Monday, October 19, 2009

The Benefits of Doga: Yoga for Dogs

By Ruthie Bently

We’ve all heard about yoga and its benefits for people, but there is a new movement in the United States today called “doga,” which is yoga that you and your dog can do together. You can even purchase an instructional doga DVD that shows you how to teach doga poses to your dog. I first encountered doga last year working for Wendy’s Animal Talk radio show. It was suggested that the topic of doga might make an interesting show, and I can tell you, it was not boring!

Doga began catching on in New York and California at about the same time. Now there are several teachers around the country, as well as a new book on the subject, though the idea is not credited to any one person. Doga has spread to Jacksonville, Florida, San Francisco, and Seattle here in the States. It has even caught on in Canada and Japan, and is being taught at the Nippon Ayurveda School by the Japan Dog Association.

Doga combines meditation, gentle stretching and massage for human owners and dogs alike. While teacher training seminars are available, doga instructors do not have to complete a certification program and most instructors learn by sharing their techniques. Unfortunately doga, like anything else that is new, has its detractors. Some yoga instructors feel that yoga could be trivialized by turning it into a fad. As dogs are pack animals, many doga instructors believe that they are a good match for yoga’s premises of connection and union with other creatures.

Some of the benefits of doga include: increased flexibility, helping to resolve behavioral issues, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and aiding in digestion. As to the difficulty of teaching a dog doga, it is about the same as any other training technique. The dog probably won’t be perfect the first time out of the box, but after a few sessions he/she could be a “dogi” pro.

In a regular doga class you help your dog into different poses, and in some classes acupressure and massage are used to help your dog relax and to soothe them. If you aren’t sure how your dog will behave around other dogs, you might want to buy the DVD or the book and try it at home.

There are no special requirements for teaching your dog doga, but you should contact your vet first to make sure they are healthy enough to do it. Also, with anything else that is new you want to be very gentle with your dog no matter how healthy they are. If you take a class, you will probably want to contact the teacher first to see if you need a health certificate to make sure your dog’s shots are up to date. If the instructor tells you that you don’t need one, you may want to consider teaching your dog at home. I know if Skye was going to be in a class with a lot of other dogs, I would want to know she was safe from picking something up from another dog in class.

Doga has even spawned clothing lines, toys, exercise mats and beds for your dog. Whatever you think about this new form of exercise, it helps you spend more time with your dog, and will increase the bond that you share. What could be better than that?

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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