If you’re adopting a dog for the first time, there are many ways to bond with your newfound friend. However, some dogs will experience anxiety and have trouble connecting with their owners. So—how do you break the ice? If you’re already practicing daily yoga, why not consider involving your dog? Below are the what’s, why’s, and how’s of Doga you want to know before getting started.
Table of Contents
- What is Doga?
- Should Your Dog Try Doga?
- The Benefits of Doga
- A Deeper Connection with Your Dog
- Improved Physical Health
- Social Opportunities
- Reduced Fear
- How to Introduce Your Dog to Doga
What is Doga?
Created by yogi Suzi Teitelman in 2001, dog yoga, otherwise known as “doga,” is a popular method of exercise that pet owners can enjoy with their canine companions. The practice considers the correlation between decades-old yoga techniques and how animals stretch. Since becoming a staple in the yoga community, doga now takes on two primary forms:
The first doesn’t involve any direct participation from your dog. Instead, they are encouraged to socialize with other dogs in the studio. The second type of yoga involves a hands-on approach in which you synchronize your poses with your dog.
Should Your Dog Try Doga?
Every dog, regardless of breed or age, makes an excellent candidate for Doga. In most cases, doga is a proven outlet for dogs with behavioral issues or attention-seeking and destructive tendencies. Overall, it makes for an excellent bonding experience for both dog and owner.
However, if your dog is older or suffers from a physical condition, doga may not be a suitable activity. Pets on prescription medication, for instance, may have trouble adjusting to uncommon movements.
Before diving into doga headfirst, always consult with a veterinary professional.
The Benefits of Doga
Traditional, dog-free yoga practices are proven to enhance sleep, reduce high blood pressure, relieve pain, and subdue stress. These physical and emotional benefits are just as present in Doga.
A Deeper Connection with Your Dog
Any bonding experience between you and your dog is time well-spent. Some new owners have trouble connecting with their pet—especially within the first few weeks of adoption. Fortunately, engaging in an activity like doga creates immediate togetherness.
Over time, mastering assisted poses with your four-legged friend improves trust. It also enhances connection and security.
Bonding with your dog also poses a handful of less obvious benefits for both parties. For instance, interacting with your dog improves the way you interpret body language. Because doga involves communication by movement, you learn to become more aware of your surroundings and those you interface with.
Improved Physical Health
Like human yoga, doga is rife with research-backed physical benefits that both you and your dog can enjoy. If you or your dog are a little out of shape, doga can become the catalyst to a much-needed exercise routine. Incorporating Doga into your daily regimen can help build muscle and lose fat—talk about body goals!
Doga also play to your dog’s instincts—it is called downward dog for a reason. If your dog lacks regular exercise or suffers from poor joint health, gentle stretching can help correct posture and relieve muscle tension. Dogs and humans with cardiovascular problems can increase blood circulation through doga.
One of doga’s most significant benefits is mental stability. Pet parents with a full working schedule or plethora of daily tasks will benefit from an hour dedicated to mindfulness. Similarly, anxious dogs can exhaust an overabundance of energy and learn to become mentally calmer.
If your dog suffers from behavioral issues, doga promises significant results almost immediately. After a month of doga, its benefits become undeniable.
If you’re enlisting in a regular doga class, chances are you’ll come across other practitioners and enthusiasts. Unlike dog parks, doga occurs in quiet, isolated studios wherein owners—and pups—can converse.
This controlled environment encourages shy dogs to interact with strangers, which enhances their overall social skills. The more your dog becomes exposed to varying groups of people, the better they will behave on walks or trips.
Dogs adopted at a later age are typically less well-adjusted than their younger counterparts. If your dog isn’t tolerant of being handled, a few sessions of Doga can reverse this fear.
The more your dog becomes used to regular interaction and touching, the better they will perform on veterinary visits or sessions at the groomer.
How to Introduce Your Dog to Doga
Thanks to a thriving pet ownership community, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a doga studio within your area. Nowadays, most traditional yoga studios will offer dog-and-me classes. If not, you can just as quickly discover a suitable virtual doga class online.
Below are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before hopping into your first doga session.
Do Your Research
Consider how long your chosen yogi has been in business—and don’t hesitate to discuss with them. A reliable yogi should be comfortable answering questions such as:
- Do you have previous experience facilitating doga classes?
- Are you comfortable interacting with other dogs?
- Do you know about animal wellness?
- What type of yoga do you specialize in?
Try it at Home
As with any new and unfamiliar experience, use your best judgment before taking your dog to class. If your pet experiences social anxiety or has previously demonstrated signs of aggression against other dogs, you might want to consider at-home, virtual Doga instead.
There is no shortage of YouTube tutorials for simple doga poses that you and your dog can practice in the comfort of your living room or backyard.
Know Your Dog’s Capabilities
While every dog is undoubtedly welcome to attempt doga, not every pup will be cut out for it. Always consult with your veterinarian beforehand, especially if your dog suffers from a physical condition.
Geriatric or disabled dogs, for instance, may have trouble conforming to more advanced positions. However, dogs with mobility issues may benefit from Doga—under specific circumstances.
Introduce your pet to doga gradually, being mindful not to overexert them or push their boundaries.
Attempt Safe Beginner Poses
Chances are, your dog is already well-versed in some basic doga poses! If not, these positions make an excellent starting point.
1. Seated Pose
While seated on your folded knees, have your dog sit on its hind legs. Support your dog from behind, raising its front paws into the air.
This pose, known popularly as vajrasana, can increase your and your dog’s spinal mobility while opening the throat and chest. It also strengthens spinal support muscles and improves posture.
With your dog on its belly, follow suit by starting on a plank position, elbows directly above your wrists. Then, lift through your chest, engaging your leg and abdominal muscles. All your dog will need at this point is an extra pat on the back.
The chaturanga position strengthens muscles surrounding the spine and improves patience and discipline in both species.
There are various types of mudra you and your dog can accomplish together. The first is puppy paw mudra, during which your dog lays on its stomach, front legs extended outward. Kneeling behind your dog, place your head on its back, turning to the side while holding its front legs outward.
Inner dog mudra involves resting your forehead on your dog’s forehead, connecting energy. During heart-to-hound mudra, place one hand over your heart and your dog’s, closing your eyes and breathing slowly. Performing mudras help link the brain to the body, soothing pain and stimulating endorphins.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, doga is an excellent avenue for providing undivided attention to your dog and taking a moment to yourself. And who knows? You may see yourself becoming an instructor for other like-minded pet parents in the future!