Pet Massage Course for Beginners

We’re not barking – pamper your pets with massage and they’ll make excellent companions. Here’s how to hit the right spot…

We’re not barking – pamper your pets with massage and they’ll make excellent companions. Here’s how to hit the right spot…

Whilst holidaying in the Seychelles my fiancé Caspar ran over to the first indigenous Aldabra tortoise we came across and began kneading its extraordinarily muscular and meaty neck. I winced. “This creature is ancient,” he said. “He’s been holding up his head for 150 years – I think he deserves a massage!” Freddie loved every second – you could see it in his eyes. But then who doesn’t love a massage? It lowers blood pressure and reduces stress for the giver and the receiver and only takes a few minutes a day. Here's my and veterinary nurse Kelly O'Sullivan's tips on how to massage your pets and make sure you’re hitting the right spot:

Give your pet a 10-minute maintenance massage everyday. This way you’ll get to know their body. Flatten your hand and use your palm to stroke their fur, skin, fat, muscle, all the way down their bones. After a while you’ll be able to tell if anything is wrong, like muscle tension, swelling or tight skin. Left undetected they could end up needing medical attention for ailments such as arthritis. 

Soothe stressed out pets. Stroking relaxes the nervous system so find a peaceful place, lie down with them and gently start brushing your hands over their eyes, head, back and tail and repeat several times. When you follow the direction from nose to tail over the neck and back you are following their acupuncture meridians. Increase the pressure if you feel like they are enjoying it. This can also stimulate different neurotransmitters such as endorphins. Finish by placing one hand on their head and one hand on the top of their hips - these two areas will relax the body.

They enjoy a deep tissue massage too. Using the heel of your hand briskly rub the muscles on their neck, shoulders and thighs. This will stimulate the nervous system. Then gently lift and squeeze the muscles. This will boost flexibility, circulation and immunity.

Watch your pets reactions. You’ll be able to tell if they are enjoying it or not. If they don't like you touching a certain area they might resist, growl or hiss so stop immediately and check them to makes sure there isn’t a problem there. 

Calm or pep up your pets. In Chinese acupressure it is recommended you apply a steady rotating pressure with a fingertip to an acupressure point (these are small depressions between the muscle and the bone). If you want to relax the point gently massage anticlockwise over the point. If they tend to be nervous or hyperactive or sore in an area, this movement might calm them down and relax sore muscles. If your pet is generally lethargic and weak a clockwise movement will often perk them up. There are three acupressure points around the hip joint. One point is just in front of the hip joint, one above it and one behind it. If you gently massage those points with one or two fingers in a counterclockwise rotation, they often times just relax and groan in ecstasy.

While massaging your pet, breathe deeply and slowly. It will relax both of you and create a rhythm. If you are hyper and irritable your pet will pick up on it and won’t want to be around you.

There are times to avoid massage. You should wait at least two hours after eating. If your pet is sick with an infection, a fever or a serious disease, they may not want to be touched. Avoid massaging the back and belly of a pregnant animal. You could possibly, unintentionally induce premature labor. You also do not want to massage your pet after they have just been exercising intensely. First let the heart rate come down to normal and stop panting before massaging.

For maximum pleasure… After performing a general full body massage and focusing on any specific areas that need more attention, you can finish off with slow, gentle rubbing of the inside and outside of each ear. This will provoke wonderful sighs of contentment in your dog, cat or rabbit.

Use products in the correct way. Oils shouldn’t be put directly onto animals fur as it could clog up and become a skin problem for them. Essential oils and aromatherapy are often used to calm dogs and relax them and they’re usually in grooming products such as sprays or shampoos but also really natural ones are used in a bath.

We love Fuzzyard Aromatherapy Mists £12.99 and Animology Paws and Relax Aromatherapy Spray £4.99 from

•Whale music and incense optional.

Lisa Oxenham

An award-winning health and beauty writer, stylist and creative director, Lisa Oxenham is one of the UK’s top beauty editors and the Beauty and Style Director at Marie Claire UK. With 20 years of editorial experience Lisa is a brand partnership expert, and a popular speaker, panelist and interviewer on a range of topics from sustainability to the future of beauty in the digital world. She recently spoke at Cognition X and Beauty Tech Live and is on the Advisory Board for the British Beauty Council’s Sustainable Beauty Coalition.

A well-respected creative director she works on celebrity, model and influencer shoots with the highest calibre of photographers, filmmakers, make-up artists and hairstylists to create timeless images, attention-grabbing videos, digital events and masterclasses. Most recently Lisa has directed covers such as Lily Cole and Jameela Jamil, films such as Save The Arts featuring Francesca Hayward and sustainable fashion shoots such as Be The Change. Supporting the beauty industry over the pandemic has been a top focus, directing the British Beauty Council’s six inspirational short biographical films for their Bring Back Beauty campaign.

Lisa is a wellbeing and beauty influencer with a focus on mental health and a large and engaged audience on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.