Top 5 Tips for Supporting Your Dog with Ayurveda
Our animal companions may well be among the most important relationships in our lives. The special bond we share with our pets can nourish us with a uniquely pure, unconditional love. In return, many of us will go to great lengths to provide them the best life possible.
It’s interesting that one of the most common things I hear from people, even those who have been studying and living Ayurveda for many years, is that they weren’t sure how to apply Ayurvedic principles to their dog’s lives.
Not to mention how fun is it to merge my two favorite topics—Ayurveda and dogs!
I can relate to these folks because it took me some time to start seeing the three doshas present within my own pack of dogs. For example, our little cockapoo, Maya, was constantly fidgeting, chewing her paws, and particularly sensitive to being startled. Anxiousness was her go-to emotion when sudden change happened around the house.
This would cause Maya to skip meals. Does this sound familiar? Once I was able to see the ungrounded, vata-imbalanced nature of her behaviors and struggles, I knew just what was needed. Within a few months of introducing Maya to a few simple Ayurvedic principles, she transformed into a more grounded, calm, and happy dog.
Since my eye-opening experience with Maya, I’ve discovered just how fun, easy, and impactful it can be to bring Ayurveda into the way we care for our dogs, physically and behaviorally. We can learn to identify what is needed and take steps to balance vata, pitta, or kapha dosha, regardless of their breed.
Let’s explore five simple ways to support dogs and overcome common challenges using Ayurvedic principles.
1. Meditate Together
Living beings are comprised of energy which expands beyond the boundaries of our physical body. Our subtle intention and energy can influence many things around us. Think of plants who grow better when they are spoken to kindly, or our ability to sense when someone is upset standing in line behind us at the market.
Although animals have an innate ability to maintain sama (a balanced state of body, mind, and soul) our domesticated pets can become disconnected or imbalanced when they are influenced by our modern and often chaotic human lifestyles.
More often than not, I hear about a dog’s ailments, only to find out later in the conversation that the same condition is a challenge for the human companion as well.
Considering the fundamental intermingling of energy, our own vibrations and emotions may have a significant impact on the pets we share our lives and homes with. 1 Therefore, the more peaceful and balanced we are, the more likely they will be too. An easy and beneficial method to maintain a calm state of being is to enjoy a regular meditation practice together.
Animals often respond positively to grounded energy. It may take a few tries, but you’ll probably notice your dog gravitating toward you when you’re at ease, sitting in stillness. An ongoing joint meditation practice can open up our dogs to similar healing benefits as humans, like reducing stress hormones and boosting immune function.
If you’re concerned that your dog is too anxious to sit quietly through a meditation with you, a calming and vata-balancing herb like ashwagandha can be safely provided to dogs by adjusting their dosage according to weight.
2. Pay Attention to Environmental Sounds
The hearing range of dogs is far wider than ours.2 An excellent trait to have in the wild but quite burdensome in a home with loud televisions and voices. Dogs depend on us to protect their super-sensitive ears.
Start by identifying loud or startling sounds that might induce fear for a dog and try to eliminate these extreme sounds from your pup’s environment as much as possible. Even though these noises may not be a bother to your human ears, they sure can be to a dog’s! If you’d like to go a step further, consider playing nourishing sounds to foster greater well-being and ease.
Creating an atmosphere of harmony with music and sound can be especially helpful for an over-reactive or agitated dog, which may have a pitta imbalance. If your pup erupts at the slightest knock or bang, try playing simple instrumental music around your home to dampen the sounds and put them at ease. Classical music was found to have an especially soothing effect on dogs!4
The health of your dog’s ears plays a big part in their auditory experience too. For general ear maintenance, a drop of Neem Oil can be gently applied with your fingertip to the inside of your dog’s ear.
3. Commit to Clean Water
Canines by nature are accepting creatures and will gladly take what we give them, yet it’s important to remember that impure water can be harmful to a pet’s overall health. Like the human body, the bodies of animals require clean water to fully function.
By serving tap water, the animal’s organs are required to filter out any toxins and chemicals within it. This can be taxing on their kidneys and other vital organs and accelerate the aging and disease process.
Water from lakes and streams can also contain chemicals, heavy metals, bacteria, dangerous algae, and other toxins, so be careful of those as well. Many people have opted for only drinking filtered water themselves, and this is the best choice for dogs as well.
Speaking of liquids, some pet parents aren’t aware that many Ayurvedic herbs are available in liquid form. Leo, a boarding dog who would regularly stay with us, found the dry herbs we mixed with his food to be unpleasant. But he didn’t resist a few drops of the liquid herb applied directly into his mouth, especially when followed by a delicious treat!
4. Incorporate Fresh Foods
Dogs need moisture in their food,5 as well as prana, and the average dry dog food diet does not fulfill their natural requirements. Good evidence of this is when they gulp down water after finishing their bowl of kibble or nibble on grass every chance they get.
Ayurveda suggests we consume foods that are as clean and natural as possible, ideally with the least amount of processing. The same goes for our pets! We can easily see the use of extensive processing and preservatives used to create most commercial pet foods.
Think of how this might affect a kapha dog, since they may be particularly prone to slower digestion and potential weight gain. These types of dogs can thrive with lighter and easier to digest meals of fresh foods, just as a kapha human would.
Many Ayurvedic herbs are safe and beneficial for animals as well, though I recommend consulting a holistic veterinarian for specific guidance. A favorite herb used in our house is triphala, which also has many antioxidant properties and can help support digestive health.
The next time you prepare your dog’s dinner, notice the presence (or possible lack of) food vibrancy in their bowl. Changes can be made with very small steps to move “beyond the bag” when creating your furry friend’s diet. Consult your local natural pet food market for guidance on your selections.
5. Embrace a Healthy Routine
Pets tend to thrive with routine. Predictable actions can noticeably provide comfort, a sense of safety, and things to look forward to—ever notice how your pet tells you it’s mealtime before you notice the clock?
They embody a healthy daily routine: wake up with the sun, expel the most energy and play during the day, and rest in the late afternoon. By helping to support these instincts, for ourselves and our pets, we can boost our innate healing potential.
Don’t forget to include nature in your routine! Dogs of all doshas enjoy the outdoors and seem to value the importance of connecting with it. The physical and mental stimulation received by spending time outside to sniff, explore, and run around is invaluable to our canine companions.
If your dog has no known allergic concerns, a helpful routine that can be done weekly is a doggie foot massage. Just rub a few drops of sesame oil or coconut oil into your palms, then lightly press the oil into the pads of their feet, while giving a soft massage to rub it in.
The nourishing oil moisturizes their pads, the gentle movement helps to release tension in the muscles and tendons, while your loving intention provides comfort and connection. If your dog isn’t likely to enjoy a good foot rub due to having sensitive paws, move slowly and incrementally to let them know this can be a positive experience over time.
Trusting the Power of Ayurveda for All Beings
Ayurveda holds the potential to improve your pooch’s life in many of the same ways it has yours. It has transformed the way I understand the needs of the dogs I live and work with, and it provides an intuitive guide for helping their body, mind, and soul move towards greater balance every day.
By integrating meditation, peaceful sounds, clean water, fresh food, and daily routine into their life, you are well on your way to supporting an especially healthy, happy, and balanced canine friend.