Becoming an animal massage therapist (part 2)

This is the rest of the article on Becoming an animal massage therapist.

Where to go for training

This depends on what modality you’re interested in, recommendations from others, where the training is held and what type of training is offered.  Then there are the costs involved:  Tuition, travel, hotel, food, car rental and fuel, and incidentals.

My advice is to start small, especially if the massage field is new to you.  Begin by selecting a weekend program that offers hands-on work as well as some required book learning.  This way you aren’t out a lot of money if the school or modality is not for you.  Heck, massage therapy may not be for you after taking a weekend course.  Do go because more than likely you will connect with others who have taken courses at other schools.  They can be a good source of information for you.

If you’re going to bite the bullet and go the extended studies route, do enroll with the person or school that will a.) Get you the hours you need so you can get your liability insurance, b.) Has tuition that reflects the amount of training you’re going to get, and c.) If national certification is your goal, get the hours needed to take the testing as the NBCAAM has minimum requirements to meet before you can earn this privilege.

Education Requirements

You’re going to be surprised to learn that you don’t need to have a strong background in biology or physiology to get you through a 250-hour course and beyond.  Strong animal handling skills and knowledge of behavior is important so that you don’t get hurt.  If you have neither skill or are short on a particular skill, do get this taken care of before enrolling in a program.  Your safety is #1 as is the safety of the animals you learn on, as well as that of your classmates.

There will be trained human massage therapists in your class.  Don’t be intimidated by their knowledge because they probably know as little as you do about animal massage.  What may make it hard for them is to learn muscle placement, body mechanics and general physiology because they could have to “unlearn” what they already know.

Distance Learning or Hands-On

Many schools offer distance learning and hands-on coursework or both.  I would personally be wary of getting all my education on-line.  Customers are savvy and can easily evaluate what you know by where you get your training.  Attending a program that has its core courses in a classroom and field setting, with some class offerings such as pathology done on-line does save you valuable time and dollars.

What massage modality to practice

There are as many modalities as there are instructional programs.  Smaller programs might offer a concentrated program of deep tissue and trigger point therapy for the equine or canine only.  Larger schools such as the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Massage offer a concentration with one species and will touch on different modalities as well as how to get your business off the ground.  The Tallgrass Institute specializes in acupressure for dogs and horses, Equinology is mainly equine but does offer training with dogs.  There is even Rolfing for horses and dogs and a host of other modalities to learn about.  Just go where the path leads you as you will probably end up practicing a little bit of everything as you get more training.

Continuing Education

This will depend on your state and if your state requires animal massage licensing.  The NBCAAM requires continuing education if you pass their national certification test, otherwise you are on your own.  In order to remain credible in the eyes of your clients and your peers, it is wise to take as much training as you can afford.  But do it the smart way.  Let your business pay for your extended education, not your personal savings or a loan.


If you want animal massage to be your main source of income you will reap the long-term dividends as you grow your business and your reputation.  Starting out on the right education path will help you reach your goal very quickly.

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