaxes muscles.
  • Breaks up adhesions.
  • Improves blood circulation.

This is faster than effleurage. And it involves skin rolling and wringing.

Pick up their skin and roll it under your hands. This allows you to get deeper into the muscles underneath the skin. 


This technique is best for senior dogs. Those who can’t walk very much that their muscles stiffened (atrophied). 

It involves using fast tapping motions with the tips of your fingers. 

So just focus that on the spots where there are weak muscles.

#5: Focus on their front leg triceps

Dogs tend to bear their weight on their forelegs. So the muscles in that area tend to be really sore, especially the triceps.

Much like our shoulder muscles. 

Because of my work, I’m often bending over my laptop or computer for hours. 

So when I do get a massage, the shoulder blades are the sorest. 

“What techniques do I use for this area?”

One technique to use is ischemic compression. 

It involves blocking blood supply for a short while through compression. And then releasing that. 

The blood flow relieves the pressure especially for those tight spots, says Today’s Veterinary Nurse.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Find the trigger points in the muscle by giving pressure as you massage. You’ll know you found one when they give a twitch response. 

Step 2: Take your thumb. Press and hold on to the spot for 10 seconds. 

Step 3: Slowly release. And follow with some effleurage on the spot.

#6: Leg and paw massage

This is an area where there are a lot of nerve endings for our dogs. 

They do use them a lot. So there can be a lot of tension here.

Make it better for your pooch by doing these: 

Step 1: Start with effleurage. Help your pooch relax with soothing circular motions. Most dogs don’t like you touching their paws. So you might have to get them used to it. 

Step 2: Flex and extend the digits in the paws. You can do it one by one. Or flex the whole paw. 

Step 3: Put traction on them by putting your fingers behind and in front of the joints. And gently pull away from the joint. It’s great for dogs with arthritis.

#7: Tail massage

A doggo’s tail is actually very important. 

They use it for:

  • Balance.
  • Movement.
  • Communication. 

According to the AKC, their tails help them to balance their weight. And even switch directions when they’re running. 

It sees a lot of movement, so a massage would actually feel good for your pooch. 

You can apply deeper pressure here using an effleurage. 

But remember that tails are sensitive. So if your dog yelps when you touch it. 

Or they don’t wag their tails; it could be a sign of tail injuries.

VCA explains that these can be:

  • Happy tail.
  • Fractured tail.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Limber or cold tail.

Read next: 11 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Never Wags His Tail + 3 Tips

#8: Thigh and glute rub 

This is especially great for older dogs who have difficulty moving around.

PetMD recommends this technique for their back legs and glutes.

Step 1: Use gentle pressure. Press your thumbs into the muscles. And massage in a backward C-shape.

Step 2: Slowly massage the entire muscle using this stroke. 

Note: This technique can also apply to your dog’s neck. They can’t reach it so this would feel really good for them.

Watch this video for another technique that you can use to massage this part:

#9: Rubbing their ears

I mean, everybody knows that dogs like their ears rubbed. 

My friend’s dog, Hela, loves it when it’s ear cleaning time. 

When she massages the ear cleaner into Hela’s ear, there’s a lot of groaning noises. 

And Hela demands longer ear rubbings. She would look at my friend in an accusing way if it were ever to stop. 

But back to the massaging.

Here’s a simple technique from Victoria Stillwell:

Step 1: Slowly stroke the ear in a circular motion. Start from the base of the ear. 

Step 2: Or use a straight gentle stroke from the base of the ear to the top.

Step 3: Once you reach the top, give the ear a slight pull.

Watch your dog for the pressure that they like. Use a soft one if your pooch is a bit skittish of anyone touching their head.

But wait…

Now that you know the massage techniques, it’s also right to warn you that massage isn’t a cure-all for your pet. 

It’s great for relaxation and physical therapy. But there are situations where a visit to the vet is the best option. 

According to the IVC Journal, these are times when your dog has:

  • Fractures.
  • Recent surgery.
  • Fever problems.
  • Any infectious disease.
  • Internal organ problems.

They also advise avoiding massage when your dog is on medication. Especially ones that have side effects if there’s an increased absorption rate. 

Another no-no is massaging on any abnormal growth or mass that isn’t diagnosed as benign. 

But you can run your hands through their body to look for masses. And once you find one, go to the vet for testing. 

They will take a sample of the mass. And examine it through various tests. 

You might also be interested in: 5 Easy Ways To Massage A Dog To Poop (How-To Guide)