Puppy yoga: unveiling the hidden dangers of unlicensed events
July 12, 2023

Puppy Yoga: Unveiling the hidden dangers of unlicensed events

What could be better than taking time out of the working day for a bit of yoga? How about adding some cute puppies into the mix? Who wouldn’t love the opportunity to relax, unwind, and stretch alongside our furry friends? Unfortunately, this is one of those times when something that sounds too good to be true… is too good to be true.

Puppy yoga is exploding in popularity — a simple Google search will return millions of results for puppy yoga classes, including some near you. But there’s a darker side to this cute exercise trend.

We hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but puppy safety and welfare have to be our first priority. We also know that you wouldn’t want to inadvertently distress or harm animals as part of your workout. So, let’s look at why puppy yoga isn’t just a harmless trend, and what you can do instead.

Why the rise of puppy yoga is worrying

Let’s think about what happens when we introduce puppies into a yoga class, and why it might be harmful to the puppies.

Yoga spaces aren't suitable for puppies

Puppies aren’t just smaller dogs — they’re puppies. They’re in a particular developmental stage where they are learning about the world around them and starting to recognise what is safe and what isn’t.

Any reputable breeder has a safe, secure, enclosed space for their puppies to live in. This space only contains things that are safe for the puppy to interact with, such as toys, food bowls, and their littermates. It doesn’t contain electrical cables, cigarette lighters, or an earring someone has dropped. All of those things can often be found in a yoga studio.

Of course, students and instructors are paying attention to the puppies, but that doesn’t mean that one enterprising pup can’t sneak away for a good chew on something dangerous. The more puppies present, the greater the risk that one might get themselves into trouble.

Even the simple act of walking into the studio with shoes on can put young puppies at risk. Until approximately 1 week after their second vaccination, puppies are vulnerable to infections from bacteria and viruses that can often be found on the soles of your shoes. Parvovirus is one disease that can be highly contagious and sometimes fatal if contracted.

Doing yoga isn't puppy-focused

Despite all of the images of smiling people doing yoga on the beach at sunrise looking completely at peace with the world, yoga isn’t actually easy. Anyone who has taken a couple of yoga classes will probably know that many of the poses are challenging, both physically and mentally.

This matters when you’re bringing inquisitive, mischievous puppies into the room. If any student loses their balance, puppies are at serious risk. Even adult dogs can be experts at getting underfoot. Puppies are smaller, slower to react, and far more fragile.

You might think that it’s relatively rare for someone to slip or fall during a yoga class, but there are lots of poses where students regularly have to use a hand or a foot to stop themselves from toppling. And that’s even before we consider the increased slip risk when one of the (not yet housetrained) puppies has a little “accident”.

Yoga class schedules aren't set by puppies

If you show up for a yoga class, you probably wouldn’t be thrilled if the instructor ended the class after 15 minutes because they fancied a snack or a quick nap. We expect exercise classes to operate on a pretty clear schedule.

Unfortunately, no one’s yet given puppies watches. They need to eat when they’re hungry and they need to sleep when they’re tired. And they need the people around them to prioritise those needs.

Puppies should alway have a quiet space to retreat where they are undisturbed to either eat or sleep - activities like Yoga aren’t always the best environment for this. Puppies can experience FOMO (the fear of missing out) and ultimately fight off sleep which can raise their cortisol levels.

Elevated coritsols can be dangerous, putting puppies at risk of certain serious illnesses; kidney damage, diabetes or chronic infections - some can even be life threatening. Lack of sleep can also put them at risk of a weak immune system, obesity or decreased brain function. Of course, when a puppy is surrounded by people moving around they are going to want to do the same.

Yoga studios aren't puppy experts

The overwhelming majority of yoga teachers and studio owners are wonderful people and almost all of them probably love dogs just as much as you do. But very few of them are trained dog behaviourists or experts in puppy welfare.

Without this kind of background and experience, it’s difficult for yoga professionals to know what is (and isn’t) in the puppies’ best interests. They also rarely explain where they find the puppies invited to class or offer information about their safety measures.

Shockingly, many of the companies offering puppy yoga haven’t fulfilled their legal obligations regarding licences for the use of live animals, which places the puppies at even greater risk of harm.

Even if a specific class does take sufficient safety measures, not being fully transparent about how they are safeguarding their puppies makes it easier for exploitative people to jump on the puppy yoga bandwagon.

But... the puppies benefit from these classes too, right?

Wrong! Puppy yoga isn’t useful socialisation for a puppy. Puppies used in puppy yoga aren’t being carefully watched, encouraged to interact safely with each other, or given the opportunity for careful, positive encounters with a wide variety of people. They’re being used as a prop or a gimmick.

Puppy yoga seems fun and harmless on the surface, but it’s often the worst of both worlds. The puppies are placed in an unhygienic and dangerous environment with few (if any) socialisation benefits. And you have your attention divided between yoga and puppies.

Yoga is great for your mental and emotional wellbeing because it promotes mindfulness and staying completely in the moment. The same is true of spending time with puppies. Trying to do both at once just leaves you more distracted and (ironically) less mindful.

Puppy yoga isn’t the best of both worlds. It’s an exploitative practice that doesn’t benefit you or the puppies.

How to report these companies

Companies operating puppy yoga without the relevant licences are breaking the law and need to be reported. If you see a company operating in this way, please do find their company address and report them to their local council.

If you’re unsure, please still report. It’s simple for councils to check whether a particular company has a licence, so reporting won’t cause difficulties for anyone working ethically and within the law.

Reporting when you’re unsure may also encourage companies to display their licences prominently.

Our animal exhibit license

At Paws in Work, we want to lead by example, so let’s talk a little bit about our Animal Exhibit license and why we’re so proud to have it.

The puppies we work with are always our priority. We don’t believe in cutting corners to increase profit. Instead, we want to walk the walk.

The animal exhibit licence takes a significant amount of administrative work (such as keeping records of all puppies, how often they have been out, which puppies have been together, etc.), training all staff, and making ourselves available for inspections at any time.

We’ve had to demonstrate that our policies put puppy welfare first and that we follow our policies to the letter.

If we’re completely honest, we would have done all of this even if it wasn’t required for the licence because we know it’s the right thing to do. If you see a company that hasn’t got its licence, ask what aspect of puppy welfare they’ve decided not to provide.

Paws in Work puppy therapy session

Puppy Therapy sessions at Paws in Work

At Paws in Work, the benefits, socialisation and welfare of the puppies is and will always remain the number one priority during their time working with us; everything from the toys we use to the way we transport the puppies is with their development and safety in mind.

So how do Paws in Work puppy therapy sessions differ from puppy yoga?

  • Our sessions last 25 minutes with consistent breaks in between and a longer break for lunch.

  • Attendee numbers are limited to 9 people per session and a minimum of 3 staff members are on hand throughout.

  • Our set-up allows our puppies to do as they wish, whether that is curl up in a cosy lap or spend time relaxing independently. Play with their siblings or with an attendee. Whatever they prefer, we allow them to do so.

  • We also encourage sleep throughout the sessions as this is incredibly important for their development by providing them with calming music and quiet spaces to retreat to.

  • We are constantly looking at ways to broaden our knowledge surrounding puppy socialisation. By working with experts such as PupStarts we continually develop our sessions to ensure that the puppies get the most out of our time with us.

  • Our experienced and knowledgable/educated staff are pet first aid trained and have a Level 2 Award in Principles of Puppy Socialisation.

Why should you trust Paws in Work?

At Paws in Work, our safety measures are second to none. Here are just a few of the steps we take to make sure that puppies are kept safe at all times:

  • All equipment is fully sanitised for each individual litter to eliminate any cross-contamination.

  • We only work with responsible ethical breeders.

  • The litters of puppies are transported in a specialised puppy van - this includes blue lights for a calming experience and recording equipment in all vehicles.

  • Shoes must be taken off before entering the puppy enclosure, attendees are also given blankets to protect puppies from their clothing.
  • Everyone must remain seated throughout the duration of our sessions - no downward dogs here (puppies excluded of course)

  • We have two separate back pens (or VIP areas as we like to call them) where the puppies retreat to in between sessions. They are constantly monitored allowing them to sleep or toilet away from the main enclosure.

  • All participants much use hand sanitiser and all cleaning equipment is puppy safe.

  • We will only ever work with puppies from the same litter or those that have grown up in the same household, this minimises the risk of contagious diseases.

Importantly, we are the only fully licensed (057047) puppy therapy company in the entire UK.

In light of the recent ITV Investigation into Puppy Yoga practices, please find a statement from Ashley Fry, CEO and Founder of Paws in Work. We want to ensure our clients, breeder partners and attendees confidence and peace of mind, in working with us at this time.

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