Holos means ‘Whole’ – therefore when asked what a holistic approach is to dog care services, we must consider that it is a way of looking at the ‘whole’ picture for both us and our dogs. In order to consider what this might mean we can look to the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) world where a holistic approach is regularly used. There we see an approach of looking at MIND, BODY & SPIRIT (MBS). This way of looking at self-care has its origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine and Ancient & Pagan practices. These disciplines all believe that in order for health to exist within an individual all aspects of their life need to be in balance. It must be noted that many of these practices seek to pre-empt disease – exercise for mind and body such as meditation, massage, tai chi, and yoga seek to build a spiritual connection and achieve a wholeness or oneness.
This is stark contrast to Western Medicine that tends to treat the body as a machine and fix the body with pharmaceutical drugs or surgery when it goes wrong – a bit like how you treat your car, when it’s broke we take it to the garage to be ‘fixed’, many of us forget to maintain our vehicles with regular servicing, oil and water checks and tyre pressure measuring. As a former Complementary Therapist & Lecturer, I believe that in order to achieve a holistic approach to healthcare we must utilise the best of both worlds. Complementary Therapies & Western Medicine sit well alongside each other. I am not an advocate of Alternative Medicine and any complementary therapy must be just that a complement to modern medicine.
I believe a holistic approach relates equally well to our dogs, both for healthcare and education purposes. I think this involves looking at all aspects of a dog’s behaviour to reveal how the dog best learns. It has several unique components to it and we can remember these by considering the WALK, TRAIN, PLAY, BEHAVE & STAY programme.
WALK – We need to be respectful of our environment and all things around us, whether this is people and other animals around us or simply the path we walk on. We can support our dog’s well-being by providing a nurturing environment for them to live in and the opportunity to be part of a happy, well-adjusted member of their community, both with other dogs and the people they encounter. When our dogs feel grounded we are able to create a solid foundation from which to build a happy, healthy dog ~ a holistic approach helps meet our dogs’ basic needs within a secure atmosphere.
TRAIN - - Whether we are indoors or outdoors, the place we learn to master our techniques should keep our dogs in an emotionally balanced, calm and stable state. We should help our dogs to channel their natural behaviour into working with us to achieve the best results. We show our dogs boundaries by teaching them what we want them to do and reward them with food or games when they do it. We know from scientific research that the use of punitive methods create fear in our dogs and that dogs learn best when they have no fear. When we reinforce the good behaviour it becomes more likely to occur in the future – then everyone is a winner!!! We develop a clear understanding of what drives our dog, what they like and dislike ~ a holistic approach enables us to channel our energy into the world to achieve our desired outcomes
PLAY - I believe that positive, kind, science-based training methods promote understanding and the development of knowledge in both dogs and their guardians. We can achieve successful results by clearly communicating with our dogs and strengthening our bond with them through a regime of movement - walking, training and playing. When we take time to play with our dogs in a confident and consistent way we fix learning in their minds by using a constructive learning programme that utilises a variety of fun, enjoyable and rewarding methods throughout our walking and training exercises; to our dogs it all becomes play. They give so much back to us, so we strive to continually improve our knowledge, experience and confidence so we can help guardians and their dogs do the same ~ a holistic approach teaches us to have clear communication and to move with our dogs.
BEHAVE - we are always learning. Puppies need to learn about their new world, adolescents need to learn how not to be bolshie teenagers and not to always think through their hormones, middle age dogs need to learn about being tolerant of their younger dogs, older dogs need to learn about living with aches and pains and having to see the vet more often. I believe that we are continually improving our relationships with our dogs and as they grow so do we. . A holistic approach helps to develop our own and our dog’s intellect and creates forward thinking and a thirst for new ideas. When we channel our dog’s emotions into the right behaviour, we are able to teach them specific skills that develop excellent temperaments and their emotional intelligence. When our dogs feel composed and resilient to fear, we feel we have control of the other end of the lead ~ a holistic approach provides a framework that develops controlled emotions.
STAY - like pebbles on a beach we are all individuals, we might look similar but we are all very different creatures. Humans are not just humans, dogs are not just dogs. Both dogs and humans are a complex mixture of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs. A happy dog that has balance in its life has a vibrant and strong sense of energy ~ a holistic approach provides a complete safe framework to work within. It helps us to develop our dogs’ sense of self and allows us and our dogs to be all that we can be. Many religions and lots of modern day gurus teach us to ‘stay’ in the moment and connect to our hearts.
Love Ali xx