Canine Shiatsu: “Dog – Finger Pressure”

Shiatsu is a Japanese therapy of gentle touch to rebalance the body, steeped in the same learnings as acupuncture and with all the same benefits. Shiatsu creates the same effect as a needle but using finger pressure on the known acupressure points on your shiatsu dog’s body– pretty much the same as the human ones!

shiatsu dog

Only vets can apply needles to your dog, and I’m not a fan of needles so as I believe in the theories of eastern medicine this therapy is a fantastic alternative. I’ve been receiving shiatsu every month for over 12 years, since just before I began studying, and it’s a great way of managing body maintenance and alleviating everyday stress, for both people and animals. For many years equine shiatsu has been very popular in the horse world, so they have a head start on dogs.

Shiatsu is great because a dog shows up to a treatment with no pre-conceived notions, therefore many dogs take to it and relax very quickly– the exception being anxious dogs where trust needs to be built. It’s a fantastic feeling when a shiatsu dog realises what’s happening and will turn around to give you the part of their body they want worked, or even lean into the finger pressure as they want something deeper. When a dog yawns and does a yoga stretch it’s a very satisfying feeling!

I got into canine shiatsu by accident, treating the dogs of clients at a media centre in London where I used to work. The clients would crash out and a colleague would treat them and if I wasn’t in another session I’d work on the dog. I realised how beneficial it was to my friend’s dog, a Lurcher who had sadly lost a leg in an accident and who used to say “hello” to me by backing his behind into my hands. I hadn’t really connected how amazing the therapy was for dogs so I’ll always be thankful to Bill who asked for treatment way back then.

How Does Canine Shiatsu Compare to Other Therapies?

A fully qualified Shiatsu Practitioner has spent years (a minimum of three) learning the imbalances and patterns of the body and mind and how to interpret this into a treatment that is effective for your dog. Eastern therapy is less about sticking in needles and more about knowing the combination of points that work to ease your dog’s pain physically and emotionally. We use gentle finger pressure and the effect builds up over subsequent sessions, with the aims of longevity and quality of life. We class our work as physical therapy, as there may be massage and stretching involved, but it’s not a physical work out.

Physical therapies of any kind are complementary to western medicine, and by working the dog’s body have beneficial emotional side effects. The difference with Canine Shiatsu is that we work knowingly with a dog who has emotional difficulties. This can be in many areas, some obvious and some not so, for example:

  • Anxiety based on being touched when in pain
  • Anxiety at being left alone
  • Anxiety with other dogs, with people, in new places, or travelling in a car
  • Lack of interest in food or walks
  • Loss of interest in cuddles / isolating themselves at home
  • Missing a recently departed dog or family member away
  • Increased grumbling or talking

Many readers will have heard of Therapeutic Canine Massage (TCM) a traditional physical therapy for dogs, which should not be confused with the international standard of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). In shiatsu and TCM we do not separate the mind from the body, it is all as one– the true meaning of a holistic therapy.

How Does Canine Shiatsu Work?

Stimulation of acupressure points can release soft tissue tension in the fascia, organs and muscles. Gentle pressure is applied along the Chinese meridians (also known as channels, which link the acupressure points). Along with opening joints and gentle stretches Shiatsu can improve circulation, remove toxins, bring back vitality to weakened areas and release tightness. One of the simplest checks to be done is simply, how hot or cold is your dog? Are there temperature imbalances around their body? This immediately indicates whether your dog has any weaknesses (cold) and that there may be areas of tension blocking a balanced blood flow.

Shiatsu can be beneficial for many ailments including arthritis, back, neck, hip, and leg problems, allergies or weakened immunity, IBS and dietary issues, as well as chronic fatigue and unknown causes of emotional issues.

If you’re looking for a complementary or holistic way to look after your dog, have a look for Canine Shiatsu, and uncover an amazing therapy for your canine friend.

“Their body talks – so they don’t need to. In Shiatsu, we listen with our hands.”

Andrea Marsh is a Canine Shiatsu Practitioner, find her at:

Find out more about Canine Shiatsu at:

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