Many researchers and animal lovers would agree; dogs and humans have evolved together cooperatively. Recent studies suggest drivers of food availability and living conditions up to 32,000 years ago initiated canine divergence from wolves in Southeast Asia. Since that time, parallel social rewiring of both species has fostered a deep genetic and metabolic kinship.

Why Is Touch Important?

Through the release of the “love hormone” oxytocin, both humans and dogs experience pleasure through touch; the resulting effect is an improved sense of trust and calmness which not only strengthens the bond, but also contributes to the health and well-being of both owner and animal.

Animal behaviorists and trainers recommend a calm state for optimal receptiveness to training. Relaxation benefits both dogs and humans; teaching and practicing these techniques reduces the effects of stress, thus supporting immunity, circulatory and mental health, and providing a learned behavioral/coping mechanism against distraction, impulsiveness and agitation.

What Kind Of Touch Is Beneficial?

At the risk of oversimplification, we know not every touch is equal; a tickle feels much different from a deep massage. Addressing the broad spectrum of touch, there are many books of instruction written about the benefits of energy balancing through light touch methods, deep massage, physical therapy and acupressure – and guides about how to perform these techniques. Several are reverenced at the end of this post.

The need of the animal will dictate the technique; but most dogs will benefit from an introduction to light touch, with a channeled intent to calm or relax.

What Problems Can Touch Therapy Address?

Healthy interaction between owner/handler and animal is critical to building and maintaining a strong relationship as a conduit to your dog’s mental, physical and emotional state. Although touch therapy is not designed to replace medical care, it can be a powerful component to a solid pet behavioral training and health program that may help address the following issues:

  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Soreness or Pain
  • Tension
  • Fear
  • Weakness
  • Impulsiveness
  • Circulatory problems
  • Antisocial behaviors

How Do I Start With Touch Therapy?

You can experiment and choose the method right for you and your pet. Referenced at the end of this post are several techniques worth research and practice.

Start with a calming approach; your pet will react to your energy. Don’t be disappointed if your pet gets up and walks away; respect his space and try again later. Have treats nearby for positive reinforcement if this is a new experience.

It is probably easiest to first practice when your pet is receptive and not anxious.

The objective here is to share a connection and release nervous tension, not create question, mystery or more stress!

The touch methods generally incorporate gentle work with fingers or stroking with the whole hand. Smaller areas around the forehead, face and legs will require smaller strokes with fingertips or thumbs, larger areas can be covered with the same smaller strokes, then sweeping motions. Some methods use small, deliberate, connected circular strokes, some integrate walking fingers. As you experiment and read further on your selected method, you’ll find a comfortable choice.

Here’s an example of a simple method you can try today:

Comfortably position yourself facing your dog (lying down or standing); or approach from the angle least uncomfortable for your pet. Proceed from top to bottom, beginning with the head. Press gently against the skin and feather out each stroke. Move slowly down the spine to the base of the tail, then into the hips. Return to the shoulders and work down the front legs, then to each side, front to back, dropping an inch or so down from the spine until reaching the belly. Finally, begin under the chin or at the neck, and work down the chest to the underbelly (if your dog is lying down, this is easiest.) Complete the process with longer strokes from head to tail.

What Reactions Should I Expect?

Pay attention to your dog’s reaction; does he appear intrigued, or startled or disinterested? Does he follow or nudge your hand in approval? Look for signs that he is beginning to release tension – a heavy sigh, a body shake, a yawn, loosening brow, slowed breathing – and also signs of discomfort. Does he squirm, stiffen or nip, are his eyes widening or is he panting? Keep in mind that a dog with medical issues or pain may respond negatively or even aggressively to touch. Consider also the timing of your touch, and other distractions or activities that may be interfering with the experience.

Take it slow when handling areas, like feet, that are known to be uncomfortable or awkward for your pet. Incorporate positive association, like treats, with gentle foot handling, if your dog is receptive. But don’t force the issue; pressuring your dog will only increase tension and mistrust. Patience is a virtue when relating to your best friend.

Every dog is different; the earlier you explore a touch program, the more familiar you will become to your pet’s aversions, preferences and sensitivities – and the deeper your connection will become.

How Can I Learn More?

Follow the links below to read more about touch therapy methods and techniques:

Tellington Touch
Healing Touch for Animals/Komitor Healing Method (HTA/KHM)

Do you have suggestions or an account of healing or behavioral change through touch therapy? Share in the comments below!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




12 thoughts on “Calming Remedies for Dogs: Therapy with Touch

  1. This is very interesting. Over the years animals and humans have evolved so much as it relates to their relationship. I can remember as a child that my family had a dog but he always slept outside.

    Fast forward 30 years and now most all animals have their space inside. Touch therapy sounds so interesting to me and i definitely will try it.

    I did not have any idea that this could be the possible remedy to so many things. I especially like that impulsiveness is on that list. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for visiting the site and offering your comment, Nate! A comprehensive approach using touch in conjunction with behavioral training can be a very effective and powerful solution…as well as bringing us closer to our best friends!

  2. I think you can learn a lot about your pet from their reactions to your touch. My dog hated to be touched on his legs and paws. Made him very nervous and uncomfortable. But long strokes from his head to his tail he loved. Very informative and the fact that it is healing for them too is good to know!

  3. I understand some dogs don’t like to be touched in certain areas (especially paws and tails) but overall they sense the positive energy and love when we stroke them. I am a firm believer that animals are very sensitive to energy around them, and naturally respond such energy. I have two dogs (well, one just passed recently at the age of 15) and touch and stroke their whole body every day and tell them how much I love them. It looks like it helps their longevity.
    Thank you for the great post!

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s passing, Kyoko…it sounds like you are in tune with them as they are with you…and yes, I agree and believe they channel the energy they feel and connect with us deeply. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

  4. Due to the ever-rising growth rate of thunderstorms in the world I think you will help a lot of people your website. I have learned a lot about dogs just from this article. Who knew a simple touch could create a “love hormone” that’s beneficial in many ways. I’ll be taking all these tips on board and seeing what kind of reactions I get. Thanks a lot.

  5. Intriguing. I had never heard of touch therapy before, but I have heard of and used ‘thunder jackets’ for my black lab that freaks out every time thunder strikes. I suppose after reading the article that they are rooted in the same general idea and the thunder jacket is mostly a follow on of touch therapy. This is really cool and great to know that I don’t always need to depend on the jacket!

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