When I began formally training for my Ayurvedic Holistic Health Counselor certification, I was the proud pet parent of a very cute and lovable, but highly anxious and aggressive dog, Lulu. She was definitely a country dog living in the big city and besides a lot of exercise, there wasn’t much I could do to ease her state of high alert and constant need to “protect” me from other dogs, children, and all people in general. Loud noises would send her into a shaking mess and she often sat in the hall closet the minute I walked out the door – I’d hear her slide the door open with her paw. One day I realized I was learning so much incredible information about how to bring people back to their natural state of balance through foods, herbs, oils and movement, why not apply to this my dog. And so began the research and practical applications of balancing Lulu’s mental state and physical wellbeing through Ayurvedic methods.
Many people are starting to catch on to the benefits of Ayurveda, the ancient medicine of India which has been slowly entering the mainstream of Western culture over decades through yoga, and more recently, meditation, the use of crystals, aromatherapy, and herbal dietary supplements. As the wellness movement grows, those interested in Ayurveda may have learned their primary Ayurvedic dosha. The doshas are the three energies passed to us at the point of conception: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The doshas derive from the Five Elements, and their related properties. Vata is composed of Space and Air, Pitta of Fire and Water and Kapha of Earth and Water.
Most of us have one primary dominant dosha and we can have imbalances in any of the three. Doshas govern all physical and mental processes, and provide every living being with an individual blueprint for health and fulfillment. These principals may also be applied to our much-loved dogs! Once you know your dog’s’ dosha, you can work with Ayurvedic principles to support your dog’s balanced and natural state, and help prevent disease.
My dog, Lulu, was a mutt and exhibited Pitta tendencies with the alertness and anxiety of Vata (an imbalance possibly brought on by the over stimulation of living in New York City). After researching which essential oils are safe for dogs I created a list of those oils that can be applied to dogs for helping to balance each of the three doshas. (Please note that cats have a different metabolic reaction to essential oils, and you should not use the information here for any feline friends.) Dogs have a sensitive sense of smell and only need a very subtle amount of scent to be influenced by it. I began by mixing a few drops of essential oil in sweet almond oil and rubbing this on my hands. If Lu took a step back, I knew it wasn’t for her, and when she responded positively (wagging her tail or licking her lips), I would apply a very small amount of oil on her collar or on her dog bed (never apply directly to your dog’s fur or skin) to help her relax. She was a fan of Rose Geranium for anxiety.
Let’s determine your dog’s primary dosha and review which essential oils you can add to your pet-parent toolkit.
Pitta dogs are excellent protectors, smart, and focused. They are athletic, easily trained and enjoy challenges (think agility training). They can have aggressive tendencies or be territorial, and they do best when given a purpose. Physical traits include well-defined muscle and bone features, warm paws, and a soft coat. Some examples: Border Collie, German Shepherd, Australian Cattle Dog, Shiba Inu.
Kapha dogs are loyal, attached, and always happy to sit with you on the couch for a good snuggle. They are slow and easy going, strong, and can be a bit stubborn. These dogs love to lay around and be with people. They love to eat, but aren’t necessarily food-driven. They can tend toward separation anxiety and excess weight but in balance are actually good work dogs. Some examples: Golden Retriever, St. Bernard, Basset Hound, Bernese Mountain Dog.
Vata dogs are high energy and alert but will quickly tire themselves out. Vatas need daily activity and stimulation to stay out of trouble and love a good play session. They will tend toward anxiety and sensitivity and aren’t big eaters. They tend to be physically tall and/or slim. Some examples: Greyhound, Dalmatian, Poodle, Chihuahua, some Terrier breeds.
Now that you have an idea of your dog’s primary dosha, let’s look at the Ayurvedic scent therapy that may work best for your pup. It is important to notice your dog’s reaction to an oil more so than follow any set instructions below. Experiment and see what works. Your dog will thank you for it (or at least wag more!).
|Primary Dosha||Typical Imbalance||Support Oils|
|Vata/ Pitta||fear, anxiety + anger, frustration||Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
|Kapha||depression, lethargy||Eucalyptus globulus|
|Pitta/ Vata/ Kapha||combination of imbalances||Rose Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens var. roseum)|
|Kapha/ Vata||fear, anxiety + depression, lethargy||Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)|
Top Five General Recommendations: (No more than 10 drops per .5 oz carrier) Try using oils individually at first to see what your dog responds to. Once you know how your dog responds to individual oils, you can try mixing them together.
It was encouraging to be able apply Ayurvedic wisdom to my dog’s daily routine and to create a more peaceful lifestyle in the big city. I have shared what I’ve learned with friends and through lectures. There is so much we can do with essential oils to enrich our dogs’ lives. There are great reference books out now if you are interested in learning more about essential oils for dogs and more about Ayurveda in general. To get started, here a few recommendations – enjoy!
The Aromatic Dog – Essential oils, hydrosols, & herbal oils for everyday dog care: A Practical Guide, Nayna Morag
Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing: A Practical Guide, Vasant Lad
Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution, Dr. Robert Svoboda