By: Michelle Sachs – TTouch Practitioner for Companion Animals – Level 1
My dear friend and incredibly talented Kinesiology Practitioner, Debra McCreedy, contacted me to setup a workshop in Kloof, Durban in 2016. She’s often busy working with a client when they’ll ask her if Kinesiology can help their pet with one problem or another. She usually sends them my way but as I am based in Johannesburg, I usually refer to people in their area. This has been happening a lot more over the last year so we decided to do a TTouch course in Durban for her clients and anyone else who wanted to attend. We chose to work from her home as it’s more intimate and use her two gorgeous German Shepherds as our demo dogs.
As her property is rented, the landlord would allow us to run the course, but sadly no other dogs could attend. The ladies who booked were understanding of this small hiccup and sent me information about their dogs so all concerns could be addressed during the course. A few details about the dogs were left out, which happens, so I covered those issues on the day. I stayed on in Durban for a few days after the course incase anyone wanted me to come see their dogs privately, and to enjoy the ocean air too.
Below is a brief synopsis of what I focused on during the one-day workshop:
- The objective of TTouch, which is to bring about physical, mental and emotional balance in dogs. Balanced dogs tend to have better self-control, self-carriage and confidence. They hold themselves confidently and cope appropriately in most situations.
- Stress in dogs. This includes flight, fight, freeze, fool around and faint. Most dogs choose flight (run away) as they know engaging in a fight is often detrimental, they could get injured. Often if they are cornered or attached to their owner by a lead, the option to flee is removed and the only option they have left is to fight. Others choose to freeze, they hold their breath, tuck their tails, drop their heads and hold very still in the hope that the scary thing will go away. Some dogs get overwhelmed in stressful situations and go into fool around. They will fling themselves on their backs and roll around, or start running around doing “zoomies” around the house or garden in an attempt to calm themselves down. Fainting is rare and can indicate that the dog is totally overwhelmed or may have a medical problem.
- We also discussed The Candles by Edie Jane Eaton, which explains simply how too many triggers (things the dog is scared of or worried about) happening one after the other in a small amount of space becomes too much for the dog eg. A thunderstorm building. Everyone grasped the concept easily. All the ladies had seen flight, fight and fool around. One lady realized that her dog actually freezes when touched and after we discussed it, it emerged that her dog has skin allergies and a very tight skin that twitches when touched. This has resulted in her becoming quite touch sensitive, she avoids being petted by unknown people too.
- We then discussed dog body language and the calming signals dogs use to tell us and other dogs that they are feeling uncomfortable, need space or are getting overwhelmed. By becoming adept at understanding what the dogs are “saying”, by listening to their body language, the owners can assist their dogs appropriately. One lady realized that her dog had been furiously giving her calming signals, which she had constantly ignored, she felt terrible! I reassured her that as she didn’t know what her dog was “saying”, she did what she thought was right. Now she has a better understanding of what is being communicated. In the TTouch world we believe that when we know better, we do better.
- I taught them to put on the Balance Leash when walking dogs that tend to rush forward or pull. One lady has just adopted a beautiful Great Dane puppy who already pulls slightly on lead, this was essential for her to learn so she could teach him gently to walk nicely next to her, especially as he will be huge when full grown. We practiced the Balance Leash and Balance Leash Plus on our willing and very sweet demo dogs. We also discussed different harnesses that can be used to take the pressure off the dogs’ neck and rebalance them easily. Everyone had a chance to practice and walk around the groundwork setup in the garden. Thankfully the local vervet monkeys only played with a few poles and cones and didn’t make off with anything we needed.
- We went through the groundwork / playground of higher learning. By gently leading the dogs slowly and mindfully over the equipment and through the labyrinth, we were able to identify how balanced the dogs were and if they had any difficulties moving to a particular side, or lifting their paws up over poles. One of German Shepherds, Max, has bad hip dysplasia, which was evident to see and how he adapts his body to enable himself to do what we asked. Everyone found this very interesting.
- Body wraps were also introduced to help those dogs who are noise sensitive and to assist generally with confidence, balance, calming, pain, awareness and reactivity. Everyone got a body wrap to practice with on our demo dogs and on my stuffy dog Spirit, who Max found fascinating and kept sniffing him. We also used the body wraps on our own bodies, so the participants could feel what its like having a wrap on for themselves. We also went over Thunder-shirts. I showed them which wraps and TTouches I would do to assist Max with his hindquarters and put a wrap on him, which send him to dreamland almost instantly.
I taught them the following TTouches:
- Noah’s March is a sliding touch using the front of the hand to initiate contact and build trust as well as connecting the touches.
- Abalone TTouch is a circular touch done with the whole hand. It is a warm touch and can be very calming and comforting.
- Chimp TTouch is done with the back of the fingers and is also a circular touch. It is beneficial to build trust in shy or scared dogs, as it is not as intrusive as working with the whole hand.
- Clouded Leopard TTouch is the foundation touch and is fantastic to build confidence, reduce fears or pain and help to calm and soothe nervous dogs. It is also a circular touch.
- Ear TTouch is a very calming, soothing touch for most dogs and is fantastic for those dogs that get car-sick. By doing ear touches on a dogs’ ear before cleaning them, it might make it easier for the dogs to accept having their ears cleaned. Ear touches also affect the limbic system in dogs, which helps affect the immune system and emotions, assisting dogs to cope and learn in situations that might otherwise frighten them.
- Tail TTouch is useful to help dogs that are scared of loud noises, thunder and fireworks. It can be beneficial for reactive, barky or aggressive dogs as it helps to rebalance and calm them. It can also build confidence in dogs that are shy or fearful.
- Mouth TTouch is another extremity touch that helps dogs that are unfocused, hyperactive, chronic barkers or aggressive. The puppy owner was thrilled that this could help mouthy puppies too, as her pup was having fun chewing on all her furniture. Mouth TTouch also affects the limbic system, this is the part of the dog’s brain that controls emotions.
Everyone got to practice the TTouches on themselves, on each other and on the dogs and my stuffy dog. The ladies couldn’t believe how gentle the touches were, yet how effective and relaxing. I emphasized the importance of pressure and the mindful pause when doing the Touches as sometimes that can be as important as the TTouch itself. I also taught the Zigzag / Zebra TTouch for the touch sensitive dog, as this might be helpful for the owner to be able to touch her in a way that would be enjoyable for her.
We put wraps on the dogs and spent some time outside engaging in the groundwork and doing mindful TTouches between movement to bring about better balance, body awareness and focus. Everyone noticed that Max was walking better and seemed to be feeling much more sprightly. He even decided to chase after those naughty monkeys.
The ladies were very engaged and asked many insightful and intelligent questions about the TTouches, how and when to use them and how to prepare dogs for the body wraps and Thundershirts. We also discussed the importance of giving the dogs a break when working with them and “chunking it down” to make the process easier for them.
It was a lovely experience and I had really great feedback from the participants. The lady with the touch sensitive terrier contacted me a few days after the course to say that she had been doing some of the TTouches on her dog as well as applying the body wrap for a few minutes a day. That morning her dog climbed up onto her bed and cuddled up with her, which she had never, ever done. She was absolutely thrilled! This totally made my whole day.
Some of the comments were:
“Loved the course, I learnt a lot.” Shelhi
“What a wonderful experience.” Keryn
“Thank you for an amazing workshop, I learnt so much.” Debra
I look forward to hearing back from them and learning how their dogs are doing. I had a really great day and feel so blessed and honoured to be able to teach this life-changing work. A huge thank you to Linda Tellington Jones and Eugenie Chopin for sharing their passion with us, so we can pass it on to others.
011 786 1268
082 458 1302