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.