The shorter days and busier schedules often mean that we spend less quality time with our companion animals. Holiday season can be a busy and stressful time of the year for both humans and pets alike. It is a time of disrupted routines, shorter walks and limited sunlight. For many households it can also be a time of frequent visitors, different smells and sounds, and a general sense of upheaval, all things that can have an effect on even the most laid back dog or cat. But most importantly, our companions often tap into and are affected by our own stress and tension.
To start, find a calm and quiet spot of the house with dim lighting. Take a moment to focus on your breath and then try to match the rhythm of your breath with your dog’s or cat’s. Their breathing is faster than ours, but as we start to relax it will be easier to fall into the same rhythm of breathing. You might even notice that your dog or cat is also adjusting their own breathing to yours. As you breathe in deeper and longer, so will they.
When you feel like you have synced your breathing, imagine breathing in warm light and as you exhale imagine that light emanating through your skin, expanding and surrounding you. Allow that light to expand with every breath, eventually encompassing your pet.
When you feel ready, rest one hand at the base of your pet’s head and the other hand on their sacrum (the high point over your dog’s or cat’s hips). Don’t put any pressure, just rest your hands comfortably, you might need to use a cushion so that your arms feel comfortable. These two areas have a very thick network of nerve endings responsible for the rest and relaxation responses of the body. By placing our hands there, you are encouraging your pet to tap into their parasympathetic nervous system which governs such functions as sleep, digestion and tissue repair. Allow yourself and your pet as much time as you need to feel grounded and calm.
This quiet time together can be a powerful bonding exercise, it will also help to decrease stress hormones in your and your pet’s body, and will allow your cat or dog to feel safe during a hectic time of the year.