by Amanda Ree
The ancient healing wisdom of Ayurveda teaches that there is an underlying intelligent order to nature that works with us and for us, if we allow it. There is a universal law, a grand design that reveals itself to anyone who experiences the healing power of a more natural lifestyle and holistic practices. Living in harmony with nature helps create the balance (or Sama) of body, mind and spirit that we all naturally long for. As more humans wake up to this deep truth and experience these healing benefits for themselves, they’re also coming to see how well the same type of natural lifestyle works for our dogs.
Living in harmony with nature is something dogs do instinctively in the wild, but domestic canines have lost many of these behaviors in the process of becoming our modern-day companions. They happily follow our lead and instead look to us for how to live. It’s a big responsibility, and we could all use a little guidance. As much as we love our dogs, without some conscious choice-making on our part, their health and happiness may suffer. If your dog is feeling less than excellent, lifestyle is often the primary cause. Ironically, it is also the most straightforward prescription.
Why Ayurveda Is the Best Path to Health and Happiness
When you create a more natural lifestyle for your canine companion, you give them the gift of optimal health and wellbeing. The #1 tool you have available to help you do this is Ayurveda, the world’s oldest (over 5,000 years) mind-body healing science that applies to all aspects of creation. It provides safe, time-tested tools and techniques to create a harmonious and vibrant lifestyle for dogs and their humans.
One of the most beautiful things about Ayurveda is that it is anything but a “one-size-fits-all” approach to wellness. It teaches that all animals (including humans) have a specific and unique mind-body make-up that determines how we look and how our mind/conditioned brain functions. Ayurveda provides a clear roadmap to health and happiness that is tailored to this personal mind-body constitution, called your dosha.
There are three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each is comprised of a combination of space, air, fire, water and earth – the five great elements found in nature. These five elements are the foundation or building blocks of everything, including our minds and bodies.
All beings are made up of all three doshas (aka all five elements), but we each carry our own unique ratio of them. It is this personal combination or “recipe” that determines our primary dosha or constitution. For example, a Vata type will have more space and air, a Pitta type will have more fire and water and a Kapha type will have more earth and water. This gives us a wonderful foundation for better understanding who we are, and also who our dogs are.
Equipped with this powerful knowledge of our own (and our dog’s) natural tendencies, behaviors and dispositions, Ayurveda helps us recognize when we are out of our natural balance and understand exactly what we can do to bring ourselves back again. You can quickly learn your dog’s primary dosha by taking our Dog Dosha Quiz.
The Qualities of Each Dosha
Ayurveda provides specific practices, techniques and lifestyle shifts to assist us in balancing all three doshas. When us or our dogs have a certain physical, mental or even spiritual issue, Ayurveda guides us towards which dosha needs attention. For example, Vata dosha has dry, light and mobile qualities. When a dog's Vata is in balance, they are active, energetic and very social. Vata that is out of balance may express itself as anxiety, fear or hyperactivity. A Vata-imbalanced dog may have a weak appetite, lose weight or struggle with arthritis. If your dog is shy, insecure or fidgety, Vata imbalance could be the culprit.
Pitta dosha shows as being hot, moist and sharp. A dog with his Pitta in balance is a focused, purposeful and attentive canine. Too much Pitta will often be evident by skin problems (including rashes), digestive disorders and inflammation. Mentally, a Pitta-imbalanced dog might have some aggression, be overly intense or exhibit jealous behavior.
Kapha dosha presents as stable, consistent and heavy. A balanced Kapha dog is strong, reliable and has great stamina. Excessive Kapha leads to stagnation, lethargy and possessive behavior. A dog that is withdrawn, overweight or unaccepting of change could be Kapha imbalanced.
When the doshas appear out of balance, Ayurveda guides us in how to regain balance through lifestyle changes and natural treatments. Think of it as using the five senses to nourish your pup's mind and body. Add in the ability to address their health and behavioral issues at the root source, improve and extend your best friend's quality of life and even create a deeper soul connection between you two, and you can’t go wrong.
Balancing Your Dog’s Dosha
We can help balance Vata dosha by thinking consistency. If your dog is Vata imbalanced, establish a grounding routine that includes an exceptionally stable and peaceful environment. Your dog will benefit from regular exercise followed by massage (add in some deep audible breathing) and a good brushing.
Nourishing foods for Vata are warm and moist, including grains (if not allergic), goat milk and root vegetables. Applied very lightly and never directly on your dog’s fur or skin, the scents of lavender, chamomile and cedar will provide grounding and balance.
Pitta pups favor foods and environments that are cooling to regulate their heat. During the hot seasons, they should have a cool resting spot that is designated just for them. It’s best for Pitta dogs to avoid intense situations or overstimulation. Many enjoy a good swim or time near water. During playtime, skip the roughhousing and introduce mentally stimulating activities instead, like agility, games or fetch.
Especially light scents such as rose, mint, sandalwood and lemongrass can help a Pitta-imbalanced pup regain balance as well. Every dog will enjoy meditating, but Pittas in particular should meditate with you daily. Cucumber, apple, aloe vera and parsley – all cooling foods – can be added to their diet, along with a bit of coconut oil. One teaspoon of coconut oil per 10 pounds of dog is recommended when eaten, and it can also be applied topically.
Kapha canines need activity. Although it’s common for Kaphas to want to withdraw or hide when out of balance, human companions should remember to “keep Kaphas moving” and provide a daily schedule of invigorating play and activity. Use bright, energizing colors and patterns on their bedding, collars, etc. to add stimulation.
Keep their meals on the lighter side by including pureed leafy green vegetables and a small amount of finely chopped ginger to stimulate digestion. Mostly avoid heavy, fatty foods, processed foods and treats. Kaphas may benefit from the very light scents of cinnamon and sage.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the three doshas helps us better understand our best friends and allows us to more easily work with nature to enhance their overall wellbeing. Ayurvedic lifestyle recommendations are especially applicable to dogs because they support healing through the senses – taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. Canines live in an entirely sensory-oriented world, so by adjusting their environments, we can literally change their lives.
One note of caution: remember that dogs’ senses are heightened, and be considerate by introducing anything new gradually. If you notice any adverse reactions, discontinue immediately. If you’d like to have your dog’s mind-body type assessed and receive specific recommendations to benefit their individual circumstances, consider a Dosha Balancing Consultation.
Most important of all, enjoy the journey towards a more natural lifestyle together. When practiced consistently you’ll soon see the healing benefits in your furry friend physically, behaviorally and even in the form of a more profound bond in your canine/human relationship.
Disclaimer: The information presented on this page and website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or behavioral advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified animal health care provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet's medical or behavioral condition/s.
Photo credit to Ryan Walton via Unsplash