What is Real Dog Yoga:
Real Dog Yoga, created by Jo-Rosie Haffenden, is a programme of training. It ultimately involves teaching dogs
to express and hold specific body postures, expressions and actions that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and help them to become or remain calm.
The programme has designed an environment for learning which is called option training. We train yoga using this method where dogs have specific areas and communication signals they can use to opt out at any point. Regular breaks are taken following a protocol to ensure that emotional stressors such as frustration do not complicate learning patterns.
Using option training we teach each dog a set of 30 postures (which are broken into 3 sets: sitting, laying and standing) as well as 15 actions and 10 expressions. These are designed to help the dog learn to become or maintain calmness. It also helps to increase the dog and human interspecies vocabulary and create better understanding and compassion. The postures, expressions and actions also increase body awareness, muscle control and communication with the owners. They can be taught to any age or breed of dog with any age owner.
The science bit: What comes first: anger, muscle tension, adrenaline release, or the frown? We DON'T know. The Vegas nerve stimulates the brain, but the brain stimulates the sympathetic nervous system - but muscle memory has an effect too. So your body prepares for things it expects before it sees or hears them.
Dogs who pull on the lead, for example are more likely to be reactive than those that don't. The muscle tension has pre-emptively prepared their body and thus the chemicals being released are akin to those associated with stress and conflict.
Conversely, when dogs give lots of appeasement gestures, they are less likely to show aggression. These appeasement gestures themselves, the body postures and expressions, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. Licking lips increases dopamine and reduces cortisol release for example. Yawning is a reaction to an increase of cortisol and cools a stressed brain.
Darwin says "The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it”.
i.e. smiling makes you happy. Frowning makes you sad. Going to laughter therapy has been proven to reduce the frequency of depression in patience. Cardiff University studied woman whose ability to frown was compromised by cosmetic surgery. They concluded that women who couldn't frown were happier, on average than a control group.
Expressing calm and clear communication signals help dogs to learn to communicate with their people, but additionally teaching dogs to take calm postures increases their ability to be calm.
What the experts say about The Real Dog Yoga:
"Dog Yoga is not about ‘training’ nor is it about forcing a dog to participate in pointless and/or potentially stressful activities for personal gain. It is about education and teaching good life-skills that will benefit every dog, regardless of their age or experience. It reminds guardians to look for and acknowledge possibility, and liberates humans and dogs alike from limitation." - Sarah Fisher, TTouch
"The Real Dog Yoga is a refreshing look at the effect of movement on emotion. Jo-Rosie creatively integrates force-free dog training with relaxation. The book helps you create a common language with your dog about body movements, not for the sake of tricks you can show off, but for the sake of the dog’s own wellbeing." - Grisha Stewart, empowered animals/BAT