Wednesday, 6 March 2019

How can I massage my dog when they keep walking away? (new blog/video format)

Welcome to the new format blog/mini video combo!

We are trialling a little experiment where you have the chance to ask me anything about living with and training dogs in our private FaceBook group, and I’m going to try and answer at least one of those per week.

At the same time, I’m also experimenting with some software that actually writes down on the computer what I’m saying. I hope that means is that I can get the blogs out a little bit quicker to you.

I know some people find video really helpful but it’s also handy to have that written record of the answer to refer back to.

So here’s our little experiment to see how it goes!

The first question comes from Sonia with Benson (a lovely big Labrador)
Benson doesn’t generally enjoy being petted, he will sit on our laps all day for snuggles when it is his own choice and he’ll also weave in and out of my legs for ever as a way of greeting, but if we were to move to pet him generally he moves away or he goes and picks up a toy.  How do we work around this in bodywork (considering doing the upcoming course as a observer).

Sonia wants to understand her dog a little bit better but she’s also asking because she’d like to take the Bodywork and Relaxation class as a spectator (Benson isn’t ready to attend class in person yet).

We want to think about this from two angles.  Firstly we have the dog who just generally prefers not to be actively petted by us unless it’s their choice and secondly - how we can handle that when we’re taking a class that means we want to get our hands on them!

Your dog is giving you a big hint – this isn’t a coincidence…. 

  • If when you pet your dog, they pretty much consistently move away, or offer you a different body part, or go to get a toy, or suddenly they have an interest in going and sniffing somewhere…. 
  • I would say that your dog is giving you a pretty big hint that they would either like you to pet them differently or not pet them at all. 

Why is it happening? 

  • It might be because something is different today. Were you being a little bit heavier handed than they like? It might be that just today they don’t feel like it, because you know we all have days like that!
  • Or is it consistently happening every day, or when you touch them in a particular place like their hind quarters? Could it be that they are feeling a little sore or tender?
  • Often when we pet dogs it’s quite absent mindedly. We just kind of pat them on the head or we might stroke them without really thinking about what it’s like for the dog.

What should you do? 

  • Try using the Consent Test to explore what your dog likes, and how they tell you to keep going versus stop now please. If you’re in our private Facebook group or on our email list I will give you a link to our handout.

Basically pet your dog for a few seconds and then stop and see what they do. Observation is really important!

  • I would also start working out when my dog is more likely to want to be petted, and using that time to explore things

Sonia says that Benson will sit on their laps daily for snuggles. When he’s being close to you and relaxed that’s probably a good time to think about maybe just a little bit of neck massage or shoulder massage like we teach in class.

Aim to do that kind of bodywork for literally a couple seconds and then take your hands away. What we are looking for is to find out what kind of pressure or touch does my dog actually actively seek out and what will they stick around for.

Struggling to make progress on your own? 

  • Try videoing the sessions to watch them back later – it’s tricky seeing the signs sometimes. 
  • Slow down! 
  • Consider taking one of our Bodywork & Relaxation classes either attending with your dog, or as a spectator (practice at home, submit homework videos and get feedback, learn in class on other student’s dogs). 

Bodywork and Relaxation blocks start on 10th April and then 15th May

Book your Bodywork and Relaxation Class


Can it work for any dog? 

Over the 10 years that I’ve been doing massage and bodywork with dogs and humans together, I have not yet had a dog that we couldn’t find some kind of touch that they enjoyed and was useful for them!

Feedback please!

Please do let me know what you think of the new format – it will get better I promise as I juggle live video recording and dictation software!


PS The last set of Level 2 three week intensives start next week (Wednesday 13th March) with me, so if you were undecided about progressing your training in loose lead walking or self control  don’t delay. These are the last dates for the next three months!

PPS And don’t forget you can see everything that your dog could be getting up to on the website:

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