Cable bill: $100, groceries: $150, doggy massage lessons: $350? Yes, dog owners are racking up quite the expense just to give their dogs professional spa massages, as highlighted in a story last week by The New York Times. Everyone knows of the benefits of the massage which include increased circulation, improved digestion, and stress relief, but is all of that really necessary for a dog? Proud pet lovers aren’t sweating the dint in the pocket as they are signing up for expert training in the droves. From 1996 to 2003 admission rates of doggy massage classes rose from 6% to 21%.

Pets are needed for much more than just warding off trespassers and catching rodents, in fact in some households they are as much a part of the family as Grandma. For some, the care that goes into nursing a sick family member back to health is not above the family dog. Who knew long laps around the dog run was such a stressful job?

Being adorable certainly doesn’t hurt, as you proved yesterday—we posted this cuteness-overload photo of a baby bunny on our Facebook page for Easter and we’ve never received more likes.

While the concept of pampering your pet is nothing really new—there are the ever popular pet spas and their coordinating specialized spa treatments—some dog lovers prefer the DIY method and have shelled out hundreds of dollars for professional doggy massage training. We just hope those dedicated dog lovers are at least treating THEMSELVES to a therapeutic spa experience.

What is also interesting are the tips delivered by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, a teacher and practitioner of canine massage and author of “Canine Massage: A Practical Guide.”

• Start with light pressure. “Most people have so much power in their hands, they don’t realize that it can be too much for some animals,” Mr. Hourdebaigt said. Only if the dog seems comfortable should the pressure be increased.

• Maintain an even speed. “If you’re erratic — starting fast, slowing down, getting fast again — the animal worries too much,” he said. “If you maintain one stroke per second, whether you’re doing gentle kneading or friction, the animal can relax in the flow of the rhythm.”

• Place the pet on a table to keep your own posture comfortable. “If you massage on the floor on your knees, you will get sore knees and a sore back, which makes you tense up and makes the whole experience more negative,” he said.

• Avoid massaging the animal with other animals nearby. “If you have several dogs in your house, and take one particular dog aside and isolate him on the table while the others are having fun, he’ll feel like he’s missing out on something and won’t relax.”

• Learn palpation, a technique of touching aimed at discovering abnormalities. “Any time you feel unusual heat, puffiness or swelling on the animal, back off,” Mr. Hourdebaigt said. And before doing any massage on the suspect spot, ask a veterinarian. 

Sounds appeasing. A doggy massage could easily compete with a typical human swedish massage and add some candles and herbs and it would be as good as aromatherapy. So, are you fond of the doggy massage or is the whole idea is a little far-fetched?

Image via nytimes.com and petprosservices.com

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