Making Life a TTouch Easier                                                                          for You and Your Puppy                                               

Isn’t it wonderful!  You have a new pup, a squirmy, huggable, loveable, delightful being!  Sometimes, in our delight with this enchanting creature who teaches us so beautifully to live fully in the present moment, we forget that we will need to offer guidance and direction to help him grow into a joyful and joy bringing adult, adapted to cope with our human society and rules.  The sad fact is that the most frequent reason for canine euthanasia is behavior not  health, and the most common age for canine euthanasia is adolescence.       

When it comes to raising a new pup, focusing on the Tellington Touch precept, “Give direction not correction” is enormously helpful.  We are integrating a new canine being into a human household.  Even young humans need a lot of schooling.  Canines, whose natural behaviors in canid society include chewing, digging, and biting, need significant direction about acceptable behavior in human society.  They don’t come knowing our rules.  How can they know unless we teach them?

Remember infant attention spans are short; the younger the pup, the shorter the session of any type needs to be.

There are two facets to the work:  ttouches and leading exercises.  TTouch Method leading exercises are all about giving direction instead of correction, as we encourage the pup to exercise self-control by standing in balance.  Pups from our last two litters were introduced to walking on leash not with a collar, but with a harness.  Fastening one clip of the double-ended leash on the ring by the right shoulder, and the other on the ring by the left shoulder allows us to gently rebalance the pup when he pulls.  Releasing any leash tension as soon as he is balanced over his feet gives him the opportunity to stand on his own as we praise him, letting him know we are delighted when he stands that way.  This may take many quick repetitions of rebalance/release but he will soon be standing in his own balance.  The leash clips on either side of the dog’s body simplify giving direction as you walk and turn. Once they understood the behavior we expected from them on leash, our pups transitioned easily to collars, and walked along confidently.  So can your new pup.

If your pup jumps, hook your thumb into his collar applying just enough pressure to keep those front feet on the ground, telling him “feet on the ground” or whatever you want to say to convey what it is you want him to be doing.  As soon as you feel those feet are on the ground, raise your hand only enough so that you are applying NO pressure.  He needs direction from you to develop his self-control.  And if he begins to lose that self-control, you can very quickly give him direction again.  Watch how quickly he learns!

We have a playground of higher learning set up in our pup yard--even though they are but kindergarteners.  Items like the labyrinth, star, balance board, dog walk , tires and teeter-totter are explored and navigated from about four weeks on as the pups run through and play on them.    Later, leading the pups through the same equipment gives them a different experience as they keep track of the human and leash as well as the equipment. Once your pup walks on a leash he can also experience the benefits of the curving turns of the labyrinth.  As the playground equipment helps him improve his physical balance, his mental and emotional balance are also improved, since these facets are interrelated.  His self-carriage is improved, and so is his self-control and self-confidence!

The touch part of the method is the other leg on which the work stands.  In founder Linda Tellington Jones’ words, “The Tellington TTouch Method is like a non-verbal language.”  The TTouches “…stimulate the function and vitality of the cells in his body and activate unused neural pathways to the brain.” What exactly do we do with TTouches to help our pup become a canine good citizen while we deepen our  relationship with him? Quite simply, we use the TTouches all over his body.  We want him to get used to being touched all over.  Obviously this will make vet exams easier; it will simplify nail trimming; it will help him enjoy grooming.  It will also connect the two of you.  And it helps him reach his full potential.

If there are areas where he is not comfortable being touched, first touch him where he is comfortable, then do a touch or two on a tough place and a return to a place on his body where his is comfortable with touch.  Working with him, increasing his comfort level by gently guiding him to accept ttouches all over, helps give him an awareness of and comfort with his whole body.  As you affect him physically, you are also affecting him mentally and emotionally, in a positive way, without using force or fear.  If he has no areas of discomfort, he still benefits from the neural stimulation, the warmth, and all the other proven benefits of touch.  

There are some special areas of the body to give attention to in order to maximize your pup’s development, notably his extremeties: mouth, paws, tail and ears.

For the teething, chewing pup, in addition to all of the safe chewing experiences you are providing him with, working his mouth can ease his discomfort, reducing his urge to chew, thereby saving many of your possessions.  Brief, frequent mouth work sessions are very helpful.  A few slides along the flews, lightly holding the lips between your thumb and forefingers, a couple of circles on the gums of the upper jaw, along with a few horizontal slides on the gum just under the nose will soothe the sore gums, and relieve the need to chew. Work on the mouth activates the limbic system, the seat of the emotions, so the benefits of mouth work go far beyond chewing issues, and can help your pup cope better with all types of situations.

Working on and around your pup’s tail can help with issues of fear and timidity as well as with aggression issues.  If that sounds as though we are dealing with two different extremes, remember this work is about balance.  Balance is about bringing something to a centered place.  Very soft, gentle traction on the tail brings awareness throughout your pup’s whole body, as will holding his tail at the base and circling it a few times in both directions.  Raccoon ttouches around the base of his tail will help soften tense muscles in his hindquarters.  Very light raccoon ttouches on and around the scar tissue of docked tails is soothing and calming.  Slightly flexing each tail vertebra between your thumb and forefinger gives your pup good awareness of his whole tail.

Doing Tellington TTouch on your pup’s paws, including nails and pads, can help him be more comfortable as he encounters different surfaces, some of which might be very slick.  Increasing circulation in the paws means giving him greater awareness. Ever have cold, clammy hands when under stress?  Your body is preparing to defend you by closing down your capillaries and directing circulation to your trunk.  This can happen with your pup as well.  If your pup is concerned when you first begin touching his paw with your hand, you can touch that paw and make tiny circles using his other paw.  You might also use the back of your hand, or have something soft between your hand and the pup, to do the touches in a way that feels less invasive for him.  If he is standing, you can move his leg in a small circle with his foot remaining on the floor as a way to give him a new sensory experience.  Doing TTouch with your  “best bud” can be a lot of fun, as it calls forth your creativity and ingenuity when you figure out how to make it the best experience possible.

A very helpful area of your pup’s body to work are his ears.  Most of us have been taught by various dogs to touch their ears and see their pleasure.  With Tellington Touch you can increase that pleasure, help calm a very busy pup, and have a tool at hand that could someday save his life by keeping him out of shock until you are able to get him to a veterinarian for treatment.  Do Raccoon circles around the base of his ear, then gently hold the ear at the base and slowly circle the whole ear.  Do ear slides, holding one of his ears between your thumb and forefinger  and stroke outwards from the base to the tip, in the direction the ear is naturally held (up for prick ears, downward for hanging ears).  If your pup has been injured, doing ear slides more quickly and firmly, and applying a bit of a squeeze as you reach the tip of his ear, can stabilize his circulation enough to keep him out of shock.

Preceding  are a lot of suggestions.  Please don’t feel overwhelmed, thinking you SHOULD spend all of your free time doing Tellington Touch on your pup.  When you sit with him, and are petting him, do a few TTouches as well.  As he runs over to greet you, give him a few TTouches.  A TTouch or two with each of the many interactions you have in the course of a day can make a wonderful difference in your pup and in your relationship.

The video, “Unleash Your Dog’s Potential, Getting in TTouch With Your Canine Friend” and the book Getting in TTouch with Your Dog: a Gentle Approach to Influencing Behavior, Health, and Performance  give detailed information about how to do the TTouches and exercises mentioned above.  Wendy and Frances offer private sessions and weekend workshops that can focus on many aspects of TTouch, including sessions and workshops for the conformation and performance dog as well as for that very special family companion. 

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© Frances Smith 2012