Therapies & Solutions

Puppy Yoga For Mental Health

Emily Mendez, M.S., Ed.S

Written by

Emily Mendez, M.S., Ed.S

Last updated August 1, 2023

Puppy Yoga For Mental Health

What Is Puppy Yoga?

Puppy yoga is a brand new form of yoga that incorporates interaction with puppies into traditional yoga classes. During a session, puppies are free to wander from mat to mat as participants work through a series of moves led by their instructor. Sometimes the puppies are incorporated into simple yoga moves. However, they spend most of their time roaming about and visiting with everyone in the room until the end of the lesson.

Yoga studios source their puppies in various ways. Some work directly with breeders and already adopted puppies who are not ready to leave the litter. On the other hand, some studios collaborate with local animal shelters and facilitate adoptions through their sessions. Typically, most puppy yoga classes contain up to 30 puppies and students in attendance, though there may be more or less depending on the studio.

What Are the Mental Health Benefits of Puppy Yoga?

The benefits of puppy yoga are not unlike the benefits of any other form of yoga. Yoga can help people improve flexibility while increasing muscle strength and tone. The associated breathing exercises promote deep relaxation and enhance feelings of vitality and vigor. Yoga improves athletic performance and is a low-impact form of exercise, making it an excellent choice for those who cannot participate in more strenuous physical activity.

Many people understand first-hand the joy a pet can bring. Pet ownership is associated with decreased cortisol levels, which reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. Therefore, it makes sense that incorporating puppies into yoga sessions also positively affects mood while reducing stress and anxiety. People who live alone and experience feelings of loneliness and depression can also benefit from puppy yoga since this interaction can lessen feelings of isolation.

Both Participants and Puppies Can Benefit From Sessions

When handled appropriately, puppies may benefit from puppy yoga sessions. Properly socializing puppies can promote positive interaction with people and other animals as they grow, safeguarding them from becoming aggressive later in life. In addition, puppies spread joy and are delightful to watch as they play with others and explore the world around them. Puppies are also a welcome distraction from some of the more challenging yoga poses, which may motivate some participants to continue attending their sessions.

Animal Welfare and Puppy Yoga Concerns

While puppy yoga may benefit both the participants and the puppies, there is concern over improper practices. When working with young puppies, studio owners must always take special precautions. For example, the removal of puppies from their mothers and littermates should only occur once they are at least eight weeks old.Investigations have revealed that some studios are placing puppies as young as  six weeks into yoga classes while denying them appropriate access to water and sleep, which is crucial for a puppy's development.

Another concern is the potential for inappropriate socialization. For proper development, puppies should start interacting with other people and animals in a controlled environment under the guidance of a trusted caretaker. Puppies enter a "fear period" from 8 to 11 weeks, during which they are highly impressionable and can become easily overwhelmed with stimuli they have not received exposure to before. A negative interaction during this time can influence their behavior for the rest of their lives. Therefore, only older puppies who are properly looked after should participate in puppy yoga sessions.

While neglectful practices are not occurring in every yoga studio, it is something that animal welfare groups are concerned about. Before attending a class, participants should always ask their instructor about their policies regarding the safe handling and care of their puppies and remain on guard against those who seem reluctant to speak about their practices.

What To Expect When Arriving at a Puppy Yoga Class

If you're considering attending a puppy yoga class, knowing what to expect is helpful so you can prepare. Following are some helpful tips for puppy yoga participants:

  • Arrive several minutes early  - By arriving early, you'll have the opportunity to meet and interact with some of the puppies before the start of class. This interaction will give the puppies time to acclimate to you too. In addition, you can use this time to speak with the instructor so they can answer any questions you may have about the session.  
  • Wear comfortable clothing  - Like any other yoga session, it's essential to wear comfortable clothing that is loose and not restricting. However, a puppy yoga class is not the time to sport your favorite outfit, as puppies shed and may also playfully tug on your clothing. So, wear durable workout gear that you are okay with getting dirty.  
  • Be mindful of your surroundings  - Puppies are naturally excitable and bound from place to place, exploring their environment. Because of this, you should be aware of where they are to avoid accidentally stepping on or injuring them as you transition between moves. Always follow your instructor's guidelines and be mindful of your surroundings to keep everyone safe.  
  • Handle puppies with care  - Safe handling of puppies should take priority when participating in puppy yoga. Never chase a puppy or pick one up against their will. Instead, allow them to come to you and support their entire body weight when picking one up. Never grab them by the scruff of their neck, as this can harm or even scare them. Always stay attuned to a puppy's cues, and if they start to struggle or whine, put them back down safely.  
  • Keep noise level down - While it's easy to become excited in the presence of puppies, loud noises can easily startle or overwhelm them, greatly disrupting the whole experience for everyone. Instead, try to speak in soft, gentle tones and maintain a calm composure throughout the session.

Puppy yoga can be an enjoyable activity for both participants and puppies alike. By keeping their welfare in mind and educating others on proper interaction with the puppies, everyone can benefit from this unique experience. 

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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