Impact of Stress on Dogs

Pam&BoysDecember 26, 2014, I had an epiphany today while visiting with my holistic vet, Dr. Jan Schilling of Vet-Energy (www.vet-energy.com). We were discussing Radar’s recent seizure and that they seem to be stress induced. Then we discussed Louie’s recent reactive and short fused behavior along with his current very large pupils. His pupils have been very large lately. Dr. Jan mentioned the probable impact of the holiday stress. At first I thought, not really in my house because I live alone. However, upon review of the last month I released that is probably true. Between the end of the college term (I teach at the technical college), the holidays and all the activities around that, and my business that has been rather busy with year end; I have been on the go and non-stop. Wow, that must have a huge impact on the dogs. Not to mention all three dogs are probably more prone to my stress and energy levels because two (Louie and Yukon) have anxiety issues and Radar is blind.

Years ago I took a stress management class in which we were taught mindfulness and meditation. The class was 6 weeks long at the local hospital and we met once a week for an hour and half. We would spend 60 minutes doing a meditation. Our homework was to do an hour meditation each night. We also learned how to detect stress and muscle tension in our bodies. I was very good at practicing and being mindful for years. This class helped me extinguish the impact of TMJ and headaches. Needless to say, I have gotten away from meditation except for the few minutes at the end of a yoga class.

My epiphany: “I wonder if nightly meditations would be helpful to me and the dogs?” I mentioned this to Dr. Jan and she agreed it couldn’t hurt and they might be helpful.

After she left, I dug through my CD collection and found a George Winston CD and decided that might work. I put the CD on and proceeded to sit on the floor and meditate. Louie immediately came to me, nosed me and then crawled into a bed near me. Radar laid down next to me with his body against my leg. Yukon was confused, wandered around for a bit and then came over and tried licking my face to get a reaction from me. I finally had to gently push him away. After about 5 minutes he ventured over to an empty bed and laid down but was not comfortable. After the dogs left me alone I began to concentrate on my breathing and breathing into my muscles. I was taught to start at either my head or my toes and work my way down or up relaxing all the muscles as I went. About 10 minutes into the meditation I realized how out of practice I was and I decided I better lie down on my back as I always found that position easier for meditation.

I immediately felt the tension in my muscles begin to loosen. Wow, I was really tense! Radar was still next to me, against my leg and as I began to relax, his breathing also got deeper. I meditated for about 30 minutes as that was about all I could do without become agitated. As I began my steps to exit my meditation, I realized how tense, fast-paced and negative my energy was. I do not think I am the entire cause of their anxiety and stress but I am certainly not helping. The change in the energy and vibe in my house after 30 minutes of meditation is amazing.

The end of my meditation coincided with dinner time so I thought I would see if I could maintain the low, relaxed energy of the house during feeding. I continued to concentrate on my breathing and walked slowly and purposefully in time with my breath to get the bowls and then to fill them. I filled them slowly and quietly continuing to breathe deeply. I slowly walked to each dog’s crate and they each sat. I slowly and calmly set their bowl in front of them, ignoring their excitement and rush. Both Louie and Radar inhale food so they have slo-bowls. I could see Louie was eating visibly slower and more methodically. The change in my behaviors had no impact on Radar’s eating. However, I did notice Yukon, who already eats normal to slow, ate even more slowly.

RadarSleepingBedMy plan is to do 30-minute meditations each night and record my observations in the dogs’ and my energy, stress, tension and behaviors. I continued to play the same piano music by George Winston during my dinner and now as I type. Each dog in sound asleep in their bed. As I type this I am thinking of many more applications this could help with but I am going to keep the piano music associated with meditation and dinner time for a few weeks. If I begin to see a positive impact, I will try to apply it to other stressful situations for each dog and see if the relaxation follows.

I great source for music to play during your meditation is www.pandora.com. Just search for meditation and there are a few “channels” available. You can immediately watch an ad and receive one hour of uninterrupted music. You can pay for ad free music or I just use the free service and watch an ad or listen to a few ads during my meditation.

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