March 24, 2009

Yoga for Dogs?

Doga? Yoga... for dogs?

Put this in the category of Things Merry Doesn't Get. Right up there with taxes and garlic ice cream.

Regular yoga may well be good for you. The jury is still out on that one. (Translation: I really keep meaning to try yoga, really I will, honest.)

But doga?

A trendy-looking yoga place in New York describes it thusly:
"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."
But Pookie already knows downward-facing dog!

Maybe I'm biased because my dog would think this a totally bizarre concept. She was raised very strictly, and has Firm Beliefs about how humans and dogs should interact. (She gets upset if I sit next to her on the ground. She'll happily lie at my feet while I'm sitting in a chair, but it's Not Right for humans to sit on the same level as the dog. In other words, she knows her place, and expect me to know mine.) Perhaps that's why I think this is a strange idea.

Instead of yoga with dogs, try picturing yoga with cats. Even the most amenable cat, who doesn't mind being wrapped around your neck like a living fur stole, will look askance if you try wrapping his legs into a meditation pose. He'll probably think you're trying to give him a pill or something suspicious like that. Don't try it. It's not safe.

Loads of people believe that T-touch and giving a dog massage will help the pooch relax. I can see doing these things as therapy. Where I part company with these people is the idea that it is useful to do these yoga poses with your dog as a form of exercise.

One of the many strange things about humans is that we are a species that need to make ourselves exercise. Dogs make it a natural part of their lives.

I realize a statement like that calls for people to write in and leave comments like "My dog Lazybones sits on the couch all day watching t.v." Your dog might be the original couch potato, but if you offered to take Lazybones to the beach, or to a park, or for a good walk, would he say no?

Dogs get overweight because of humans. Dogs don't get out and run around because of humans. Left to their own devices, dogs would do the dog yoga moves when they felt like it, not because exercising daily is a responsibility. Stretching is instinctive. Why should they do it because someone else wants them to?

Humans can be a bit stiff, even wooden.

It strikes me as absurd is that doga is trying to get the dog to conform to this human "hafta" paradigm. What we should be doing instead is trying to adapt to the dog's approach toward exercise: it's spontaneous, it's fun, it's play.

Pookie contemplates playing with Woodrow

Not that we should imitate dogs in all ways -- I wouldn't mind lazing around all day while someone else brings home the bacon, but I'm not that keen on chasing cats, and the rolling-around-in-something-that-smells-disgusting part is right out thank you very much.

Pookie wrestles with the temptation to roll...

Trying to share your exercise session and use it as a way to bond with your dog is laudable. Because of the constraints and compromises we have to enforce on dogs so they can share their lives with us, they spend most of their time behaving according to our rules. For once, let the dog be a dog and let your hair down and frolic with Fido.

Photo credit: jere-me

As I said, I haven't tried this with my dog. I'm basing my opinion on what I know about dogs, especially mine. Has anyone tried doing yoga with their dog? Was it good exercise for you or for the dog?

(Anyone out there ever contemplated trying yoga with their cat?)


  1. Ah, c'mon! Now I've heard it all. Would somebody *please* call PETA!

  2. I tried to get this going here in Austin.
    Even had the Doga woman ready to fly down here (and YumYucky I researched it a lot :)) and no were would let us do it.

    I know it's silly but my Bullmastiff was such a stretcher it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    This was early 2000.

    you know, when I was a kid :)

  3. I heard of "every dog has his day", "it's a dog eat dog world", Dog the Bounty Hunter, but don't have a clue on Doga. Anything that can scratch behind the ear with its back leg doesn't need to be molded into a human exercise routine.

  4. Oh dear--no offense to the awesome Mizfit, but I don't think most dogs need yoga classes. They need their owner's time and attention and a chance to walk, shuffle, frolic, roll, chase, or whatever outside.

    I guess if one has a particularly stiff dog?? Or one who wants to be more at one with the Universe? But I think most dogs have the Zen thing down pretty well already.

    Thanks for bringing that to my attention Merry, I had no idea such a thing even existed.

  5. Cats live yoga. They stretch and twist and roll around all the time because it feels good.

    I do yoga at home, where my cats are and their involvement tends to consist of rubbing up against me, winding around my legs, or settling down on the mat behind me as I'm holding a pose. It usually makes me laugh, and I don't see that as a bad thing.


  6. I kind of think that my cat would be all for yoga. He is already a master of relaxation.

    My dog would like anything that involved attention, but he'd like it better if it also involved his major passion, FOOD. MORE FOOD. EXTRA FOOD. (He's a golden retriever.)

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  8. Would love to hear more about Woodrow.

  9. I've never done this, as I hate yoga with an irrational fierceness (while respecting that it is quite good for you, I HATE being told to relax and feel centered when I am exercising). I have seen articles about it, though, and I am on a mailing list for a place that offers it, and it looks like the main advantage is getting to bring your dog along while YOU do yoga. Which is nice. If I could bring my dog when I worked out, he would probably spend the whole time freaking out (I do martial arts for exercise, and I dont think he'd be happy with all the hitting in my direction) but I would go more often if it were not a choice between walking him (lovely, and also good for me) or doing an intense exercise session while he mopes at home.

  10. I do yoga in my living room.

    I have two cats and a dog. As soon as I start my yoga routine, one cat leaves the room, the other cat tries to crawl into my lap and the dog thinks it's time to wash my face for me, or lie directly underneath me while I do the downward dog pose!

    Yup, totally think that exercising with dogs is a good thing. Run, play with a stick, chase a ball. But doga? Not with my dog! *slurp*

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  12. my dog gets her workout prancing and bouncing, biting and barking at the treadmill when i'm on it. Doga? no thanks!

  13. "My Karma ran over my Dogma!" Cat was smart enough to get out of the way!

    Like people, different activities for different pets, I guess.

    Nice post!!

  14. One of my yoga teachers had a shirt I would love to have. Picture of cat in Downward Facing Dog pose, with quizzical cat expression, saying "Downward Facing Whatdidyousay?"

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  15. Er um... it reminds me of those new(ish) doggie treadmills which I think are almost (but not quite) as ludicrous! But I have a very interesting article on dogs and dieting written by a Ethologist Pam Whyte who has a lot to say about vets who puts dogs on diets

  16. I think both Mizfit and I are influenced by our dogs. Her dog was a natural for it, and my dog... isn't. Like humans, dogs are all different. I figure, whatever works for you re exercise -- go for it :)

  17. I don't think I'd ever do this. Yoga is me-time.

    Also, I don't have a dog right now, so I'd be out of place in a doga studio.

  18. Dogs already do yoga. They con't need a class. They call it downward facing dog for a reason!

  19. I have enough time trying to do yoga without my cats getting in on it. It'd be even wierder to bring in a dog...
    I think healthy dogs have healthy owners. They need exercise and a good diet and playtime just like we do...

  20. I first heard of this a few years ago. (We were living in L.A. 'Nough said.)
    The closest I've come to doing yoga with my dog is asking myself, many years ago, "Why do they call this pose Downward Dog?" only to have my large, furry Malamute come into the room at that very moment and stretch, pressing his paws toward the floor and his fuzzy butt toward the ceiling.
    And all was made clear.

  21. I'm a Yoga Believer, and a Dog Lover, and this strikes me as a little odd. The dogs do sun salutations? Huh? A lot of head scratching here. At least the way I've practiced yoga has to do with breathing, and attitude, and the idea of (manipulating?) a dog to do sun salutations just seems...y'know, huh? Or do the dogs inhale and exhale and say OM, too?

  22. Garlic ice cream? Why? Why?!

    I agree with you. "Doga" is just another way to get people's money. Physiotherapy works great for animals but yoga? I'm skeptical.

  23. My cat's idea of doing yoga with me is to occasionally saunter by while I'm doing the warrior pose and give me a little love chomp on the top of my foot.

  24. Ahhh, yet another sad attempt to anthropomorhize our furbabies. And you're right, left to their own devices, our pets will easily find a way to exercise. We keep them confined and only allow them scant room to explore and run. And now when we do "allow" them an opportunity to get their hearts pumping, it's structured and unnatural. Good thing we have been flying below PETA's militant radar! (or have we?)

    Oh, my cat does yoga already. I can't even begin to describe these pretzel moves he makes. But I'm thinking "monkey snake pink eye licker" would be an appropriate name for one of them.

  25. My moosies would probably enjoy devouring the yoga mat first. :)

  26. My dog allowed me to lay on the floor and use him as a pillow last night. He didn't even seem to mind me "fluffing" him into a different position when his spine started digging into my neck.

    Maybe he would like yoga....

  27. There are YouTube videos, especially the ones from Expert Village, that show dogs being used in different yoga poses. It looked fine when it was one person, one dog. When there were a bunch of dogs in the room, it looked a bit silly.

    But I think that because if my dog walked into a room full of other dogs, she'd want to sniff them and play with them, not do stretching exericses with her human.

  28. My cat loves it when I do Yoga....He walks under me while I am doing downward facing dog and flicks his furry tail in my face. As I am not very good at it I worry that one day, I will lose the pose and crush the little bugger.

  29. Jeez, I just don't get all this. Let the dog play & be a dog. I see the people that dress up the dog & push it in a stroller like a bay & all the rest of it. I know some people get into this but I guess I am too old or something. I am from a a time when a dog is just man/woman's best friend & plays & has fun like a dog does & we just did not put shoes & dresses & sunglasses on them. OK, I know I am asking for it so... to each their own.

  30. Cute yes! Not a bad idea to spend quality time with the doggies! :)

  31. The actual dog equivalent of Downward Facing Dog is called the Play Bow, because that's how they invite each other to play.

    I was doing that pose in my living room one day, when my dog walked past, did a HUGE double-take, and then excitedly threw herself into the Play Bow back at me!

    I didn't finish my yoga. I did however chase my dog around the house for the next 20 minutes or so. She'd been so excited that I couldn't bring myself to dissappoint her, LOL.

  32. HAHAHA!!!! one dog weighs more than i do. i have NEVER seen a Big Dog in a "doga" class. they are all ankle-biters. my other dog is an agility dog. Tunnels, tunnels and more tunnels. now THAT is a work out. the pony-dog, however, looked at the jumps like fences, and wouldn't budge. realize, he stands 32" and is 130#. the training jumps are 2". that is also the dog it took 2 years to finally comprehend "stay". total velcro dog.

  33. Marste -- I love that story! I bet you made your dog's day :)

    Sekhmetsat -- have you tried doga then? Did the ankle-biters seem to enjoy it, or were they still nippy and yippy at the end of the session?

  34. I agree this sounds ridiculous, however this woman and her dog (the one in the picture with her), Charlie, were featured in a delightful and funny Animal Planet show called "K9 Karma" a few years ago. The concept for the classes she teaches grew out of the fact that Charlie would incorporate himself into her yoga practice and he seemed to enjoy it. The dogs are never forced into yoga poses. It helps to see a class in session to understand how it works.
    I do understand the incredulity and even mild outrage at attempts to humanize dogs, which I, too, think are ridiculous. I don't think dogs should be forced into dog yoga if they don't enjoy it (and they probably wouldn't let themselves be). But on the scale of anthropomorphizing our canine companions, this rates lower than dressing them in silly outfits or cooking them meals of grass-fed steaks and organic vegetables.

  35. Here's a fansite for the show, which features some video and slideshow demos (links on the left side of the page):

  36. Anon, thanks for the comments! It's good to hear from someone who's actually tried this. I'm afraid my dog would go through with it to be polite ("Humor the human; she has treats") but not actually enjoy the experience. I'm glad other dogs do like it.


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