Dogs have a natural ability to live in the present. If you’re lucky enough to have a dog in your life, you may not even realize that you have a mindfulness guru living with you. Dogs also help us with mindfulness by reminding us to play and experience joy in our daily life.
Dogs are some of the foremost mindfulness experts out there. They literally stop to smell the proverbial roses (along with plenty of things that smell worse than roses).
Observing our dogs can teach us about mindfulness, because they’re a pure expression of moment-to-moment living.
Let’s explore what dogs can teach us about mindfulness and meditation, how they can remind us to come back to the present throughout the day, and even whether it makes sense to meditate with them.
Can dogs meditate?
Yes, dogs can meditate. Although dogs can’t sit cross-legged and watch their thoughts, dogs provide an incredible example of living in the present. Like other animals, dogs are often in what might be called a natural state of meditation.
All those times you look over at your dog sitting on the floor doing nothing? That’s as close as you get to meditation in the animal kingdom.
Dogs also help with mindfulness by providing an example of living in the present, by pulling us out of our routine to play and exercise, by giving us a chance to practice compassion on another living thing, and by giving us a dose of positive endorphins when we interact with them.
An introduction to dog meditation
Dog meditation is the recognition that your dog has a lot to teach you when it comes to meditation and mindfulness. Through their present-moment nature and their playfulness and spontaneity, dogs have the potential to help us on our mindfulness journey.
1. Dogs are mindfulness masters
I don’t want to overstate this point, but it’s worth making because mindfulness is so often overcomplicated.
Dogs are a good reminder that living joyfully in the present moment is not only possible, it’s all around us. Humans are the ones who have trouble with it. Dogs can be excellent teachers.
2. Dogs give us multiple daily reminders to practice
While meditating with a dog in the room isn’t always the easiest thing to do, having a dog simply gives us more chances to practice mindfulness than we would have otherwise.
For example: when dogs misbehave, we need to respond to them calmly and with compassion. When dogs beg to go outside or to play with us, it’s a chance to stop whatever we’re doing and live in the present moment.
In a world where it’s easy to get distracted and focused on things that don’t meaningfully contribute to our joy, dogs help with their consistent focus on eating, playing, sleeping, walking, and simply being together with us.
3. Dogs make us happier and reduce stress
Studies on dogs and their owners have shown that interaction with dogs increases your oxytocin levels and decreases your cortisol levels.
That means playing with your dog makes you happier and less stressed.
How to meditate with your dog
Dogs provide many daily opportunities to practice meditation and mindfulness.
Let’s explore a couple of scenarios.
Scenario 1: You’re busy, but your dog is insistent that her need for your attention is more important than whatever you’re doing. You have two choices. You can continue ignoring your dog, or you can pause and take a moment of awareness, recognizing that playing with your dog for a few minutes will be good for both of you.
Scenario 2: Your dog misbehaves. Let’s say she pees on the couch, or tears up your shoe. Your opportunity in this moment is to become aware of the emotions rising up in you, and then treat your dog with compassion as you fix the situation.
Scenario 3: You’re resting on the porch, looking at your phone, and your dog comes to join you. You can either continue looking at your phone, or take a mindful moment with your dog, petting her and giving her your full attention.
Dogs break up the rhythm of our day and have their own agenda centered around food, play, sleep, and attention. For exactly this reason, they give us many chances to be mindful.
Benefits of meditating with your dog
Dogs are keen interpreters of human energy and emotions, and it may be possible to co-regulate with your dog, helping them become calmer as you become calm through meditation.
Matching your dog’s breathing is one way to get started with this. Focus on watching your own breath and pacing it with the breathing rhythm of your dog.
Meditating with your dog in the Savasana (lying down) pose is another method that encourages co-regulation. If your dog is calm enough, just allow him or her to crawl next to you or on top of you during your meditation.
Your dog may pick up on your calmer vibes and settle down accordingly.
Why does my dog bother me when I meditate?
If your dog is disturbing you while you meditate, it may be that your dog isn’t calm enough to join you during meditation.
Most likely, though, your dog is simply reacting to an unusual event.
Dogs are highly driven by routine.
They understand what to do when you wake up, when you take them for a walk, when you sleep, when you sit on the porch, and when you put food into their bowl.
But sitting silently with your eyes closed?
That’s likely not a part of their routine (yet). They may even be a little worried about you, or at least curious.
So if your dog’s bothering you while you meditate, you may need to give your dog enough time to navigate the new circumstance and settle down.
Sit in your normal meditation position, but when your dog approaches, don’t resist. Open your eyes and pet your dog to show that everything’s okay. After a while, your dog will likely calm down. Use that time to meditate.
Being more mindful with your dog
Want to be more mindful with your dog?
Start by observing your dog’s behavior. There’s lots you can learn from the way they’re present in the world.
Then, move to how you’re interacting with your dog. When he or she misbehaves, how do you react? What about when you’re trying to get work done and your dog is in a playful mood?
Each time your dog begs for attention or distracts you from what you’re focusing on is a chance to practice mindfulness. Use these moments as excuses to pull yourself into the present.
If you want, you can even incorporate your dog into your meditation practice. It won’t work for every dog, but calmer dogs might appreciate being with you while you meditate, and the coregulation of your breathing may help you both be calmer.
We often feel like we need to train dogs, but when it comes to mindfulness, it’s the other way around.
Dogs can be our greatest mindfulness teachers.
Frequently asked questions
How do pets help mindfulness?
Pets help mindfulness by providing an example of living in the present, by pulling us out of our routine to play and exercise, by giving us a chance to practice compassion on another living thing, and by giving us a dose of positive endorphins when we interact with them.
Do dogs meditate?
No, dogs don’t meditate. However, they are excellent at living in the present moment, and have much to teach us from a mindfulness perspective.
How do you meditate with pets?
Meditating with pets can be tricky, because unless they’re in a calm enough state, it won’t be fun for either of you. But if you’re able to get your dog or other pet into a relaxed state, you can try breathing in harmony, or putting your pet on top of you or next to you as you meditate in a lying down position.
My mindfulness practice kicked off in 2016 with a ten-day silent retreat. Since then, I’ve read dozens of books about mindfulness and completed hundreds of hours of meditation. Thinking about what makes humans happy, calm, and peaceful is endlessly fascinating to me.