Changing Mental Health in Dogs and their Human Companions
Introducing London based Yasmin El-Saie, an all-rounded holistic entrepreneur specializing in Yoga, Reiki and dog anxiety. Otherwise known as ‘Chilliwawa’ on social media, Yasmin and her four-legged companion Chilli Chihuahua, a vibrant bundle of energy who struts alongside his loyal sidekick, Sukhi (an even tinier Chihuahua), have earned an army of fans thanks to Yasmin showcasing Chilli’s life on Facebook, where he immediately became a hit with users gaining over 10,000 followers and an Instagram following of over 28k.
With anxiety becoming a new frontier in the human experience, Yasmin is on a mission to educate ALL dog owners about the importance of acknowledging & understanding that our canine companions can also suffer from this debilitating condition.
Please briefly tell us your story of meeting & adopting Chilli…
Chilli and I met when he was 7 weeks old, a tiny adorable little puppy. I was visiting breeders meeting their pups but I didn’t connect with any of them. Until I went to visit this one lady in Essex and she had five pups, two girls and three boys. I sat on her living room floor and she let the puppies run free. One of them made a bee line for me, put his tiny paws on my knees and looked me straight in the eyes! I looked back at him and I recognised his soul. It was love at first sight. The rest is history, he came home with me one week later.
Do you think you subconsciously chose each other due to your shared anxiety issues?
That’s a beautiful question! Who knows, it may very well be true. Perhaps the universe knew that we will both need each other and that I will understand him and be able to provide the support he needs. I believe in fate and that the universe already has things planned for all of us, so the journey Chilli and I share is definitely not a coincidence!
What three things should any owner with an anxious dog be sure to do?
The biggest and most important tip I can share with anxious dog owners is this: don’t expect your anxious dog to do things you would like them to do. Learn their boundaries and don’t push them beyond their coping limits. For example, if you enjoy going to restaurants with your dog, for a nervous anxious dog this can be a nightmare.
For them it’s loud, busy, lots of unpredictable movement and they can feel exposed and unsafe. I’ve learned to not try to train such a dog to tolerate this. Instead it’s better to find coping mechanisms that enable the dog to feel safe. I always bring a dog bag with me, it’s like a little cave haven for Chilli, into which he can escape and be enclosed and he can relax.
Let people know that you have an anxious dog before they approach him or her and it’s too late. You can verbally tell people in a happy friendly tone, so that your dog doesn’t think there is something to worry about and you can also use yellow gear which signifies this dog needs space.
When any situation becomes too much, remove your anxious dog immediately! Take him or her somewhere quiet, where he or she feels safe and can relax. Don’t reintroduce your dog to another situation that day or perhaps even a few days. Let him or her forget the experience.
How does city life impact dogs?
One thing to consider is that your dog sees you as his or her pack, their family, so your dog will always choose being with you over any stresses, environment or anything else. From that angle city life is what it is. I would say that for a relaxed confident dog city life can be great, providing the dog gets the walks and exercise he or she needs.
For reactive and nervous dogs city life can be overwhelming and a lot to deal with. For example my little Sukhi finds city life challenging as she grew up in the middle of nowhere, living in pure countryside. But as she is so small I can carry her around in a cute dog bag so she can see everything around her but feels safe close to my body in her bag.
For a big dog who is reactive or nervous I’d be very careful. You don’t want the dog to be overwhelmed and then start panicking or becoming slightly aggressive out of fear. Some dogs are just better suited to country living and some are super happy in the city. The other thing to consider is when you’re adopting a grown up dog which doesn’t know city life, please be aware that the transition may be challenging for them, depending on their nature.
How does Chilli feel about being a social media sensation?
Hehe I asked him and he said this: as long as he gets to be with me and we do most things together and he gets his yummy food, treats and walkies, he’s happy to pose for photos in clothes! I feel that this is the beauty of pet social media stars… it means absolutely nothing to them, they just want to make us happy. And Chilli knows that posing for the camera makes me happy haha.
What is Chilli’s favourite treat and favourite thing to do?
Chilli’s favourite treats are organic, pure meat and veg, Vension treats. His second favourite must be cheese. When I go to the fridge and take out the cheese and he hears the rustling of the wrapper, he suddenly appears right behind my ankles!
Chilli’s favourite thing to do is go for long walks in nature! He’s a country boy at heart and he loves roaming, exploring, running and sniffing new smells. He always leads the way, looking back at me to check I’m still keeping up with him! When we’re out for walks his little face just smiles at me all of the time.
Follow Chilli & Yasmin on Instagram