Anxiety, the new human frontier. But did you know that dogs can equally suffer from anxiety? Anyone who has felt anxious knows the feeling of shortened breath, chest becoming tight, heart pounding and the world becoming a bit foggy. Imagine your pooch feeling the same.
Meet Chilli Chihuahua. He’s full of life, strutting his stuff with his sidekick Sukhi (an even tinier Chihuahua) and his content creator Mummy Yasmin El-Saie. But life isn’t always so easy for Chilli: he’s a reactive dog, a dog who is anxious and finds day to day situations overwhelming and stressful. “I had no idea that dogs can have mental health issues” Yasmin relates with a heavy sigh. She continues “And it took Chilli’s anxiety to recognise that I am as anxious as he is! It was as if Chilli was my mirror, in which I could see the extreme state I was in myself. Every time I left the house I could now feel my heart pounding, dreading the outside world. And I would see it in his tensed little body, bracing himself for the unexpected.”
Chilli and Yasmin have built a very special bond over the years, especially working closely together to support Chilli in any which way she can. “I didn’t want Chilli to become a dog that is so unmanageable that I have to leave him at home. I always wanted Chilli to be part of as much of my life as possible, keeping in mind his needs and boundaries”.
Yasmin has created coping mechanisms for herself and for Chilli. For example, she never leaves home without a dog bag. “The bag is Chilli’s safe place, it needs to be like a cave with a door, so that he can retreat whenever things get too much for him in a public place. Also wearing his yellow gear helps notify people that he needs space. He’s not ok with strangers approaching him”. Yasmin lives a yogic life, enjoying meditation, sound and breath work to help her own nervous system. “It’s so interesting to see how Chilli reacts to things like meditation, Reiki healing and sound bathing. He chooses which experience he wants to be part of and it’s amazing to watch him relax and receive.”
Years of learning and training have now inspired Yasmin to share her experience of living with an anxious dog through the “I am anxious too!” campaign on Chilliwawa’s Instagram account and the website. Every week you will find Yasmin’s and Chilli’s tips and insights on how to support and begin healing for your dog and yourself. “I love that I can use social media to create awareness for a very important cause. People are never told that not all dogs are relaxed and easy to approach. And when a dog does react unexpectedly, I often feel that the person then doesn’t understand and judges the dog to be bad or aggressive. It would be beautiful if more people would know about dog anxiety and reactivity to help and avoid unmanageable situations for dogs. We really just need to learn how to read them better!”
Psychreg is a digital media company and not a clinical company. Our content does not constitute a medical or psychological consultation. See a certified medical or mental health professional for diagnosis.