WHAT ELEMENT IS YOUR DOG?
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use a system of classification called 5 elements. These elements can be used to describe the ‘constitution’ of a dog. By constitution we mean the dogs genetic strengths and weaknesses which are expressed both physically and emotionally. Temperament is passed on genetically as well physical characteristics.
What exactly is 5 Element Theory?
The 5 elements are; Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. The theory of 5 elements follows the relationship between these elements in the natural world, and how they relate to the relationship that exists between the different organs and meridians of the body. Each of the organs of the body corresponds to one of the elements based on the qualities it has. The organs relate to each other in a similar way to each of the 5 elements in nature and follows a general pattern. The basis of 5 element theory is therefore all about synergy and balance. Here is a list of the 5 elements and the organ that displays the characteristics:
FIRE – Heart
EARTH – Spleen
METAL – Lung
WATER – Kidney
WOOD – Liver
The personality of your dog, its dietary preferences and also the diseases it may be most susceptible to, are all governed by the relationship your dogs body has with these elements. 5 element theory also explains how your dog connects to the world around them, and how they react to events and situations. A practitioner who is competent in 5 element theory will be able to improve your dogs health and vitality by improving organ function, digestion, reducing the predisposition to disease, and resolving behaviour issues.
All dogs will contain characteristics of each of the elements, but one will be more dominant. If any element is out of balance in one area it will affect the expression of the other elements.
Which element is your dog?
Each dog will have a dominant element that is expressed through its personality. Which element do you think your dog is?
Fire type animals are easily excited, difficult to calm down and are classic extroverts. They are friendly but can be quite noisy and will always be ‘talking’ to you. They are highly sociable and greet everyone with enthusiasm, finding it really hard to keep still when people come to visit! They are curious and communicative but although they want to please they are hard to train because of their short attention spans. Their sociable nature means that if this element is out of balance they can suffer from separation anxiety and can be overly restless.
They tend to have a small head but a strong body, and small but bright eyes. They are very fast but don’t have a lot of stamina. Their skin tends to be quite pink underneath their fur.
Associated with the Heart and Small Intestine. The fire element is also associated with blood vessels and the flow of nutrients around the body.
Prone to heart disease.
Toy Poodle, Greyhound, Staffordshire bull terrier, Saluki.
These dogs are very laid back. They are sociable and very food orientated because of the association with the digestive system. They are very loyal and provide support to their owners, showing great kindness and empathy. They nurture and are great with children. They are slow to anger and are very dependable due to their close emotional bond with their owners, but if the earth energy becomes depleted, they can begin to worry excessively and are sometimes clingy and possessive. They make excellent therapy and assistance dogs.
Sturdy body. Big head. Kind, shiny eyes.
Spleen and Stomach. This element is associated with the digestive system, muscles and taste.
Labrador, Golden Retriever.
Prone to gastrointestinal issues, diarrhoea and food allergies. These dogs can easily become obese if not kept in check.
Wood type dogs are very alert, fast moving and competitive. They are very athletic, have high stamina, and respond quickly to stimulus. These dogs active and are always busy doing something. They are confident and adapt to change very well. Owners may describe them as being bossy or possessive. When they are balanced they are very creative and easy to train. When the wood element is deficient these dogs can become easily angered and are irritable and can suffer from low self-confidence, becoming easily dominated.
Breeds: Jack Russell, Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel
Organs: Liver and Gall Bladder
Physical Traits: Thin body, large eyes.
Disease: Prone to liver disease and allergies. Can often have nail and foot problems. Sometimes predisposed to strokes. Wood dogs often have red, irritated eyes and will vomit bile more often than other types.
Metal type dogs are confident, independent and very quick and intelligent which makes these dogs easy to train. They can often be aloof, but always seem to know what is expected of them. They will often be the leader in a group of dogs, but will follow the rules. They like to get things right, and when it balance these dogs can take things in and let go easily. When the metal element is deficient there may be an inability to form lasting bonds and these dogs will often tend to go lie down on their own somewhere and can become quite isolated. Owners will often say they feel they can’t quite ‘connect’ with these dogs. An excess of the metal element leads to inflexibility (as metal is rigid in nature), and a strong need to control things.
Breeds: Border Collie, Kelpie, German Shepherd
Organs: Lungs and Large Intestines
Physical: Good hair coat and good vision. Broad chest. Good sense of smell
Disease: As the metal element is linked to the respiratory system, dogs of this constitution often have lung problems and may have asthma symptoms, cough regularly or reverse sneeze. They are also prone to dry skin and sinus problems.
When the water element is in balance, these dogs will be firm, steady and not easily discouraged. Although they are consistent, they are very slow at doing it. They are generally quiet observers and can easily live alone. If excessive in this element, they can be stubborn, aloof and difficult to train. If deficient in the water element these dogs can be introverted, fearful, shy and easily discouraged. Deficiency of the water element can also lead to behaviour problems such as fear biting. Water type dogs can sometimes be prone to depression.
Breeds: St Bernard. Newfoundland. Bernese Mountain Dogs, Great Danes, Portugese water dog.
Organs: Bladder and Kidneys
Disease: Water type dogs are prone to kidney and bladder issues such as urinary tract infections. If unbalanced they can have back pain, rear end weakness, disturbed growth and infertility.
Physical Traits: Deep, big eyes. Intolerant to cold and prefers the warmth.
How do practitioners use 5 Element Theory?
Practitioners need to consider the interactions of each of these elements within the body in order to decide how best to restore balance. As each element has its own traits, disease predispositions, weaknesses, and physical issues, a practitioner who works with 5 elements would use their knowledge to not only treat acute illnesses, and also formulate a treatment plan to maintain the long term health of your dog.
Can this technique help with emotional problems?
Emotions are strongly linked to the balance of these elements within the body. An example of an emotional problem would be anxiety. Anxiety is considered an imbalance between the elements of water (kidney) and fire (heart) energy. Fire energy relates to the hearts ability feel settled in the world. The fire element is strong in dogs who are over-excitable and who find it difficult to settle and calm down. In nature water controls fire, therefore the kidney energy starts to become stressed and depleted as it desperately tries to control the excessive fire energy. The resulting emotion is fear (a water element emotion), and when this is combined with being unsettled, it creates anxiety. To restore calm a TCM practitioner would balance the water and fire energy of the dog.
Can this help with physical issues?
An example of a physical issue would be heart disease. A dog with heart disease would require work to strengthen the heart energy. The aim is to restore healthy function of the heart by working on the energy of the organ itself, along with related meridians and acupressure points. Herbal treatments may also be used, and adding heart meat to the diet would also be a consideration.
The 5 elements, as in nature, should all be in balance within the body. They continually interact with each other in order to promote and maintain health. When this balance becomes disrupted, the imbalance shows up as symptoms of disease and behaviour problems such as aggression and anxiety. As a kinesiologist, the symptoms and behaviours your dog presents with will be the biggest indication of which element is out of balance.
Which element are you?
If you have read any of my other articles, you will know that the common principle in all of my work is that our dogs will mirror our emotions. Just as we attract animals that have a similar emotional state to ourselves, we therefore also choose animals that have the same dominant element as us. As a practitioner, it is vitally important when treating any imbalances within the animal, whether that be physical or emotional (behavioural), that steps are taken to address the imbalance within the owner as well.
Understanding the expression of the elements within yourself and your dog allows a great insight into what makes you tick, understanding your triggers and identifying what emotional barriers you both have to overcome. Working with your dog in this way allows for massive personal growth for you, and improves to connection you have with your animal tenfold.