Anxiety has long been recognized as a prevalent human condition, but did you know that dogs can also experience anxiety? Anyone who has grappled with anxiety can relate to the feeling of shortness of breath, a tightening chest, racing heart, and a foggy world. Now imagine your beloved pooch going through the same ordeal.
Enter Chilli Chihuahua, a vibrant little dog who struts alongside his loyal companion Sukhi (an even tinier Chihuahua) and his devoted content creator, Yasmin El-Saie. But life isn’t always a walk in the park for Chilli. He is what is known as a reactive dog—an anxious canine who finds everyday situations overwhelming and stress-inducing. “I had no idea that dogs could experience mental health issues,” Yasmin confides with a sigh. She continues, “It took Chilli’s anxiety for me to realize that I share the same anxious disposition! It was as if Chilli acted as a mirror, reflecting the extreme state of anxiety I found myself in. Every time I stepped outside, I could feel my heart pounding, dreading the outside world. And I could see it in his tense little body, bracing himself for the unpredictable.”
Over the years, Chilli and Yasmin have forged a special bond, working closely together to support Chilli in every way possible. “I never wanted Chilli to become an unmanageable dog that I had to leave behind at home. I always aimed for Chilli to be a part of my life as much as possible, while considering his needs and boundaries,” Yasmin shares.
Yasmin has devised coping mechanisms both for herself and for Chilli. For instance, she never leaves home without a dog bag. “The bag serves as Chilli’s safe haven—a cozy space where he can retreat when things become overwhelming in public places. Additionally, he wears distinctive yellow gear to signal to people that he requires space. He isn’t comfortable with strangers approaching him.” Embracing a yogic lifestyle, Yasmin finds solace in practices like meditation, sound therapy, and breathwork to soothe her own nervous system. “It’s fascinating to observe Chilli’s response to activities like meditation, Reiki healing, and sound baths. He intuitively chooses which experiences he wants to engage in, and it’s truly remarkable to witness his relaxation and receptiveness.”
Years of learning and training have inspired Yasmin to share her journey of living with an anxious dog through the “I am anxious too!” campaign on Chilliwawa’s Instagram account and website. Each week, Yasmin and Chilli provide invaluable tips and insights on how to support and initiate healing for both your dog and yourself. “I love using social media to raise awareness for this important cause. People are often unaware that not all dogs are relaxed and easy to approach. When a dog reacts unexpectedly, there’s a lack of understanding, and the dog is often judged as bad or aggressive. It would be wonderful if more people were aware of dog anxiety and reactivity to prevent difficult situations for dogs. We simply need to learn how to better understand and interpret their behaviors!”
Join the campaign by following Chilli’s journey here.