Lexi is a 6 year old Portuguese Podengo cross with long legs rescued by Karen from Helping Paws and has been living for the past 3 years in her Forever Home with her new Mum and Dad.
She has never really been completely settled with her Dad indoors. She doesn’t bark or cower, she just prefers to move away. This behaviour is not as bad when outdoors, but even then, she seems to prefer her Mum. It’s not just her Dad though, she reacts in a similar way with other men. They don’t think she was mistreated before rescue but believe she lived on her own with an elderly lady – maybe not getting much socialisation. She was certainly housetrained although she didn’t know how to play with toys. (That has now been rectified as she has a vast toybox full of things!)
Overall, she is simply timid. She will accept a hand touch, stroke and may even lick the back of her Dad’s leg in a café. Just not a lot.
The aim for the session was to try and create a better bond between Lexi and her Dad by intentional touch. AchyPaw Massage is all about intention. You need the dog to know that they are your focus. It’s not petting. It’s intentional. It’s beneficial. It has a purpose.
We don’t force therapy on any dog – they come at their own speed. At the start of the session, Lexi was upstairs, so I sat on floor by the massage mat while her Mum brought her down. She soon sat on the mat, with her back to me. But close enough to let me gently touch her. As I was working, she didn’t move away but just glanced at me over her shoulder making sure I was an OK person. She even let me perform some massage. Guess I was Ok!
I spent 15 minutes with her helping her feel comfortable. I then asked her Dad to take my place on the floor. I told him to feel rather than pet. We held our breath. Lexi did not resist or move away. After 10 minutes, we all had to breathe again as we were going rather blue from lack of oxygen!
That was Lexi’s cue to get up on the sofa. I asked her Dad if that was what he expected to get out of the training session. He replied ”Yes but not within 30 minutes…….”. There were lots of smiles.
As we were on a roll, I got him to shuffle over to her where she allowed him to perform a full one side body massage. Lots more smiles – even from Lexi this time whose head was slowly slumping down as she relaxed.
Her Dad stayed on the floor while her Mum took over as we wanted Lexi to feel she could go to either carer. Again, no protestations from Lexi – just a ‘bring it on’ look.
After an hour, we got her Dad to stand up (many creaking joint noises from us as we had hardly dared move a muscle), walk away and then come back. This would typically have been Lexi’s signal to go. But she didn’t. She stayed on the sofa and let him put his hands back on her and she relaxed her head even further. He said “She has never felt this relaxed with me touching her”.
We say it all the time….intention….intention….intention. Lexi was now being touched with a purpose, with benefits. Petting your dog is fine, they will enjoy it. But if you touch them AND help their tight muscles to relax, how much more enjoyable will that be to the dog?
I think we have won Lexi around to her Dad touching her and hopefully that bond will strengthen with every massage session.