What is TTouch?
The Tellington TTouch By Sarah Fisher
The Tellington TTouch was developed over 30 years ago by Linda Tellington Jones and is now widely used around the world by trainers, shelter workers, vets, physiotherapists, behaviour counsellors, veterinary nurses and dog owners.
TTouch recognises an inextricable link between posture and behaviour and uses body work, ground work exercises and specific equipment to release tension and to promote a feeling of calm and well being. This in turn helps dogs develop self confidence and self control and enables them to move beyond their instinctive and, often fearful, responses.
A dog that suffers from noise sensitivity or noise phobia for example is likely to carry tension through the hindquarters and tail and may dislike contact on or around his paws. His lower legs, tail and ears may also feel cold. The non invasive body movements (TTouches) can be used to improve circulation thus warming up cold extremities, relax tight muscles and release habitual patterns of bracing. They can also induce calm and change the dog’s expectation of what contact around his paws may mean. Stroking the ears using Ear Slides helps to lower heart rate and respiration and putting a body wrap, or T-Shirt on the dog can help to give a noise sensitive dog a sense of security, often reducing his need to den. As behaviours are usually linked, dogs with this pattern of tension through the body may also be nervous in new situations, be wary of strangers and find car travel difficult. TTouch can help them to become more confident in all areas of their life without the need to address the individual concerns.
Contrary to out dated beliefs, handling a fearful, defensive or reactive animal in a positive, mindful, calm way does not reward, and therefore reinforce, that behaviour. It can change it. The Tellington TTouch has a profound and potent effect on the nervous system and has a powerful influence on responses and mood. Even well established patterns of behaviour often alter within a very short space of time and the Tellington TTouch has even saved the lives of many dogs whose behaviour has been deemed to be out of control.
Observations are an important part of the TTouch work. Practitioners note the dog’s responses to stimuli, the posture, balance, movement and muscle development of the dog, his heart rate and respiration, the texture and appearance of the coat and so on. They feel for temperature changes, coarse or dry hair, tension in the tail, ears, legs and the mobility of the skin. They also pay close attention to the dog’s responses to contact on the body and his ability to negotiate the ground work exercises and adapt the sessions accordingly. The focus is always on what the dog can achieve rather than what he can’t achieve and the aim is to work below the threshold at which the dog has to react, particularly when handling animals that are nervous and/or defensive.
The body TTouches break down into three groups; circles, slides and lifts. They consist of a variety of specific light pressure touches and strokes. The aim is to increase mind/body awareness and to give the dog new information and experiences by engaging the sensory aspect of the nervous system.
The circular TTouches are the foundation of the TTouch Technique. The fingers or hand actually move the dog’s skin gently in one and a quarter circles, usually in a clockwise direction although some dogs prefer anti clockwise circles. For the lifts, the hand gently lifts and supports the tissue of the body, then slowly releases it to the resting position. This often assists an animal to release muscle tension around a specific joint or body part and the lifts are usually used on legs, shoulders, hindquarters and along the back and neck. They can be combined with the circular TTouches or used on their own. The Slides consist of slow gentle movements such as Ear Slides where the ear is stroked from the base right out to the tip, or long, mindful strokes that connect one body part to another. These reduce stress, reinforce the animal’s spatial awareness and release tension.
The position of the hand and the pressure and type of TTouch used will vary from dog to dog and will be dependent on the dog’s responses to contact and the part of the body that is being TTouched. For example nervous and defensive animals usually find contact with the back of the hand far less threatening and may initially only be able to tolerate being TTouched on their shoulder.
Leading dogs through patterns of poles laid on the ground, over low raised boards and see saws and over different textures helps to improve proprioception, focus and balance.
The slow, precise movements of the ground work exercises help dogs to settle and learn the ability to self calm. They also increase flexibility and improve gait. Physical, emotional and mental balance are linked and the ground work exercises can have a dramatic effect on behaviour and are particularly useful for dogs on reduced exercise or for those that become over aroused when on the lead. They can also be a valuable starting point for dogs that cannot tolerate contact.
Equipment also has a direct influence on the posture and behaviour of a dog. Any pressure on the dog’s neck will trigger bracing through the body and can increase stress through pressure on the throat. A harness and a long training lead with a clip at each end is more favourable and gives us more choices in the way we influence, and work with the dog. The lead can be attached either to the flat collar and harness, or clipped to the front and the back of the harness. It can also be taken around the dog’s chest to make a Balance Leash which is a quick and easy way to reduce pulling.
Find out more about Tellington TTouch
The Tellington TTouch helps to increase trust and understanding between both the dog and his owner/carer. It benefits both the giver and the receiver and gives us a greater appreciation for our animal companions.