The popularity of puppy yoga has skyrocketed recently, with celebs driving the craze - taking part in classes on shows such as the Great British Bake Off, TOWIE and Made in Chelsea recently. There are now more than 25 companies* advertising classes across the UK.
The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) wants to raise awareness of the dark side of these classes. There are a host of puppy wellbeing concerns surrounding the practise that contribute to behaviour issues being developed later down the line and since there are no regulations currently, it is up to the consumer to assess whether the classes they attend are treating their pups correctly.
Lauren Hewitt-Watts, Committee Member of the APBC (Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors) and Clinical Animal Behaviourist describes how this trend can impact puppies negatively: “Puppy yoga, although attended by people with the best of intentions, is something that raises some concern about how beneficial it is for puppies. There are a number of potential issues for pups, and it is important to make sure you are only attending and supporting a class that addresses all of these.
Separation from the mother - Firstly, a puppy spending enough time with its mother is vital in healthy behaviour development. If a puppy is being used for yoga at too young of an age, then it may develop behavioural issues down the line. Puppies should be over 8 weeks at the very minimum.
Not getting enough sleep – I’ve run puppy training classes for seven years and puppies felt very tired after one, welfare-first training class. We would not expect to see puppies attending these sessions for any longer than an hour at a time, and ideally not more than one session per day. It is important to make sure any classes you attend do not overwork their dogs.
Deprivation of water - We have previously seen a class where puppies were unable to access water in case they urinated on customers. This is an obvious welfare and health concern for any animal and is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act (2006).
Handling - Although puppies need socialisation, this is not a format that we recommend. They have no ability to choose their environment and cannot move away if they become uncomfortable. Some of the attendees may not live with dogs so may find it difficult to pick up on behaviour cues – especially as puppies tend to look cheerful and happy even when they are in distress. This means that in many cases, the pups are unable to communicate whether they are feeling worried, anxious, or overwhelmed. Improper handling early in life can lead to behaviour issues such as aggression as the dog ages.
Unlimited interactions - Good interactions develop good dog skills, but we have seen classes where many different breeds are mixing. This can lead to the pup learning inappropriate ways of interacting with other dogs, causing issues down the line such as fear, frustration, or over-boisterousness.
Puppy sourcing – For most of these classes, we do not know where the puppies are coming from. The high demand for these classes may contribute to puppy farm-type environments. If a high number of pups are owned for the sole use of yoga classes, what happens to them once they are grown up? Will this fuel an increase in the number of dogs up for adoption?
Health concerns - All puppies should be wormed, vaccinated and health checked to ensure they are healthy before taking part in a class. If different litters are mixing, it leads us to question how the class providers are accounting for transferable health issues pre-vaccination.
Overwhelming - Meeting lots of strangers and being in new environments can be overwhelming for shy puppies. Ideally, individual puppies should be ethically assessed for their suitability – something I fear is not done in most cases. The owner or breeder should be there with them in these situations so that they have someone familiar in their environment.
Regulation - There is a big argument calling for the regulation of the training and behaviour industry as it is very difficult to regulate dog training classes with professionals. At present, we cannot possibly monitor these types of classes or ensure an industry standard in terms of puppy welfare.”