Get your Dog Yoga on
Most of us have heard of dog yoga, or ‘doga’. This is the relatively new concept of having yoga classes where dogs are in the room during the class. Done well, the dogs are given free rein to wander between the humans and get any pats or scratches that they may want, but equally they can also take a step back and simply watch the humans do their class. Done not so well is where the dog is physically picked up to be placed on the human for each pose. This misplacement of consent doesn’t take into account the dog’s wellbeing. So, if you are into doga, do the former type where the dog has choice to interact and not the latter.
Anyway, I digress; this blog is not about the dog yoga described above. Instead, it is about all different types of activities you can do with your dog to create a zen like state and help them to relax.
Help them be in their body
‘Be in your body’ or being aware of your body is a term often used in meditation or mindfulness exercises. It involves slowing down and taking note of how different parts of your body feel. Each exercise is different in what it gets you to focus on, however the underlying aspect is that it makes the individual be aware of their body and all of the sensations they are feeling in that moment.
This happens for meditation, but it also happens for many other activities such as massage, acupuncture and any type of physical sport where the focus is on form and movement (i.e. focus on your body). While we are focused on being in our body, our mind and any associated stresses or anxieties quieten a little. They may not stop or go away, but they hush just a bit.
We want to give these same types of ‘in your body’ experiences for our dogs when we help them practice dog yoga. Any of the following dog yoga practices are important for day to day stress relief for all of our dogs, and particularly so if you have an anxious or fearful dog. It is also great for helping puppies and dogs to regulate excitement levels and arousal. Spandex not required or recommended for these exercises below.
Dog Yoga Exercise 1: Sniff a palooza
Behaviourists know from working with dogs that sniffing activities help our dogs relax. Recent research confirms this from seeing pulse rates lowering in dogs who are allowed to sniff on a walk, versus those who are not allowed to sniff. So, put your dog on a long lead, go for a drive somewhere interesting and beautiful such as a big park or forest where dogs are permitted and simply let them sniff.
If you are short on time during the work week, you can get your dogs to sniff out their food in the backyard or in the house or letting them sniff novel objects or scents.
Dog Yoga Exercise 2: Just stop with your dogs
This skill took me embarrassingly long to appreciate. I’m one of those annoying people who struggle to stop moving when I get home at the end of the day and just keep doing chores until it’s time for bed. Our dogs usually want to hang out with us when we are home, so if we are always doing stuff then our dogs are also doing stuff next to us. This is fine in moderate doses, however if done for too long each day, our dogs can struggle to learn how to switch off.
If this sounds like you, stop doing stuff. That washing can wait until another day, so can that elaborate dinner you planned. Just make something simple, or order a pizza. Sit yourself on the couch or on a rug in the backyard and just stop moving. Your dog will most likely come and hang out with you and you can enjoy the chill time together.
Dog Yoga Exercise 3: Touch your dogs
Sure we all touch our dogs, but I mean set aside a good 15-20 minutes where you are either lying or sitting on the floor and giving your dog a long slow massage.
Depending on what your dog likes, you may be touching them with some pressure or perhaps a very light hand. I like to use the back of my hand for a light touch. The speed of touch should be glacially slow. In the time it takes you to breathe in and out slowly should be how long it takes you to trail your hand down your dog’s back. Don’t forget the muscles around the ears, neck and rump. If your dog is comfortable, a gentle rub at the back of the jaw can be nice.
Think about your body language when you are doing this. Ideally you don’t want to be leaning over your dog or staring them straight in the face as this can be too intense for most dogs. Lying down or sitting side on to your dogs is less confrontational. Most dogs are ok with eye contact for a few seconds or so, however make sure you are keeping a soft face when looking at them.
Consent and is this strategy appropriate
Consent is vital in this exercise. Pause every 30 seconds or so and stop touching your dog. If they move away then this is a clear indicator that they aren’t loving the touch at that moment. If you see a lip licks or head turn then this is also a good indicator to take a break. When you start touching again consider changing your approach – a slower or softer approach is usually what they are after. Also, this strategy does not work for all dogs, some dogs will find this activity exciting and think its time to play, if this is your dog then try one of the other activities.
Dog Yoga Exercise 4: Chew chew chew and lick lick lick.
Chewing and licking helps our dogs release stress and tension. We recommend multiple times per day to give your dog something that they can chew or lick. This will help work out that tension and create a calm state. Chewing and licking actually releases hormones that help to calm your dog. We love chewing and licking and often this is the first step to addressing and preventing problem behaviours. Mix up the textures of what you provide. We love lickimats, Kong’s and natural & dehydrated long lasting chews Always supervise your dog when they have something new to ensure that it is safe for them. If you need help with kong and Lickimats fillers, check out here.
Need some help?
These are just a few thoughts on what we can do to give our dogs a relaxing experience. If you think your dog may be experiencing a high level of stress and you want some help, please get in touch with us.