Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or Tapping, can help with anxiety, phobias and related problems in dogs and cats.
Emotional Freedom Technique is a healing modality that can quiet the nervous system in people and pets. Created by Gary Craig in the 1990s, it involves tapping on a sequence of certain acupressure points, mostly around the head and face, with the intention of releasing trapped emotions. EFT, also known as Tapping, releases old thought patterns that create fears, phobias and anxiety in people, dogs and cats. It heals emotional wounds, can alleviate physical pain, and helps animals in training and/or working environments to slow down and focus.
Thousands of years ago, Chinese medicine discovered the meridian system that runs through the human and animal body. The meridians are an energetic map of the body’s physical system. Each acupressure point on the body lies within a meridian system, each meridian system is associated with an organ, and each organ is associated with an emotion. This is why tapping on a particular acupressure point can have a positive influence on emotions.
Our relationship with our pets affects their emotions
In a moment, I will explain how EFT is done and how you can do it at home. But first, I want to remind you about a very important factor in our relationships with dogs and cats.
In the wild, a pack of dogs or a pride of cats has a natural leader they all look up to. They track the leader’s every move, as well as his thoughts and feelings, since their safety depends on him.
In human households, dogs and cats look up to us as leaders for their perceived safety. They are hardwired that way. When this perceived safety is threatened, for example by the appearance of strangers they might feel are a threat, dogs and cats take matters into their own paws as part of the fight or flight mechanism. They might hide, bark, scratch, or engage in other fearful or aggressive behaviors.
Because so many households are busy and stressed, with people juggling jobs, kids, financial issues and more, things can be a little chaotic and confusing for a dog or cat who is looking to his owner for leadership. In the case of Finn (see sidebar), barking at the neighbors became his self-imposed job as a way to alleviate his household’s stress. This is when EFT can help.
EFT tapping points
With a few exceptions, the location of tapping points for EFT is mostly the same for both humans and animals (see diagram).
- Inside of the eye
- Outside of the eye
- Under the eye
- On top of the nose for longer-snouted dogs; sometimes this point is skipped for cats, and for dogs with “smooshed” noses, such as pugs.
- Under the chin
- On the chest
- Top of the head.
Each of these points is tapped using two fingers. As with all healing modalities, intention is key when doing EFT. You don’t have to know exactly what you are doing at first, if all you are trying to do is help an animal release fear, panic, grief, anxiety or depression. You just need to identify the overriding emotion and tap on the points. You can even tap while saying something like “this grief, this grief, so much grief”. Eventually, some of his grief will subside.
Even if you just tapped around the eyes of the animal, you will often see a sense of relief come over him. Tapping the top of the head can provide a great sense of relief to the animal’s entire nervous system, and stimulates his immune system. Often, you will see the parasympathetic nervous system kick in and the dog or cat will start to lick, chew, yawn, change his breathing pattern and maybe even pass gas.
Because intention is at the core of every healing modality, you don’t even need to actually touch the animal for EFT to work. Let’s say you have an aggressive dog or an overly-stimulated cat. You could either tap into the air around the points on the animal, or surrogate tap on yourself on behalf of the animal. I have used EFT for cats that were peeing outside the box, dogs that were fighting (that eventually were able to live in their home harmoniously), aggressive dogs, dog bites.
This is just an overview of EFT and what it can do. If you are called to this technique, it is worth studying both for your own well-being as well as that of your dog or cat.
Case report — Finn
As a small dog with a big personality, Finn insisted in barking at the neighbors every time they were in their backyard. Not surprisingly, this wasn’t a big hit with the neighbors. His new owners, Janet and Dave, tried to keep Finn inside as much as possible, but he took his self-imposed job quite seriously and could jet out the door and run barking up the hill before they knew it. And because Janet has some physical limitations, she couldn’t get up the hill to catch him.
Dave hit the wall with the situation after a threat from Animal Control. He was ready to find another home for Finn. Janet was devastated and called me for an animal communication session.
I discovered that Finn was wired to be on high alert and that he was still embedding himself in his family, a mildly chaotic household that included three other dogs and two boisterous boys as well as two high-powered working adults. Given the situation, I knew that EFT would help both Finn and his family. We tapped on Finn to help him feel safe, and tapped on Janet’s sadness surrounding Dave’s desire to get rid of the dog and her anxiety about Finn’s naughty behavior.
I am happy to say that Finn is still living with Dave and Janet. He calmed down regarding his place in the household and Janet has become more aware of her own feelings about his behavior. The household is just as busy and bouncy as it ever was, but Finn is very happy. And he’s now Dave’s favorite dog!
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