Taking a novel approach to dog training, Bedfordshire trainer Denise Price dusted off her yoga mat (which was gathering dust under the stairs) and got to work preparing a new range of Real Dog Yoga sessions. The yoga class Denise has in mind is not a classroom of Lycra clad people performing yoga moves while balancing dogs on various body parts! There are similarities to “Doga” – you need a dog, a mat, a neutral relaxed environment, and holding postures is taught. With Real Dog Yoga it is the dogs that do the yoga, and the moves are designed with the dog in mind. Real Dog Yoga is a system of training developed by Jo-Rosie Haffenden, who is well known for her work on ITV’s Teach My Pet To Do That and Channel 4’s Rescue Dog to Superdog; Denise was personally taught and accredited by Jo-Rosie to teach the method.

Real Dog Yoga sessions teach dogs 30 postures, 15 actions and 10 expressions, all of which are designed to reduce anxiety and provide body conditioning. This means it can reduce stress in dogs, calm down the over-excited ones, or compliment physiotherapy for dogs that are recuperating from sports injury.

Denise says, “What I love about Real Dog Yoga is that any dog, young or old, can participate; it is a great way to connect with your dog, get their focus, and build your bond”

There are a variety of stretches – the dog can learn to stretch its neck to the left, to the right, up and down. The dog can take and hold a bow, which gives the back a lovely stretch – this position really has the feel good factor for the dog as it is one they use in play, and performing the move actually makes them more relaxed. You can even teach your dog to yawn or blink on command!

Dog yoga
Mabel in ‘bow’. Credit: Denise Price

The yoga mat is important too – the dog chooses when it wants to participate in a session. If the dog goes on the mat, then it is ready to train. If it walks away, then it is free to have a break. Denise was impressed with this approach (called option training) because it gives the dogs a real choice. She was initially sceptical that a dog would choose to work when given the chance to chill out on a comfortable bed and chew a bone. However, Denise’s first hand experiences following a week at Battersea Dogs Home in December found that it really did work.

“I was given the opportunity to train with a wonderful Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Fudge; having never met him before, I wasn’t sure he would join me on the mat. Within a couple of sessions we were working on paw raises. He could potter about whenever he wanted to drink, chew his bone, rest … but he came back to the mat every time.”

Paw raises are a great way of working the leg muscles in a slow and careful way. Denise’s sessions with Fudge helped his body awareness and balance. It also increased added to his confidence and trainability, making him all the more re-homeable (he has since found his forever home). As a result, Denise is keen to help de-stress anxious dogs, calm bouncy dogs, or simply encourage dogs and owners to enjoy their bond. Currently working with private clients, Denise will soon be offering workshops around Bedfordshire.

If you are interested in how to get involved in Real Dog Yoga, Denise can be found online at http://www.denisepricedoginstructor.co.uk/real-dog-yoga.

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