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Did you know that April is canine fitness month?

Time to get moving with your dog! If you don’t know how to “do fitness” with your adorable dog…Well, let me give you some ideas …

Ever thought of dancing with your dog? Starting yoga with your dog? What could be better than spending the day with your dog and getting in shape at the same time!

How do you dance with your dog? Well, there are several different groups that practice what is called canine freestyle, but the one I am a part of is the Musical Dog Sport Association (MDSA) where the dog is the focus of the routines and all dances are performed with respect to the dog, thus displaying the beautiful bond between the handler and the dog as a team. This is achieved by creating a choreographed dance routine to music that has been carefully selected to match the dog’s natural personality and gait through movement, music, artfulness and positive training.

Training is a major component of canine freestyle as it is key to get the dog’s complete focus and attention. Were you aware that when you make your dog think, using his or her brain, that your dog is expelling more energy in 5 minutes than a 20-minute walk? That is huge. What does that really mean, though, you might ask. It means that on a rainy day you can do trick training in your kitchen for 5 minutes and your dog will be fully exercised, and you never had to get wet! Work their brain for gain!! I strongly suggest using a clicker and clicker train for a positive approach.

Try these training tips: 

Throw a treat (bite sized, small treats) and when your dog retrieves the treat – the minute he or she turns around to look at you again (he or she, of course, waiting for another treat) click and give another treat. Do this several times. This gets him/her used to focusing on YOU!! The foundation of freestyle.

Put your dog in a heel position (next to you on your left side with the dog’s head at your knee) take a few steps and if your dog steps with you, click/treat him/her. Then, change directions – when your dog turns to follow you, click/treat. Keep taking a few steps and changing direction and click/treat every time. This helps your dog understand the “heel” position, as well as focus and attention.

How does a dog do yoga? Just like you. Dog yoga has been around for many years, actually, and there are even “Doga” studios in New York. Strengthen the bond between you and your dog by creating a nirvana of peace and serenity by practicing yoga moves together.

YOGA is for all dogs, horses and cats. Those that come are welcome. YOGA is a way of life for animals, not something separate from life. YOGA is jumping, chasing, walking, digging, socializing, retrieving, running, galloping, hunting…. all in a day’s work.

This is a journey to explore your bodies and minds together. Yoga is about creating a bond between you and your animal!! It is an opportunity to connect in a new way. Do not think of it in a conventional way, but rather a space in time to just “be” together in calm, peace and serenity. The beautiful thing about doing yoga with animals is that it can be done anytime, anywhere. All you need is a mat if working with a dog or cat and some peaceful music.

Dogies accept themselves exactly as they are in each moment! This is their life lesson to us! The animals do NOT push themselves into any pose that is not comfortable to the dog or unnatural. They intuitively respect their bodies – so watch your animal and do not force any movement.

There are a few things to be aware of and steps to take during a dog yoga session:

  • Each session should not go any longer than 20 minutes.
  • Breathing: Prana means energy of life or breath so practice begins with breathing! Do a few deep breaths together while placing your palm on the animal’s chest and hold that position while you breathe in and out a few times. See photo of Allison and her dog, Bob.
  • Light massaging techniques such as light circular motions on the animal’s body helps to relax them.
  • Always go slowly when introducing something new to your animal, embrace what they accomplish, and treats are always welcome when they do a pose. You can even use a treat to lure as it is ok to get them to strike the pose without any contact from you. It is all for the Greater Good!
  • Pup Pose: Put your dog in a down position or get your cat to lie down. Move directly behind your dog or cat and lower yourself down to your knees. Stretch your arms and torso forward toward your animal’s front paws, moving into pup pose, place your hands on top of their paws.  Hold, breathe several times and release.
  • Cobra Pose: With your animal in front of you in a sit or down (if a horse, standing). Use your hand as a target or hold a treat over his nose and slowly guide the animal’s nose straight up and then from side to side, turning left and right then nose to the heavens. Hold the treat or target just out of reach – then, make sure you reward. Do several times.
  • Always release your animal after each group of poses (2-3 poses) and allow them to be an animal before you move into the next group of poses. Make sure to take them outside to relieve themselves after using energy and doing this energy work.

If interested, click here to learn more about our dog yoga ebook.

What dancing and yoga with your dog should be first and foremost is relaxing and FUN for BOTH you and your dog. If you are happy and positive, your dog will be too.

There are so many amazing benefits of dancing or doing yoga with your dog:

  • It can create an unconditional bond of love between you and your dog that is so special and forever growing in many directions.
  • It is an excellent way to stimulate and exercise your dog no matter what the weather is because you can do it anywhere – living room, garage, park, or backyard. No major equipment required, just a mat for yoga and just, you, your dog and an ipod for dancing!
  • It is an entire workout for your dog, not only physically, but you are working his brain, as well and that is more exhausting than being physical sometimes.
  • It is very therapeutic to do demos or perform for charities, children and the elderly. They are great, non-critical audiences that LOVE to see dogs perform. People come every year to see us perform at the Big Houston Dog Show (click to see Allison’s group dance), now called the NRG Dog Show.
  • These activities can help calm an anxious dog or give a hyper dog focus and constructive use of energy.

What would be better karma than to spend time with your cuddly canine doing activities that benefit both you and your dog?

Enjoy the nirvana and make freestyle and dog yoga a part of your life.   Watch this AKCTV video to see more about the beauty of canine fitness and HAC working together for the Greater Good!

Freestyle Blessings!

Allison & Kim

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