Why Do Dogs Love Yoga Mats So Much?

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You unfurl your yoga mat at home, ready to stretch out into downward dog and take some deep breaths. Just for a second, you look away to grab your water bottle and block. But when you turn around, you find that your puppy has already staked her territory on your mat, doing some stretches of her own.

If you’re an asana-ing puppy person, you’ve probably already figured out a style to tap into your canine’s weird yoga mat affinity. Some people let their puppies hang out on the corner of the mat while they practice, others buy yoga mats specifically for their puppy to chill on while they do sun salutations. Some people even practise Doga, which, yes, is the term for dog yoga.

Cats enjoy yoga mats, toobut largely because those feline jerks love sinking their claws into the soft material. Dogs love for yoga mats, on the other hand, is somewhat more baffling. Why are dogs are so into yoga mats? We appeared to science to help us figure out whats going on.

It Stinks

Scent is one of a canines most important senses. They have relatively large noses with a lot of mucosa to help them trap scent molecules.( When puppies lick their snouts, they’re often tasting the molecules that their snouts have picked up .) Inside canine nasal passages are up to 300 million olfactory receptors–compared to about 5 to 6 million in humans–and an olfactory bulb in their brain that can process about 40 times more information than ours.

Simply set, a dog’s sense of smell is tens of thousands of hours better than a human’s. They can use that sense of smell for all kinds of things, from sniffing out drugsand bombsto hunting down prey. And analyzes have shown that reeking their favorite humans with that big wet nose of theirs seems to trigger something like love.

Emory University neuroscience and psychology professor Gregory Berns and his colleagues developed a group of dogs to lay still in fMRI machines. Once the pups were inside and ready to be scanned( with special earmuffs to protect their sensitive hearing from the noisy whirring machine, of course ), researchers held up four smell swabs to each dogs nose: One from the armpit of a familiar human, one from the armpit of a strange human, one from the anal region of a familiar puppy, and the other from the anal region of a strange dog. For all the pups, the caudate nucleusthe area that illuminates up in humen when were anticipating something positivewas most activated by the familiar human.

There are different theories for why puppies have this reactiona Pavlovian response to a receiving treats from this personorsome kind of evolutionary trigger fromseeing certain humen as a higher-level part of their packbut what’s most interesting is that the familiar humans typically werent the ones feeding the dogs and doing routine care, but secondary custodians who would play and spend time with the dogs. The reply we insured then represents more of a recognition of a social bond thats not immediately tied to feeding ,” says Berns.

The researchers swabbed from the armpit because they wanted samples that were hormonally and pheremonally unique to that person. We wanted the stinky stuff, Berns says. Now, think about your yoga mat. You lay down on it, you sweat on it, you scratch your body along it as you do cobra and upward dog. And, most likely, you dont wipe it down after every single yoga conference. For a puppy, it is a smelly, hormone-drenched B.O. sponge. And, because they love you, they love your stank.

Happy Feet

But why else might a dog like walking and stretching on a yoga mat, especially if it doesnt belong to their owner? To answer this, lets take a look at puppy anatomy. The only place dogs sweat is their paws, which is why an overheated or nervous dog might leave damp paw prints in its wake. Think of it like get sweaty, clammy palms before a big meeting.

Bacteria makes human body odor by breaking down sweat and wetness and, in turn, burping out stink. Same goes for pooches. Their feet, moistened by sweat glands, attract bacteria that create a distinctive scent–some dog proprietors say it smells like Fritos.

Pawing, then, is one of the ways smell-driven puppies can mark where theyve been( aside from urinating, which, let’s hope that hasn’t happened to your yoga mat ). Its why your puppy might scratch the ground after they poop. And it also might be the reason they want to tread all over your yoga mat.

But the simplest justification may be that dogs like yoga mats for the same reason we do: Matsare comfortable and dont slip around. Yoga mats do not jar their joints, but act as absorbent cushions, says Arden Moore, pet expert and the author of volumes including What Dogs Want . Unlike carpetings and mats on tile and wood floors in our house that can cause a moving dog to slip and slide, yoga mats stay in place. They are less frightening or intimidating than rugs.

Whatever the reason, there’s no reasonyou shouldnt indulge your dog’s love for your yoga mat–as long as they dont mistake it for a peeing pad, chew on it, or totally get in your route during chaturanga. Sothe next time youre ready for some vinyasa, youll know why your dog is doing poses next to you: Because they love you. And that strange, rectangular stank-sponge that you insist on standing on.

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