We all want the very best for our dogs and for them to be fit and happy. The time, love, care and attention we lavish on our pooch, as well as ready access to modern veterinary medicine, means that they can live their very best lives. But sometimes despite our best intentions, they can seem out of sorts.
Both humans and animals respond to touch – you only have to see how your dog’s tail wags when you spend quality time petting or grooming him – and many believe that it can actually have healing powers. And Reiki – the art of using touch to release energy and aid healing – is one alternative therapy based on this theory that’s proving popular in the canine world.
Dogs are sensitive and receptive souls and so are excellent candidates for the potential healing benefits of Reiki. We take a look at this therapeutic trend and whether the healing art of Reiki can have a positive impact on your pooch’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
What is Reiki?
Reiki is a form of spiritual healing that focuses on energy levels in an individual and can help to reduce stress, increase inner peace and aid physical and emotional healing. Developed in Japan around 1922, the name Reiki comes from the words Rei – ‘higher power’ and Ki – ‘life force energy’ and involves a gentle laying on of hands to channel and adjust out of kilter energy levels. Reiki is not considered a legitimate medical treatment or intervention but is often used as a complementary therapy, typically delivered by a Reiki Master, who has been ‘attuned’ to be able to channel energy so that it can flow freely.
A popular and safe, non-invasive alternative treatment, more and more dog owners are now looking to use the energy release and healing potential of Reiki to help their pets.
Benefits of Reiki for Your Dog
Reiki is not just for when your pooch is sick, as it can also soothe, calm, energize and relax your pet. In addition, as a gentle therapeutic treatment, it can potentially boost his overall wellbeing, helping him to be much more resilient and healthier. The benefits of Reiki on your dog may not be immediately obvious but even if it means he has more hands-on quality time with his human, then it can only be a good thing.
Here are some of the other potential benefits of Reiki for dogs:
- Overall wellbeing
Regular Reiki healing sessions could help to maintain your dog’s energies and keep them in balance, boosting their sense of wellbeing and increasing resilience to stress and illness.
- Boost healing
The healing potential of Reiki could boost the body’s own natural healing processes, calming your dog’s mind and body to give it the space to recover. This may be particularly beneficial after treatment or a veterinary procedure. Stress can also have a negative impact on your dog’s health, but Reiki has may help boost and strengthen the immune system, supporting your pet to help himself.
- Reduces stress and tension
Not only can stress and anxiety impact your dog’s physical health, it can also take its toll on his emotional state, leading to behavioral problems, including aggression. Reiki can help by promoting relaxation and calming your dog’s physical and emotional systems down.
- Increase trust and bonding
A dog’s stress and anxiety can be directly related to their environment or past experience but through the hands-on healing energies of Reiki you can help to build a bond of trust with your dog and greatly enhance your relationship with your pet.
Energy Points and How They Work
Reiki focuses on key energy points in the body – also known as Chakras – starting with the entry point at the top of the head, or the Crown Chakra (this is where practitioners believe divine energy enters the body) and then the various points in the body through which this energy flows. There are seven main Chakra energy points in your dog – as well as the crown, there’s the brow, throat, heart, solar plexus, sacral and root (ending with his tail).
For the full benefits of an energy balancing session, look for a Reiki Master who specializes in dog Reiki or you could look at becoming a Reiki Master yourself – for both humans and dogs. However, it is possible with a little practice, to soothe your own pet’s Chakras with a little home Reiki DIY. Check out YouTube for videos on the correct hand positioning for Reiki but as a general rule of thumb, work down your dog’s body from the top of his head, using both hands at the same time on the equivalent side of the body. Move slowly and gently until you reach his tail, spending a little longer on any areas of concern he may have, such as his back.
At the end of the session, gently sweep your arms around your pet. You are not swatting away any loose hairs but actually smoothing out the energy and channeling any excess away from your dog and out of the room – effectively sending it back into the universe.
You Dog Needs to Be Willing
An important point to remember when practicing Reiki is that the energy involved is not yours, but you are channeling it – in the case of your dog – on their behalf. And while it seems like your dog may not care or is passive, even indifferent to the process, it is not something to be forced on your pooch as he needs to be willing to take part.
So, what does ‘willing’ mean when it comes to dog Reiki? Humans get to lie on a comfy massage table or bed and give consent for Reiki healing. With a dog it’s not that simple and so you need to be in tune with your pet and provide Reiki in the most appropriate way. Often it will be on the floor and in short bursts as it is unlikely your pooch will stay long enough in one position for a full session. Or he may prefer you do it at a distance until he gets used to the Reiki touch. Let your dog and his body language show that he is willing for his Reiki session and don’t force him to stay but let him come and go if he feels the need to wander.
Not All Dogs Respond to Reiki
Reiki can be delivered so your hands actually touch your dog’s body or can gently hover above without touching. How you conduct Reiki will depend on your dog so be aware of his response to your touch. If he is skittish – he may be timid, a rescue or a new pup to you and your home – then the hand-hover will be the best way to start, before slowly progressing to a more physical but gentle touch.
Simple Touch Exercises you Can Do
For a simple dog Reiki session, match your hand positions on both sides of your pooch, starting from the top and work down the Chakra points. Keep your hands flat, palm down, with your fingers and thumbs straight and together. Take a deep breath, then breathe slowly and evenly, relaxing into your hands as you work down your pet. While you may not be channeling energy, just your touch, calm breathing and warmth will soothe and comfort your pooch.
- General relaxation – start gently at the neck and slowly move down your dog’s body, holding your hand position at his Chakra point in his shoulders, mid-section and lower back for a few minutes before moving on, until you finish at his tail.
- Emotional support – some hand positions and combinations are particularly good for emotional balance and healing. If your dog is willing, gently place one hand on his back, between the shoulder blades and the other on his chest and hold for several minutes.
- Target areas – to help with healing for a strain, injury or area of stress, bring your hands together, with your thumbs touching and hold over the area, focusing on the location as you breathe.
Remember – Reiki is not a ‘fix-all’
As a therapeutic, non-invasive activity, there are no real negative side effects from Reiki but there are no guarantees either and the improvements in your pet may be initially hard to see. But that doesn’t mean it is not having a positive effect; the simple act of gently touching and spending precious time with your dog is going to boost his wellbeing and sense of security.
However positive you feel the impact of Reiki on your pooch, it should never replace conventional veterinary medicine when it is needed, especially when it comes to chronic or acute health conditions, pain management, physical injuries and disabilities in your pet. And it should never be used as an alternative to your precious pet’s regular health check-ups.
Just like all complementary therapies, Reiki is best used as an additional support for mainstream medicine and as a hands-on way for you to comfort, support and boost your dog’s overall wellbeing. And if it helps you to strengthen your bond with your pet and spend some quality feel-good time together, who are we to argue?