Why is Massage Important for Performance Dogs? Lure coursing, agility, obedience, Frisbee, fly-ball, tracking, herding, and field trials are just some of the competitive activities that our canine athletes engage in. Yet it often doesn’t occur to us to attend to other athletic needs they may have. Human athletes interested in performing at their peak frequently have a massage prior to engaging in a competition. It has many benefits, which are also applicable to dogs.
Prior to a competition, I gave Taylor a massage (known as a pre-competition massage), which warmed up his muscles and prepared him for the work at hand. By doing this it increased his circulation which brought additional oxygen and blood to the muscles. This increases the efficiency of the muscle and helps it work in a more productive manner. The characteristically light pressure and rapid movement of this type of massage invigorates the nervous system and helps the dog to be at his peak—alert and ready to compete.
During the competition Taylor exhibited an abundance of energy and performed beautifully. Afterward, his owner brought an excited, satisfied yet very tired Taylor to me. I gave him a massage (known as post-competition massage), which enabled me to look for any injuries that might have occurred during the competition. They can then be pointed out to the handler who can take veterinary action if it is dictated. This type of massage also promotes the removal of lactic acid which results from intense activity. If lactic acid is left in the tissues—it will pool, causing an irritation of motor-nerve endings which can develop into trigger points. These can be quite painful. Additionally, post-competition massage relaxes and calms the dog after an intense activity. This will undoubtedly add to the enjoyment of the trip home!