Yes, it is possible to meditate with your dog. Meditation is a practice that involves focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to train attention and awareness. It can be done by anyone, including pets, as long as they are able to sit or lie still for a period of time.
To meditate with your dog, find a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit or lie down together. You can use a guided meditation or simply focus on your breath or a mantra. It can be helpful to set a timer for a specific amount of time, such as 5 or 10 minutes. As you meditate, pay attention to any physical sensations or thoughts that arise, and try to let them pass without judgment.
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It’s important to keep in mind that every dog is different, and some may be more suited to meditation than others. If your dog is very active or easily distracted, it may be difficult for them to sit still for long periods of time. In this case, you may want to try shorter meditation sessions or consider incorporating other calming activities, such as yoga or gentle stretches, into your practice.
Helpful Tools For Anxiety In Dogs
There are a variety of tools today to help your dog’s stress and anxiety. These include exercise, creating a serene environment, behavioral training, CBD, and other supplements.
Like me or you or someone you know, dogs can also suffer from mental illness throughout their lifetime. While you may be stressed by an over-active email inbox, financial woes, or keeping up with social calendars, dogs can be just as anxious by modern-day living.
Dogs bred to be working on farms or trained for search and rescue are now being asked to live in suburban settings and still need exercise. Without a minimum amount of exercise or mental stimulation, many dogs have also had to face the trauma of being rehomed.
Today’s pet parents have many approaches to recognizing and alleviating anxiety in their dogs.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs
How do you know if your dog is stressed or anxious? Symptoms include:
- Excessive Barking
- Tucked tail
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Growling, snarling, lunging, biting
- Obsessive behaviors, such as licking or chewing
- Overeating or excessive water consumption
Causes of Anxiety in Dogs
Anxiety can be caused by many factors, including:
- Breed/genetic predisposition
- Not enough exercise or mental stimulation
- Negative training techniques
- Lack of socialization as a puppy
- Medical conditions including mental illness
Tools to Help With Stress
Many effective tools can be used to help dogs with stress and anxiety. The following are the five most effective used in my practice.
Physical & Mental Excercise
Exercise is the most underrated treatment for dog anxiety. Daily exercise, especially outside, can drastically change your pup’s brain chemistry for the better. Walking is like meditating for dogs, especially when they have the opportunity to sniff and meander. Other forms of exercise like hiking, running, agility training, and playing fetch can quell anxiety when done regularly.
Think outside the box when it comes to exercise. For example this tug toy from KINGLEA.
If your dog is overweight or lacks body condition, start slowly and gently increasing the time and intensity of exercise to avoid injury. If you are unsure about the status of your dog’s physical condition, consult your veterinarian for clarification.
Chronic boredom is a one-way ticket to anxiety, and our dogs also require mental stimulation to exercise their brains. This can come in the form of a food puzzle, scent work, or learning a new skill. Knowing your dog’s personality and what they like goes a long way in selecting these new activities.
Creating a more peaceful and serene environment reduces your dog’s stress and anxiety. When possible, removing stressors from their daily environment can help increase overall happiness.
For example, close the curtains if seeing other people and animals is too stressful for your pup. Avoiding crowded parks and paths may be warranted if interacting with other unknown dogs is triggering.
Adding pheromones, sound machines, and relaxing classical music are also easy ways to create a more peaceful environment.
Proper Training Techniques
Dog training is more than teaching your dog how to sit! Effective training can also teach them new ways to self-soothe and redirect nervous energy. Learning new skills can be critical for dogs that are bred to be working. Breeds like Border Collies, and Pitbull-Terriers are prone to anxiety if not given sufficient mental stimulation.
Training can also help expose your dog to new situations and help increase their tolerance to a variety of stimulations. Desensitizing your dog to these exposures is most successful when done in puppyhood, however, it’s never too late to support your dog in adapting to life’s stressors.
When selecting a dog trainer or training method, ensure that only positive reinforcement training philosophies are used. Negative reinforcement training can have very damaging effects and even worsen anxiety in your dog. Negative methods include:
- electronic collars
- aggressive leash pulling
Trainers who use these methods to dominate dogs should be avoided.
For especially anxious dogs, pharmaceutical interventions like Prozac or other anti-anxiety medications can be extremely helpful during the training process. Many dog parents are concerned that these medications may be detrimental in the long term. This is simply not the case when administered under veterinary direction. Unmanaged anxiety can have more negative and long-lasting impacts on your dog’s physical health than anti-anxiety medication.
CBD is an excellent tool for the management of anxiety. CBD is a component of the hemp plant that helps increase serotonin, decrease inflammation and increase your dog’s overall sense of well-being. Other components of the hemp plant, such as CBG, CBN, terpenes, and others, may also play important roles in the reduction of anxiety.
This subject is worthy of a separate article. Please see our article on CBD for dogs which includes the suggested dose based on your dog’s weight.
Supplements can be an excellent resource for managing anxiety in combination with other tools. Below are several anxiety-reducing supplements that are readily available:
- L-theanine for dogs. This amino acid helps increase serotonin and can boost overall well-being. It is known to be safe and effective. For some sensitive dogs, it may cause mild drowsiness at high doses.
- Magnesium glycinate for dogs. There are several forms of magnesium available online and in health food stores. This form is the best for anxiety. Start with small doses and work up to avoid loose stools.
- Chamomile for dogs. This gentle and safe herb is often found in anti-anxiety supplements for dogs and people alike and is also commonly found in tea. Chamomile can also help settle digestive upset.
- Valerian root for dogs. This calming herb is safe for dogs and works better when combined with hops. It has a pretty potent odor, so it is usually found in capsules.
When adding supplements, be sure to add one at a time and document start dates, dose adjustments, and results in a dog health journal. This helps you to understand the effectiveness of each, as well as observe any side effects.
Your dog’s mental health is just as important as its physical health. It’s been proven that a person’s mental health directly affects their physical health, and your pup is no different.
Reducing your dog’s stress and anxiety can have a profound impact on its quality of life and overall longevity. Advocating for their entire well-being is the best way to express the love and devotion you feel toward your pup!
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