This one’s a monster, so i hope you’re comfy. Today i was at a Tellington T touch workshop.
A couple of Months ago, i happened to mention to one of the puppywalkers that i had heard about T touch and would love to learn how to do it. The puppy walker happened to be reading a book about it and said she would contact the author about getting the book put in to audio format. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the book wasn’t available in audio, and nobody taught T touch here in Northern Ireland. The author of the particular book said she would be willing to take a class for us. The puppy walker checked it out with the relivant people from guide dogs, and they agreed as a pilot, they would try it out with a few puppy walkers, plus a guide dog owner. If itwas a success, they would offer it out to other guide dog owners. As i had been one of the ones who had braught it to peoples attention and had expressed such interest in it, i was allowed to go on this first class.
Enter Lisa Dillon, of
Pets in Harmony
Which is a company she has set up. She is a trained T touch practitioner. She also does dog training as well. She has done T touch on anything from Rabbits to horses. She even told us today that she did it on a snail and it stretched all the way out.
Each of us who wanted to go on the course had to pay for it. If guide dogs started paying for it here, then everyone would probably want to do the course, and the woman would lose business. I wouldn’t expect guide dogs to have to pay either as that just wouldn’t be fair. Plus the woman was giving up her day to come and teach us. So a date was set and the puppy walker went off to find somewhere we could have it that would be accessible both for parking and public transport. So with venue booked, and Lisa willing to come up from Dublin, all that was needed nowwas for us to bring a lunch and something for our dogs to lie on. All was sorted. All we had to do now was wait.
So this morning, me and Ushi headed off to get a train up to Botanic station. I was a bit panicky since there had been terrible delays across that train line throughout the week, but thankfully they were sorted today. When i was on the train, there was a family who were polish with two kids. They were telling me about how one of their kids was autistic and since they baught a dog, it had calmed him down. I was fascinated by the fact that they could go from speaking polish to speaking English just like that. They were a lovely family. Anyway, i’m getting side tracked.
When we got to the station, we were met by a dog boarder who used to be a puppy walker and we headed off. There were only 10 humans altogether in the group, so it was a nice small group for Lisa to work with. I was quite saddened to see that most of the dogs who were there were withdrawn dogs from the program. I suppose though it made just as much sense for them to be there as it did any of the other guide dog pups. Ushi was the fully working dog and there were two other potential workers.
First of all, we learnt about what T touch is, and why it was invented. We then learnt how to observe your dog. We learnt that the back of the hand is where the lightest touches would be, so to observe your dog and figure out where he might be holding tention, you would run the back of your hand down your dogs coat and watch for signs of discomfort or tention. These could have been very subtle like lip licking, yawning, the colour and texture of the coat, turning away and many other things that would indicate that the dog wasn’t very comfortable with being touched on that part of the body. All these signs would depend on the circumstances to which they happen and the dogs coat and how it was normally etc. It was all about knowing your dog and how he liked to be handled. We were then split in to groups of 3 and advised that it may be helpful to have someone else observe your dogs reaction, or to have you doing the touch and getting someone else to observe because they might notice something you haven’t picked up on. I asked what would make a dog have tention and Lisa told me i could be for a number of reasons. It could be that the dog is reactive to other dogs, it could be because the dog is nervos, or it could be just with walking, for example. I thought it was something bad but it doesn’t necessarily mean that. It could just be that the dog holds tentionin certain parts of the body just like we do. It did make me stop and annalyse everything Ushi did though for a second though.
I had mentioned that Ushi didn’t like when her tail would be touched, but of course she didn’t mind because she was saying hello to other dogs. We were told that if the dogs wanted to move away for a bit or needed to investigate another dog, that was fine, as it was dictated by their own pace. When Ushi’s belly was touched though, people noticed that she arched her back for the tiniest wee second. They didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but it was just an area she didn’t like being touched. Apart from that, she was grand.
After that, we had a break and that gave us time for comfort breaks for both the humans and dogs. We got a cup of tea as well. Lisa had also said that any time the dogs needed to leave, they could just go no questions asked.
After our break, we learnt some of the actual touches. The first touch we learnt was called a Zebra, or zigzag. This is where you have your four fingers bent, and you start at the shoulders and have them close together and when you get to the top of the legs you spread your fingers out, only to bring them back in again going back up to the shoulder blade. You could do this on any part of the body but it was always best to start from the shoulders.
The next thing we learnt was ear work. This is where you place your thumb at the base of the ear and move your thumb out in a long stroke out to the end of the ear. This is apparently especially good for a dog who has tummy troubles. It can also be good to make your dog burp if you feel it needs to. I notice if Ushi doesn’t burp after her meals, she will be sick, although you can’t even call it being sick as it’s just a wretch or sometimes it’s just a tiny mouthful of food she brings back up. If she burps though, that doesn’t happen. Random. Anyway doing this earwork is meant to help with that so i’ll have to try it out.
The next thing we learnt was called a “belly lift”. This is where you put your hand behind their front legs and gently press the belly in. You don’t do it hard at all. You breathe out as you do it as it’s meant to be easier. You then let it fall back again ever so slowly. We were warned that this movement can make the dogs pass wind more regularly lol. Of course Ushi decided she’d give me loads of paws and licks as i had gotten down on the floor with her at this point.
The final touch we learnt was just called a circular touch. This was where you’ imagined that you were on a clock face. Your thumb was an ankor which you kept there all the time. That would be 6 o’clock. YOu’d gradually work your way back up from 6 until you got back to 6 and then you’d go to 9 o’clock to complete the circle. You would do it in a clockwise manner. You would do it nice and slow. You could do it in big or small circles with any part of your hand. If your dog got stuck with something, like it didn’t want to do something, you could do a quick one of these to get the dog “unstuck”. Or you could do a belly lift if you wanted to. If you wanted to calm them down, you’d do nice slow movements.
One of the puppy walkers showed me on my arm how to do it, which i admit did feel rather nice. This was exactly what we had to do as all the touches need to be practiced on yourself or someone else before doing it to your dog. A dogs skin is easier to move compared to a humans lol. That was what we all noticed anyway lol.
We were all given the opportunity to practice the touches, but i flitted between all four touches, so i’m not surprised that Ushi got a bit fidgety. Plus, she needed out for busies. All the dogs were in very close proximity to one another, so we would notice more of a reaction to the touches in our own homes. As long as we remembered to keep it slow.
It was lunch time by this stage. I should have braught Ushi’s nylabone, as every other dog all had one so that was the sound track to our lunch lol. AS an aside, i had those Sandwich thins which have been advertised for lunch, and they were lovely.
After lunch, we looked at “Boddy wraps”. These are where you wrap something around the dog to provide a constant pressure. It sort of calms them down. It’s similar to the “Thunder shirt” you can get for fireworks if your dog is scared of them. Lisa just uses ace bandages as these are very elasticated and provide pressure, whereas a cheaper bandage may not provide the same pressure. Again, we had to put it on ourselves first, so i volunteered to go up this time. The wrap was put around my shoulders and i was then guided around for a bit to see how it felt. It felt like someone was litterally holding up your shoulders so you had to walk straighter. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but you knew it was on. Everyone else had to try it on too before we put it on our dogs.
We were told to gradually introduce the wrap to the dog by first letting the dog sniff it, then laying it on the dogs back and taking it off again, and finally wrapping it around the dog. We wrapped it around the dogs chest first, then under the tummy, then we tied it at the side. We then walked around the room to see what the dog would be like with it on. I noticed that Ushi didn’t pull on the lead which she can do sometimes if she is on just her lead, but i didn’t notice much else.
Lisa told us about how the wraps have been used to stop dogs from spinning. I didn’t know a dog would do this but apparently they do it if they have been in a kenel fora long time or something. That would break your heart. There was also one of the dogs in the group who was very nervy and panty in the room. Once he got his wrap on though, he was a totally different dog, complete with such a waggy tail. Nobody could believe the transformation.
After this, was something called “Ground work” which is basically getting the dog walking around things, and the dog had a harness on. The dog got two points of contact from the harness as there was a lead that clipped on to the front and the back of the harness. The dog had to then walk around the poles and different surfaces. We all weren’t sure about it, so some of the x guide dogs did it instead as we didn’t want it contridicting our dogs training. So we got to do more of our touches and the wraps. Lisa had also braught along different textures to try on the dog. Including paint brushes if the dog had sensative paws.
We finished up with a final loo break and an evaluation. Lisa had also given everyone an information pack with everything in it. She was going to email me, but i said i would rather have them on audio as normally i would be grand with email, but with this i wanted to play it as i did it. I am going to contact a company called visual access to see if they will put this in to audio.
I would like to thank Lisa so much for agreeing to do this. Normally she works with more challenging dogs, so she said it was nice to work with our dogs. I would also like to thank the first puppywalker who came up with seeing if she could get the audio book, and everyone else who made it such a good day. I certainly learnt a lot. Thank you again all. I am totally exhausted now :). Was a fabulous day though and a great learning experience :).