Me & My Pet: Yasmin El-Saie

We talk to Yoga Teacher, Reiki Worker and Dog Whisperer, Yasmin El-Saie about her life with Chilli, and her tips for anxious dogs.

When did you get Chilli, what breed is he and what made you fall in love with him?

I met Chilli almost 12 years ago, he was 8 weeks old when he became my little boy. He’s a smooth-coat Chihuahua. I visited a breeder in Essex and she had 5 pups. I kneeled down on her living room floor, and she let the pups loose. One of them made a beeline for me, he put his tiny paws on my knees and looked me straight in the eyes! I recognised his soul. It was love at first sight. I just knew. And he knew too.

Can you tell us about your canine Reiki and yoga, and how that works?

For me, the most important aspect of any holistic practice is that the dog or person is at ease and comfortable. So, depending on the dog, I see where they are happy to settle, whether it’s on their owner’s lap, or on my yoga mat or on a blanket. I also respect the dog’s wish to let me know when the treatment is enough. Dogs are very much connected to the universe, to that heart-centred way of being. So, from my experience, I find that they absorb Reiki quicker than people and they often need less time and the effects can be quite profound quickly. I don’t need to touch the dog, again it depends on their level of comfort. 

When I practise yoga with a person and dogs, I never force the dog to take part. Usually what I find is that dogs begin to settle and relax when they are around meditative energy. Then it is up to the dog if they wish to join in an asana practice by jumping on their owner or sitting next to them or interacting in any way.

How does it help with Chilli’s anxiety? 

Reiki has a very calming and soothing effect on the nervous system for both people and dogs. I have experienced this myself. It is so powerful that I was even able to come off my initial anti-anxiety medication. So regular Reiki healing with Chilli takes away the edge, it allows his nervous system to go into rest and digest mode, and he overall is a more chilled pup. Even when he gets triggered during daily life and his reactivity comes out, he is able to relax and calm down very quickly, within a minute. He wasn’t able to do that before, he’d remain in a state of heightened agitation and stress for a whole day.

Can you suggest simple ways to help our customers who may also have anxious dogs?

For me, the most important thing I can share is this: don’t put an anxious dog in situations that are just too difficult for them. Prevention and shielding is key. If their nervous system can’t handle it, don’t put them there. For example, if you want to go to the local pub and it’s match night and the pub will be full and have many dogs, people etc, leave your dog at home in a cozy place where they can relax and feel safe. Don’t bring them on this occasion. It will also be kinder toward yourself as you will be calmer and less worried.

Another simple trick is to use yellow gear – you can get bandanas, leads and harnesses with a clear message: I need space, nervous dog, anxious dog or reactive dog. This will be a warning to people around you to please not approach your dog.

If your dog is really anxious, try a pheromone collar. It’s made of plastic and through the dog’s body heat, it releases feel-good chemicals that calm your dog’s nervous system. I would suggest using it for a few months.

Tell us what you are working on at the moment. How was your experience being featured on Dogs Behaving Badly?

At the moment I’m finalising my first book, it’s been a while in the making due to my own challenges with anxiety. It is such a huge project that I’ve been pushed to my own limits and have found creative solutions to make sure it is happening! It’s all about dogs of course, and our love for them. Can’t say more… yet.

It was such a pleasure to be invited to take part in Dogs Behaving Very Badly! For me, it was a gift from the universe that Chilli and I would have the opportunity to work with the amazing Graeme to help with Chilli’s reactive behaviour. Graeme and the team are such lovely, kind and fun people to work with, we really enjoyed every moment of it. They made us feel at ease and by the end of the filming, Chilli had made some new friends! Can’t wait to see the episode go live.

What’s a typical day for you and Chilli?

Chilli and I usually spend all day together. Our morning routine is a brisk walk, breakfast and then meditation and some yoga or Reiki. I then get ready for the day, and we begin our work. Either we’re in our studio taking pictures or we’re out and about with our photographer on location. Sometimes when I’m on my laptop typing, Chilli has a snooze next to me. We take long walks in our beautiful London parks where he meets lots of doggies and gets to explore and run. We also visit his grandma, and friends and go for lunches, to the pub or some retail therapy. All within his comfort limits of course.

Does Chilli enjoy being a social media star?

Hehe, he is such a diva with the biggest attitude! In a way, I think he does. He’s a natural at strutting his stuff and posing. If he could he would be living on a country manor farm, ruling the roost and driving us into London in a red hot Ferrari (or VW Buzz, the Chilli mobil) where we’d go to his press appointments and photo shoots!

Does he have a best friend?

His best friend is our tiny big love Sukhi. I adopted her during Covid and it was the best decision ever. She personifies happiness and is full of beans. They have a deep bond and love each other very much. Chilli always looks out for her and wouldn’t want to be without her.

Any funny incidents involving Chilli?

Well, one evening I was in a rush and ordered a mini cab, so I hid both Chilli and Sukhi in their travel bag. They know how to be the stealth duo. I placed the bag next to me in the car and off we went. Suddenly Chilli sneezed and I froze, worried what the driver would do… And then he said (to me) “Bless you!” and I said thanks lol.

What do you feel strongly about with regard to animal welfare?

For me, I have big moral conflicts with our farming industry. The mass breeding of animals and the horrific conditions they live in literally tears my heart apart. At the same time, some of us may need to eat meat and our dogs definitely do. So how can we get enough food for everyone without inflicting cruelty on animals? Perhaps a pure vegan life for all beings would be the solution, I really don’t know. I have heard of models suggesting to apply the same mass farming for fish (on land) to give our oceans a chance to recover. That sends shivers down my spine yet our oceans are dying and need help. I suppose what it comes down to is every individual’s choices as to where their food comes from and how much they choose to consume. I mean even vegetables are genetically modified and often grown without soil.

Do you have a favourite holiday destination with Chilli?

We love to go to the seaside! Chilli and Sukhi love to run on the beach for hours, chasing birds and rolling in the sand. They also love to have a chip or two from my fish and chips afterwards.

Which PetsPyjamas hotel would you like to visit with Chilli and why?

That’s a tough question as they are all so gorgeous! We would love to visit the Bailiffscourt Hotel and Spa, West Sussex as it has everything we would love: dog-friendly dining (even breakfast!), beautiful grounds and beach for long walks and a spa for me to re-energise so that I can be on top form for my pups.

Yasmin’s chosen charity is Dog’s Trust,  and a donation has been made on her behalf.