We’ve all heard about yoga – the ancient mind and body practice that originated in India that has helped many people all over the world find zen. It also betters physical and mental wellbeing through movement, meditation and breathing techniques. But, have you heard of ‘doga’?
No, you didn’t read that wrong. “Doga” more commonly referred to as yoga with dogs. It is a newer trend that combines the age-old yoga practice with man’s best friend. While pet yoga has been around for quite some time (goat yoga anyone?), the practice is only now picking up momentum as more people look for ways to have fun with exercise and not make it feel like a chore.
If you have been considering trying to do yoga with dogs, stick around to find out how to go about it. As well as details on how yoga with dog can benefit both you and your furry baby.
What Is Yoga With Dogs And How Does It Work?
Proponents of this workout claim that this practice was started over two decades ago in 2001 by New York yogi Suzi Teitelman. Now over 20 years later this practice has gained so much popularity that you can search it on any social media platform and see dogs of all sizes following along to yoga poses done by their owners.
How Can I Do Yoga With Dogs?
There are two main ways to doing yoga with dogs
Doing your thing with your pooch by your side
Those who own pets and have a tendency to do at home workouts know just how much our pets tend to stick by us as we try to get a workout in – often distracting and derailing us in the process. With this first option, instead of having the dog in another room while you workout – or leaving them at home when you are heading out to a class – you get to have your dog with you during the class. If you are at home, your dog gets to hang out with you and play alongside you as you go through your movements. It doesn’t necessarily have to follow along with any movements that you do.
If you are in a class with other dog owners, you get to kill two birds with one stone. I.e., you get a workout in, and your furry best friend gets a chance to meet other dogs, socialize, and play. This is the most common type of “doga” that is practiced in many studios.
Teach your dog some yoga moves
Unlike option 1 above, this version is a more hands- on practice where you actually get to teach your dogs some yoga poses. Think of it as teaching your pet some new tricks, only instead of fetching a stick, playing dead, or rolling over, your pet learns new ways to stretch.
What Are Some Benefits Of Doing Yoga With Dogs?
If you are still not convinced that pet yoga, especially with your fur baby, here are some benefits that could helps change your mind on the matter
1. Improved heart health
According to the World Health Organization, high blood pressure is estimated to cause 7.5 million (about 12.8 percent) deaths a year worldwide (2). A study review published in early 2022 showed that people who do yoga have an 85 percent more chance of having normal blood pressure than those who don’t practice (1).
An article published by Harvard Publishing in 2015 stated that dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure because these animals tend to have a calming effect and they require exercise too, which forces their owners to move around more (3). An older statement published in 2013 by the American Heart Association, also stated that dog -and other pet – owners tend to have lower systemic blood pressure, less stress and a higher chance of survival after an acute coronary syndrome (4).
All these facts go to show that not only does doing yoga by itself help prevent heart disease, but having a dog by your side goes further in improving this effect.
2. It’s a great bonding opportunity
What better way to bond with your pooch than to do some exercise together? Including your pets in your favorite activities is a great way to spend time together and build a great bond. Going to a doga class is also a great way for people who don’t own dogs to spend time with some adorable pups.
3. A great chance for socialization
If you’ve been looking to make new friends but aren’t sure how to go about it, try a “doga” class. You will get to meet other dog lovers. Also, having a similar interest in this practice is a great ice breaker.
In relation to your dog, this is also a fantastic opportunity for them to socialize with other dogs – and be used to being around other people. Pets – not just dogs – require socialization with other animals and humans to help them mature into well-adjusted, confident animals that do not shy away from or worse, attack others.
4. Helps with sleep and relaxation
Yoga is a great tool for sleep and relaxation. According to the Sleep Foundation, many people – from children on the Autism Spectrum, to adult women, and even the elderly – have found that this practice not only helps them sleep better, but also greatly reduces stress (5).
Being able to relax and sleep isn’t just for you though. Yoga spaces and classes tend to be very silent and relaxed. Taking your hyperactive dog to such an environment could help calm them down and even lull them to sleep. If your dog needs more than silence to calm down, then actively making them do some poses is a fantastic way to use up all that extra energy, which tires them out and puts them to sleep.
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5. Improved circulation
At the heart of it, yoga is basically just stretching, only in slightly fancier and often more difficult poses. The benefits of stretching in your body include increasing blood flow to all your organs. It boosts oxygen levels throughout the body and helps to deliver nutrients to your muscles.
While we cannot actively assess if stretching in dogs has the same benefits as it does in human beings, it doesn’t hurt to have your pet engage in some simple but safe stretching yoga poses. It is fun for them, and adorable to see. But it could also benefit them and their muscles, especially if your pet loves to lie down all day.
6. Mental stimulation
Pets, like humans, tend to get bored too when there’s nothing to do. This is probably why if left alone for too long they’ll end up turning your shoes into a chew toy or turning your pantry upside down. If your dog is really smart – or simply gets bored easily, doga is a fantastic way to mentally stimulate them while simultaneously keeping them out of trouble. Doga is also a mental stimulant for you as a dog owner. Finding ways to safely teach your dog what is essentially a new and fun challenge to keep you occupied.
Yoga Poses With Dogs: The Best And Safest Yoga Poses To Try With Your Pup
First things first, if you are looking to actively train your dog to do some yoga poses, obviously, there are some poses that your dog will absolutely not be able to do. Keep this in mind and do not harm your pet.
Things That You Will Need To Train
- A mat for your furry friend – If your pup is small enough, you won’t need an extra one as you can simply share it. If you pet is bigger, getting them a mat of their own is recommended as it helps prevent slipping
- Treats – Dog training always works better with treats.
- Dog inspired poses – They are the easiest for your pet to copy
- Patience – Forcing this on your fur baby will only backfire on you. Take it slow and give your pets lots of breaks. Go with their attention span.
- Do these poses around them often – The more they see them, the more likely they are to take an interest in copying you
- If accessible, go to a dog yoga class – Not only might the yogi have a better chance at training your dog, but seeing other dogs do yoga might inspire your pup to try.
- Don’t force it – This is meant to be fun. If your dog isn’t interested, take the loss and try getting them into some other fun activity instead.
Easy Yoga Poses To Try With Dogs
- Downward-Facing Dog – Dogs invented it, we just copied it.
- Upward-Facing Dog – Dogs often do this pose while stretching or whenever they decide that they are too tired to walk and want to be carried. Like downward dog, this is a pretty easy pose for them to copy from you
- Corpse Pose (Savasana) – Almost all dogs do it, especially when they want tummy rubs or when they fall asleep.
- Puppy Pose – In your case, it involves being on your knees, face and chest on the ground, arms extended in front of you with your hips in the air. Since this pose closely resembles downward dog, it is super easy for your pup to do.
- Child Pose – With this one, they literally just need to lie down next to you and be cute.
- Handstand (pawstand) – Of all the above yoga poses with dogs, this might take the longest time to master. If your pup seems interested in it, help them by either holding their hind legs with your hand or using a wall to support them in this pose. With time, they’ll gain enough balance to do it without support.
How Can Yoga Help Me With Dogs
As mentioned above, having your dog participate in a yoga class with you is a great way to
- Have some extra bonding time with your pup – This is great for new owners or people who haven’t seen their pets in a long time
- Socialize your pet – Dogs need to be with other dogs. It makes them less aggressive to other dogs and people. And also, it can make grooming and vet visits much smoother.
- Get more exercise – At home doga can be a fantastic way to exercise your dog, especially during extreme temperature seasons like summer or winter, when going outside often might not be the best for their health.
- Impulse Control – Holding a yoga pose requires patience. Try to get your dog to sit and hold a pose for a period of time. This will make them less likely to be impulsive and jump at all sorts of external stimulants.
The Bottom Line
Yoga with dogs might not be what you are used to. But it is a fun twist to this ancient practice and a great way to spend time with your pet – or dogs in general if you don’t have your own. As a pet owner, please remember not to force your dog into this. You can gently try and coax them into it with encouragement and treats. But if they aren’t into it, don;t push them. Just have fun with it.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Antihypertensive effects of yoga in a general patient population: real-world evidence from electronic health records, a retrospective case-control study (2022, bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com)
- Blood pressure/hypertension (n.d., who.int)
- Having a dog can help your heart — literally (2015, health.harvard.edu)
- Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk (2013, ahajournals.org)
- Yoga and Sleep (2022, sleepfoundation.org)