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21 Spots Your Dog loves to Have Scratched, Tickled,Touched, Petted, Rubbed, or Massaged
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If you find a spot your dog likes to have touched, he'll be the first what to let you know. "He'll look at you like 'don't stop' or get a hypnotic look like 'that was really good, I want more.' He may lick you, fall asleep, sigh, push his body toward you or your hand toward him to encourage you to do more, blink his eyes, make a strange happy throat-scratching sound," says Nicole Mezo, a certified massage therapist in Mill Valley, California, who also massages dogs, and is the author of "On Cloud K-9: How to Massage Your Dog."
To find out what dogs like best, we interviewed her, along with others who do occasional pet massages, like Leigh Applebrook of The Pet Department Store in New York, and massage therapists, Lisa Corwin and Fanny Mandelberger.
Don't try any of the following on dogs you don't know well, however, and start out cautiously even on your own dog. He may be overly sensitive in some areas and react unpredictably. Tufts University's School of Veterinary Medicine's "Your Dog" newsletter cautions against massaging areas "near fractures, sprains, or ruptured vertebral disks" along with inflamed swollen or bruised areas.
If you massage any one of the first three regions below, your dog will be especially happy because you'll be doing for him what he can't do for himself.
1.Gums: A dog may have a mild irritation and sore spots in his mouth area, which may be why you see him rubbing the sides of his head against the floor or hard edges of furniture. Or it may be his ears!
But if his teeth are the problem, you'll help him get relief if you rub your fingers along his lower gum line. Not under his chin;just gently below the outline of his teeth, over the fur. (Be careful since some dogs bite if you approach the mouth area.) Incidentally, if his gum line seems very sore, or you note a lot of odor or swelling, your dog needs more than a rub. He needs a trip to the vet.
2. In front of his ears: Dogs often have problems with wax, fluids, foreign objects, and mites in their ear canals. Since they can't stick their paws into their ears, they may get some relief when you gently rub that area from the outside.
3. Below the ears, near the jaw: Move your fingers an inch or two down the ears toward the jaw, gently, because your dog may experience some discomfort. In addition, the salivary and lymph glands are in this region and they can be very sensitive to touch.
The following areas are stimulating to a dog--sometimes overly so. Puppies, for example, when handled between the front legs may try to mount your arm. If you're already having troubles like your dog mounting, you may not want to excite your dog any further and may choose to skip some of these spots.
4. The chest: Pet behaviorist Barbara Woodhouse says that a dog will become almost hypnotized if you gently tickle his chest, between his front legs, with your palms up, facing him. Touching this area is particularly exciting to dogs, whose chests are stimulated when they mount other dogs.
5. The groin: Many people go out of their way not to touch a dog in this region--but many knowledgeable animal experts encourage the opposite. The highly respected pet authority, Michael Fox, D.Sc., Ph.D., B. Veterinary Medicine, M.R.C.VS., in "Dr. Fox's Massage Program for Cats and Dogs," writes, that touching a dog in the groin area is a friendly thing to do, the "equivalent of a human handshake." He adds that a dog presents his groin for contact to people and other dogs.
The last people you'd expect to encourage one to touch a dog here are monks, but the monks of New Skete promulgate calming a dog down "by placing your open palm , over the dog's groin area ... and hold [your hand] there." (The massage experts are the ones saying this so don't complain to us!)
In "How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend," they also agree that this area is a traditional greeting place between fellow canines. "Dogs often tell each other 'it's all right' by nudging this area. When you gently place your hand there, it has the same effect on the dog as placing an arm around the shoulder..."
6. In front of the tail: Where your dog's tail ends and his pelvis begins is a sensitive, erogenous zone. By the way, many dogs reflexively raise their hind legs when rubbed here.
7. Behind the ears: Tickling or scratching a dog behind the ears may be sexual in its significance, because ear licking, sniffing, and nibbling are part of the preliminaries of canine courtship. In addition to scratching a dog behind the ears, some massage therapists will gently press the ears with the thumb and forefingers, although some dogs don't like that.
Touching the following three places almost always delights any dog, who will often immediately come back to you for more:
8. Under the chin and the neck: Stroke them without pressing or rubbing hard here, because you don't want to put any pressure on the windpipe or trachea.
9. Behind the head at the base of the neck: At the end of his neck, right before his spinal column begins, there are muscles that most dogs love to have gently massaged.
10. Belly: Rub it gently.
Most dogs like to have the following areas worked on:
11. Between the ears: Rub him lightly on the head between his ears. Puppies can practically become hypnotized when this is done to them.
12. Temple area: Do both sides at once.
13. Top of the head: Move the fur above the bone around gently by rotating it with your fingers and making little circles.
14. Directly above the nose: Very gently touching a dog here, in the area where there's no fur, sometimes just with the back of your hand, is also almost hypnotic for some dogs.
15. The sides of the neck: In some dogs you can do both sides at the same time by putting your hand around his neck and gently squeezing your fingers and thumb together.
16. Along the muscles of the spine: You can use both hands, but never rub too vigorously in the spinal region.
17. Along the sides of the body: Right down his ribs.
Some dogs love the following; for some it doesn't seem to do a thing; and others actively move away to avoid it:
18. Both armpits (in the front legs): Don't touch here too forcefully. Many dogs like a light rubbing motion from inside the armpit down toward the body.
19. Sides of the mouth: Imagine a line continuing a few inches out from your dog's mouth and follow that line with one finger.
20. Webbing in the back of the legs: The webbing that connects the hind legs can be gently pressed with your thumb and forefinger. Don't do this for older dogs who may have arthritis and can be sensitive there. Incidentally, in "A Dog Is Listening," Roger Caras says that when dogs are playing, they sometimes nip each other in this area, confirming that it can be a sensitive and pleasurable area for many dogs.
21. Between the toes: Some dogs like being lightly pressed on the pads between the toes. Others are ticklish and move their feet away the minute you try to touch them there.
Robert Browning Loved Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but Not Her Dog
"Grow old along with me--but not unless you get rid of that *&@#%* dog!" is what poet Robert Browning might have written. But Elizabeth Barrett's dog almost had the last bark by nearly preventing one of the most famous romances in history.
Flush, her cocker spaniel, knew something was afoot the first time Browning called on Elizabeth, and he tried to nip the romance in the bud by biting Browning on the ankle.
But Browning refused to admit de-feet.The first time Flush was kidnapped by a ring of dog thieves--which was common in those days and explains why he was abducted two more times--he refused to pay the ransom. Elizabeth paid it, the romance flourished, and Flush ultimately went along on their honeymoon, according to writer Lorna Powers.
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