Canine Massage Therapy & Acuppresure

2020 Pet Stylist Invitational!!


This year our trade show has gone fully virtual!

This learning summit offers 2 full days, 16 hours total, of educational classes on Friday, October 17, and Saturday, October 18th, and a full day of livestream grooming competitions  Monday, October 19th, judged by our industry great: Michell Evans!!

There’ll be shopping discount opportunities all weekend long to stock up on supplies before our holiday rush!

Enjoy this final opportunity of the year to invest in yourself and your business all three days for only $99!!

You can register here:


The Society of Holistic Pet Stylists

A long time ago I began to feel that I was different.

Be nice! LOL

But seriously, I have always been a little different in my thinking, my outlook on most things, and especially I felt different in that I could never force myself to stay at a job for very long if I wasn't happy doing it. I struggled with leaving things at the door, with doing tasks that I felt didn't have lasting result, with feeling lost in a sea of faces, and most of all with just taking my paycheck and writing the rest off.

But luckily, I eventually found grooming.

Gratefully, I have been able to do a job that I love, and for that it rarely feels like work.

When I began grooming, I noticed right away that everyone worked just a bit differently, and that was rooted deeply in their general personality traits.

I groomed over the years with many, MANY different types of people, but I learned most of all about MYSELF.

I learned what I liked, what I couldn't tolerate, my strengths and weaknesses, to challenge myself to always think outside the box, and to never fear trying something different. I learned more about myself from the dogs I groomed each day than any other aspect of my grooming experiences. How I groomed began to define a very large part of who I was as a person. And to this day, it still does.

It is in honor of the time I've spent just pondering and watching the pets I groom, of the previously unimaginable awe of a pet's unconditional love I have come to know, and of all the wonders an animal can bring to your life, that I still find myself so passionate and overflowing with joy that I find in grooming.

In honor of the lessons I have learned, of how "different" I am so happy to be, that I have worked so hard to try to encourage other groomers and animal lovers to NEVER ignore that little voice inside themselves, and to ALWAYS follow your curiousities... that I have worked to form a new and wonderful association for groomers that may have also always felt "a little different".

Of these honors, I am very grateful and happy to announce,

The Society Of Holistic Pet Stylists.


Our new society promises to be like nothing our industry has ever seen, a breath of fresh air, and a place for all stylists to come together to learn and share and forever change our industry through doing great things.

Together with Mary Oquendo, Barbara Bird, Daryl Connor, Lori Gulling, Sue Palmer and Melissa Jepson, we are creating an entirely new learning format and an entirely new opportunity in skill sets for the grooming industry.

Please visit our website for more information, or contact me directly with your interest! or




Don't Stop Believin'

This is Siouxsie.
Since a very young age, she has been dealing with a myriad of genetic defects. I got her from a breeder at 8 weeks and after just a few days with her, I could tell something was very wrong.
My original vet for her optimistically gave her 6 months at most to live.
Siouxsie has been diagnosed with SM (syringomyelia), scoliosis, a severe heart murmur, minor dysplasia, and all of the related symptoms because of these health issues- have been very hard on her. A lot of expense went into just figuring out what was wrong with her before we could even get to the business of trying to help her.
The breeder I got her from wanted her euthanized when I had her vetted and the results came back. She wouldn't give me a refund or a replacement puppy unless she received a death certificate for Siouxsie. I can see now how she might feel that way...
The attending vet gave her no more than 6 months to live without having to consider humane euthanization because of how quickly she was developing issues. I, for quite possibly selfish reasons at that point, decided that I was NOT going to just give up on this puppy.
I had 6 Cavaliers of my own then, and had raised 3 litters, so I thought for sure I could figure this out and fix this dog.
By 3 months of age, Siouxsie was nearly horseshoe shaped and could not bend her spine. I left her attending vet and took her to 2 specialists who also discovered that her juvenile heart murmur had not lessened and she was exhibiting CM/SM symptoms as well.
I thankfully found a good canine chiropractor and confided in a friend who taught me massage regimens to share with her to help her spinal fluid blockages and the scoliosis pain and well as to help her range of motion. This friend later taught me acupressure and recommended that I look into acupuncture as well. I will never be able to express enough gratitude to her for her knowledge, support & guidance, and for not judging me or expressing opinion when she may well have felt I should just let Siouxsie go.
By 6 months of age, her syringomyelia had already began to show aggressive signs which is very early for that disease to be that symptomatic. After her second MRI, the attending vet stated again that I ought to not consider prolonging euthanization for fear that her condition would only worsen. But I was gambling on the hopes that since the SM disease was then quite shadowy and often misunderstood, that I could still utilize the curve and get her well.
I spent a lot of my time educating myself on practicing massage, acupressure and eventually sharing Reiki with her several times a week. She was always my practice dog for new things I would learn about; flopping over on her side as soon as I walked up to her- asking for help- and I owe my initial interest in learning more methods of medical and supportive animal care solely to having her in my life.
I cannot imagine the pain she dealt with on her bad days, but when she had good days, she greeted those with great exuberance, a swooshy butt and a never-ending affinity for FOOD. On the bad days, she was quiet, symptomatic and tired. On those days she got extra massage, heat packs/cold packs, and added herbals.
Within a year's time and with regular care, her spine straightened until she had only minimal muscular tension and curvature across her left shoulder. As her growth slowed & her adult structure came together, her neck and ear scratching, fly biting, and star gazing lessened considerably. Her SM symptoms subsided and she had far more good days and far less bad days. Her range of motion was remarkably better and I could see her personality start to really come out from under the veil that her pain had been hiding.
Over the years she remained my massage partner, my Reiki and meditation partner and my reminder that as a breeder, I had a responsibility to never give up on a dog or to not remember for even a second that every pup I bred never really stopped being a member of my extended family. She never gave up on me and I never gave up on her.
Today Siouxsie turned 8 years old.
She still has bad days, but when she does, she flops on her side and asked for me to help her. And I do, and she helps me, too.
In honor of her pain, her healing, her journey, and for all she taught me, Siouxsie will be my hands on dog for all of the instructional photos in my Canine Massage Therapy book and its accompanying videos. I thought it was only fair that in honor of her memory, whenever SHE decides to take her light to another place, she help others here to better care for their pets and maybe to show them that just about anything is possible if you try hard enough.

Session with Chris Sertzel on GroomerTALK LIVE!

Bio pic

Hello everyone!

Be sure to listen and call in for my LIVE session for's GroomerTALK!

This session will be on August 12th, 7PM EST.

Please call in with any questions you can come up with about things like skin and coat issues, offering supportive and spa type services, questions about competition grooming, or anything you can think of that might help you out! Its sure to be a fun and interesting broadcast!

Canine Aromatherapy

In the past 5 to 8 years, there has been a growing list more & more pet care professionals & pet owners that have begun to implement aromatherapy into their alternative pet care list. For us as humans, we can clearly see the benefits of aromatherapy, but for our canine counterparts, who cannot directly tell us how they are both physically & emotionally feeling or how they feel about something we are doing for them, a simple and gentle method of supportive care such as aromatherapy, can be greatly beneficial.  You can now read of Veterinarians who offer holistic services including aromatherapy and flower essence therapy, Animal Massage Therapists who implement herbal & flower therapies into their care, and pet stylists or groomers who offer these services for a wonderful spa experience for their clients. Aromatherapy is especially important for calming nerves and focusing and directing positive energy, so one can easily see that aromatherapy and herbal therapy has a multitude of applications for your pets, all of which are positive and beneficial.    

For canine massage, I have a few blends that I keep on hand for all types of massage, but often I will add a couple of essentials to them or make a simple mix at the massage session.  The reason for this is because yes, no massage and no canine are ever exactly the same. More importantly however, I believe that for the most part, massage in itself isn't nearly so much about the essentials used as it is the practitioner properly reading the animal's movement and structure and energy with their eyes and their hands, to read the dog's body like a map and decipher where there are issues and what they are. We have to do this is a fairly short amount of time, with limited explanation from their human counterparts, and if we have traveled to the pet’s home, as a new addition to the pet's living environment this always has them acting differently than they otherwise would.  So, we have a lot to overcome to even get to the beginning of a massage session in hopes of having it be a productive one.  Essentials can help to bridge these gaps so each session goes smoothly and positively.

Essentials in a carrier oil are not nearly as important to canines as they are with humans because we are not covered in fur and our skin makeup is obviously quite different. So, oil as lubrication of the practitioner's hands can actually be a disadvantage as the animal's natural oils really work best to offer the correct amount of "drag" or resistance of the fingers moving freely through the fur.  Too much fluidity can make a practitioner have to work harder to create the right amount of pressure or friction and make a mess of the pet’s coat.  Therefore, essentials in their pure form become our tool for setting the very important mood of the dog and our own energy, and not so much a tool for the physical application of a massage. 

Essentials do obviously play a role in the animal's receptiveness to the experience and overall willingness at times to receive a massage as well as their perception and therefore their memory imprint of the experience.  We have, as professionals, a clear disadvantage that the pets' owners do not: we are a stranger to their daily activities, their daily schedules and their behavior cycles that ebb & flow and make dogs either more or less receptive to massage at different times.  So, coming from their owners, educated massage sessions will usually be far more successful at a faster rate as the circle between an owner and their pet is, for obvious reasons, much more relaxed and mutually receptive. Not that we as CCMTs or Aromatherapists do not build a bond with our canine clients, we certainly do, but we would rely more on the ability of essentials to help align the environmental energy and set the outcome of the sessions by way of emotional state.  So, with that fact, essentials for us are quite important because they help to align both our moods and secondary responses to the massage session as well as the emotional state of our canine clients.  In essence, aromatherapy becomes a bridge of senses and energies between the pet and the caregiver.

For topicals used in massage, there are a few different blends that can be used, and they are both for different types of massage (addressing different care needs) as well as different types of personalities, and a pet owner may have to tweak them a little, nearly every session entered into, because both the dog and yourself might be in a different mood that day.  Or that you will be caring for your pet for slightly different care each time, even though you may be working on the same issues for many sessions.  


If your Canine Massage Therapist is caring for your pet, they would likely be implementing aromatics in the same ways, but along with their licensing and certification, they have applied their taught medical knowledge to how to use aromatherapy, herbal remedies, and many other modalities for wellness and treatment of the pet’s physical and emotional self.  As one so compliments the other in terms of overall health, well being and quality of life.



~First an Aromatherapist would address the emotional state of the dog and secondary to that, the physical needs.~


Overcoming massage anxiety- for initial meetings or with dogs that are overwhelmingly fearful of new surroundings or experiences:


Please note here that dogs that are fearful or internally coping with their own reaction mechanisms are much more harder to have a productive session with.  If you think about it, a dog that is happy and excited to meet you is FAR more receptive to seeing what you have to offer it in terms of  "What have you got that I can have”?, or “What do you have for me today that I can have fun with"? Basically, they are much harder to "win over".  Here flower and herbal essentials can help you a lot more on deeper levels than what you would implement to just calm or relax simple anxiousness or play energy. And they are important to use whether you are helping your own dogs to overcome certain emotional hurdles, or for treating physical ailments of your pets.

Here are some of those essential blends- addressing first the emotional state and secondly the physical needs of your client.



Relaxing and aligning energy: Chamomile, Bergamot, Ginger, & Geranium.

Calming and supporting: Chamomile, Lavender, Eucalyptus & Clary- sage.

Stronger sedative effect: Lavender, Chamomile, Clove & Frankincense.

And follow up the massage with a neat drop on each cheek of this blend-


Energizing: Rosemary, Lemongrass, Thyme & Basil.


Relaxing the playful dog: Lavender, Chamomile, Vetiver, Clary- sage, Marjoram.


Focusing the excited dog: Geranium, Chamomile,  Lavender, Clary- sage.




* There are more but these are the most important!*

Circulation, anti-inflammatory, muscle tension, muscle fatigue active sports recovery massage: Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Geranium, Rosemary & Clove.

Skin irritations and muscle atrophy due to lack of circulation: (also hot spots if they are not open) Helichrysium, Evening Primrose & Naiouli.

Deep tissue, tendon fatigue and sprains:  Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, Thyme, Vetiver & Black Pepper.

Arthritis and Rheumatoid: Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg & Black Pepper, Clary- sage, Birch, Rosemary, & Juniper, Frankincense, Marjoram, Chamomile, & Lavender (3 different blends for symptoms from severe to mild).

All over relaxation massage & pathway massage for geriatric pets: Geranium, Clary- sage Lemongrass, Bergamot & Lavender.





~You can see, there are so many essentials whose properties compliment each other- it is also just as important to mix oils that are simply pleasing to your personal tastes as this will affect how you give the massage and therefore the physical benefits for your client.


Suggested reading materials to learn about aromatherapy:

The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann WorWood.

Essential Aromatherapy by Susan & Valerie Ann Worwood.

The Aromatherapy Bible by Gill Farrer-Halls.

*Remember to educate yourself thoroughly on any holistic or alternative care methods before working with them with your pet.*

Cold Therapy Herbal Massage Pillow

This pillow is the yin to the yang of your warm therapy massage pillow I posted on earlier.  Remember that this pillow should be used directly on the skin or fur, and in a period or cycle of no longer than 20 minutes on & off or between heat until there is relief.  This pillow is also excellent by itself for treating swelling some sinus problems.  Please, as always, remember that I am o NOT giving alternative to medical advice- always see you Dr. first! 
Use the other WOOL sock from the pair that you used for your warm pillow and fill it with Jasmine rice as with the other as well. Fill in in the same manner with the same gathered type of herbs (no powdered or fine milled), and roll it well to mix it like the other.  To it add these herbs and oils:
Now, mix it well, place it in a plastic bag and leave it in the freezer for at least 2 hours to get it very well chilled- it will hold coolness for quite some time out of the freezer, but will be the most refreshing right out of it.
Remember that as many herbs from this list that you add, the more potent and well rounded in properties your pillow be- if there is any immediate sensitivity- it would probably come from the Peppermint or Spearmint- as these have such strong menthol properties.
This pillow can be used in cycles between warmth for all of your dog massage clients to help with the same ailments- swelling, tension, help with circulation, and muscle/joint mobility- but remember NOT to apply freshly chilled cold pillows to arthritis areas on pets as this COULD cause some aching- instead give the pillow a few minutes to lesson the temp, and apply as usual.
These herbs can also be added to a pouch shaped like an eye mask for a WONDERFUL puffiness and sinus pressure reliever for yourself. It really works- I have tried it!
Using these pillows together- one around your shoulders and one across your face as you recline will give the most interesting and relaxing combination of senses- both exhilarating and calming as well as complete relaxation to your entire upper body.  As you use them both, be sure you are in a quiet, calm atmosphere.   

Herb and Essential Oil Arthritis Relief Blends

These are a few essences that speed circulation, work as antirheumatics or antineuralgics- meaning that they will help to lessen the pain of arthritis and it's accompanying symptoms. The most common is eucalyptus- and this is a strong essence- so you will certainly want a good dilution of 4 or less drops into each oz. of carrier oil. Another good essential is Rosemary- that is the "officinalis" variety (lately there are more & more types of Rosemary!). Peppermint is good, too- but it can really aggravate some people's sinuses.
  Here is a tool for you to use along with your massage sessions (for yourself and your dog!)- this massage pressure and support pillow can be shaped in any position, and should be applied directly on the skin or fur!  It contains many different herbs and essentials with similar and opposite properties to work together in function.
Please remember that I obviously am not a Doctor, nor am I encouraging you to take your treatment into your own hands or to not get care from a Doctor.  NOTHING can take the place of medical care for yourself or your pet.  These recipes and ideas may give some help and relief while you are following a pain therapy program or regimen prescribed by your Doctor for either you or your pet.  And, using these recipes or blends along with doing massage for your pet- will create a very real bond and feeling of accomplishment, gratification and centering of self. 
Take a bag or Jasmine rice, and empty it into a WOOL knee sock (meaning it HAS to be made of wool & not a blend as it will MELT in the microwave, and a blend does not wick away moisture the same (the heat will be moist). Also- there is just SOMETHING about WOOL- it has- what I will just say here are "properties".
Fill that sock 3/4 of the way full with the rice (the weight of the rice supplies you firm, even pressure on the affected area), loosely full so as to not stretch the weave and to keep the sock supple. To this rice you can add some of or all of these ingredients- I would add 2 Tbs. of each of these dried, or whole gathered (meaning the entire plant except roots) herbs (avail. at most any all natural shops and co-ops), to each pound of rice.  None of the herbs should be in powder form or they make a mess!  Do not add any that you think you will be sensitive to, but the more of the list you add the better:
Juniper Berry
Mustard Seed
Coarse Ground Black Pepper (I just buy a pepper mill and grind up what I need)
Cayenne Pepper Pieces
Peppermint leaves
Now, tie the open end of the sock into a tight knot and add a few drops of your eucalyptus oil over the length of the outside of the sock.

Take the sock and microwave it on med. or high heat setting, long enough to get it quite warm to the touch (you know the strength of your microwave better than me!) You will get hot spots so be sure when you remove it to be careful and roll the ingredients well to distribute the heat and mix it up evenly.
This can be used like a travel pillow (the "U" shaped kind) around your neck as you sit to rest (in a comfy chair in a quiet area!), or it can be used shaped around a knee, around a shoulder, hand, ankle, or on any area the is affected on your d og.
Apply the pillow for no more than 20 minutes on & 20 minutes off until there is relief. With a pet I will do 2 cycles.

The herbs with daily use will need to be changes monthly as they will loose potency; when not in use- allow it to cool to room temp and seal it room temp in a plastic bag. There should be no condensation on the bag or it will mold quickly!
I also have a great recipe for a cold pack that can be used in between the warm pack here in the same cycles (hot/cold/hot/cold!). The two together are even more effective on pain, swelling, fluid buildup, muscle spasms, circulation and relaxation, all things related.  And sublime for the body and mind!
I have been messing around with this stuff for a long time, and I love to share it with those who are interested and open minded. Again, please remember that this doesn't take the place of medical care, and please remember that some people and animals can have allergic reactions to any of these herbs and essentials.


Canine Massage Therapy: Hydrossage

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.