The first session begins in the comfort of your own home. Animals tend to be more relaxed in a familiar environment and so, when possible, scheduling the first session at your house works best. Sometimes this is not possible (do to schedule, time, or distance), so I also massage clients at Aqua Dog Spa or Splash Dog Spa.
It is helpful to schedule the first massage for an hour. This gives me time to do a complete and thorough assessment, speak with you about your animal’s overall health, and discuss why you are seeking massage/acupressure therapy. After the first session, I will discuss with you my recommendations about length and frequency of future sessions.
After the initial assessment, I spend time letting the animal get used to my touch (which often happens while we are talking!). Some animals take quickly to the work — relaxing comfortably on their beds or blankets after the first 5-10 minutes together. Other animals, cats in particular, are a bit more hesitant and can longer to adjust to the work. I don’t push or force the animal into a massage or acupressure session, rather I work on whatever they present to me until they feel more comfortable with my touch and used to the routine.
Generally, after the first 2-3 sessions, the animal knows what to expect and settles in nicely. Sessions usually run about 30 minutes, though I have some clients who, given their size and/or health concerns, benefit from a full hour. It all depends on the animal and again, I let them choose what needs to be worked on and for how long.
While I may have a plan or an idea of what areas I’d like to work on, I’ve found over the years that the animals know exactly what they need and that my job is to “listen” with both my eyes and my hands. In addition, I like to talk with the family about changes they’ve seen from session to session and discuss any new insights they may have.
Some family members like to watch and discuss the work during the session. While this is fine, it all depends on the animal — Can she relax? Is he more attentive to the family than the massage? Does too much distraction pull me from my focus?
Every animal is different and it’s my job to create a safe, welcoming space for your beloved companion to receive the most benefits from each session.
As much as I’d like everyone to have their own dog pool at their homes (!), this is, of course, not feasible so I work from two pools in the Greater Seattle Area — Aqua Dog Spa in Kent and Splash Dog Spa in Edmonds.
For me, I prefer an initial one-hour session. This allows for a full and thorough assessment, time for the dog to acclimate to the pool and my expectations, and enough time to completely assess the dog in the water as well as give an effective massage.
Once the first session is complete, I will discuss with you my recommendations for length and frequency of swim sessions.
In general though, the first session is about making the dog feel comfortable with the idea of swimming. Once comfortable with the expectations and routine, the length of the succeeding sessions is dependent on many factors such as age and overall health of the dog, therapeutic goals trying to be achieved (decrease muscle atrophy*, increase range of motion, develop proprioceptive awareness, etc.), and time and cost.
When possible, I love working with your family vet to establish goals, assess progress, and be a part of your dog’s wellness team! And I love work with you to create the best plan to get your dog moving well and in the best health possible.
*A brief note about muscle atrophy: Muscle atrophy is often a secondary side effect of many conditions. For instance, when dog can’t fully bear weight on an injured leg or is recovering and confined after surgery, the muscles atrophy, or lose muscle tone and strength. Elderly dogs, who can’t go for long walks or exercise as much, will lose muscle tone and the muscles will look as if they’ve shrunk. For every day of atrophy, it takes approximately four days to rebuild (given health and overall condition of the dog). Therefore, it can take quite a while and many months of focused exercise to regain much of what’s been lost.