Massage & Bodywork

July/August 2012

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TEN FOR TODAY Bodywork for Animals 1. BECOME NATIONALLY CERTIFIED Animal massage is not only gaining public recognition; now there are opportunities for national certifi cation. "For years, animal massage practitioners have had to practice without legal recognition or protection from their states," says Lola Michelin, director of education for the Northwest School of Animal Massage ( in Seattle, Washington. "All that is changing as organizations form to promote higher standards of practice and lobby for legislation recognizing the valuable service animal massage practitioners provide." Two organizations worth checking out: the National Board of Certifi cation for Animal Acupressure & Massage (www. and the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork (IAAMB, 2. LEARN THE LAWS Before ever putting a therapeutic fi nger to fur, fi nd out what the laws are in your state, as they vary dramatically. In some states, animal massage is legal only under the supervision of a veterinarian. Others require specifi c licensure, while some have no regulations at all. If you're not sure, a good place to start is the IAAMB, which keeps a list of the laws in each state, and a link to the state legislative scopes of practice. 3. RECESSION-PROOF CLIENTS One bonus of providing animal massage is that the companion animal industry is somewhat immune to diffi cult economic times. "Animals get a lot of disposable income sent their way," Michelin says. "In times when people are making choices about how often they'll get massages for themselves, they haven't shown any reluctance to provide for their pet. If anything, they turn their focus back more to the home, and [their] pet's health and well-being becomes an even bigger concern. It's defi nitely a growth market." Counting Critters Among Clientele By Rebecca Jones 4. SYMPATHETIC RESPONSE When animals receive bodywork, their owners get part of the benefi t. "When owners see their beloved animals relaxing, that in turn increases their own satisfaction and relaxation," says Nancy Zidonis, cofounder of Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute (www.animalacupressure. com) in Castle Pines, Colorado, and a pioneer in the fi eld of animal acupressure. "They go in tandem." 5. TRAIN YOUR TOUCH Animals aren't people, and what's good for humans isn't necessarily good for animals. "Animals are much more sensitive," says Carol Komitor, founder of Healing Touch for Animals ( in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. "You have to be softer when you approach them." Komitor cautions against touching them in a way that tickles or makes their skin ruffl e. "Your hand can't be pushy, but must fi nd that nice edge between too light and too much pressure. Speak with a voice that is understanding to let them know you are the leader." 6. READ BODY LANGUAGE CUES It's important to understand animal body language and not misread the signals animals send about their levels of discomfort. "Some dogs' response to distress is to get really excited," says Robyn Hood, senior instructor of the Tellington TTouch Method ( "People think they Celebrate ABMP's 25th anniversary and you may win a refund on your membership. 23

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