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How Doga and Pilates Can Benefit Dogs

Finding ways to relax can benefit both you and your dog. By Claudia Bensimoun

For most of us, exercising is a chore. But this is not the case with Doga or Pilates! Dog owners looking for ways to relax with their dogs find it easy to do with a Doga or Pilates class. Plus, dogs relish the chance to spend quality time alone with their owners. With Doga and Pilates, both pet parent and pooch get to exercise their minds and bodies at the same time.

"The benefits of Doga include being able to spend one-on-one time with your dog doing something that emphasizes relaxation, which helps strengthen the bond shared between you and your dog," explains Alyssa Slay from Camp Dogwood.

"Most Doga classes include stretching and massage techniques specifically for your dog. These help with a dog's overall flexibility and conditioning. Another benefit is to help your dog be comfortable and relaxed while being handled, which can assist with grooming and veterinary exams."

Doga Class at Camp Dogwood.
Photo courtesy of Chicago Pet Video.

Slay also adds that like Rally Obedience, "Doga is all about the partnership with your dog. The benefits actually extend to the human as well in terms of promoting flexibility, strength, overall conditioning, awareness of breathing, relaxation and stress management. These benefits would certainly be advantageous in the ring, whether it be for training or competitions."

Like us, dogs need to keep both their body and mind in shape. Sherri CappaBianca from Rocky's Retreat says, "We also do what we call 'Pilates' type work where the focus is to build core strength and improve hind end awareness. We do this using the FitPAWS® equipment. The idea behind using this equipment is to first teach the dog to do a behavior (a sit for example) correctly on the ground, then work toward doing the same movement on an unstable surface, such as a FitPAWS® balance disk. That's what builds core strength. There's several things you can do to improve hind end awareness, like using Cavaletti poles."

Dogs working on building their core strengths at Rocky's Retreat.

CappaBianca explains further, "With dogs, you need to make sure the core is strong and the dog has good awareness of their limbs at all times, to prevent injury."

Consult with your veterinarian before starting Doga or Pilates to make sure that its a good match for your pooch.

Chances are that you've already got an idea about what you want to achieve from a Doga or Pilates class. That being said, there are hardly any drawbacks from Pilates or Doga.

"Protecting your dog's body through Pilates style exercises is vital to ensuring a long and healthy career in dog sports. Core and muscle strengthening, as well as stretching, protects joints and bones and increases speed in motion. Pilates works large and small muscle groups bringing about greater body awareness, as well," adds Kristie Swan, CPDT, head trainer at Whiskers University in Grand Rapids, MI.
"The first night owners are taught about their dogs individual physicality (as well as canine structure in general) and how to do stretches, what to look out for and how to adjust," says Swan. "Owners are cautioned that dogs that have never done this should not be pushed - start slow and build. The balls don't come into play until each dog is evaluated and floor exercises have been taught- usually part way through second class night."


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