Have you ever heard of puppy yoga? Unfortunately, it does not require training your canine companion to do downward-facing dog. It’s actually just like a normal yoga class — except puppies roam free throughout the room, spreading joy and providing entertainment. (Sounds pretty amazing, right?) Although the pups are sometimes incorporated into simple yoga poses, their main contribution is cuddles and kisses!
The Ultimate Feel-Good Experience
“We already know that interacting with a dog can lower stress and anxiety, while improving our mood,” registered yoga teacher Marissa Soto, co-owner of Arlington Yoga Center in Texas, says. “The practice of yoga can help in the same way. By moving, stretching, breathing, allowing the mind to take a break, we find a lowering of stress and anxiety.”
Soto’s studio works with local nonprofit organizations to run special puppy yoga events. Sometimes the puppies are even available for adoption. Other times, the events are fundraisers. Soto says, “It’s great that we have the opportunity to showcase and support local nonprofits that do great work supporting the canine community.”
No matter the end goal, Soto says the events are a joy to run. “The participants light up when they interact with the puppies, and the dogs are just having a blast getting the attention.”
Doting on puppies isn’t just fun, it’s important for their socialization. All the love they receive during classes helps them become more comfortable, friendly, and confident around people — something that will benefit them later in life. Soto adds, “They also get an opportunity for exercise. And for the ones that are available for adoption, there is the possibility of finding a great home.”
Kristin Tarnowski, a certified professional dog trainer, AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and owner of PuppYoga in Forest Grove, Ore., started her business because of the benefit to the puppies. “In the short time I have done PuppYoga, I have seen such a difference in my puppies, noting confidence, trainability, ability to be calm, mild energy in transitional environments, and more,” she explains.
Tarnowski uses Labrador Retriever and French Bulldog puppies from her own small breeding program. Although her puppies are generally spoken for before they are born, if puppy yoga participants are interested, she can add them to her wait-list for future litters. When she doesn’t have litters in her own breeding program, she raises litters as a volunteer with Lancaster Four Dog Rescue, and those dogs are also featured in her classes. “It has been a great way to get the rescue puppies homes,” she says.
Most people don’t enroll in a class to find a dog of their own. “The focus of PuppYoga is socialization for puppies and happiness for people,” Tarnowski explains. In fact, the business owner has found that most participants come for the puppies first and the yoga second. “We have had people tell us that it is the happiest hour of their lives.”
Keith Mitchener, owner of Puppy Yoga, works with local breeders to run classes in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver. The company doesn’t sell dogs (most of the pups have already been claimed before they attend class), but rather provides breeders with the chance to enhance their socialization programs. He shares, “Every single breeder that we’ve worked with instantly calls us back the second they have more puppies because they see how beneficial the classes are to their puppies’ socialization skills.”
Mitchener notes, “Once the puppies come in for their first classes, a lot of the time they are in the corner, very timid to the group, and as the day progresses they learn how to socialize with everyone.” When they do become more comfortable, the puppies start exploring and meeting everyone. “It makes the yoga portion absolutely hilarious because, while you’re in a pose, you’ll get attacked with puppy kisses and puppies trying to walk on your face or play with your hair.”
Try Puppy Yoga for Yourself
Tarnowski says some people are intimidated by the yoga part of puppy yoga, but she encourages everyone to attend. “It is a great opportunity to experience a gentle yoga and be distracted by the puppies. Somehow, exercise is so much easier with puppies.” And the dogs don’t care how flexible or strong you are — they’re just happy you showed up to play.
Mitchener agrees that the exercise is secondary. “Everyone knows it’s really about the puppies, not so much the yoga.”
If you can’t make it to a puppy yoga class or if there isn’t a program near you, consider having a Zen experience at home. Grab your yoga mat and your own dog and try some poses together. In the words of Soto, “Peace, love, and puppies, y’all!”
DISCLAIMER: If you are attending a puppy yoga class, we highly recommend that you talk to the studio owner ahead of time to learn more about the puppies involved, including whether or not they have received certain vaccinations. The puppies’ safety is of the utmost importance.