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Exploring Pet Trends: Puppy Yoga

A new wellness trend that sheds light on shelter dogs and offers a unique yoga experience, puppy yoga has been taking social media by storm lately. But what exactly is it? Let’s take a deep downward dog dive into the world of puppy yoga and discover what it is, where you'll find it, and some important things to know before signing up for a class.

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What is puppy yoga?

Puppy yoga is a new wellness trend that brings together two things known to promote joy — puppies and yoga. It’s essentially a yoga class with puppies running around. Yes, you may experience some wet noses and paw prints on your mat, but that’s all part of the fun.

Many puppy yoga classes are partnered with local shelters and rescues to raise money for the dogs, help socialize them, and expose them to potential adopters. So, if you’re looking for a new best friend, puppy yoga might be one way to meet one.

How does puppy yoga work?

The (human) participants are led through a series of yoga poses by the instructor while the puppies explore the room and socialize (under the watch of puppy caregivers). Sometimes the puppies are incorporated into certain poses to help them get used to being handled. This can be beneficial for the puppies, but only if measures are taken to ensure their safety, health, and mental well-being. After the class, the participants are often given some additional time to pet and play with the puppies.

Where can I find puppy yoga?

Puppy yoga classes are typically offered at yoga studios, animal shelters, veterinary clinics, and other yoga- or animal-related venues. To find puppy yoga near you, search online for classes in your city or zip code, or inquire at your local humane society, animal shelter, or rescue.

The ethical concerns of puppy yoga

Ethical questions surrounding puppy yoga have been raised due to investigations of puppies being mishandled in the UK that made headlines in 2023. While no such allegations have been made in the U.S., animal advocates worry the same issues found in the UK could occur in other places where puppy yoga is becoming popular.

Most puppy yoga classes in the U.S. are run by animal shelters and rescues that prioritize the welfare of the puppies and promote socialization and adoption. However, it’s always important to remain vigilant when it comes to animal welfare. If you’re looking to partake in puppy yoga, consider seeking out a class that is partnered with a rescue organization.

Puppy yoga: things to consider

The health, safety, and well-being of the puppies should always come first. If you’re thinking about signing up for puppy yoga, here are some things to consider.

  • Where are the puppies coming from? Some puppy yoga hosts work with shelters and rescues to provide socialization opportunities and exposure to potential adopters. Others might obtain their dogs through less ethical means, like puppy mills.
  • How old are the puppies? The minimum age of the puppies should be eight weeks. Puppies under eight weeks should not be away from their mothers or exposed to many people, bright lights, or noise during a yoga class.
  • How many classes per day are the puppies in? The puppies shouldn’t be taking part in any more than one or two classes per day (with a long break in between). Puppies need plenty of time to sleep throughout the day.
  • Do the puppies have autonomy? The puppies should be able to move freely and play with each other throughout the class. If they choose to interact with a person, that’s okay, but barring safety reasons, they should not be handled against their will or forced to participate. They should also have access to a rest area away from people when they need a break and should never be woken up to participate.
  • Are there rules to keep the puppies safe? The instructor (or puppy caregiver) should be going over some ground rules for safe puppy interactions. Anyone not following the rules (like disturbing a puppy while sleeping or forcing an interaction) should be dismissed from the class.
  • Do the puppies have access to water and potty pads? The puppies should be able to drink and go potty when needed.
  • Who’s running the event? Puppy yoga events hosted by rescues, shelters, or vet clinics are more likely to have the knowledge and expertise to ensure the puppies are well cared for during the class. If you’re attending a private event at a yoga studio, it’s a good idea to ask who will look after the puppies during the class and what kind of animal training they have.
  • Are the puppies receiving healthcare? The puppies should be under the care of a veterinarian and have received the appropriate vaccines for their age. Be aware of signs of unhealthy puppies, parasites like fleas or ticks, or the event organizer’s not knowing or refusing to disclose the puppies' health status.
  • What’s the environment like? The environment should be calm, mostly quiet, kept at a comfortable temperature, and not too crowded. Unsuitable environments can lead to puppies feeling overwhelmed, frightened, and distressed. Exposure to stressful environments early in life can lead to long-term implications for puppies, including fear of people, anxiety, and behavioral problems. All of these factors can make them harder to adopt or lead to their being surrendered in the future.

Puppy yoga run by animal shelters and other animal non-profits could help puppies find their forever homes, but it's important that the animals feel safe and secure during puppy yoga so that they aren't frightened by new experiences in the future.

Dr. Rhiannon Koehler, animal shelter veterinarian and veterinary writer

Final takeaways on puppy yoga

At its core, puppy yoga is rooted in a good idea — providing wellness benefits to humans and helping dogs find homes, but like many wellness trends, there’s always potential for problems. When in doubt, go with a class run by (or partnered with) your local animal rescue, shelter, or vet clinic to ensure the puppies you’ll be practicing your asanas with are well cared for.

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