Posted on

How Can Tellington TTouch Help My Dog?

Written by Kerry Jenkinson, Tellington TTouch Practitioner, P2

Tellington TTouch Practitioner

Using TTouch Bodywork and Groundwork on a regular basis can help your dog to become a more calm and confident canine, building a deeper relationship with your dog based on co-operation, trust and understanding.

Observing your dog on a daily basis will help you notice any subtle changes that might occur both physically and mentally. Postural changes can happen when tension is carried throughout your dog’s body.  This can be as a result of a medical problem, injury, change of circumstance or emotional upheaval etc.

So what can you do to help your dog feel more comfortable and confident and help them cope in situations that they may find stressful?

Flat Hand Assessments

You can start to gather information as to where your dog may be carrying tension throughout his body by making a flat hand assessment.

Instead of just stroking your dog, mindfully move your hands over his body and watch for any reaction that he may express.  These can be very subtle from looking at the area that you are touching to placing his nose on your hand.  He may sit or lie down on the area that you have just stroked in order to stop the contact or he might start to play or fool around as a distraction to avoid contact.

If this doesn’t work he may become very still (freeze) and his eyes become hard and staring.  This is a definite sign to stop what you are doing as his next move might be to snap at you.  Other signs are more obvious – curling a lip or growling.  This is an escalation of their behaviour which can occur if we ignore the more subtle signs that they express.

Using the back of your hand for this process is less threatening for your dog and enables you to feel any changes in temperature.

Coat changes such as the hair standing up or looking dull, dry and scurfy or a change in colour can be caused by a lack of circulation and tension.  Check how easy it is for your dog to pick his feet up by lifting each leg slowly.  If the foot feels rooted to the ground he may be carrying tension in his shoulders or hindquarters.  You can also check the wear on his pads and nails of his feet as this will show you where he puts the most pressure.

Bodywork

Using your hands to make specific gentle movements of the skin on your dog’s body will stimulate the nervous system into responding in a positive way.  It will help to release tension and improve circulation, reducing levels of stress and helping him to relax.  Some simple ear work, making long gentle strokes from the base of the ear to the tip can help to lower heart and respiration rates.

I found this particularly useful at the vets where my dog, Wilbur, becomes a quivering wreck.  Being able to calmly work his ears lowered his stress levels and stopped him from shaking.  This has also been useful for both my dogs as they are worried by fireworks.  Together with ear work a body wrap (stretchy elastic bandage), put on around their body so that it is just in contact, gives them a sense of security helping them to settle.

Sarah (owner, Pet Necessities Training & Behaviour) also found this helpful with a previous dog, Billy. He had become blind and was becoming distressed at night and would pace when Sarah went to bed.  He was also concerned about being left and suffered an increase in anxiety due to his loss of sight.  I showed Sarah some bodywork which she did with him in the evening which helped him to relax.  Sarah used an Equafleece T-Shirt (instead of the body wrap as this can be left on when you are not there), which made a big difference to Billy; he would wear this whenever he had to be left.

Groundwork

Groundwork has many benefits for our dogs and for ourselves.  It can teach us to really observe our dogs and see how their posture affects how they think and feel, allowing us to pick up on the small subtle changes that can lead to reactive behaviour.  Groundwork will also teach us the subtle ways that we can influence our dogs as well as patience and understanding.

Dogs take information in through sight, smell, hearing and touch.  If a dog is carrying tension in his body it will inhibit his ability to learn and take on new information and can heighten or decrease his senses (e.g., sight, smell and hearing).  This can cause him to react to situations rather than make a calm and considered choice.  Our posture and how we react can also influence our dogs and so learning how to change ourselves and release tension that we may be holding and transmitting down the lead will be really beneficial.

The groundwork side of TTouch is useful for helping to build confidence and improve focus.  Taking our dogs over a series of low level obstacles, poles and different surfaces will give them different experiences and can show them and you their potential to be successful rather than their limits.  Asking your dog to move in a slow measured way, rather than rushing, teaches them to be better balanced with more body awareness as well as improving coordination and athletic ability.

Having a dog that pulls on the collar and lead can be very frustrating for both the dog and you.  It will also set up areas of tension in the neck, shoulders and hindquarters. With the use of bodywraps (stretchy elastic bandages), we can improve proprioception (awareness of where his limbs are and coordination), and also give a feeling of security, helping to calm and settle your dog.  The bodywrap can also be part of the process in introducing your dog to wearing a harness.

Wearing a harness can be more beneficial for dogs that pull on the collar and lead as it takes the pressure off of the dogs neck.  Using two points of contact on the harness makes it easier to help your dog be in better balance and stops any damage that may be done to their neck with constant pulling.

Moving them slowly through the groundwork on the harness and two points of contact will engage their brain and start to help them focus.  It will improve paw/eye coordination (great for dogs that do agility), as they are asked to move mindfully over and through the obstacles.  Doing some groundwork will encourage flexibility and suppleness which will help put less strain and wear and tear on your dog’s joints.

Groundwork can be a safe way to introduce dogs to situations that they find stressful.  If they are worried by other dogs or indeed people, these can then be introduced during groundwork in a controlled and stress free way so building the dog’s confidence and ability to cope with these situations.

Ten minutes of groundwork can be much more beneficial for dogs that are on limited exercise as it is mentally stimulating and won’t tire them out physically.  Sessions can be kept short and the introduction of some bodywork (TTouches), whilst doing the groundwork will help your dog to relax and release any tension that they may be carrying.

My previous dog Trevor was attacked whilst we were out walking.  He was very distressed and very sore from being pulled around by the other dogs.  I used specific TTouches (bodywork) to help with any bruising that had occurred and to help reduce his stress levels.  He didn’t want to go out for walks as he was very concerned about meeting other dogs.  To help build his confidence I set up some groundwork for him.  This proved really beneficial and within a few days he was happily going for walks again and interacting with other dogs.

Together with the Bodywork you can help to release tension and show your dog how to change their posture and to move in a more functional and balanced way. This will help to alleviate stress on joints as well as giving them a sense of well-being physically, mentally and emotionally.

 

For further information on our Tellington TTouch Workshops, please click here.

For the date of our next TTouch Workshop, please click here.

Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.

www.petnecessities.co.uk. 07969 997 272. training@petnecessities.co.uk.

https://www.facebook.com/petnecessitiestraining/

 

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Confidence Building Exercises for your Dog

If you have a dog who is lacking in confidence, there are various confidence building exercises you can try to increase their resilience towards negative emotional states.  A few can be carried out each day, to ensure your dog feels successful and empowered, but not over-worked as this can be stressful for them.  Rest days are also equally important for dogs, and there is research that shows dogs learn a lot while they are sleeping, so little and often is the key.

Examples of confidence building exercises:

Searching and hunting games:

  • Hiding food around the house and garden and encouraging the dog to “find”. Make this very easy to start with, but in time leave treats inside items and at different levels.
  • Hiding food in cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, boxes full of shredded paper, Snuffle Treat Mats, screwed up towels, etc.
  • Hide a toy (or clam shell toy with food inside) somewhere in the house or garden and encourage to “find”. Again, really easy to start with.  Throw toy as the reward.
  • Scatter feeding: throwing dry proportion of food in the garden and encouraging dog to search for it.
  • Playing with various activity toys (Nina Ottosson, Trixie Activity Toys) with handler.

Clicker Training Exercises:

  • Free shaping on items such as cardboard boxes. Click and reward the dog for interacting with the box in any way (except destroying it).  This could be using paws, mouth, moving around the box, getting in the box, turning it over, etc.  In order to obtain unique behaviours, you must withhold your click once the dog has performed one exercise twice.  If you continue to click the same behaviours, the dog will never offer anything different.  Remember: touching the box with a paw on one side is a different behaviour to touching with the paw on another side.
  • Hand touches: touching your hand with their nose. Hold hand at different heights and start to move your hand so they have to follow it for a period before receiving their click.
  • Other nose targeting exercises: Touching the end of a target stick, pole, or wooden spoon. Encourage the dog to also touch a small post-it note, which can then be stuck to items away from you (e.g. to touch it on a wall at the other side of the room).
  • Targeting with a paw(s): Encourage the dog to touch a marker or upturned bowl with their paw. This item can then be moved further away to add distance.
  • Encourage the dog to place their front paws on a box, small step or wobble cushion. They can then be sent onto this item at a distance.  Once front paws achieved, back paws can be worked on.
  • Teach your dog to go “away” to bed, towel or marker on the floor.

Fun Tricks:

  • Roll over (“roll”)
  • Play dead (“bang”)
  • Spin/twist
  • Give paw (“1” & “2”)
  • Give both paws (“both”)
  • Commando crawl (“crawl”)
  • Play bow (“bend”)
  • Weave legs (“weave”/”legs”)
  • Wave (“wave”)
  • Circle around handler in both directions (“circle”/”wind”)
  • Retrieve post from letter box (“get the post”)
  • Hold dumbbell (“hold”)
  • Put waste paper in bin/tidy toys into box (“tidy up”/”in the box”)
  • Stand in-between the handler’s legs (“middle”)
  • To “go around” an item and then return to the handler.  This can be a pole in the ground, washing line, cone, etc. (“go round”)
  • To catch a treat (“catch”)

Basic Training Exercises:

  • Reinforcing all training commands on a daily basis helps to increase a dog’s confidence. This can be simply performing “sit”, “down”, “come” “heel”, “leave”, etc.  When a dog is successful at an exercise, they feel empowered, which in turn increases their confidence.

Fun Agility:

If appropriate for your dog’s age and breed, you can set up some fun agility equipment in the garden. This can be:

  • Poles on top of flower pots
  • You can purchase children’s tunnels fairly cheaply
  • Put bamboo sticks in the grass to make weave poles
  • Teach your dog to jump through a hoop.  This can be tied to two poles and stuck in the ground if required
  • You can make a “see-saw” by placing a piece of wood on top of a piece of guttering
  • You can purchase back garden agility equipment online

Different Surfaces/Objects to Manoeuvre:

Encouraging your dog to walk across different surfaces, rewarding them as they go. Examples:

  • To sit on a cushion or small mattress
  • To walk across a tarpaulin/black bag/plastic bag

Objects to manoeuvre:

  • Step over poles laid on the ground.  One end of these can then be raised slightly on a plant pot
  • Weave through cones placed in a line
  • Get up onto different objects.  This could be a log, rock, tree stump, park bench, etc.
  • Walk across a large piece of rope laid out in different formations on the ground
  • To walk across pieces of guttering laid on the floor
  • Sit in a beach tent or under a large umbrella
  • Walk/crawl under a pole
  • To walk through a towel/sheet hung from something

Fun, fun, fun:

Play with toys with your dog on a regular basis.  As a dog plays it releases endorphins, which makes them feel fantastic!  Encourage your dog to chase a ball, play tug of war, chase a toy on the end of a flirt pole, etc.

 

Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.

www.petnecessities.co.uk.  07969 997 272.  training@petnecessities.co.uk.

https://www.facebook.com/petnecessitiestraining/

Please follow and like us: