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Doggie Yoga Classes with Chris Ott

Wanna have a little bit of fun this summer with your pup? Well look no further because doggie yoga is here!

Wait, what?

Yes, doggie yoga! Today I bring you the one and only Chris Ott from Jackson, N.J., to tell us all about the fun she has with her dogs and much, much more!

Just take a look below to see for yourself…

Chris Ott poses with her Border Collie buddies. Photo courtesy of Chris Ott.

Kayla Bertagnolli: If you wouldn’t mind, let’s start off with a review of your time in the dog world.

Chris Ott: Thanks! I am the owner of the world famous Speedoggie Performance Dog Training, and I’m the agility program director of the Green Leaf Pet Resort & Hotel.

I am also an instructor for Agility University, an online classroom for all things related to dog training. I’ve lived in New Jersey for most of my life, minus a few years in Florida.

I’ve been extremely successful in a wide variety of competitive dog sports since 1982. My expertise spans obedience, herding and field work, as well as agility.

As an international level dog agility champion, full-time trainer and coach for more than 20 years, I’ve represented the U.S. multiple times on the USA/AKC World Agility Team, as well as being a National Agility Champion, a Guinness World Record Holder and a USA European Agility Open Team member with two different dogs.

I am a top breeder of performance Border Collies with multiple dogs of my breeding being selected to represent the U.S. at the FCI World Championships, European Open and the prestigious Crufts championships. I’ve also won multiple National Agility Championships. I am currently the 2012-2013 USA Team Coach for the European Open “Junior” Agility World Championships.

I work with all breeds of dogs – including mixed breeds – at all levels of training and at all ages. I also work with adult and junior handlers alike. My youngest hander is 7 years old and my oldest is 80-plus years young!

With 30 years of experience, I offer private lessons, performance and behavior evaluations, and group classes in multiple locations in north, south and central New Jersey. I also offer camps, seminars and workshops nationally.

KB: Tell us a little bit about just what to expect from your new yoga fusion class for dogs and handlers.

CO: Here’s a complete description of what the class has to offer:

Four Paw Fusion Yoga offers a class for handlers and dogs together. The “Dog and Me” version of the class is 90 minutes long and focuses on improving the handler’s overall game, as well as the dog’s performance. Handler ground speed, balance and timing are developed while the canine partner’s overall flexibility and strength are increased. Improving the dog’s ground speed, jumping and contact performances, and achieving better flexibility for difficult weave entries include exercises that specifically target the muscles involved in these skills. Improving the handler’s ability to turn out of front crosses faster, lateral motion and master accel/decel through simple exercises and drills that can be done at home. This class works both the handler and dog (not at the same time). Our classes are held indoors in air conditioning, and no prior “workout” experience is necessary.

Bad knees? Bad back? No problem! The course is designed with those physical limitations in mind. Low impact yoga and Pilates-type exercises combine balance and stretching together in one class for both dog and handler. Does the dog have a chronic tight shoulder? Back? Groin? We work with the country’s top canine physical therapists and give step-by-step instructions on how to safely and efficiently exercise each dog.

From warm-up routines to cool-down stretching, the class covers it all. Our focus is to improve soundness, flexibility, speed, agility, balance and coordination in both dog and handler while having a really enjoyable and motivational workout.

Handlers may alternate working different dogs during the course of the session and/or class, although only one dog may participate per exercise.

KB: Do you currently have any other classes along these lines or any that are planned for the future?

CO: Yes, we do. Our Four Paw Fusion Yoga class is a dog-specific yoga technique developed by Frankie Joiris and me. It consists of physical and mental disciplines, postures and focusing exercises for attaining control of both the canine body and mind. [See a video of the basics here.]

The program was designed to easily guide dog-handler teams through specific canine yoga positions, targeting those muscle groups used and injured most frequently by dogs in competitive sports. This program is perfect for all dogs regardless of size. Disciplines can be taught using molding, luring, mirroring and/or free shaping.

Developed in conjunction with world leaders in canine rehabilitation, muscle strengthening and core development, the Four Paw Fusion Yoga program blends customized canine yoga positions into routines and blending poses to create smooth, flowing and completely holistic workouts. Four Paw Fusion Yoga utilizes olfactory stimulation, harmonic resonance and therapeutic touch to create a complete state of relaxation for the very best exercise results. Exercise balls, peanuts, balance discs, etc., can be added for teams that wish to increase the intensity of any part of the workout.

KB: Have you ever seen or attended a similar class as this?

CO: From our extensive research, Four Paw Fusion Yoga is the only class of its kind. It’s a one-of-a-kind program that we debuted a year ago after many years in the design phases.

We have presented the program in group classes, workshops and seminars nationally. We currently offer the class at our location in central New Jersey as a six-week class that will include both dog and handler fitness. Occasionally we offer a workshop at Animal Haven in New York. We are also very excited to be bringing this class to Agility-U.com as a seven-week online class starting in August 2013. This online class is available internationally, and people can join as participants, auditors or observers.

KB: I would assume you have some pretty great canine assistants for this class. Can you tell us about them?

CO: Our dogs include a number of Border Collies that were bred by Speedoggie. We also have a Pyrenean Shepherd, Whippet, Norfolk Terrier, Cairn Terrier and, coming soon, a Golden Retriever. These dogs range from international competitors and national finalists to puppies, a retired senior dog (12 years old) and a competitive veteran (9 years old and still winning classes over 2-year-olds). We have some high-spirited youngsters, and some dogs that require a calm, soft approach. From nervous to nerve wracking, we have them all, and we love to demonstrate the techniques with different style dogs so that our students can get the most from our classes.

KB: How does this class help your students?

CO: Keeping a competition agility dog in the best shape possible to protect against injuries can be a daunting task for students who have limited time and/or space to work. Running a dog over sequences and courses is not a safe way to ensure the dog’s fitness. Swimming and hiking are great exercise, but weather, elements, ticks, etc., can make these exercises difficult as well.

Many of our students live in cities and apartments where they have very limited space to work. We pride ourselves on designing training and exercise programs that anyone can do regardless of their training space. Keeping your dog in shape and using Four Paw Fusion Yoga takes only a couple of minutes a few times a week. It’s fun for both dog and handler, and it’s mentally challenging for the dogs as well, so it works great for dogs who need a mental and/or physical energy outlet.

Another benefit of this program is that we have found a significant performance improvement with these exercises. A much faster and much more solid performance improvement is gained through our program than by just working the skill on the actual agility obstacles alone. [View balance exercises here.]

KB: If you could change anything to better the world of dogs, what would it be and why?

CO: I would like to see handlers put more time into their own and their dog’s fitness. Agility is a demanding sport. Many people work their dogs physically on the agility gear only. They will run courses a few times in a class a week and perhaps train on their own once or twice in their yard – again – on the agility gear. The dogs do not get much chance to develop their muscles evenly and thus they are prone to more injuries.

Low- to no-impact exercises, such as swimming, are wonderful, but swimming alone does not make for a balanced exercise regimen. We developed Four Paw Fusion Yoga specifically to provide handlers with an easy way to get their dogs, and themselves, into better shape in order to avoid injuries as well as to improve their performances at the same time. It’s a win-win!

KB: Any last words?

CO: Group classes, workshops and online classes are fantastic ways to improve your overall training abilities, but as with everything you do, make sure you do your research when selecting a class or trainer for you and your dog. Find an instructor who not only is qualified to instruct at the level they are teaching, but also is producing students who are successfully performing at those levels. Do your research. Sometimes you may have to travel to work with a qualified trainer, but in the long run it’s well worth it. As an instructor for over 30 years, I have seen my fair share of students whose dogs were injured by poor training practices. Don’t put your dogs in situations where they can be hurt. Your dogs are counting on you to protect them.

Wow! I’m wishing that I lived close enough to join in on the fun. Luckily the online class is a great option!

Yoga fusion proves yet again that Dogs Freakin’ Rule!

Written by

Kayla Bertagnolli is a 23-year-old from Ogden, UT, who's been involved in the dog show world her whole life. A former junior handler who learned about breeding Beagles from her mother Leah, she assisted several professional handlers and is currently working to become a Junior Showmanship judge. Kayla is passionate about photography and writes the twice-weekly blog, DFR. She plans to continue breeding and showing, and expects to stay involved in dogs "for life!"
Comments
  • Karen Child July 13, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    Hello Kayla:

    Did you know that Brad passed away on July 2nd. Check out his wonderful obit on http://www.sltrib.com his obit was in the paper on July 6th and July 7th.

    Karen
    801-254-2585

    • kayla
      kayla July 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      Hello Karen,
      yes, it was an awful shock and we were all saddened. His obituary was posted on our facebook wall & tweeted by Leah Bertagnolli. We offer our condolences to the family and to everyone that knew and loved him.

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