Boogie’s first TTouch Experience
I first heard about TTouch several years ago. At the time, there were no YouTube videos on the subject, no TTouch practitioners anywhere near me, and the only information that I could get my hands on was in a book with very few pictures. It wasn’t until recently when I got a hold of the new edition of Getting In TTouch With Your Dog (which has very clear photos and diagrams) that my curiosity was rekindled.
What I know now is that TTouch is not simply a type of massage, but a method of bodywork that also incorporates “behavior training”. The premise is that if your dog feels right in his body and is able to release tension, he more able to learn new things. Physical health, emotional health and performance are all related.
Whole Dog Journal article: The Tellington TTouch For Dogs
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Patricia Tirrell (a TTouch Practitioner who also moderates the DogRead Yahoo group) on Facebook and she referred me to Cynde Van Vleet of IC Paws Abilites, who is based in California. Cynde is our closest TTouch Practitioner – and she very kindly offered to drive 70 miles from San Clemente to meet with Boogie.
Sarah and I organized a session with Cynde at Sarah’s place where our two dog-reactive dogs were kept in separate areas. Boogie was outdoors, Zoe was indoors.
What I learnt yesterday:
TTouch looks like massage but it is actually works on the nervous system rather than on the muscles. The touches are very light circular motions on the skin, so gentle that the animal physically relaxes while his brain and nervous system are activated at the same time. The thumb is anchored while the fingers do a one-and-a-quarter circle on the skin. There are many different TTouch touches classified by different parts of the fingers coming in contact with the skin.
It was quite a challenge to have to think about these finger/hand motions and be mindful of how gentle the pressure should be. (Cynde: On a scale of 0 to 10, the pressure is a 3) The one-and-a-quarter-circle motion is not as easy to do as it looks
Interestingly too, TTouch was adapted by Linda Tellington Jones from the Feldenkrais method, when she first started working with horses and zoo animals (hence the names like “Clouded Leopard TTouch” and “Python TTouch”). I find this influence exciting because many years ago, in the early 90’s, I attended Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes in Sydney, and have done “Functional Intergration” sessions for back pain. To be honest, at the time I didn’t have a clue how it all worked and why I felt so amazing after each session. The movements were all extremely slow, precise, gentle and repetitive. This was like the opposite of getting a deep tissue massage or doing yoga postures. I remember always going home feeling super flexible, light and rejuvenated with all my physical pain and tension gone.
When Cynde worked on Boogie, she noted that he had a lot of heat in his head (heat = stress)… which eventually cooled down after a few Racoon touches. Boogie also had a lot of tension in his tail – it was pulled in super tight.
NEVER before had I ever done anything with Boogie’s tail (except one time when he had a hotspot underneath that I had to clean) so this was quite a weird and new sensation. Boogie’s tail is like a tiny nub in the shape of a comma… almost bald because he has been chewing and scooting on it. Until yesterday when Cynde pointed it out to me, I had no idea that there were TWO joints in that teeny weeny tail. Cynde demonstrated how to hold the base of the tail and move it around to loosen the tension. Boogie LOVED the Tail Touches. His tongue was flicking in and out of his mouth like in the very last drawing of this poster.
Here’s a video snippet of Cynde doing Tail TTouch with Zoe, who has a real tail.
Boogie also loved having his ears worked on – the Ear TTouches are supposed to be very calming. Cynde did slides and circular movements. I am thinking that these touches might help Boogie relax before I clean his ears….
I tried out some Racoon ( fingertip) touches on Boogie’s body but I might have been doing it wrong or with too much pressure… Boogie got restless and walked away. He relaxed again when I tried the more soothing and less concentrated Lying Leopard (full palm) touches. Blissful Boogie face.
An essential part of TTouch is paying attention to and getting feedback from the dog and doing what feels right for him.
Cynde had also done these same touches on Sarah’s and my backs so that we knew what they felt like.
The Body Wrap, Labyrinth and Cones
The Body Wrap works like a Thundershirt and is supposed to be calming. I am not too sure if the stretchy elastic wrap made much difference to Boogie’s energy level … It was hard for me to tell. Cynde had set up a Labyrinth and series of Cones for the Boogs to walk through but he was so distracted by Zoe’s presence in the backyard at the time, and perhaps also by the uncomfortable heat outdoors, that he was whimpering, pulling on the leash and stepping over the lines like a totally untrained dog. He also vomited up some hot dog… which he immediately ate up again.
Eventually, we successfully made it through the Labyrinth and Cones when we slowed everything down and I praised Boogie very exuberantly for every single step…
Cynde suggests that I take Boogie on different surfaces (high and low) and spend more time walking not in a straight line but around objects, a bit like walking around cones and in the labyrinth, while we are out on our walks. Boogie and I actually already do a lot of walking around objects (like parked cars) to avoid scary people and dogs, but I need to be doing this with focus – perhaps more slowly and make it like a fun game.
Touches we covered today. The animal names remind me of Kung Fu moves!
Lying Leopard Touch
Clouded Leopard Touch
Zig Zag Touch
Check out more photos and videos in this flickr set: Boogie and Zoe – TTouch Session
So…. was Boogie calmer? More relaxed? It was hard to tell because it was hot and we were in a new distracting environment. To me, Boogie seemed quite restless when he wasn’t getting the TTouches. He wanted to play, he wanted to meet Zoe and Maya, he wanted to drink from the mini pool, check out Sarah’s rabbits etc. He was also dying to go indoors with us and didn’t like being left outside.
So far, I like everything that I have learned about TTouch, and it makes perfect sense that a dog who who feels good physically is going to be a more relaxed and confident dog in general. I can see how this would help with training. I love touching/petting/massaging Boogie anyway, and it’s nice to know that I can from now on, stop doing a sloppy job of it and actually have some ‘technique’ to use.
Thank you, Cynde!
Today’s little buzz: Boogie hopped into the bathtub when I turned the water on. We’d just come in from the 100 degree heat outside. Boogie jumped into the tub BY HIMSELF which is something he has never done before. He stood in there while I splashed some water on his belly; jumped out again, shook off, ran off to grab his toy. Usually when I turn the water on, I find Boogie hiding under a table or inside his crate and I have to lure him out with treats and carry him into the tub.