When offering Reiki to animals it is essential to respect them and their differences to humans. Animals read energy much more effectively than us and they naturally communicate using body language rather than speaking words. Where, why and how Reiki is offered to animals can vary enormously. We also need to be aware that some suffer from animal specific issues and their background history may be unknown.
Reiki is requested for many animals because they are suffering emotionally or mentally – perhaps physically too. My Animal Reiki work has largely been with rescue animals, having been asked to help vast numbers of anxious, frightened and timid animals. However, whether working with rescue animals or any others, a vital aspect of Animal Reiki is a general understanding of animals and sadly this is not always included within Animal Reiki training.
To help animals optimally they need to feel safe and in control. For this we need to earn their trust to enable them to build/ feel confidence. Going straight up to nervous animals and trying to offer Reiki hands-on is likely to be the worst possible approach. The animal may react with a display of fear aggression or run away, which could impact negatively on the practitioner, distress the animal further, and leave the animal’s owner/ carer unimpressed.
Unless able to use animal communication competently, we cannot explain to animals what Reiki is, what happens in a session and what might be felt or experienced. It is therefore vital to offer Reiki in a way that is appropriate for the animal’s situation and emotional state. This means, allowing animals to take the lead and choose if they wish to receive Reiki (or not), and if so; when, where (including how far away), how, and for how long. We may also not know exactly how the animal feels but noting their bodily signals can tell us a lot and responding appropriately can show the animal that they are understood and their feelings are respected.
I should mention here that animal communication is not Reiki but it can naturally occur when unconditional love flows and it can be very helpful used in conjunction with Reiki if you are suitably trained/ qualified.
What do I mean by ‘Understanding Animals’?
So that Reiki can be offered safely, proficiently and in a way to gain the animal’s trust and confidence it is necessary to:
- Understand, recognise and respond appropriately to body language that shows the animal’s emotional state or feeling such as relaxed, happy, distressed, anxious, defensive, aggressive or frustrated. This can be done by noting what their eyes, ears, mouth, nose/ nostrils, face, fur, body posture, body position and tail are doing.
It is a misconception that a wagging dog’s tail is always a happy tail. There are different types of wags.
- Recognise signals that show the animal is feeling uncomfortable.
A dog yawning could be one of many signals. What is the rest of the body language saying? What has just happened? Yawning is not necessarily a sign of relaxation.
- Know, for example, that a cat lying down showing their stomach to you is not an automatic request to be stroked. They are displaying their most vulnerable area.
Reach towards them and you may be scratched for breaching their trust in you!
- Be aware of how to approach animals so that nervous animals feel at ease staying at their perceived ‘safe’ distance away and/ or come towards you when they are ready, rather than running away or hiding.
First impressions matter and are remembered.
- Know how to offer Reiki to an animal to gain the best response considering their emotional state and situation/ issue/ history.
Your thought must always be what is likely to be best for the animal, not what you would prefer.
- Know what to do if you are advised an animal is ‘shut down’.
This state is more commonly seen in rescue animals.
- Understand all legal requirements and professional animal related guidance that Reiki Practitioners must comply with, should certain circumstances arise.
This includes veterinary, animal welfare, notifiable diseases and red flag symptoms.
Additionally, as Reiki Practitioners we do not need to know any anatomy for Reiki to flow and produce good results, but it can affect the perspective of others such as animal owners/ carers and other animal therapy practitioners. If offering Reiki to a horse, for example, and the owner asks you not to touch the horse’s withers, it’s important to know where to avoid.
Understanding Animals can be learned in a one-day workshop where the topic is not included in Animal Reiki training. However, your expertise comes from putting the learning into practice and having copies of reference information to hand just in case it is needed.
To optimise the growth and profile of this fast-developing area of Reiki, it is vital that, as providers of an Animal Reiki service, we always work in a professional way and this requires necessary knowledge, skills and expertise.
Article by Susan Malcolm
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Sue Malcolm is a Reiki Master Practitioner and Teacher and an Animal Reiki Master Practitioner and Teacher, with 10 years of experience. She runs The Reiki Experience and Friends Of Baxter Animal Care and is the Animal Reiki Co-ordinator for the UK Reiki Federation, the largest UK Reiki organisation. Her goal is for Animal Reiki to become a mainstream therapy so that more animals may benefit from this gentle, caring and effective technique.
Sue co-authored the publication Understanding Animals: A working guide for Reiki Practitioners. She also led a Reiki Council project with nine Reiki organisations to develop national training standards for Animal Reiki and the creation of criteria for (i) the recognition of Animal Reiki Practitioners, and (ii) Animal Reiki Practitioner course approval/ accreditation by professional Reiki organisations.
For more information see: www.friendsofbaxter.org.uk and www.reikifed.co.uk/reiki-info/animal-reiki/