Touch is as important to dogs and cats as it is for us. One of the things my dog Keikei loves almost as much as her CANIDAE treats is a relaxing massage. Because she enjoys these moments so much, I was intrigued when I read about Tellington TTouch. It’s a training method that’s been around for a long time and uses bodywork and touch to promote good health and behavior in humans, dogs, cats, horses and other animals. It’s a system that can be used to help you and your pet relax and reduce stress.
Trust isn’t earned by trying to dominate people or pets. The TTouch method takes a unique approach to earning respect, cooperation and overall wellbeing with gentle non-invasive, non-confrontational touching. It’s designed to be respectful of an animal’s body, mind and spirit, and can change unwanted behavior by promoting confidence and mutual trust between you and your pet.
The TTouch method was developed in the 1980s by Linda Tellington-Jones, a horsewoman with an extensive background in training and massaging horses. Inspired by the work of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli physicist who pioneered a learning system of gentle movements to create changes in the human body, brain and awareness of self to improve human pain, Tellington-Jones began applying his technique to animals.
TTouch is more than just touching your pet. The purpose of gentle movement is to activate unused neural pathways to the brain and increase learning potential. It works by activating and improving cell function and cell communication, which helps restore emotional, physical and mental balance. It wakes up cellular intelligence. The body is a complex and extraordinary machine, and maintains a healthy state because of the different body systems that do their job. But the systems can’t work and communicate properly without healthy cells.
No one really understands why TTouch works, but many say it does. It’s believed that the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged, which is responsible for relaxing muscles, slowing heart rate, blood pressure and circulation – causing stress levels to fall. Less stress helps a dog, cat, horse or human be more aware of their body. If the body is reacting to pain, a fearful past or other behavior issues, gentle movement and touch has the power to improve and change how the body reacts.
To test the effectiveness of TTouch, a study was done at the Biofeedback Institute in Boulder, Colorado. It was found that this method of touching created changes in certain brain waves. The pattern of brain waves were different from simple petting, stroking or massaging, which suggests TTouch has a relaxing effect on the body and brain, creating an alert and thinking state of mind. Recent research found a light touch releases oxytocin, which helps improve health and promote trust. When used before a training session, it increases your pet’s attention span and allows him to focus better. However, he still needs to be rewarded with treats and praise for a job well done.
TTouch can help calm feral cats, make a trip to the vet less scary, and reshape unwanted behavior in pets such as anxiety, guarding behavior, excessive barking, leash pulling, jumping up, excessive chewing, aggression, fearfulness, shyness, grooming issues, car sickness, age related issues, noise phobias, cat litter box issues, territorial issues, and nervousness or excitability. It can help a pet meet emotional and physical challenges, increase the ability to heal from illness, surgery or injury, and relieve stiffness in muscles and arthritic pain.
Most behavioral issues are due to fear, pain or a lack of understanding what is expected. The TTouch method allows your pet to think instead of react, and addresses issues using a combination of circular touches, movement exercises, lifts and body wraps. This technique improves body awareness and posture. Poor posture can affect a pet’s wellbeing; often, posture improves as a pet’s behavior improves. When everything comes together, your pet is calm and relaxed, which helps the learning process. It’s best to use TTouch along with other positive behavior programs and reward based training. This method was used to successfully rehabilitate Alf, one of the Pitbulls rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting kennel. You can watch a video here.
Tellington TTouch training is easy to learn and doesn’t take a lot of time to do. This method utilizes circular movements with your hands and fingers all over your dog or cat’s body. Learning just some of the simple techniques can make a difference in your pet’s wellbeing. TTouch won’t cure cancer or other terminal conditions, but it can help your pet be more comfortable, have less stress and maintain a bond as he deals with his illness. You can find a lot more information about TTouch training at their website, including videos, details about the technique, and where to find someone in your area who teaches TTouch.
Read more articles by Linda Cole