A Recipe for Bathtime Relaxation
The hydrossage or aquassage- however you term and market it, is the easiest and safest form of canine massage therapy to implement into your everyday schedule. It can be a great first step for those interested in, yet unsure about, adding spa type services to their salon, or changing the face of their shop to a spa environment.
With this type of massage there is very little out of pocket cost in order to begin to offer it, and the best first step is to educate one’s self on the benefits for your clients.
Most any dog that is comfortable with a bath can receive this service, and certainly benefit from it. If a pet is extremely frightened during its bath, it may take extra time to condition them for a massage, but it is a valuable tool in bringing them around to the idea that a bath can be a great thing! “It smells good, it feels good, it is relaxing and I feel better after it!” stated one dog when I asked them after their massage. Dogs learn through association and this works here, too!
First you should always talk about this in depth with the client to be sure that there are no existing health issues that warmer bathing temperature or tissue massage may aggravate, and always have your clients read and sign a pre-massage release form. If the pet does have any health concerns, you may want to get the owner’s approval to speak ahead of time with the dog’s vet about medical issues, for safety reasons.
Explain the benefit of this method of massage. It is very superficial, meaning that while it is beneficial, it is not a massage modality that has lasting effects- it does not directly cause increased deep tissue circulation to the treated area. It does not require the pet to be in any different body position that it is not used to being in while at its normal grooming visits. It does not require the groomer any added education in order to successfully and effectively provide this massage, therefore, it is hard to do improperly. It will leave the dog feeling relaxed during and invigorated afterwards. And it does help promote fluid movement in joints, and muscles tension release as it works with warmth and light pulsating pressure to achieve non-invasive release.
So, let’s get started on how you can offer this massage starting as soon as today!
The first tool that you will need to have in place is a proper showerhead. One that you can adjust the water flow and pressure pattern on, and one that you can lock on without having to depress a flow handle. Set this showerhead onto either the “center” or “heavy” spray setting that uses less water in a more pressurized setting- so that you will be able to direct the water onto smaller areas at a time.
The next thing that you can do is to implement some essential oils into the bath time. If you have knowledge of these and choose to add them as well (be sure to figure in this added expense before you determine you hydrossage fee!), only then should you implement using essential oils. If you already have some essences that you like (the pet will feel your relaxation and enjoyment as you bath and this will relax them more), and would be softly scented in this warm and humid situation (very strong essences will be too overwhelming), place a drain stop I your drain, and add just a couple of drops of these to an inch or so of slightly warmer than the normal bath temperature water. Let it steep as you get the pet together to place into the tub.
Place the pet directly into the tub as usual. If you are concerned with ensuring no possible reaction will be had by a sensitive pet to direct contact with the diluted oils (very unlikely), then just use your tub grate to elevate them as you usually would.
Turn on your showerhead to the selected setting, and warm the water to just slightly more warm that your usual bath setting- usually 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Warming it too much will certainly overheat your pet, so keep it comfortable for you both. The added warmth does stimulate the muscles to relax and improve superficial circulation- meaning at the fatty tissue level. The light pressure on each area further promotes remedial muscle circulation and relaxation by physically delivering petrissage on a gentle scale. You will want to start by applying your shampoo and conditioner as usual, do not final rinse the pet. You can also apply your “facial” products now to give them time for absorbsion, use extra attention and pressure to the facial muscles and tips of ears as you work the shampoo into a lather, clean the face as usual, and leave it in a lather. When there is shampoo or conditioner still on the pet, you can take the showerhead in hand and, starting at the rear of the dog, and place the water flow directly on the skin of the dog. Use circular strokes- either clockwise or counterclockwise- but as you move down a leg, always work from the top down towards the foot, and from the trunk of the dog forward to the neck. The reason for this is to encourage circulation down the legs to the feet and to save the rinsing of the head for last as this can be a source of stress for some pets and therefore interfere with the full effect of the massage. Rinse the entire dog, using this method. You can spend a few extra minutes on areas like the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders and neck to offer even more relaxation to these points that often need it. Now remove your drain plug and empty the sudsy water.
Fully rinse the pet’s head, ears & face and the last overall body rinse as usual, squeeze the excess water from the coat, wrap them in a towel and you are finished!
It is that simple. Minimal tools are needed, minimal physical activity of the groomer is required, minimal understanding of canine massage techniques is needed, and you can use this to truly benefit your clients and gain added revenue for yourself.