Over about the past year I've been looking a lot more into natural remedies, alternative methods of healing and nutrition, and a holistic way of thinking about things in general. Basically, I want my dogs to be with me as long as possible and I want them to be as happy and healthy as they can be during that time. This has spurred me to look into alternatives to western medicine and the traditional way of doing things. I am thankfully in an area that abounds with all sorts of holistic healing including veterinarians specializing in holistic medicine.
One of the "branches" of holistic healing is massage. Massage is really beneficial regardless of who or what you are and what age you are. My focus is using it as a preventative method since both of our dogs are so young still. And as a matter of fact, I even have a canine massage practitioner that I use and absolutely LOVE (and the dogs absolutely do too!)! Her name is Rubi and you can find out more about her at http://www.healnw.com/. Heffner gets fairly regular massages from her (we've had to scale back because we're tighter with the budget now) and I've also taken a Massage for Owners class from her with Bess!
Massage has many benefits. Not only is it yet another way to bond with your dog if you're the one giving the massage (part of the reason why I was reading the massage book I mentioned a few posts ago was because I wanted to have a reference manual at home that I could go back to), but it's a great way to keep them limber and hopefully prevent injuries. If your dog has a structural imbalance, the discontinuity in the body can build up over time and put more stress and strain on certain areas of the body and cause them to break down faster and cause your dog to be in pain down the road. By regularly massaging your dog you become familiar with what is normal and what isn't. Where your dog seems to be more tender or stiff. By routinely working on these areas and helping to keep them loose, you're helping to insure your dog's physical well being down the road.
Massage is also great for increasing circulation in the muscles and lymphatic system. Increased circulation means that more oxygen and nutrients are being brought to the muscles and other tissues. It also means that more waste and toxins are being removed from your dog's system.