My dog has anxiety. This surprising treatment has totally chilled him out (2024)

Placing my hands close to my pet chihuahua Chilli’s body, I did my best to soothe him.

He had been licking his lips and acting jumpy, which I immediately recognised as signs of anxiety as he often acted this way if someone new came into our home or if there were loud noises such as fireworks.

Then, after around five minutes, I smiled as he visibly became more calm with his muscles relaxing and his head resting down until eventually, he was in a blissful slumber.

This treatment is known as Reiki. It’s a Japanese form of energy healing which, in humans, can reduce pain and tension throughout the body. In pets, it is said to help everything from physical injuries and behavioural issues to anxiety.

It may sound quirky and fantastical, but for Chilli, it seems to make a difference.

I had always wanted a chihuahua ever since I was a teenager – I just love their big eyes and facial expressions. But it took about 15 years before my life was stable enough to begin looking.

Scanning the Kennel Club website’s ‘find a puppy’ section, I found a litter and contacted the breeder. I went to their home soon after and was beside myself when I laid eyes on Chilli for the first time.

He was just seven-weeks-old and no bigger than the palm of my hand. And when he came straight over to me and put his little paws on my knees I knew I was in love.

A week later, I brought him home and I quickly fell in love with the sound of his paws pitter-pattering on the floors of my apartment. Of course, I also spoiled him with lots of toys and treats, too.

But as much as I loved all that, it was important to me that I socialised him as soon as he was able. I didn’t want him to be reactive or fearful of bigger dogs.

So, when he was three-months-old and had all his injections, I took him to training classes as well as on lovely walks and a local pet cafe.

What soon became apparent though was that Chilli was a little on the shy side and always seemed reluctant to let people and dogs greet him.

Though I desperately wanted to fix that, when he was around 18 months old, I developed a chronic back issue – an inflammation that was misdiagnosed – which got gradually worse until it left me bedridden on and off for over a year.

I couldn’t work and my social life ground to a halt as I was either too uncomfortable or in too much excruciating pain to go out.

Even when I did leave the house to take Chilli on very short walks, I was very fragile. I found it hard to walk in a straight line or at a normal pace. So we barely went out.

Forever my constant companion, Chilli didn’t leave my side during that time. But as sweet as that was, it only made matters worse.

In 2014 my back finally healed properly and I was able to get back to normal life and routine, which included daily walks for Chilli. Yet, the moment we tried to leave the house, his little body tensed up.

When we did make it outside, he’d lunge and bark at dogs, people, scooters and prams more than ever before. It seemed like he was panicked and tense, or felt that the world was overwhelming.

I also thought he might be reacting this way to protect me, but instead of finding it sweet it only made me feel helpless and overwhelmed, too.

I’d first been introduced to Reiki as a child and remembered I found it to be a really soothing experience

In an attempt to understand his sudden change in behaviour, I began researching possible triggers.

What I discovered was that, when we feel certain emotions such as fear, anxiety, nervousness, and stress, our dogs can feel it too. They feed off of our energy, which can lead to different kinds of unwanted behaviours.

So though I hadn’t wanted to admit it, after a year of being cooped up indoors, I too felt anxious about the big, bad world.

Not wanting his behaviours to spiral though, I decided to get help and began working with a dog trainer.

Unfortunately, Chilli was so reactive at the time she couldn’t get near him, so she taught me some techniques and tricks so that I could begin training him at home.

As well as teaching him to sit and beg with the use of rewards, she also taught me how to focus Chilli with a calm voice and how to use positive reinforcement such as by using treats to help tackle his reactiveness.

It took a while but gradually, after about a month, I saw a difference. He became less aggressive with other dogs and people as well as scooters and bicycles while we were out and about and walking him became generally easier.

Would you give your dog Reiki treatments? Have your say in the comments belowComment Now

Not wanting to stop our journey to healing there though, in 2019 I trained as a yoga teacher and then two years ago I rediscovered Reiki.

I’d first been introduced to Reiki as a child and remembered I found it to be a really soothing experience. But now I wanted to help others discover the beautiful, grounding sensation it had to offer.

After seeing a talk by a Reiki master, I signed myself up for training and there I learned it can be used on pets too. That’s when I knew that I wanted to try it on Chilli to see what would happen.

Now, when I am meditating and Chilli is relaxed in front of me, I will often give him Reiki by putting my hands over him to calm him down – he is always visibly more comfortable and at ease after a session. He’s no longer jumpy or constantly twitching and it’s something I’ve continued doing for him every other day since.

Of course, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

On walks I make sure Chilli wears his ‘I need space’ yellow lead or bandana as he still has boundaries when it comes to people touching him. And when we do go out in London, I specifically choose venues that I know allow dogs so I can have him on my lap if need be.

Most importantly though, I make sure he has a check-up with the vet every year.

Reiki just helps us both to feel more relaxed. In fact, the whole experience has taught me to be the calmest, most grounded version of myself. I never want Chilli to feed off my anxiety ever again.

Follow Chilli on Instagram here

As told to Louisa Gregson

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My dog has anxiety. This surprising treatment has totally chilled him out (2024)


My dog has anxiety. This surprising treatment has totally chilled him out? ›

This treatment is known as Reiki. It's a Japanese form of energy healing which, in humans, can reduce pain and tension throughout the body. In pets, it is said to help everything from physical injuries and behavioural issues to anxiety. It may sound quirky and fantastical, but for Chilli, it seems to make a difference.

How do vets calm dogs with anxiety? ›

If your dog develops a serious anxiety disorder, your veterinarian may recommend medications or natural therapies. SSRIs and antidepressants are occasionally prescribed for dogs with anxiety, including fluoxetine and clomipramine.

What can I do for my dog's severe anxiety? ›

Working on relaxation behavior modification exercises may also help. Almost all anxious dogs benefit from positive reinforcement training and increased predictability and consistency in their routine and in interactions. Dogs exhibiting frequent anxious behavior should see their veterinarian as soon as possible.

How to train a dog with severe anxiety? ›

The following tips will help you train successfully:
  1. Use positive training methods only. Ignore and redirect unwanted behavior rather than punishing your dog. ...
  2. Be patient. Don't set unrealistic expectations for your fearful dog. ...
  3. Go at your dog's pace. ...
  4. Teach your dog to nose target.
Mar 24, 2021

How do dogs reduce anxiety? ›

Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol , while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies).

What is the best drug for anxiety in dogs? ›

Diazepam (Valium) - This medication can be an effective anti-anxiety medication, muscle relaxant, appetite stimulant and seizure-control drug for dogs. Diazepam can be helpful in treating dogs with panic disorders such as severe noise aversion or phobia if given in advance of an event known to trigger anxiety.

What makes dog anxiety worse? ›

Any illness or painful physical condition increases anxiety and contributes to the development of fears, phobias and anxieties.

How long do dogs with severe anxiety live? ›

A recent study conducted by animal science researcher Nancy Dreschel found that dogs with anxiety made to interact with strangers were likely to have a shorter lifespan (averaging about 6 months) than dogs without anxiety.

What is a natural sedative for dogs? ›

Give your dog a low dose of valerian root for a natural sedative. This over-the-counter supplement is available in pill or liquid form, but there is not a standardized dose for dogs. Consult your dog's veterinarian for a dosage suggestion and to make sure it's okay to give this medication to your dog before you try it.

How to calm a dog down naturally? ›

  1. Exercise And Playtime Are Important. Playtime and exercise are essential for a dog's mental and physical health. ...
  2. Keep Your Dog Mentally Stimulated. Physical exercise isn't the only thing dogs need. ...
  3. Try Pheromones. Dogs communicate with each other by releasing pheromones. ...
  4. Groom Your Dog. ...
  5. Give Them Natural Supplements.
May 9, 2023

Will my dog grow out of anxiety? ›

Unfortunately, dogs don't just grow out of separation anxiety. If it is left untreated, it will likely just get worse, and it certainly won't get any better. Working with an experienced dog trainer who specializes in separation anxiety cases is the best and most reliable way to get results.

Does anxiety in dogs go away? ›

Treating separation anxiety can take months, and although many dogs with separation anxiety can go on to live stress-free lives, the behaviors may resurface during other times of transition.

What can I give my dog to calm down before a vet? ›

Exploring Calming Aids

Consult with your vet about the possibility of using natural remedies or supplements to ease your dog's anxiety. These aids can range from pheromone sprays to CBD treats, offering a gentle way to soothe nerves without resorting to heavy sedation.

How do I sedate my dog for a vet visit? ›

Sedatives are usually administered orally or injected into a dog's veins; it all depends on the required level of sedation. For oral sedation, acepromazine is most commonly prescribed by vets. Injectable sedatives include Telazol, dexmedetomidine, or a combination of acepromazine and butorphanol.

Can vets help with anxiety? ›

Your vet can help to identify the possible causes and triggers of your dog's anxiety, rule-out any possible medical conditions, and formulate the best treatment plan. This may be a combination of behavioural training, pre-emptive strategies, supplements, and for more serious cases, dog anxiety medication.

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