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Canine Massage: An Interview with Jennifer Jakes


SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI

A couple months ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jennifer Jakes, the owner of North Shore Canine Massage LLC, to talk about canine massage - a topic I've been curious about for awhile and wanted to know more about!

I originally met Jennifer when we were both volunteering at the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) a couple years ago; we recently re-found each other in a group on Facebook (North Shore Dogs) - social media makes it a small world, right? Anyway, I had just been thinking about doing some research into the topic of canine massage for the SKDT Blog when I happened to see her post in the Facebook group about her business and services. I knew any blog post I could write based off my research would pale in comparison to what her knowledge could bring to the table; so, I reached out to find out if she'd be interested in an interview with me. She graciously agreed to it and this month's post is the result! BIOGRAPHY

Jennifer Jakes is a Canine Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, and Healing Touch for Animals practitioner. She has been working in animal care most of her life and started instinctively massaging dogs at the shelter where she volunteered (and is now part of the staff) since 2013. After personally witnessing the tremendous positive impact that canine massage has, she decided to take the plunge and pursue formal training at Canis Bodyworks School for Canine Massage in Chicago last Winter; she has since opened her own practice here in Milwaukee where she offers in-home or remote services. She is dedicated to bringing this modality to the forefront and spreading knowledge about the numerous benefits of massage for your animals and has great conviction in this work. Once she becomes NBCAAM certified, she will be one of only three other nationally certified Canine Massage Therapists in the state of Wisconsin. INTERVIEW

SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI

​What got you interested in canine massage? As a volunteer Animal Care Technician at the Wisconsin Humane Society, I was always seeking out a way to help the dogs relax, to provide some relief from their anxiety and stress from being in the shelter and it felt instinctive to offer a gentle neck or shoulder rub, like you would a friend. It made such a noticeable difference in their demeanor and I was really touched by their responsiveness. It came to me that it might be something I could do for a living - help shift dogs' stress levels and anxiety and have a positive impact on their lives.

What exactly does canine massage involve or include? It's different with every dog and it's not like videos you see on Buzzfeed where the dogs are snoozing on their back with a towel wrapped around their head getting their toes massaged (with the possible exception of a few pitties I know)! It's very similar to human massage in that many of the same techniques are used, but it's much more passive and superficial. I also do my best to set up the environment in the same way you would a human massage with a diffuser, music, soft lighting. What happens next depends on my relationship with the dog and depends on what session we're at.

With a new dog, I'd start with a low-key greeting and interacting more with the parent and dishing out treats to the dog; I'm actively removing intent with the animal and keeping it very casual. I might even work on some behaviors (Sits, Downs, or tricks) to provide enrichment and begin building a trusting relationship..

During the initial visit, I will conduct a general assessment, watching for irregularities in gait and movement, how the dog goes into and gets up from a Sit, and watching for areas that may be overcompensating. A head bob, for instance, might indicate that an area in a front leg needs work. I also do an energy scan to see if there are any congested areas or to see if the dog has a reaction to any areas.


SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI

Before I begin any hands-on body work, I will initiate a 15-20 minute Reiki meditation. This helps break up the energy and put everyone into a relaxed state, as well as providing additional healing wherever it is needed. The dogs may pace and seem a little unsure at first, but they always settle and the pet parents get in on the experience too! After the Reiki meditation, I will mindfully start the body work portion using the different techniques for about 30 minutes to an hour:​ ​efflo​u​rage to warm the tissue; palpating - light pressure for trigger points, tight areas, areas of concern​; other techniques based on age or health, etc. for affected area or compensating areas​. I usually close the session with a healing touch sequence and scratching, petting, or play to end on a positive note!

Are there different types of massage? I like to keep it very simple; there are not really different types of massage - more like different techniques. Circular, cross fiber friction, lymphatic clearing, skin rolling, trigger point release, holding and compression are just a few of the techniques that can be used. What is used depends on the individual dog's needs, what the goal is, the health of the animal, the health of the tissue, and the area of concern on the dog. A senior dog will have different needs than an agility competitor or a dog who is post-surgery or illness, etc. What are some of the reasons people seek you out for canine massage?

The reasons vary. Most of my clients are seniors whose owners are hoping I can offer some relief from the symptoms of arthritis, help improve mobility and range of motion, and provide some general co