How to use touch to calm your dog

On Saturday, Wolf Run dog Harvey and I attended a Tellington Touch or T Touch workshop run by Rachel Jackson, one of the most experienced T Touch practitioners in the UK.

Rachel explained that T Touch is particularly good for dogs (or any animal, for that matter) suffering from fear reactivity or sound sensitivity. It’s also a great way of bonding with your dog and getting your dog to be happy with being handled rather than just tolerating it.

T Touch Groundwork

Before I attended the workshop I was under the misapprehension that T Touch is all about the different contacts you make with the dog. Despite the slightly misleading title, a good part of T Touch is something called groundwork where you don’t actually touch the dog at all. Many dogs are too touch shy to begin with any hands on work so the groundwork is all about observing how the dog moves and it’s behaviour.

We were told to become “dog detectives”, looking out for how they moved, their balance and posture as well as their behaviour i.e. were they happy, confident and curious enough to interact with the equipment.

Rachel laid out some props on the floor – think enriched environment meets an obstacle course – and the dogs chose what they’d like to interact with. Particularly popular was the ball pit, the snuffle mat and the slow feeder, all of which contained treats, surprisingly enough.

How dogs interact with touch

In the afternoon we had a go at doing some T Touches which, Rachel explained, are very light movements of the skin. We applied the kind of pressure you would use to move the skin on your own eyelid. Take it from me, the touch is incredibly light.

Throughout the workshop Rachel emphasised that none of this was ever about forcing the dog to be touched. If the dog will only tolerate one T Touch before walking off, that’s still a great starting point to build upon.

Now I’m home I’m trying out the various T Touches on the Wolf Run dogs, Sasha and Harvey. They seem quite accepting of it.

Longer term it will be interesting to see if any of the other hoped for benefits manifest. I’ll keep you posted.

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