This everyday phrase takes on a new meaning for pet lovers. Welcome to the world of Tellington TTouch®
Written by Claire Atkinson M.A. (Cantab.), Canine Behaviourist and Tellington Ttouch® practitioner
What is Tellington TTouch®?
This is a gentle and positive way to help animals and humans to relax, to manage environmental stress, increase body awareness and promote healing. It is widely used throughout the field of animal care by vets, behaviourists, groomers, shelter personnel and those who simply wish for their pet to have a more fulfilling life.
Developed by international author and teacher Linda Tellington-Jones, it is based on a philosophy of enhanced bonding through mutual respect and co-operation. Animals are set up for success: learning to act rather than react.
How does TTouch® work?
The basis of TTouch® is a form of light, circular touches. Using various hand configurations, strokes and lifts with a varying degree of pressure and tempo, it induces relaxation and increased awareness of the body in animals and humans. The use of “wraps” – elasticised bandages which help with connectivity and promote confidence – is a part of the toolbox, as is “Groundwork” that consists of working with various obstacles to help the animal focus and achieve a balanced posture.
Unlike massage, TTouch® uses a gentle movement of the skin to access neural pathways and activate the cellular function. It stimulates or relaxes the body as appropriate.
Holding tension in any part of the body affects both movement and behaviour. By observing an animal’s physiology and posture, assistance can be directed to specific areas requiring attention. Animals communicate mostly through body language, so observing our own, as well as that of the animal, enhances non-verbal communication.
At all times, the practitioner works with mindfulness, awareness of breath, and respect for the potential of the animal. Emotions and feelings have largely been sidelined by science, as they can’t be quantified. However, modern research is proving an ongoing understanding of what we instinctively know: feelings and emotions are inherently part of our thoughts, behaviour and well-being. TTouch® has done much to promote this work.
TTouch® in action
Many of us have been attracted to this way of working when a fearful, reactive, nervous, or un-balanced animal comes into our lives. Committed as I am to working according to the scientific laws of behaviour and the use of positive reinforcement, I was still not able to help my rescue dog Muffet find herself. She was petrified of everything and was not a happy dog.
So, together, we braved our first three-day workshop. The first thing that struck me was the genuine caring and sharing of participants and trainers alike. Over the three days we spent with the group, Muffet blossomed, happily interacting with other people and responding beautifully to everything that was presented to us. The rest is history. She is still fearful at times, but mostly enjoys herself and loves her sessions.
I was also able to help my other dog, Shadow, prepare for major surgery and to heal thereafter. He made a full recovery, much more rapidly than had been expected.
Today, my toolbox for helping animals and their owners is full of the techniques I have learnt, alongside those I need as a behaviourist. To watch an animal go from holding tension all over its body to wrapped up and sleeping soundly never ceases to amaze the owners and me. And the same happens when we address issues such as fearfulness and anxiety, or areas where there is pain such as post-operation healing or arthritis.
For a fearful dog, for example, we are likely to work with the ears – long, gentle strokes along the sides and up the centre to the tip of the ear. It can be done both inside and outside the ear. Small circles at the tip of the ear are particularly helpful.
The die-hard sceptics sometimes regard TTouch® as airy-fairy, touchy-feely stuff. They ask for the science of what we do. We remind them that there is a lot that science does not have an answer for. All the proof we need is in the response of animals and people to this modality. As neuroscience develops, the scientific basis will eventually come to light.
Want to know more?
We are privileged to have TTouch® training here in South Africa. Visit the local website (www.ttouch.co.za) to discover more about what is available. If you have a specific problem you would like to address, book a session with a practitioner.
International teachers come to South Africa on a regular basis, offering three- and five-day workshops to those who would like to work more extensively in this field. Practitioners present short workshops to specific groups such as shelter personnel, vets, and training schools.
Get in touch – you’ll be glad you did!