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Tickle your canine paws

People often ask me, “Why would you ever want to mess around with feet – especially dog’s paws?” The answer is simple: feet are connected with well-being. And maintaining well-being for your dog can lead to a fuller, more joyful life. Spicer is a 9-year-old Beagle who was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and a ruptured disk in her neck. In November 2002, Spicer was being given pain medication daily and had occasional episodes of pain. I began canine foot reflexology on her once a week. She responded immediately and appeared to have less pain. After 6 months, her owner began decreasing her pain medicines. After a few months, she was completely taken off pain medicines. It has been two and a half years and Spicer appears to be in no pain. Her owner has learned canine foot reflexology and gives her a session occasionally. She plays, digs in the yard and runs and jumps. Such is the power of canine foot reflexology.

What is foot reflexology?

In 1982, while attending classes in Houston at the now closed Esoteric Center, I took a course in reflexology, which changed my life. Foot reflexology is the art of using various techniques to apply pressure to points on the foot. These points are thought to be conductors of electrical energy. When pressure is applied, it sends energy to all parts of the body. When energy flow is interrupted, a breakdown in the body can occur and often illness or discomfort sets in. Stimulating the pressure points on a foot can release energy blockage and return the energy flow to normal – relieving illness and discomfort.

The history of reflexology is elusive and difficult to trace. There are some who believe that the practice of anointing the feet with oil was a form of foot reflexology. It has worked for many people and dogs.

Canine foot reflexology

I am a life-long dog-lover and soon I began to wonder if our canine friends would benefit from the same reflexology practiced on humans. As it turns out, they do. Just a few of the benefits experienced in dogs who have had reflexology are: relaxation, improved circulation, increased energy, decreased pain, released tension and overall sense of well-being. Tiw, my four-year-old Boxer, has had foot reflexology sessions since he was one year old. He loves the sessions and usually sleeps for a while after one.

Many of the dogs I have worked with have shown remarkable improvement after a series of sessions. My sessions usually last 30-45 minutes and take place about once a week.

The feet of a dog are very important to their survival. Initially, they may be shy about having them touched but once they become aware of this nurturing, loving process, they usually respond enthusiastically. Owners, interested in practicing reflexology, should prepare their dogs by lovingly holding their feet (to allow the dog to become accustomed to someone touching them). Dog caretakers are delighted to see their animals returning to wellness and balance.

Who can learn the technique

The strength of canine foot reflexology is that it is a technique that can be easily learned by everyone! Not only do I practice canine foot reflexology, but I also teach others how to help their canine companions. I encountered a case where a dog did not let me touch her. Georgia, a two-year-old Lab-Chow mix, had been given a diagnosis of hip dysplasia. I attempted to work with Georgia but she would not allow me to work with her feet. Her human did learn the reflexology techniques. Today, Georgia is healthy– thanks to something as simple as “messing with feet!”

(Sue Red Stackhouse is a registered nurse. Sue began working with canine foot reflexology and documented the dog foot reflex chart. For more info, visit their website www.caninefootreflexology.com)