Be Well

How Well Do You Know Your Dogs? Discover their Unique Modalities

By Dr. Wendy Jensen, DVM

Modalities are conditions affecting our well-being. These conditions might have to do with the time of day, or the presence of company, or maybe even the weather, for example. What happens when you exercise? Do you prefer warm baths over a cool shower? Is there a certain position you prefer when sleeping? Modalities are things we search out in order to feel better, or what we avoid because they make us feel badly. We might feel more energetic when we are just a bit hungry, or sad just after we awake in the morning. Company can make us feel distressed and anxious, or perhaps we only really shine when we are part of a social crowd. Our dogs have modalities too, and discovering these unique signposts to their inner state is the key to the most effective homeopathic treatment.

Traditional medications are one-size-fits-all. By contrast, homeopathic medicines are matched precisely to the patient, and this match must include his unique modalities. A dog with an ear infection who fears storms (the modality is “aggravated by thunderstorms”) will need a different remedy than a dog with an ear infection who lies blissfully very close to the fireplace on cold days (“ameliorated by heat”). Though sharing a diagnosis, these two patients will need completely different homeopathic medicines.

So why study our dogs? Why learn their modalities? Because it’s fun! Also you will be able to help your dog quicker if she needs care. With modalities, your homeopathic veterinarian can more easily tailor treatment to your companion’s illness. Homeopathic treatment is tailored to the patient, not to the diagnosis.

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Modalities can be easy to spot, like the dog who takes apart the house when left alone (aggravated when alone), or the sweet lap dog who attacks guests (aggravated by company). But some modalities are more subtle, especially in beings who don’t share the same language. If your two dogs fight only while you are preparing their dinner, are they aggravated from hunger, or from excitement, or from sharing the same space? Be the detective and watch for the instigating factor. Do they stay far apart the rest of the day, or do they lay entwined on the couch until dinner? Over time and close observation, you can often tease out the precise modality. Take notes.

The first step is paying attention to when bad behaviors happen, or by contrast when you see that special canine smile. What is happening? Are you giving an all-over body massage? Is your dog having to share toys with a neighbor? Have you just taken a lovely long walk together? Notice the triggers, the situations that cause distress. Pay attention to what calms fears and eases anxieties. Does your companion withdraw to the basement when she doesn’t feel well, or do you end up with an 80 lb. lap dog? Sometimes aggravations are easier to see, since bad behavior is so obvious, such as loud uncontrolled barking or whining or stressed pacing and trembling. Ameliorations may be more subtle, because we are just happy the noise has stopped, not necessarily caring how or why.

Don’t agonize too much–just enjoy studying your favorite friend. Know also that modalities may stay for the life of your animal. So tuck away the results of your research in case of future need. Your increased knowledge may come in handy some day!


Dr. Jensen practices homeopathic veterinary medicine on a house call basis. Her recent publication, The Practical Handbook of Veterinary Homeopathy: Healing Our Companion Animals from the Inside Out explores modalities and homeopathic treatment in more detail. She can be reached at