Downward-facing dogs for upwardly-mobile pets: How 'Doga' (that's yoga for your pooch) became a hot New York trend
Forget fetching a stick, the hottest new way to exercise with your pampered pooch is dog yoga.
'Doga', which is said to appeal to your pet’s natural instinct to stretch, has become a new fad among New York dog-owners who believe it creates a unique bonding experience.
Classes involve stretching, massage and even chanting – at a pitch the dogs can mimic.
Ruff relaxation: 'Doga', or yoga for dogs, is said to appeal to your pet's natural instinct to stretch, and has become a hot trend in New York
Suzi Teitelman has been teaching doga in
New York and Jacksonville, Florida, since 2002.
She started the classes after noticing that her cocker spaniel Coali liked to lie beneath her
when she practised traditional yoga at home.
She told MailOnline: 'Just as dogs pick up anxiety and negativity, they benefit from being a calm, happy environment with their owners.
'The owners often say that they've never see their pet so relaxed.'
The animals take part in the classes either
by acting as weights to help balance their owners or by doing
some of the moves themselves.
'They definitely benefit from the relaxed bonding time – the
focus between the dog and the owner is amazing'
'One of the poses is with the dog lying flat on their owner's chest with their legs long and open,' Ms Teitelman explained.
'As well as a good physical stretch, the energy centres and chakras are connected so it's a deep, loving experience for both.'
When the idea first originated it was considered a fad, but it seems doga has been steadily growing in popularity.
Even animal experts are noticing the health benefits of doga.
Dr Robin Brennen, chief of veterinary medicine at the Bideawee Animal Shelter in New York, hosts classes run by dog trainer and yogi Kari Harendorf.
Bow wow: Animal health experts say they have witnessed dramatic changes in stressed or anxiety-prone animals after attending doga classes
Initially, she admits, she though the classes were a bit of a gimmick
– until she attended her first session.
'Dogs are naturally very inquisitive creatures and at the beginning of the class they were all tussling, yipping and barking,' she said.
'I could see a change in energy levels and a drop in stress and anxiety.'
For Dr Brennan, the animals most benefit from the bonding experience with their owner, rather than exercise, particularly
if they spend a lot of time on their own.
'Some of the dogs in the class were from the shelter and you could literally see them relaxing after the noise and chaos of the kennels.
'It's really important for them and all dogs to have that focused human contact,' she added.
But you can't opt out of freezing winter evening walks with Fido just yet.
'There are few cardiovascular benefits for the dog but they definitely benefit from the relaxed bonding time – the focus between the dog and the owner is amazing.'