Skift Take

Dog-friendly amenities might just be the new trend now that so many people adopted puppies during the pandemic. Read on to hear from Tammy Beachy, certified dog massage therapist at Kona Kai Resort & Spa who spends her days on the beach giving pets high-class massages.

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Indulging in massage therapy has always been a coveted treat for those on vacation, but the bar has suddenly been raised as hotels cater to guests post-pandemic who want to travel with their pooches. Guests are able to arrange massages for their dogs. Why not share the love with your beloved extended family member, and allow them to feel just as relaxed as you? 

Tammy Beachy has been a certified massage therapist for 24 years, but didn’t have experience with animals until Kona Kai Resort & Spa in San Diego offered her a position in their newly founded dog massage department. She has always been a dog-lover and has three little chihuahua’s of her own, so she happily accepted the role. “I love being around dogs and getting to see them relax, close their eyes, wag their tails, and lean into me,” said Beachy.

To Beachy’s surprise, the training program was online yet very thorough. She had to watch videos, read, research, take tests, do case studies, have one on one sessions with dogs, and be critiqued. 

“You have to give 50 dogs massages, explain who you worked with, where, and exactly what the experience was like,” Beachy said. Some had to be filmed, in which case the massage therapist had to take a video of themselves completing a full session with a dog using the different techniques taught in the course. It was completely on Beachy to find dogs to massage to complete the virtual training program and she said it was “very time consuming” to coordinate with friends schedules and find time to be alone with various pups.

If you are drawing a mental image of a dog on a massage bed in a dimly-lit room, scratch that and reimagine it on the beach. 

“I set up an outdoor cabana on the beach, with a pet bed on a blanket on the sand. I have music playing, my lavender oil, and a chair in the cabana for the owner to sit on. Sometimes dogs will stay standing and sometimes they lay down on the bed. I had one dog that had no interest in the pet bed, so we got dirty and did the massage on the cold sand!” 

If the dog isn’t relaxing right away, Beachy will let the dog sniff around and get used to things. Then she’ll start by petting and easing the dog into the various massage techniques. In order to prevent the dog from acting out, Beachy said you have to “pay attention to how they are responding and go with the flow.” She sings to them, feeds them treats from the owner to gain trust, and takes them for a short walk if needed.

“There have been a couple dogs that it didn’t work that well for and so I just moved on and couldn’t have a session with them but most of the time they respond well.”

Massaging a dog is very different from massaging a person, and Beachy said with dogs you “really have to slow your intentions down.” Being gentle is key in receiving a good, relaxed response, and she makes sure to listen to the owner’s requests because oftentimes she can help heal problem areas where the dog might be hurt. Guests care for their dogs so much, and one of them even said “I feel like I just had a massage too,” after the session ended.

At Kona Kai, the “Spas and Paws” menu offers three services. “Pawroma therapy,” which is the most popular and involves lavender oils, “Furry flex,” where Beachy uses treats to stretch a dog’s neck and lifts their front and back legs, and lastly, “Training the master,” where Beachy works with the owner for a full hour to show them different massaging methods that they can perform on their pet on their own time. 

“I don’t know of any other hotels that have it,” said Beachy, referring to the dog massage options and other pet-friendly resources at Kona Kai. 

Although dog massage is new and not yet widely offered, this dog-friendly thing seems to be here to stay. Separate from massaging, hotels have been implementing many more dog-friendly services since the pandemic. Kona Kai now has dog beds, bowls, and toys at check-in so that dogs are stimulated at arrival, and Hilton also launched PTO (pet time off). It looks like people will no longer have to scramble for a dog-sitter now that there can bring them along and enjoy designated dog parks, and a plethora of other amenities.

Since the pandemic demanded families stay at home, a lot of people decided that it was a good time to get a dog so that they could have a companion during isolation. To be precise, more than 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic. Now that travel has opened up, people don’t want to leave these pups at home. 

“With all the crazy things going on in the world, the one constant people have is their dog,” said Beachy, and Kona Kai wants to cater to these feelings. A pet “makes people feel comfortable and safe because they provide unconditional love. They want to be able to have that when they travel,” Beachy continued.

“It’s a win-win for everyone. I get paid to hang out with dogs and their owners who love them very much. 


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Tags: at your service, hotels, luxury, resorts

Photo credit: Dog being massaged at Kona Kai Resort & Spa

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