I’m a big fan of massage, and as I discovered when he was just a pup, so is Lord Basil. When he had his mad puppy moments, tearing around the house like the Tasmanian Devil, grabbing him for a DIY doggy massage was all I could do to get the crazy fool to calm down. I used to find it relaxed me too, and I really enjoyed the bond these Zen moments created between us.
At this year’s Crufts, my mum and I spotted the Canine Massage Guild, who not only have a national network of Canine Massage Therapists, but also offer courses from one-day beginners workshops to professional two-year diplomas. After seeing one of their therapists work their magic on Basil, I was sold and a Beginners Canine Massage Workshop was purchased, as a b’day gift for yours truly.
So just over two weeks ago Baz and I embarked on a road trip from Brentwood to Bromsgrove to enjoy my gift. Weighing up the three-hour drive Vs 9.30am start, I decided to book the Hilton Bromsgrove for the night before. I wouldn’t stretch as far as saying they’re a dog friendly hotel but dogs are allowed to stay in your room for £20 surcharge and staff offered us a warm welcome. Arriving at the hotel just after 7.30pm, we kicked back in our room with new PJs, red wine, room service and TV for me, and a Cloud 7 for Tumi Travel Bed and cuddles for Baz. The room service was delish and the grounds were conducive for widdle walks.
Fuelled by a hearty breakfast, including some pilfered bacon and sausages for Baz we packed up and headed for the course. Let’s be clear this was no doggy day spa; there were no pint-sized pups, wearing little bathrobes and stretched out on diamante day-beds. However, upon arrival at the rural village hall, we were greeted with a friendly reception from staff and our fellow course mates, as well as a nice cuppa and biscuits.
Taking our places around a large learning table, course leader and the Director of Canine Massage Therapy Centre Natalie Lenton took the group through the day’s events and kicked off the introductions. There were 12 of us on the course – most with their dog, some borrowed and everyone with their own reason for attendance. Some like me, just wanted to enjoy the experience with their dog, others were considering a career change or looking to add an extra layer to their dog business. Along with Natalie’s Jack Russell, Basil was one of the dinkiest of his canine classmates with others including Labs, Greyhounds, Whippets and Casper a towering Weimaraner.
With everyone introduced, and an understanding that what we were about to undertake was not merely pampering but a remedial form of soft tissue and muscular manipulation offering a positive change and result for our dog, we took our places round the room. Basil settled back on his Cloud 7 bed, and relaxing music wafted through the air – thankfully it wasn’t the pan pipe kind (my pet hate).
To ensure we walked away from the course knowing the right way to massage our dog, Natalie and her team looked on and guided us through the benefits of dog massage, how and why massage really works, what’s underneath our dog’s skin, finding their bony landmarks, and locating muscle groups and what they do. There were also three tutorials:
- Tutorial 1 – learn and practice seven fundamental massage techniques with your dog
- Tutorial 2 - learn how to perform passive movement, which is a technique that helps to promote your dogs mobility
- Tutorial 3 - learn and practice your K9 massage routine
Basil and the other dogs were also given a free assessment to give an insight into any injuries and issues they may be storing so you can target your massage better to help relieve their aches and pains. In Basil’s case he had tight muscles in his tush!
Basil was a little bewildered to start, and he kept getting distracted by his classmates, especially Coco – a hot Lab stationed alongside our massage mat - but eventually he did relax (possibly a bit too much when his flatulence and deafening snores kicked in) and he appeared to love his massage.
I’m fairly understanding of how human massage works so much of the day’s learnings made sense. However, what I found most interesting was the insight into actions our dogs do to mask or divert attention from pain such as twitching their leg when rubbed a certain way, or rolling over onto their back for a belly rub to stop you from stroking somewhere that hurts.
I’ve done a fair few joint experiences with Basil – from a professional dog photo-shoot to a doggy Sunday dinner, and I’d say the canine massage workshop is up there with the best of them so I recommend it highly. The Beginners Canine Massage Workshop is priced £85 plus VAT. To enquire or book, visit K9-massage.co.uk. For more information on the Canine Massage Guild and to find your local therapist, visit K9-massageguild.co.uk.