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Doga 101: Benefits and Necessary Precautions for Doing Dog Yoga

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Doga 101 - Benefits and Necessary Precautions for Doing Dog Yoga

Have you ever heard of Doga? It's yoga… with dogs! If you haven't heard of this before (where have you been?!) I guarantee this article will fascinate you, because the downward facing dog pose is no more just for humans. And if you do know a little about Doga already, then as someone who's done it for quite some time, I'll introduce you to how you can start doing yoga with your own Fido and why you should get into Doga (or Dog Yoga) in the first place!

Yoga practice continues to grow an exponential pace. Today, people from all walks of life begin including yoga in their daily schedule. No wonder, because it's a great way to stay in shape while also finding some time to relax your body and mind. Yoga isn't just for flexibility but also general body strength, mental clarity and it works perfect as a stress-reliever. It can even serve as a well-rounded choice for people who are short on time.

It seems that in particular, yoga can provide the most benefits for women, and research has supported this over and over again. Here are some proven benefits of yoga based on science:

What is Doga - Yoga with DogsThere are a lot more studies on the benefits of yoga for both men and women, and I recommend you read this, this and this if you're curious.

With how great yoga is for so many people, how could it possibly get better? The answer is simple – take your dog with you!

Doga is a new way to practice yoga with your pet, meaning your pup gets the benefits too (maybe). Unfortunately, scientists are yet to research how doing yoga with dogs can affect your pet. Regardless of the lack of science on this, the main benefit for your Fido doing yoga together with you is human-dog bonding, which has in fact a lot of research behind it.

Once you understand what this exercise program is and the amazing benefits that it can have for you and your dog, you'll start to wonder why you haven't tried it before. Due to how popular both yoga and Doga are becoming, it's likely available in your local yoga studio. If there isn't a studio in your area, there are plenty of resources available on learning about Doga and practicing yoga with your dog. I'll list those at the end of the article.

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Doga 101: The Practice of Doing Yoga With Your Dog

Doga 101 The Practice of Doing Yoga With Your Dog

What is Doga?

As we have already established, Doga (aka Dog Yoga) is simply doing yoga alongside your dog. You can probably tell that from the very original name this practice has received. You can do Doga at home or in a studio setting.

I was surprised to learn that Doga has been around for a while. It was created in 2002 in New York City, by a yoga instructor Suzi Teitelman.

Today, US is not the only place where Doga is gaining traction. More countries around the world are becoming fascinated with it, with the United Kingdom and Hong Kong being another few places with a fast growing Doga trend.

This is what it looks like:

While yoga has been around for centuries, Doga is a fairly new offering in the vein. Some yoga studios are now starting to offer Doga classes for their students, but these places are still scarce.

Here are a few Doga classes in some of the cities in the US:

*Know of any other Doga classes? Send them to us: stuff at topdogtips.com and I'll list those here!

Students of traditional yoga will find that Doga incorporates many aspects of Hatha yoga, including poses for stretching and strength. It may also include some pet-specific additions. Gentle massage is something you will typically find in Doga classes, as this can help to soothe your dog and relieve any pain he may have.

Believe it or not, meditation is also a consideration in Doga classes. Enjoying some quiet time with your pup is a major focus of this practice. This meditation will not only benefit you, but it can be very therapeutic to dogs with anxiety.

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Benefits of Doga for Dogs and Owners

Benefits of Doga for Dogs and Owners

I've already listed the many benefits of yoga for people, and women in particular. Doga has all the same benefits since you're doing pretty much the same poses and breathing exercises, but you can also bring some of the good stuff for your pooch. Let's take a look at some of the advantages of doing Doga:

  • Bonding with your dog – This is probably the biggest advantage, and the only one proven with scientific research. Doga is undoubtedly a great way to bond with your pet. Doing these assisted poses means you and your Fido will be working together as partners. This is a perfect way to improve your human-dog relationship and strengthen the “pack” bond your pet perceives with you. This will not only help everyday activities, but it may also help your canine companion with training and behavior correction.
  • Injured dogs – Some Doga practitioners claimed that doing yoga with dogs can be a great way to help a dog who may be injured, or recovering from an accident, or even assist with canine arthritis. Doga is also beneficial to dogs with hip dysplasia or other pain issues as they age. The gentle stretching motions can relieve muscle tension and aches in your pet, and can also help your pet to re-build strength if he has lost it due to an injury or because of aging.
  • Healthy exercise – At the very least, Doga is yet another form of exercise, and we know that exercise is always good for both us and our dogs. If either one of you are overweight or out of shape, the practice can help you get used to exercise and build muscle. If you practice regularly, it can also help you and your pup lose fat. An important thing to remember is that if you are just starting Doga, it's best to get the okay from your doctor and vet first. Make sure you both are healthy enough to exercise before getting started.
  • Relaxation – In the practice of Doga relaxation and breathing exercises takes up a huge part of the whole thing. If you have an overactive dog, this might be just what you need to get him calmed down. Not only does the exercise aspect of Doga help to burn off some of that energy, but the gentle massage and stretching helps your pet calm down mentally as well. If you find yourself stressed out too, then this practice is an ideal way to help the both of you carve out some time to just chill.
  • Entertainment value – Let's face it, yoga is not for everyone. Some people may find the practice boring, tedious and even stressful (the complete opposite of what you're trying to achieve). Some people may not be able to get themselves psyched up enough to do it, and that's fine. But this means they could miss out on a lot of benefits from the practice. The good thing about Doga is that it adds another element to yoga that makes it more fun for a lot of people, especially dog lovers.
  • Socialization – Finally, for you and your pup, Doga provides an opportunity to meet with other pet owners when you go to a class. If dog parks aren't your thing, then this could be a great way to get out of the house, meet new people, and potentially make some friends. For your dog, this could be an important step in getting him used to other dogs and people. Socialization is also important for your dog, as this means he might be more well-behaved on walks, at the groomer's, and elsewhere in public.

Although Doga is slowly gaining popularity, there are arguments against it, so let's talk about those as well just so that you're aware before actually starting to do yoga with your dog.

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Doga 101 The Practice of Doing Yoga With Your Dog

Can Doga Be Bad for You or Your Dog?

As I was doing the research for this article, I found that not everybody appreciates the practice of Doga. Arguments differ, depending on whom you ask. Purists say that Doga is desecrating the holy practice of Yoga (with a capital “Y”) for the purpose of making this into a fad.

For example, a long-time yoga instructor Julie Lawrence from Portland said in a NY Times article that Doga is trivializing the 2,500-year old sacred practice.

“To live in harmony with all beings, including dogs, is a truly yogic principle. But yoga class may not be the most appropriate way to express this.”

As a yoga practitioner myself, I don't buy this argument. I suppose it all comes down to personal preference and how you choose to view yoga: as an exercise, or as a religion. Nevertheless, there's a better argument against doing Doga out there.

Veterinarians and other canine experts warned potential Doga practitioners to be cautious. There are dangers of “too much of a good thing,” particularly when it comes to your dog. A spokesperson from the UK's Dogs Trust said it well:

“It is important to remember that dogs can't tell us when they have had enough. Doga, and any variation of it, should always be carried out under the watchful eye of trained professionals.”

So as long as you are aware of your dog's state, and you don't force your dog to do the same positions as you do but rather enjoy the human-animal bonding, Doga can be a great addition to your exercise routine. Just practice caution and awareness.

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Doga 101 The Practice of Doing Yoga With Your Dog

Considerations for Dog Yoga

Doga can be done by just about anyone, but aside from the above mentioned precautions, there are a few other things to consider before you jump in with your dog.

The first thing to remember is this: always pay attention how your dog behaves – with you, with other dogs and with strangers. If your pet doesn't listen to your commands very well, be prepared to struggle at first with Doga. Better yet, work on some training commands and just socializing your pooch in general before attending an actual class.

Your pet's behavior can be frustrating and even a little embarrassing for you at times, but your dog will get used to the practice as you going on. If your dog is not that great around other dogs or people, you may have a bit more trouble. Until your dog can be calm in these situations, it's best to only practice Doga at home.

When your pooch isn't properly trained and socialized, he could cause disruptions for the rest of the class. Even worse, if your dog feels too overwhelmed, he could snap at someone and scare or bite them. Be sure to take your pup's disposition into account before you try to introduce him to a new activity, particularly an “odd one” such as Doga.

Doga may sound a bit funny at first, but it's really a great activity to try with your pet. If you are looking for something new and different to try, do give it a chance – try it at least once! The benefits are numerous for both you and your pet. If you aren't sure Doga is for you, look for a studio near you and see if you can sit in on a class, either with or without your Fido.

And here's a video of a world-record setting biggest Doga class in Hong Kong: