Canine Sports Massage

When Confidence, Comfort, Gait and Balance Make all the Difference!

Whether competing in conformation, agility, obedience, fly-ball, herding, drafting or field events, a skilled canine bodyworker can help your dog achieve peak performance by:

  • Restoring Flexibility and Range of Motion

  • Improving Gait and Balance

  • Soothing Sore Muscles and Joints

  • Calming Excitable Dogs

  • Energizing Lethargic Dogs

  • Preventing Injury

  • Relaxing

  • Focusing,

  • Counteracting Stress, and

  • Making Your Dog Feel Great!

Like their human counterparts, canine athletes need to focus, warm up, cool down and stretch in order to give their best performances. Olympic competitors benefit from sports massage before and after races, gymnastics, jumping, swimming and other games. Our dogs can receive the same performance-enhancing and health-promoting benefits from canine sports massage.

Simultaneously, relieving the dog's muscles of spasms, tension, scar tissue and adhesions aids significantly in preventing the muscle, tendon and ligament tears associated with many canine sports.

Dogs who get the most from sports massage are those who need to:

  • Gait Smoothly,

  • Turn Quickly,

  • Jump Cleanly,

  • Move Comfortably and

  • Remain Relaxed and Focused.


In the conformation ring, dogs should demonstrate correct movement and attitude for their breed. This may encompass reach, drive, symmetry, balance, head and tail carriage, flexibility of top line, animation of movement, focus, expression and alertness. All of these characteristics can be enhanced with sports massage by a trained and experienced professional canine bodyworker. Muscle tension and joint stiffness can severely limit a dog's natural, carriage, animation, fluid gait, reach and drive and cause the dog to move unevenly. While massage cannot improve on a dog's fundamental conformation and natural gait, it can reduce artificial limitations and free the dog to show the best of what it has.

  • Reach and drive can be restricted by tight muscles in the shoulders, hindquarters, neck and back. Massage relieves such muscle tension, allowing limbs to move smoothly and joints to flex and extend fully.

  • Head and tail carriage are affected by tension in the neck, rump, back and even in the jaws. Again, massage can help.

  • A dog's top line may be held rigidly, roach or dip because of soreness and tension in muscles alongside the spine, across the rump, across and between the ribs and in the abdominal region. Massage can increase the flexibility of the spine, allowing the back to be carried correctly and producing more fluid movement.

  • Animation of gait is owed to flexibility and range of motion in the shoulders, elbows, "wrists," hips, stifles, hocks, back and neck.

  • Relaxation and focus improve attention, responsiveness, body carriage, alertness, "flash" and performance.

In other words, massage can make the difference between the BOB, BOW, BIS and "also shown."

Agility, Obedience and Other Canine Performance Sports

Jumping, turning, bending, balance, climbing, crouching and speed rely on comfort and good flexibility, posture and range of motion. Even a dog's ability and willingness to sit straight, grip firmly or carry heavy objects can be related to musculoskeletal condition.

Simultaneously, participation in any canine sport brings along with it the risk of injury. The better the dog's musculoskeletal condition and the less muscle tension the dog retains at the outset, the less likely it is to tear muscles, tendons and ligaments. Routine massage throughout training can help in developing and maintaining good, symmetrical musculoskeletal conditioning. Warm-up, cool-down and stretching sessions do wonders to prepare a dog for competition, prevent injury and relax the dog afterward in anticipation of competing another day.

Appropriate and properly applied massage techniques can play a critical role in a dog's conditioning and performance in sports, including:

  • Agility,

  • Obedience,

  • Tracking,

  • Schutzhund,

  • Hunt Tests and Field Trials,

  • Herding,

  • Draft Tests,

  • Carting,

  • Sledding,

  • Lure Coursing,

  • Rally Obedience,

  • Fly-Ball and more!

Tight and sore muscles, coupled with limited joint mobility can have a serious impact on your dog's speed, agility and focus. Discomfort distracts and discourages the movements which have previously resulted in pain. Reach and drive are critical to all canine competitive sports, which require speed. All of these things may be improved by routine canine sports massage.


Clearly, a dog must be alert, fast and flexible to run, jump climb and crawl its way through an agility course. Increasing spinal flexibility, alone, can improve performance on the weave poles and tunnel. Balance can be impaired by muscular tension, decreasing the agility dog's willingness and ability to cross the dog walk or the teeter-totter. Good contacts on equipment such as the A-frame depend on a dog's ability to control the descent and landing, which, in turn, depend on excellent muscular condition.

In other words, a superior performance in the agility ring requires superior agility (!) and massage is one of the keys to obtaining and maintaining that agility.


Obedience, Schutzhund, agility, fly-ball and a number of of other canine sports require jumping (and, in some cases, climbing.) A dog who inexplicably begins to knock the bars of jumps may suffer from serious muscle tension or joint inflexibility. A dog who starts to refuse jumps may hesitate in anticipation of the pain which could result from a hard or unbalanced landing that puts significant force onto the forelegs, shoulders, neck and spine. By releasing muscle tension, massage can often restore and improve on jump performance.


Effective tracking requires that the dog be able to move quickly and comfortably with the neck extended and head lowered. Tight back and neck muscles can inhibit this posture and the necessary shoulder movement. Massage can help loosen the neck and back, allowing the tracking dog to move comfortably and quickly.

Hunting and Field Trials

As well as speed and drive, field work necessitates the hunting dog's ability and willingness to pick up, gently grip and carry birds and bumpers over relatively long distances. While retrievers, pointers and spaniels usually have strong, well-developed neck muscles, if those muscles or those of the jaws are caught in spasm, (artificial contraction,) retrieved objects will prove awkward and uncomfortable to carry, especially at speed. Flexibility of spine, neck and jaw can also help prevent excessive re-gripping and mouthing of birds and bumpers and can be key to the dog exercising a soft mouth. Again, massage can help.

Drafting, Carting and Sledding

Strength, alone, doesn't win races or weight pulls. In order to pull a load in the desired direction, the dog must be balanced and symmetrically-developed. Massage and conditioning exercises can help monitor and achieve proper bilateral muscle tone and development. The muscles of the chest, shoulders, thorax and hindquarters are all essential to forward momentum and a powerful pull and cannot work at their maximum capacity unless they are freed from tension, adhesions, scarring and spasms ("knots.") Here, too, massage can help throughout training as well as in preparation for and cool-down after an event.

Hopefully it's clear from the above examples how you can use sports massage to improve and enhance your dog's performance in a wide variety of competitive sports and games.

Show Stress

Travel to shows and events can be stressful for even the most easy-going dogs. Long hours in crates and on the road can cause cramps and stiffness. Nights in unfamiliar surroundings can mean restlessness and loss of sleep (for all parties concerned! ) Handler stress, interruption of daily routine and the chaos of the show environment may cause some dogs to become anxious, excitable, distracted or unusually sensitive. Dogs competing in performance events may develop sore muscles or even risk injury. The presence of hundreds of other dogs and the excitement of the show grounds can affect many dogs' concentration, confidence and focus. Massage can help your dog overcome these and many other obstacles.

Carla is available to provide canine sports massage at shows and trials, club meetings, and fun matches.

To inquire about making canine massage available at your events, please e-mail Carla or call.