Doga – Yoga for Dogs and their People

on May 1, 2009
Posted in Behavior Management

These days every human being has a pretty stressful life and in order for them to de-stress they have taken to doing such activities as Yoga, Tai-Chi and Meditation. Little do we know, however, that dogs are just as stressed! Mostly this is due to our dogs picking up on our stress levels, and not really understanding them, bring our stress into their bodies.

Dogs need a way that they can de-stress and be able to get in touch with their inner puppy.

For this reason, yoga for dogs has become increasingly popular over the past few years. For human beings, Yoga is a well regarded practice that is used to increase health, flexibility and, of course, to decrease the amount of stress that people are experiencing in their daily lives.

Called Doga, these yoga classes for dogs and their owners are being held in cities throughout the world at animal shelters and at yoga studios. By attending these Doga classes with their dogs, dog owners are hoping to create a sense of calmness for themselves and for their dogs as well. The theory lies in that if the dog owner is calm then the dog will pick up on that and it will be calm as well.

Doga, like regular ‘people’ Yoga, does not have any size or age limitations. Therefore, dogs of all sizes and ages can benefit from Doga and it does not matter whether your dog is as big as a Great Dane or as small as a Chihuahua, they will be able to reap the same benefits as you.

Doga is also perfect for senior dogs that suffer from arthritis as the slow movements and careful manipulation of their joints can actually help improve their overall movement and feeling of wellbeing.

Yoga is based on the theory of energy and that focused dog owners can transfer their healthy energy to their dogs and vice versa. This also has the added benefit of creating a stronger bond between dog and owner.

During a Doga class, dog owners help their dogs into certain, beneficial poses whilst also doing their own poses. Some poses require simply that the dog be used as a prop for the owner. Doga classes usually also include the dog owners giving their dogs a doggy massage as well as acupressure to help calm and unwind their dog. During almost every pose there is physical contact between the dog and their owner.

A New York City based Doga Instructor, Kari Harendorf, states on her website that:

“Doga is all about bonding with your pet and giving the dog 45 minutes of undivided attention and praise from their favorite person in the world. The dogs do sun salutations and you’ll learn specific massage techniques to calm your dog and aid both circulation and digestion processes. And don’t worry: You’ll also get a workout, using your dog to assist you in traditional and modified poses.”

Harendorf started doing Doga with her own, rescued dog, Charlie just over six years ago. “Every time I would get my mat out, Charlie would come lay on top of it,” she explained. “I would go into [downward facing] dog and he would just lie under me and look up at me. He put his paw on my hand, and we started doing yoga together.”

Harendorf and Charlie teach Doga classes together at the Bideawee Animal Shelter in New York City, where Harendorf tries to create a very tranquil ambiance by using candles, incense, as well as calming music. She explains the need for Doga as saying: “Jobs are disappearing. Mortgage payments are looming. Change is everywhere, but your dog remains steadfast. So, why not spend time together?”

Harendorf believes that Doga has a direct link to a reduction in stress hormones, such as cortisol, and blood pressure. “People always ask me, ‘Do dogs need yoga?’ ” she said. “I say, ‘No, you need yoga. But your dog needs your attention, and bonding with your pet is good for your health.’ “

Doing Yoga with your best furry friend has many benefits! Not only will you be able to spend time with your dog giving him your undivided attention and, thereby, increasing your level of bonding, but doing Doga will also help both you decrease your stress levels and find your inner child and puppy!

Doga classes are also a great socialization tool for dogs as well, as they get to meet other likeminded owners and their dogs.

If you are interested in taking a Doga class call your local Yoga studios to see if they offer such classes. If they do not offer one, you can order a Doga DVD and practice at home with your best friend. There are also quite a few books that have now been written on Doga.

Photo Credit: ABC News

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Read also: How to Help Your Dog Overcome Its Separation Anxiety

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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