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mindfulness and pets

3rd Dec, 2018  

Minfulness:  Dogs are more ‘in the moment’ than us and I can’t help but be reminded of this when I’m walking our dogs on a hot day and Rover chooses to simply stop in the shade rather than rushing home.  He doesn’t have to get home to get ready to go to work.  Dogs are perfectly content to place themselves in the most comfortable situation available to them at that moment – ‘it’s hot, I’ll go under that tree’.  Sometimes I truly struggle to imagine that they have no need to worry about the things that we worry about.  Do they really not think about climate change, Brexit or whether they have left the kettle on the hob? No!  Dogs are drawn to what is enjoyable and comfortable; unless a dog is distressed for some reason, if there is any fun to be had, that is where you will find them!

I believe that this accounts for much of why people choose to keep pets, they provide a connection to nature and a simpler way of being.  Pets help us to be more present.  Being present when interacting with your dog will help you connect with them more completely.

However, dogs don’t always feel great in every moment or always encourage their owners to relax!  Many of my clients, perhaps particularly where their dog is aggressive towards other dogs, get stressed themselves.  They become anxious about what might happen if they meet another dog.  My clients know that their anxiety is likely to communicate with their dog making them even more likely to react.  Dogs are often aggressive towards unknown dogs because they are fearful, when they detect that their human is anxious, they are unlikely to think that you are anxious because of what they might do, they think you too are frightened by other dogs – it’s a vicious circle!

Helping people to understand why their dog is behaving in the way that they are, letting them know what they need to do and setting up situations so that the dog is less likely to react goes a long way towards encouraging the human to be more relaxed.  However, many of my clients would like to know how to further communicate to their dog that they are un concerned and indeed be unconcerned!  This is where mindfulness can help.

My understanding is that if a person has a mindfulness practice then they can use their own ‘being present’ to connect better with their dog and in turn, having a dog can help people develop a mindfulness practice as their being more in the moment is contagious.

Apart from starting to meditate and learning to come back to the present many, many times a day, if you would like your dog to be more relaxed out and about, it can help to start small.  Sending attention to the jaw, then the neck and shoulders, feeling a connection with the ground beneath your feet and taking note of your breath, will ultimately relax the lead arm and transmit calmness and coping to the dog – ‘you are safe with me’. Of course, just like teaching a dog to teach themselves to relax, and just as you would introduce any new training to your dog, you need to start in a quiet, calm environment with few distractions.  This is likely to be at home and without even a lead let alone a dog on it to start with!  Only gradually would one be able to transfer the mindful relaxation that this brings to any type of stressful situation with your dog.

  • Practice releasing the muscles in your mouth, neck and shoulders when not holding the lead. 
  • Then try to remember to do this when you are. 
  • Relax the lead arm,
  • feel the connection with the ground through your feet
  •  - and take a breath
  • ….and exhale…. 

Start to do this when you are feeling calm on a walk – not when there is another dog on the horizon!

Many people get their dog to stop and sit at every curb.  Why not use this opportunity to connect your feet with the ground, take a breath and bring yourself and your dog back to the moment before setting out on the next step?

I have realised through working with animals that there are strong parallels between mindfulness training for humans and the work that I do.  Basically, my day job is teaching dogs to teach themselves to relax.  If this training is started in an environment where both the trainer and the dog are relaxed, far away from the problem situation, and as a result, certain positions and locations become automatic cues for relaxation. 

This is mindfulness for pets – hell, you can even teach a dog to ‘take a breath’!

When space is made, time to do nothing, the autonomic nervous system switches to a parasympathetic or relaxed state.  Stopping doing will teach you to teach your body to reset and calm physiologically.  Quiet time will calm a dog and a person.  I once crept into a big dog crate in the kitchen to pet our dog Daisy and of course, my husband shut the door.  Rather than immediately protesting to get out I thought ‘if I stay here I would have to do nothing, eventually frustration will give way to resignation and I will calm’.  Later that week, I went to see a driven business man, his wife and their two French Bulldogs and suggested that the man spend 45 minutes in a crate every day.  His wife thought it a very good idea!

Modern people are ‘distracted from distraction by distraction itself’! This seems to be ever more the case with the internet and smart phones there is almost never a time without constant stimulation.

Of course, mindfulness is like peeling an onion, my current thoughts revolve around how our dogs can help us connect with us a little too well.  I am a sucker, and our dogs inculcate a sense of guilt in me without any difficulty.  Isn’t it time for a walk?  What about a little game? Fetch? Tug? Searching? Tickle? And before I know it, I am drawn in.  If I am present when I am interacting with the dogs then this time will count more, for both them and myself and maybe this might begin counteract the guilt!



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  • Even whilst Claire was here, she was able to stop Harvey barking at dogs passing the window. This has continued and we haven’t actually needed to cover our window, which we really didn’t want to do. Harvey is also better out on walks, he responds really well to the squeaky ball and he seems calmer in general. We would have paid twice for this result! Thank you so much,

     - Mrs Chapple

  • I have two boy Jack Russell crosses from the same litter, Jake and Joe. Apparently two pups from the same litter can be an extra special challenge and we were starting to get into a muddle! Claire came out to see us for three visits and the boys are so much better. We have had to teach them to be independent of one another and work with each on their own. They now walk well on the lead and are much better around the house and I feel that I know what to do.

     - Marie

  • Got my new harnesses on Saturday, thank you. Using a traditional 'no pull' back harness was a waste of time for my two springers. I was pulled along like a sled driver, the two of them like heat-seeking missiles with noses down and tails wagging. We used the harnesses all weekend and they took to them straight away, but this morning was the first time out on my own with all three dogs. What a difference!

     - Julie

  • Our Bulldogs were fighting on sight. We didn’t know what to do and 4-Legs-Good’s advice has been invaluable. We are very pleased with the progress they are making - they can now be in the same room (supervised!). There are definite steps in the right direction and it’s still early days. Thank you for your ongoing support!

     - Samantha

  • Claire’s visit has changed our lives! The dogs are barking much less! Thank you so much,!

     - Brenda

  • We are very happy with 4-Legs-Good's advice. Barney is much calmer and more settled and so are we! Thank you so much for all your help!

     - Lisa

  • I've been working really hard with Penny, and at the Mid County Championships yesterday, she qualified for Crufts. She behaved beautifully and was an absolute angel. Thank you for all your help and guidance.

     - Ann Marie

  • We cannot thank you enough for your help with Tinker and her 'vertical scratching' problem. Since your visit last month and implementing your suggestions, she has settled down wonderfully and is now her old self. It's obvious that your method of seeing your 'clients' in-situ really works - your visit was both very informative and enjoyable and your written report is so helpful. We're also progressing nicely with getting Tinker and Bonnie to travel - again your advice was spot on. Many thanks again from two very grateful de-stressed cats and two very relieved owners!

     - Barbara and Rod

  • Just wanted to drop you a line to say thank you very much for the Sensation Harness. It is AMAZING!!! We have probably tried every conceivable lead and harness on the market to stop our 2 year old beagle Daisy from pulling, all to no avail. We are delighted with the positive effect the Sensation harness has had on walking Daisy. She is much happier it seems, as are we. No more straining around her neck, which I am eternally grateful for.

     - Sharon

  • It was so lovely to meet you guys! Thank you so much for your help, you have such a kind attitude and have plenty of time for people! We have been practicing the exercise you taught us and hey presto!! She seems to be accepting dogs in a closer environment than ever before - speak soon!

     - Charlotte & Dan

  • Bobby is an 8 year old Border Collie who is very sensitive to noise. As well as fireworks and bird scarers he really doesn’t like the sounds our neighbours make moving around upstairs. Claire, our vets and ourselves have worked closely together and whilst Bobby is still not 100% he is much, much happier - and safer too. Claire and the vet have given me the right tools to work with Bobby and now I know what to do I am much more confident and relaxed.


  • I have and will continue to recommend 4-Legs-Good any animal owner's who need support and guidance. Claire and Zoe have been so helpful in sorting out my rescued loopy lurcher's nervousness and socialising problems. I trust them both: what they don't know about animals is not worth knowing. Their calmness and reassuring manner transfers to both dogs and owners. Thanks guys for a great service!

     - Corinne

  • We are so proud of her. She has amazed everyone, all the dogs she used to bark at, she now meets out on the field and although she would rather play with her ball than actually join in their play, she tolerates them more than I thought she would. Their owners are amazed at the transformation!!! She has a habit of sitting and looking like butter wouldn't melt so that they will give her treats. Believe it or not, other dog owners compliment us on what a well behaved dog she is!!!!

     - Beverley Badger

  • I am not stupid enough to think there is not a long way to go, but I am very, very reassured by the fact that there just may be something I can do about this after years of thinking we were resigned to our fate. Having read your report below, I should maybe not rush too much and try to take things gradually, but I feel much happier. Although I take Dottie religiously, twice a day for a walk it’s always a relief to get her back home. Now I am actually contemplating a situation where I get to look forward to it again.

     - Diane Rees

  • I think we have decided that Corky doesn’t need another session yet. She has been just delightful the last couple of months. We are taking her away in the campervan for 3 weeks so going to assess her level of anxiety whilst we are away. She isn't best buddies with every dog she sees but habitually looks me me when another dog appears and will ignore them which is a whole lot better than becoming the aggressor. Thanks again for all your help

     - Ru Hazarika

  • Henry’s barking has really improved and I’m feeling much better too!

     - Lyn Tildesley

  • We are enjoying a very calm evening, with a mad dog who has been resting in a very exhausted state in her crate........have double checked and she's not dead!! The training manual is really excellent and my daughter is looking forward to getting stuck into some of the training with me.

     - Jane Henry

  • Things are definitely on the up, Murray's a joy! He's walking twice a day, eating really well and we're able to leave him for a couple of hours at a time without coming home to a bomb site - he's taking quite a liking to chewing cardboard, but only when it's given, so all good there! We took your advice and enrolled him into doggy day care - he goes once a week and runs round all day, then is ever so calm for the following 1 or 2! I think it's probably a mixture of the 3Cs, day care and a lot of persistence, but he's turning into a really lovely young dog, bless him! We couldn't have got to this point without you!

     - Rhian Wilkinson

  • We are managing Roly ok, and I’m pleased with his progress. Thank you for your help and probably saving Roly

     - Dawn Coley

  • Many thanks Claire for your help and advice regarding Jeffrey and his on-lead aggression towards other dogs. It was great to meet you at the showground ,enabling us to put your advice into practice with the other dogs in sight. I have to say that Jeffrey is coming on in leaps and bounds within just a few weeks of using the techniques so fingers crossed for a brighter, fun filled future! As an aside I also found the manual you provided very helpful. It gives an insight into dog behaviour/thought process that really does make a difference in trying to understand Jeffrey and made me rethink what I do on a daily basis. Looking forward to a catch up session in a few weeks, hoping you will see the improvement Jeffrey has made.

     - Janice Johnson

  • Thankyou so much for all your help and advice you really have helped me reconnect with my dogs and I am enjoying them every day!

     - Helen Smith

  • Good morning Claire Further to our conversation last week I thought I would let you know that the harness is amazing. Tara took to it immediately and we are now enjoying loose lead walks. I am thrilled

     - Iris Smith

  • Hi Claire, Just wanted to let you know the Sensible harness is absolutely fine - no issues with having the one without the extra padding - we've been using it a week now and no sign of any rubbing or chafing. It works a treat - Martha (my dog) is much more responsive to me on walks now - definitely the best no- pull aid I've used and I like the fact it works as a training aid not just to curb pulling. Best of all, Martha has no issues with wearing it (unlike the Haiti head collar which she hated). I will definitely be recommending it to others! Thanks for your help and kind regards,

     - Joy Davis

  • Thank you so much, I’m really happy with my sensation harness. I have a springer, we have tried everything. The harness has made walking him enjoyable again

     - Louise Tabone

  • Smudge is doing brilliantly. Seren is now the main handler when we are out walking. She has such excellent control over him and he obeys her which is great to see. She is so pleased. We have stuck to all the recommendations you gave us and so the majority of the time all is good. He does still like to chew chunks out of furniture on occasions but not as bad as he was. Smudge is so much more chilled now and instead of the odd nibble he now smothers us in licks and kisses. Seren has taught him a few more tricks one being that when she comes in he literally takes her coat off for her by getting hold of the hood. So as you can see we have now got a wonderful loving dog who is full of mischief and just great fun to have around.

     - Lynette Jones

  • Thank you for your report which we received yesterday. I know it may sound a cliche but in less than a week Tia is a changed dog! She seems calmer all round and even fell sleep in my arms whilst David was clipping her coat yesterday, she was actually snoring! I've been out with her for the first time on my own this morning and it was a completely different experience. I was calm, relaxed and enjoyed the walk. If we came across a dog I didn't know I took her to the side and made sure she focused on me (and the sausage of course). One lady even said she could do with me giving her some training tips as Tia was so good!! Just want to say a big thank you as you've definitely given us lots of tips to use.

     - Julie Price

  • We rescued Tigger from the moorland’s kennels ( a year or so ago and he has done really well! However, he has a problem with other dogs. Claire was able to assess Tigger’s reaction to other dogs at the clinic in Shrewsbury and show us how to approach unknown dogs in such a way as to boost Tigger’s confidence. His behaviour is so much better already! Claire has shown us how to encourage Tigger to trust us to keep him safe around scary unknown dogs. Where I was starting to find walking him stressful, I can now enjoy walking the dogs again. The sensible harness has been a real help too and I now find Tigger much easier to handle’ Also, the book and notes you give out are brilliant for refreshing on the things I have learnt. I can't believe how much dog training has changed over the years!

     - Ros Crocker

  • I’m loving the training! It’s so fun and positive… no yelling or negative attention! The pushing to the door is practically none existent and they wait for food too, jumping on lap is rare now and they have been playing together!! I walk away when they get funny with each other when I’m the trigger. I’m a very happy household indeed. I still have lots to read, practice and work on but so far I cannot fault your directions. They just seems happier and ‘look to me’ more for direction instead of me looking on as chaos erupts… you are worth your weight in gold! Have a wonderful weekend!!

     - Emma Wootton

  • “Milo was a very anxious cat and he started toileting outside the litter tray. The suggestions that Claire made have really helped him to come out of his shell and he is more relaxed, happier and much more social with us. These days, whilst he still wees outside the litter tray he now poos in it. Because we have not had total resolution Claire has stayed in touch and is continuing to provide help and support"

     - Charlie Barber

  • Last time I wrote we were still having some concerns about Maddy's mouthing behaviours. Well, I am delighted to tell you that this problem has reduced significantly, yay! Her default behaviour is now to grab an object and be overwhelmed with excitement. Her favourite items are always to be found in the recycling bin, so other than being careful what we put in there, it’s not a problem. The next thing I plan on doing with her is to get her to drop the objects into a box, which will save me having to clear up after her (then I will see if I can train her to clear up my daughter’s mess too)!! Her recall work with distractions is going great too and our new dog walkers were quick to comment on her brilliant recall.

     - Jane Henry

  • Walks with Pepper are much more enjoyable

     - Gemma Wainwright

  • I think you have done a great job for us, Chaos is much calmer with no aggression, he's actually playful instead. If we have any problem in the future I will certainly give you a call

     - Graeme Jones

  • Otis was a stressed out over-groomer, who needed to be referred to a behaviourist. There were none close to my home, so I was delighted to find out that Claire offered Skype consultations. We had a very useful session and although changes I was already making had slightly improved Otis’s over-grooming, Claire’s suggestions really sped up the process. This is Bagheera before and after Claire's intervention. Very happy!

     - Jayne Thompsett

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