The history of dog massage, while obvious to any dog lover, is not well documented. Dog massage has been around since that first Neanderthal woman caressed and nurtured the friendly wolf or coyote puppy that crept close to the fire for a bit of warmth (and a snack!). It is human nature to reach out and touch and caress those we love when they are injured. A touch of the forehead to look for a fever or rubbing a sore back show how natural it is for hands to be used to heal. Our animal companions are obviously the beneficiaries of this natural impulse.
Dog massage technically began when people transferred the massage therapy techniques that worked on them to their animals. Massage therapy is probably the oldest form of healing known to man, with herbal care right behind it.
The first known record of massage dates back to 2700 BC in China. Massage techniques continued to develop throughout history, with the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Turks, Persians, and Japanese carefully documenting this healing process. Early Egyptian hieroglyphics even depicted “animal healers” using massage techniques. We are quite sure the cats were worshipped and massaged by the ancient Egyptians! Horse massage was a common practice in ancient China and Rome.
While people have performed some form of massage on animals throughout history, it was not practiced as a definitive healing modality in modern times. Jack Meagher – a physical therapist and massage therapist who popularized the art of sports massage – began to work with horses in the 1970s. Race and show horses, including the U.S. Olympic Team, were among his first clients. Canine massage began to grow in popularity when people realized the profound benefits of massage the horses were enjoying.