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Dog Reiki: The Antidote to Dog Anxiety?

What IS reiki, anyway? Does it actually work? My dogs, I think, would say it does.

By: Sonia Jones

Last Updated:

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Featured Photo Sonder and Spirit Photography

I’m just going to say what we’re all thinking… what IS dog reiki? And does it really work?⁣

⁣There’s a huge movement in the dog world to better understand and help our four-legged friends.

People are using talking buttons, behaviourists, and healing modalities like acupuncture, chiropractic, hydro, and physiotherapy—anything that will help give them added insight into how to keep their dog happy and healthy. ⁣

⁣And yet one fact remains: pet anxiety is on the rise and shows no signs of slowing down. A 2022 study undertaken by Green Element, a pet CBD company, showed a dramatic increase in pet anxiety since the Covid-19 pandemic. (Thanks, Covid, cost of living, and anything else that gets us stressed. You have figured out they’re little sponges, right?)⁣

⁣Reiki may be the answer.

⁣Reiki is a Japanese energy modality that is said to use a dog’s natural energy and energetic centres to increase their own healing abilities. It’s noted as being great for anxiety, inflammation, arthritis, hip and shoulder issues, phobias, and fear-based behaviours. It’s also said it helps with recovery from surgery, end-of-life issues, and more. ⁣

And while no comprehensive studies have been done in the dog space, a 2019 Harvard study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded significant improvements in the physical and psychological health of the humans receiving reiki treatments. 

“A 2019 Harvard study concluded significant improvements in the physical and psychological health of the humans receiving reiki treatments. Could the same be true of our dogs?”

So, is anyone actually using it for their dogs? And more importantly, what do the dogs think?

I threw up a Hail Mary and polled the audience (my social media) and was shocked that of the 300 odd people who viewed my story, nine had tried reiki for their dogs. 

I was immediately regaled with stories about how reiki had helped with separation anxiety, reactivity, sensitive stomach issues, and the loss of another pet.

But I think what was even more interesting, beyond their stories of how reiki had benefited their dogs, was them recounting times when their dogs had actively sought out the practitioner—an experience that echoed my own.

Photo Sonder and Spirit Photography

Karen Garett, who worked at a dog hydrotherapy facility that contracted space to a reiki practitioner, said her dog Gator would do anything to get reiki. She recounted a time her work was holding a fundraiser and Gator ran straight to the reiki room only to find another dog being worked on.

“Gator was NOT pleased, and if she could speak, she would have said, ‘get off my bed, she is MY reiki person!’” recounts Garett.

Another time, Garett and Gator bumped into the reiki practitioner at a Pet expo. Gator refused to leave the booth: “She laid down on the dog bed and was there for the rest of the show being the demo dog.”

Garett says that up until then, she had been skeptical, but those two experiences prompted her to start getting reiki herself.

I understood the sentiment well. Over the years, despite mounting evidence that reiki worked on my own dogs, I used reiki more of a failsafe during a crisis rather than a go-to.

My husband and I first tried dog reiki in 2019, shortly after our first dog passed. To say our other two Huskies weren’t taking it well would be putting it mildly. We were desperate for ANY way to help them through their obvious depression. We also sought answers for our elder Husky’s sudden health decline (spoiler: she’s now cleared 15-and-a-half). ⁣

⁣I remember the first session with Sarah from Hands on Heart Reiki like it was yesterday. There we were, the four of us huddled in the tiny room, my husband and I fraught with anxiety and profound grief, acting every bit the helicopter parents we had become since the loss.

Our older, “sick” dog, Ice—despondent at losing her littermate and unable to keep food down—lay right beside Sarah, curled up, and went to sleep. My husband leaned up against the wall and dozed, suddenly very relaxed. And I breathed a deep sigh of relief: maybe we could get through this? 

⁣As she continued the reiki session, Sarah would routinely address us with questions like, “Have you thought about raw food for her?” ⁣

⁣(We had never fed raw, but with the switch, Ice was able to keep food down. She successfully stayed on raw for two years before we switched her to a senior formula. She is now inching towards her 16th birthday.⁣)

⁣Our younger, rescue Husky, Montana, the more emotional of the two, was a bit trickier. She’s the reason I’m more inclined to believe that dogs really do FEEL reiki. ⁣

⁣She loved Sarah too… but as soon as she’d “turn her hands on” and start any form of energy healing, Montana would run across the room and hide behind an inanimate object or one of us.

⁣“I can still get you back there,” Sarah would say playfully. “Do you want me to stop?”⁣

⁣Montana poked her head out. ⁣

⁣She held her hands up: “I’ll stop when you want me to, I promise.”⁣

⁣And thus began the song and dance of Sarah and Montana setting boundaries. ⁣

⁣Initially, Montana would protest, then put on her “oh if I have to” act and enjoy every second of her session until Sarah “hit a spot” she didn’t like, and then would VERY emphatically announce that she was done and walk off.

⁣Mix in a little bit of Ice (our “Gator”) trying to butt her way into Montana’s sessions—anything to get close to Sarah—and you have an idea of our sessions.

⁣And that was our experience with reiki up until Montana’s (our rescue, who had been severely abused in her early life) legs started to fail at 14. ⁣

Photo Sonia Jones

⁣I remember my conversation with Sarah, how frantic I was, how scared:⁣

⁣“What can we do?” I all but cried.⁣

⁣“She’s tired,” she said. “And her energy is fading. I’m going to be honest. I don’t think she has much time left.”⁣

⁣(This was the day before the vets, who we had been to see five times that week, said the same thing.)⁣

⁣But still, I begged and pleaded, “Is there nothing?”⁣

⁣But Sarah only responded with a cryptic question: “what do YOU need to do to be ok?”⁣

⁣I wanted so badly to scream that it wasn’t about me, and to just tell me what I could do. But I didn’t, I didn’t understand… I couldn’t.⁣

⁣Until the last day, right before it was “time.” We had been trying to figure out if it was fair to take Montana to her favourite spot before we went to the vet. Ultimately, we decided against it. ⁣

⁣She was in pain, wouldn’t eat, and showed very little interest in anything. I decided to show her videos while we waited instead. But when I started to play them, she perked up. And when she was showing signs that one of the stronger pain meds the vet had given her was working, I suddenly sprang into action: “We have to go!”⁣

⁣We stole the blanket from the vet and raced out the door with her in our arms to the waiting bed in the car. ⁣

The end was a blur of trying to race to her spot and get back before the vet closed, rain that started unceremoniously on the drive out, and a flat tire that caused enough chaos that it took seven family members to coordinate rides back for us and our other two dogs.

⁣But looking back, I get it.⁣

⁣We only got to sit there for all of three minutes. We took what might be the saddest pictures of all eternity as the rain poured down around us. And it was heart wrenching in a way that, even now, I want to throw my fist in the air and scream to the heavens about the unfairness of it all. ⁣

⁣But I know we did EVERYTHING we could… including making her last memory in a place she loved.⁣

⁣So, is reiki for the dogs? Does it help? Or is it just for us as owners to feel we’ve been proactive… that we’ve done everything we possibly could? I don’t know. ⁣

⁣But after the vets, I know who I’m calling every time.

This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!


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By: Sonia Jones
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