Pet Exercise and Recreation

Dog Yoga: Stretching & Bonding with Your Pup

Grant Emerson

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What is Dog Yoga?

Dog yoga, also called “doga,” is a unique activity that combines the practices of yoga and the enjoyment of spending time with your dog. It is not just about doing yoga poses alongside your pup; it is about incorporating your pet into these poses. This activity helps deepen the bond between you and your dog while also promoting relaxation and flexibility for both of you.

The Benefits of Dog Yoga

Dog yoga offers a wide range of benefits that extend to both you and your dog. Let’s explore some of the main advantages:

Strengthening the Bond

One of the most significant benefits is strengthening the bond with your pet. The shared experience, the physical closeness, and the mutual relaxation all contribute to a stronger, closer relationship. Your dog will feel more connected to you, and this can enhance communication and understanding between you two.

Physical Exercise

Dog yoga is a fantastic way for both you and your dog to get some physical exercise. For dogs, this can include gentle stretching and movement exercises that help improve their flexibility and overall muscular condition. From your perspective, you’re getting the advantages of a traditional yoga practice — think enhanced flexibility, strength, and balance.

Mental Wellness

Yoga is well-known for its mental health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety. When you involve your dog, you also add the emotional benefits that come with spending quality time with your pet. This dual approach can help calm your mind and improve your mental well-being while providing your dog with the same calming effects.

Behavioral Improvement

Dogs that engage in regular yoga practices often show improvements in behavior. The calm and repetitive nature of the exercises can help reduce hyperactivity and nervous energy. Over time, this can make them more responsive to commands and easier to manage.

How to Get Started with Dog Yoga

Starting with dog yoga is not difficult, but there are a few things to consider to make the experience enjoyable for both you and your dog.

Finding the Right Space

Choose a quiet, distraction-free space in your home where you can comfortably spread out a yoga mat. Make sure there is enough room for both you and your dog to move without any obstacles. This should be a place where your dog feels safe and relaxed.

Using the Right Equipment

All you really need is a good-quality yoga mat to provide cushioning for you and your dog. Some people also like to use yoga blocks or straps to help with specific poses, but these are optional. Having a few treats on hand can be useful for encouraging your dog to participate and rewarding them for their cooperation.

Starting Slowly

If your dog is new to yoga, start slowly. Begin with short sessions of 5-10 minutes and gradually increase the time as your dog becomes more comfortable. Use familiar commands and praise to guide your dog through the movements.

The Importance of Calm Energy

Dogs are highly sensitive to human emotions, so it is crucial to stay calm and composed during your yoga practice. Speak in soothing tones and move slowly and deliberately. This will help your dog feel at ease and more likely to participate.

Basic Dog Yoga Poses

Getting into specific poses that involve your dog can be a fun part of your routine. Here are a few basic poses to start with:

Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

Sit with your legs extended in front of you. With your dog sitting or lying in front of you, stretch forward and gently reach for your dog. This simple pose allows you to include your dog without requiring much movement from them.

Heart-to-Hound (Hand-to-Heart)

Sit on your mat with your legs crossed. Place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your dog’s heart area. Close your eyes and take deep breaths, focusing on the connection between your heartbeats. This pose helps build a stronger bond and promotes mutual relaxation.

Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Position yourself in a traditional downward-facing dog pose with your hands and feet on the mat and your hips raised. Encourage your dog to move around or under you. Some dogs may naturally stretch into their own version of downward-facing dog. This pose allows your dog to be active and gives you a full-body stretch.

Puppy Twist (Matsyendrasana)

Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend one knee and place your foot on the outside of the opposite thigh. Gently twist your torso towards your bent knee, using your opposite hand to deepen the twist. If your dog is comfortable, they can sit next to you or even climb into your lap for extra weight and bonding.

Advanced Dog Yoga Poses

Once you and your pup are comfortable with the basic poses, you can try some more advanced moves to challenge both of you.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Stand with your feet apart, extending your arms parallel to the ground. Lunge forward with one leg. Have your dog sit or stand between your legs as you hold the pose. This provides your dog with a new perspective and helps you maintain balance.

Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Stand with your feet together and lower yourself into a squat position as if sitting in an invisible chair. Hold your dog in your arms or have them sit in front of you. This strengthens your legs and core, and your dog enjoys being close to you.

Puppy Plank (Phalakasana)

Get into a plank position with your hands and toes on the mat. Place your dog on your back if they are small enough or let them stand beneath you. This exercise strengthens your core while offering your dog a unique experience.

Safety Tips for Dog Yoga

Dog yoga can be a fun and rewarding activity, but keeping safety in mind is essential for a good experience.

Know Your Dog’s Limits

Pay attention to your dog’s comfort level and energy. Dogs, like people, have varying levels of flexibility and strength. Avoid forcing your dog into any position they seem uncomfortable or resistant to.

Avoid Overexertion

Keep sessions short, especially in the beginning. Dogs do not sweat like humans and can easily overheat. Ensure you take breaks and offer them water to stay hydrated.

Consult Your Vet

Before starting a new exercise routine, consult your veterinarian to ensure that dog yoga is suitable for your dog’s age, breed, and health condition. This is especially important for dogs with existing health issues.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Reward your dog with treats or praise when they participate willingly. Positive reinforcement helps create a positive association with yoga practice and encourages cooperation.

Common Questions about Dog Yoga

Many people have questions when starting dog yoga. Here are answers to some of the most common queries:

Can All Dogs Participate in Yoga?

Most dogs can participate in dog yoga, but it is important to consider their individual health. Older or less flexible dogs may need modifications. Always consult with your vet before starting.

What If My Dog Is Not Interested?

Not all dogs will take to yoga immediately. Patience is key. Try enticing them with treats or toys and start with short, simple sessions. If your dog remains uninterested, respecting their preferences is important.

How Often Should We Practice?

Start with once or twice a week and see how your dog responds. You can increase the frequency if they seem to enjoy it. Like any exercise, balance it with rest and recovery time.

Additional Resources for Dog Yoga

If you are curious and want to learn more or take your practice to the next level, consider these options:

  • Classes: Look for local or online dog yoga classes led by certified instructors.
  • Books: There are several books available dedicated to dog yoga, offering detailed instructions and pose illustrations.
  • Videos: Many online platforms have free video tutorials to guide you through routines.

Finishing Thoughts

Dog yoga is a delightful way to bond with your pet and get some beneficial exercise. Whether you are a yoga enthusiast or a complete novice, the time spent stretching and relaxing with your dog can be incredibly rewarding. Remember, the key is to stay patient, keep it fun, and most importantly, enjoy the time spent together. Give dog yoga a try and discover a new way to connect with your furry friend.

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