The topic of mindfulness is becoming increasingly important in today’s often fast-paced world, including for our beloved pets. Not everyone who uses the word mindfulness means the same thing, but in principle it is a method for coping with and preventing unpleasant feelings and situations. Being in the here and now, perceiving and enjoying with all your senses, is definitely an extremely helpful method to make the fast-paced life more pleasant for you and your furry friend. What can you do for a mindful relationship and what does mindfulness training look like?
Strength lies in peace and mindfulness
Our cherished pets are one step ahead of us in some things. This is also true of their seemingly natural ability to live in the here and now. For example, when you see dogs playing with each other or hear cats purring with pleasure on their owners’ bellies, it seems as if there is nothing more important to them at that moment.
In contrast, we humans often tend to want to do many things at once. While we are doing one thing, we are usually already thinking about the next task or possibly thinking about what has already happened. We also tend to do things at the same time, like watching TV while eating, talking on the phone while walking, and so on. What happens?
Living, feeling and enjoying the moment gets lost. For mindfulness training, however, it is precisely this point that is so important. When you give your full attention to a certain situation, a certain feeling, with all your senses, you are not only living in the here and now. It gives you the opportunity to slow down, often stressful situations, to put worries aside and simply enjoy the moment.
This is exactly what our cherished animal family members benefit from, for whom this exercise seems to be an easy one. After all, what could be better for our pets when we give them all our attention?
Why mindfulness in pet care is important
Mindfulness in animal keeping also means knowing your animal with all its needs and also satisfying them. Every dog and every cat is an individual with different needs, strengths and desires.
For example, what one dog likes, another may not like at all. So it is important to get to know your pet’s needs, to accept them and to meet them (as best you can). Of course, we have the responsibility and cannot let our pets into dangerous situations. Observe and ask yourself what your beloved animal likes and doesn’t like. What does he enjoy, what are his routines in which your four-legged friend feels comfortable? In which situations does your pet not feel safe at all? Are there any behavioural problems?
All these questions can help you to get a better understanding of your pet’s needs. Taking a careful look at your pet is therefore the key to doing something good for it, to creating a species-appropriate home and also ensures a happy and intensive human-animal relationship.
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Examples of mindful handling
Observation and reflection are therefore extremely important in order to get to know and meet your pet’s needs. As already mentioned, the method of a questionnaire can be very helpful for this. A selection of certain questions will illustrate this:
- Are the basic needs being met in a species-appropriate way? Is your animal getting enough quality food, enough exercise, enough sleep and enough affection?
- Regarding sleep, you can ask yourself what your pet prefers. Does your pet prefer it cool or warm, wrapped up in cosy blankets or on hard surfaces, hidden in boxes, tunnels and the like or stretched out freely in the middle of the room? Are there noises, scents, vibrations that could disturb sleep? Sleep is important for cell development, regeneration and tissue healing.
- Which food is preferred? Is it well tolerated? Are there allergies, intolerances?
- Is the household species-appropriate and safe? Is the floor slippery? Are there places where your pet can injure itself ? Are there open staircases or glass doors that are difficult to see? Is it generally too warm or cold, too noisy? Are there sources of danger, such as poisonous plants, medicines left lying around, freely accessible human food?
- Does your pet have enough opportunities to occupy itself? Species-appropriate toys that stimulate both the psyche and the body are desirable in every pet household.
- Are special needs met? Older or sick animals in particular benefit from some provisions, such as a dog staircase, which is easy on the joints. Cats, for example, need opportunities to sharpen their claws.
- How much time do you take for your pet? How often and how long do you walk your dog? How often and for how long do you play with your cat? Is it enough? How much affection do you give your pet? How often and extensively do you groom and cuddle your pet? Do you keep veterinary appointments? Does your pet have all the necessary vaccinations and papers?
- How often do you touch your pet? Does it want to avoid your hand? Most animals are touched, stroked or even held without a signal. This can lead to your four-legged friend not wanting to be touched at all.
- When is the best time for training? Training without mindfulness is not appropriate for animals. Be attentive to the animal’s abilities, wishes and needs. Mistakes are allowed. Mini-steps lead to a quick sense of achievement, which increases motivation. Are you and your animal having fun?
- Is my puppy overstimulated or has he had the opportunity to arrive calmly and get to know everything step by step? Puppies in particular need to get to know their own bodies first. Animals are quickly overwhelmed in everyday life and in training. Is the situation too much for my animal right now? Can I avoid it? No animal “has to go through it”, think about what alternatives there are to spare your pet stress.
As you can see, this list of questions is quite long and can certainly be expanded, but it should give you an idea of how intensively you can deal with the needs of dogs and cats. It will definitely be a lot easier for you to do this with a careful eye 😊.
We humans are “creatures of habit”. At first, most people find it difficult to break old habits, routines and patterns. Sometimes they fall into old ways of thinking to a greater or lesser extent. If you want to become more mindful there are countless ways to do this, you could try something like this.
- What do you want to change concretely? Set realistic goals and tackle one issue at a time. For example, you could set yourself the goal of dedicating one hour a day to your pet, being with it and not letting anything else distract you.
- Sometimes it can be helpful to make a note of this time in your calendar so that nothing can get in the way.
- If you find it difficult to switch off, mediations can help (animals like to lie down with their owners and enjoy the calm aura). A change of location can also be helpful.
- You can also wrap a ribbon or something similar around your finger. Whenever you look at it, you are reminded to be in the now.
- At first we often don’t notice the thoughts that creep in, but gradually you will become more aware of them and learn to lovingly let them move on to follow your intention to be mindful with your animal.
You can record this exercise in your diary to see on which days it already works well and where you might still need support.
Mindfulness training is a good method for slowing down the ever-increasing pace of everyday life. Concentrating on the moment, perceiving with all your senses, simply living in the here and now can make an enormous contribution to your psychological well-being. In this respect, we humans can still learn a lot from our beloved pets. A mindful approach to ourselves and our pets can not only have a positive influence on our own lives, our pets can also benefit from it and it also promotes the human-animal relationship.