Nearly forty years ago, Linda Tellington Jones, already a well-respected horse trainer and riding instructor, enrolled on a Feldenkrais Method training course, where she was taught personally by eminent Israeli physicist Moshe Feldenkrais. Although her initial intent was to use his system of awareness through movement to help her human horse-riding pupils, she quickly realised that it could also be of enormous value if applied to the horses too. Although Linda initially adapted the work specifically to equines it didn’t take long before its scope widened to encompass all animals.
Together with her sister Robyn Hood, Linda has continued to develop Tellington TTouch Training into a unique and world renowned training method which is used by owners, dog trainers, behaviourists, groomers, vets, vet nurses, rescue workers and those competing in agility, showing and other disciplines. It is simple to learn and safe to use but can have profound effects on the lives of animals and the people who care for them.
A forward-thinking approach to training, handling and rehabilitation, TTouch helps animals adapt to the world around them and to reach their full potential by promoting physical, mental and emotional balance through the use of a system of various exercises which include groundwork, body wraps and special ‘TTouches’. These produce a heightened sense of wellbeing and an increased ability to focus and concentrate, improve posture and mobility, and significantly reduce stress.
Tellington TTouch Training - or TTouch (pronounced Tee Touch) for short – has a proven track record of helping animals with many phobias and behavioural issues. A kind, non-invasive, generally well accepted and empathic way of working with animals, it is easy to learn, simple to apply, and gives you a vital role at a time when you may have previously felt helpless and frustrated. The work can be done with your dog in preparation for a frightening or unsettling time like the firework season and can also be used when he is fearful without danger of reinforcing the negative behaviour.
How does it work?
Tellington TTouch can be very successful in helping animals who are fearful, affecting the recipient on many levels. It is based on the principle that posture affects behaviour (and vice versa): therefore, by improving posture and movement, self-confidence and self-control will develop and increase.
This is achieved by performing various non-habitual movements (the TTouches) on the body, and exercises carried out while moving, such as the Confidence Course.
The touches on the body can be very calming and comforting, which will help animals to be more at ease while being handled, and easier to treat or train. By reducing stress levels and encouraging rational thinking, you can help your dog to move from a state of fear or arousal to a state of calm focus, able to think rationally and to alter ingrained fear responses.
If you would like to learn more about the scientific side of things, visit the research and studies page at http://www.ttouch.com/researchStudies.shtml
Observing your dog is an important part of TTouch work; noting your dog’s posture, how he moves and how he responds to his environment and the situations he finds himself in will not only tell you a lot about how he is feeling physically but can also provide an invaluable key to his mental processes and emotional state. Learning to ‘read’ your dog’s posture will help you to decide which TTouches to use and where to use them: whether to work quickly, slowly, more firmly or more lightly: when to start, and when to stop: and help ensure that you stay safe.
Amongst other things, TTouch provides you with ways to make beneficial changes to your dog’s posture. This is not just so you can make him feel more comfortable physically – although that is an aspect of the work – but because body and mind are inextricably linked, with each influencing the other for better or worse.
It is often forgotten just how closely connected posture and behaviour are, even though we constantly use phrases in everyday conversation such as describing someone as getting cold feet, gritting their teeth, biting their nails or tearing their hair out to describe states of mind. When we look at someone who is angry, we can see the tension radiating throughout their body, while a depressed person will literally appear to be drooping, hunched up, and with rounded shoulders.
While the body language in these examples reflect the state of mind, the reverse can also be true, with poor posture or the presence of ‘tension patterns’ directly influencing the mental and emotional processes and dictating behaviour. By changing the posture, you can therefore change the behaviour. This is not some far-fetched or whimsical theory, but one which has been successfully demonstrated time and time again, both with Tellington TTouch and in other modalities which focus on posture, such as Alexander Technique.
These examples are just as valid when applied to dogs. If you think of the saying ‘tuck tail and run’ which is frequently used to describe being frightened, it perfectly describes the posture and behaviour which is seen in a noise phobic dog, even when there is nothing immediately of concern. This habitual posture ‘tells’ the dog how to behave i.e. in a fearful way. If you can change that posture however, a different message is sent: rational, calm thinking can begin to replace fearful instinctive reactions, the undesirable behaviour diminishes and will often disappear entirely over time: TTouch can be the long term cure as well as providing on-the-spot relief. As the proprioceptive system improves so does the dog’s ability to change even deeply ingrained responses to previously perceived fears - the noise phobic dog learns to cope with fireworks, and the aggressive dog to tolerate other dogs in his space. This is the beauty of Tellington TTouch Training: it gets to the emotional core of the issue and helps a dog to change his perception of a frightening stimulus.
As previously explained, ‘tension patterns’ can develop in the body that ‘tell’ the animal how to behave. These tension patterns can develop over time because of a physical problem or come about through a traumatic experience like being frightened, going through re-homing or being in an accident. Sometimes they develop due to inappropriate training methods or the use of harsh equipment but they can also be congenital. Tension held in specific areas of the body promote different responses, so if, for example a dog holds tension through the hind quarters and tail, he is more likely to show a fear reaction. Noise phobic dogs often develop tension in these areas.
Tension patterns show up in many ways. A dog may have a very hot or cold area on their body, or not want you to touch them in a certain place, or the skin may feel very stiff and immobile rather than sliding freely across the underlying tissues. Often a change in the coat can be seen, with an area appearing to be scurfy, or showing a swirl in the coat. The hair might feel coarser, look dull, be a different colour to the rest of the coat, stand on end or have a different texture. Muscling may differ from one side to the other, the dog may walk stiffly or have a very high or low head carriage. Perhaps he stands with more weight on one side or on one particular leg; the wear on the nails or pads may even differ. It is a fascinating study, and as you learn to look at your dog in more detail, you will learn a lot about him and will find it easier to help him. More detailed information on tension patterns and how to identify them can be found in Sarah Fisher’s book Unlock Your Dog’s Potential.
As an aid to training and to compliment veterinary care, if your pet is ill or injured and with your vets permission
Please note this list is not exhaustive. TTouch fits well into any behaviour modification or training programme. Contact Toni for advice on whatever issue your pet has, large or small, from simple pulling on the lead to aggression. Email Toni at firstname.lastname@example.org