Wednesday, November 12, 2008

TTouch - A Great Technique For Disabled Dogs

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a TTouch workshop with Greta. It was my first experience with this intriguing alternative therapy. TTouch (short for Tellington Touch) is a method of light hand and fingertip motions that are applied to the body. The technique was developed by British animal behaviorist Linda Tellington-Jones in the 1970s during her work with horses. In the 1980s, Linda expanded TTouch to include other companion animals such as birds, dogs, and cats. Since then, TTouch has been further broadened to help wildlife, zoo animals, and even humans!

Many people mistake TTouch for massage, although they are quite different. While massage is focused on manipulating muscle tissue, the purpose of TTouch is to engage the nervous system. The light strokes and circular motions provide tactile input that is carried through the sensory nerves to the brain. The ideal outcome is a release of tension and increased body awareness. The TTouch training center in New Mexico describes it this way, "The intent of the TTouch is to activate the function of the cells and awaken cellular intelligence - a little like 'turning on the electric lights of the body.' "

Okay, so if all this sounds a little mysterious, I must confess that even after taking a TTouch workshop I'm still trying to fully understand the method. I really think that there's something to it, though. It makes sense that the lightly applied strokes and circles that comprise TTouch would help reduce an animal's stress, improve circulation, facilitate bonding, and help diminish adrenaline and cortisol levels while increasing serotonin.

For a disabled dog, these objectives are especially important. TTouch can be a wonderful supplement to other forms of care and therapy. Greta is a very nervous dog with limited mobility, so our TTouch session offered a nice chance to help her gain more body awareness and feel calmer.

Still wondering what TTouch is all about??? Here are several techniques:

Noah's March
This TTouch is customarily used to begin and end sessions. For Noah's March, use your flat hand to softly follow the contours of your animal's body. Use long, sweeping strokes and keep your fingers relaxed.

The Zigzag TTouch
This is another easy one that helps get the attention of nervous dogs. The name of the Zigzag TTouch indicates how it's done. Simply move your hand across the body in a zigzag motion with the fingers spread apart. Begin near the shoulder and work downward.

The Clouded Leopard TTouch
The Clouded Leopard is the essential TTouch. All of the additional circular TTouch are variations of the Clouded Leopard. To perform it, your fingers should be slightly curved (somewhat like they would be positioned over a computer mouse). Use the pads of your fingers to make light circular motions all over the animal's body.

Additional TTouches focus specifically on the ears, mouth, legs, and tail. The goal of them all is to release tension, build confidence, and create body awareness to positively influence behavior and communication. For more in-depth information, check out this great article at the Senior Dogs Project or visit the TTouch website. Also, if any of you have experience with TTouch we would love to hear more about it!


Carreen Maloney said...

Thanks for stopping by to visit my Modern Dog magazine blog. I came over to check yours out and was impressed with the quality of your stories. You are doing a great service to disabled dogs by showing that these animals have value. I've noticed that children with disabilities in particular are drawn to these dogs (ie. three-legged therapy dogs show child amputees that it's okay to be different.) Keep up your great work on behalf of the animals!
Carreen Maloney
Fuzzy Town.

Frankie's Mom said...

I had heard of TTouch, but didn't realize I could apply it to a disabled dog. Thanks for sharing this information. I will have to look into it and see if there is a class available in my area.

ihearthounds said...

Hi Carreen,
Welcome to Rebound Hounds! I am thrilled that you visited our blog. Modern Dog is a great magazine and you have a fantastic rescue blog! It's funny that you should mention the idea of bringing disabled dogs together with disabled children - my ultimate dream is to create a program that would do just that. If you know of any that are currently in exsistence, let me know...


The Rebound Hounds

ihearthounds said...

Hi Frankie & Barbara,
I would definitely encourage you to give TTouch a try. I think Frankie might just love it! Also, if there isn't a class in your area, you could order one of Linda Tellington-Jones' books. Many of the techniques are relatively simple and I'm sure you could get the hang of them very quickly.


The Rebound Hounds

Twitchynoses said...

Hoping to try on a disabled dog we have.