A discussion on a Facebook group prompted me to share a bit about my life and work in TTouch, which I plan to pick up more energetically this year. The whole process of learning what TTouch has to offer is something that can be hard to explain – and extraordinarily so to those who want science and only science (everything else is ‘woo’). Personally, I don’t even bother arguing or explaining. I’m pretty hard-headed about science where it’s essential – but let’s be real here, it’s not the be-all and end-all. What I learned in my 5 trainings and several weekends of TTouch far transcends the quantifiable. It is my hope that in these entries I can share a little about it all. And because he walked beside me through most of my years in training, I start with, and dedicate this section of my blog, to Luke.
Written in the year 2005, I believe, about my darling.
So very much he taught me.
Case Study # 3
(Note: because readers may not be familiar with the lingo – the sweet and clever animal names Linda gave to her techniques, I will post some links at the bottom where you can learn more)
Luke is my own dog, a six year old neutered male Rhodesian Ridgeback. Luke has been a TTouch dog from puppyhood, but he does not appear to enjoy many of the lighter touches. Like many heavily muscled dogs he responds more favourably to deeper TTouches, especially Tiger TTouch. He also accepts Python Lifts and as he has grown older he is less fidgety about small light circles. Luke is also epileptic and his neurological condition means he will often act out somewhat explosively, with vocalizations although he has never shown an acceleration to biting he is a large Ridgeback and these outbursts can be frightening.I speculate too that his condition makes him more prone to sensory defensiveness, so he has very distinct physical preferences and at times seems to find contact almost unbearable. This has made him an interesting and sometimes challenging case study over the years.
Luke is also undersocialized which exacerbates his tendency to act out his uncertainty as vocalizing and threatening behaviour. As with Lila I will present a couple of different examples of effective use of TTouch in managing some of his behavioural and health issues.
The examples I present are:
1) Using the balance leash to address leash pulling
2) Using Tiger TTouches to re-direct excessive vocalization and guarding behaviour.
3) Use of a full body wrap to increase confidence with small dogs
4) Using various TTouches to work through post-ictal behaviour with an epileptic dog
Example One: Balance leash
Dates: Approximately between Fall 1999 and spring 2000
Place: various places
One of my first challenges with Luke was his great physical strength and determination in leash pulling. He was always resistant to the leash, right from puppyhood when he would grab it between his teeth and merrily attempt to lead ME. By the time he was a full grown, 115 lb. dog, it had become a problem to say the least. Although Ridgebacks are classified as both scent and sight hounds, Luke has a strong inclination to scenting and tracking and so this was a biological imperative we were working with. When I started using the balance leash, I found that we could redirect his attention and clarify our messages so that over a few weeks of practise, Luke’s pulling issues diminished and eventually (after adding the use of a clicker system) disappeared altogether. Here is how I used the balance leash to minimize pulling:
After attaching the leash to his soft martingale collar, I would loop it around his chest to form a sort of rein where I could exert gentle pressure on his chest as opposed to using his neck as a contact point. With two points of contact I could use one and then immediately following that, the other end of the leash to make a noticeable but not overly firm “pull and release” First one, then the other, while also giving the verbal instruction “Wait”…This would therefore offer three reinforcing instructions – 1) the the fact of my stopping forward movement and coming to a stop 2) the pull and release on two consecutive ends of the balance leash and 3) the verbal instruction.
Initially this was not enough to redirect Luke who was at that time, eighteen months old,still intact,and highly distractable. Once I began to introduce the use of a food reward he became extremely motivated to pay attention and I would practise at home, three, four times per day in short periods (no more than fifteen minutes because his attention span was short at that time). Over about a two week period I began to be able to phase out the food rewards or offer sporadically. After a few more weeks the leash pulling was reduced to specific instances such as when we would first arrive at a new location and he needed to smell around for a minute to orient himself. I learned also to allow him to engage in this sniffing on a loose leash so as not to be competing with the biological imperative; after he had taken a look around so to speak I would then use the balance leash to remind him it was time to connect with what I am doing,and that method has served us well over the course of his life.
Using Tiger TTouch to redirect guarding behaviour
Date: Autumn 2001
Place: home of my sister in law
Ridgebacks are dogs with highly developed guarding instincts; protective is a word often used to describe the breed, which was developed to track large game in Africa as well as guard the homesteads. It’s extremely important that pups be well socialized as youngsters or this instinct can become excessive, as was the case with Luke. At the age of three, I found he had developed a tendency to behave with unnecessary force, barring people from entering my home even when I had instructed him that I was accepting the visitor.
In the fall of 2001, I had occasion to spend two months staying at the home of friends, and Luke quickly decided this was now his home and he would not allow them to enter. Needless to say this behaviour was frustrating; he was unresponsive to clicker work, voice commands or distraction with food. Whenever the owners of the household arrived Luke would leap to his feet and stand at the door they were attempting to enter, bellowing a ferocious warning and using other classic canine body signals of territorial defense. The fact he knew these individuals well appeared irrelevant. For several weeks my only “solution” was to lock him in a room when my host and hostess arrived home.
One evening quite by accident I discovered that Luke “listens” more responsively to my hands than he does to my voice. While he was standing at the door baying, I came up behind him and used a firm grasp on both haunches, to catch his attention. he stopped bellowing and turned to look at me. Immediately I began using a Tiger TTouch of about a level four – fairly firm TTouch – and he completely relaxed. I continued the session for about five minutes, focusing on his deeply muscled hind end and lower back – and subsequently used this approach when anyone arrived at the door. It has now become my method of conveying to Luke that his protective services are no longer required. Another example of incorporating TTouch into daily life in a way that gently and effectively helps deal with a behaviour issue.
Example Three: Using a Body Wrap to address confidence issues
Date: April 2000
Place: Rupert Facility
This was an observation made at a two day seminar I attended in the spring of 2000. Luke was at that time about a year and a half and still intact, but his hormones had not kicked in and his manner at that time was very mild and unassuming, especially in contrast to later behavioural developments. On the second afternoon he began to grow agitated and restless and particularly distressed by the presence of any smallish dogs who approached him from behind. At one point a small terrier type dog came up behind him and Luke swung around abruptly and issued a serious warning, all signals indicating an automated fearful response. At that time I suggested to my partner (Eddy Beltran) that we try a full body wrap, to increase Luke’s awareness of his hind end boundaries and perhaps feel less vulnerable.
The wrap employed started around the chest and fastened over his back; then a second bandage was added which looped firmly (but not tightly) around his hind end, underneath the tail. Within a matter of a minute or two Luke visibly relaxed and lowered his tail, softened his gaze and pinned his ears back in a manner characteristic of Ridgebacks expressing affection. The change in his tension level was dramatic and immediate. For the remainder of the day Luke seemed calm and self contained. We left the wrap on for about fifteen minutes but the effects were lingering.
I have since used the whole-body wrap as a standard part of my repertoire with Luke, whenever a potentially stressful experience is expected.
Example Four: Using various TTouches to address post-ictal agitation in an epileptic dog
In January of 2002 Luke experienced his first seizure, and after a few weeks of veterinary investigation ruling out all other possible causes, a diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy was made. Between January 2002 and October 2003 the frequency of his seizures intensified until there was no alternative but to medicate him. In the year since October 2003 Luke has experienced only two mild seizures and both during times of stress. Prior to the medication we could have anywhere from one every six weeks to, at the end, one or two per week. Intensity varied from mild to severe and length from brief (under one minute) to dangerously lengthy (eight minutes). Particularly after a grand mal and also toward the end of this time period when seizure activity was more frequent, Luke would experience many of the classic post-ictal symptoms, including pacing, anxiety, agitation,ataxia, loss of balance and on two occasions, transient blindness. Needless to say these periods, which can range from thirty minutes to several hours, were challenging and required ingenuity and persistence on my part to discover which techniques would prove most effective at relieving the intensity of these symptoms as well as shortening their duration. I used a variety of methods including nutritional supplements and Bach Flower Remedies, but TTouch made a consistently helpful contribution to the therapy.
Here are the main methods I have used to date with this issue:
1) Tiger TTouches, of a firm level, say four or even five; these TTouches are enjoyable to Luke and can help him focus his attention outside himself for a minute, so it breaks his agitation pattern. I use them fairly quickly when he is agitated but make slower circles when he seems calm, following the logic that it’s best to adapt speed to the dog’s general arousal level.
2) Lying Leopards – again I would go to no lower than a pressure three, because of Luke’s tendency to be annoyed by faint pressures. I use Lying leopard especially on haunch, side and chest as Luke finds legwork and anything near his paws agitating.
3) Abalones and Python lifts – once Luke has settled I always spend several minutes with these very calming and connecting TTouches, which appear to communicate a sense of security to him. If I am helping him relax into sleep I start with a level five and move down a little at a time into a level Two, so my removal of my hand is not too jolting.
4) Wands – On those occasions when Luke has needed to go outside immediately after a seizure, he often becomes disoriented and will begin shaking. At these times I have found that using a wand with a soft fleece wrapped around the end can be used to gently follow the line of his legs down to the ground and help connect him to a sense of stability. He dislikes any type of wrap when post-ictal but accepts the use of the wand and appears to become more grounded and centerd a a result of it..
5) Ear Work – although Luke usually is quite fussy about his ears and head, when he becomes disoriented after a seizure I find him more accepting and the ear work is indispensable. I use the pressure point at the tip of the ear, and apply a steady firm pressure of perhaps a three level. I will use the Triple Heater and perform long strokes down the ear flap, using both sides firmly (Pressure two or three) as long as he accepts it. If he will tolerate a few minutes of ear work I continue doing it as it is very effective for bringing his confusion down. If however he seems intolerant of this or any other TTouches I simply change the pressure or move to a different part of the body altogether.
In summary, these are the basic TTouches I use in helping Luke regain a sense of security and balance after a seizure.
If I can sneak in a few quick Raccoons around his lower legs and feet I feel they assist in reminding the body where the connection to solid ground is, but I refrain from this if he appears upset by it and pulls his paw away quickly. In combination with tryptophan and specific carbohydrates (usually, milk, sometimes ice cream) I’ve been able to shorten the time and intensity of these symptoms and allow him to fall into the lengthy sleep that follows as the final stage of recovery.
In conclusion overall, through the past six years with Luke I’ve relied on Ttouch in several situations and found it an incredibly helpful tool behaviourally, physically and emotionally.
Main Site — http://www.ttouch.com/
The Basic Method — http://www.ttouch.com/howtodoTTouch.shtml
A few more types of TTouches —- http://www.ttouch.com/examplesTTouch.shtml