The Tellington Touch

Tellington Touch
Application of a TTouch technique on a dog’s head

Many of you have heard of the Tellington Touch (or the TTouch) being touted for assisting in training dogs, calming dogs, positively altering their unwanted behaviors, and ultimately improving their emotional and physical health. In Toni Shelbourne’s book, The Truth About Wolves and Dogs, Shelbourne says that she comes across many pet owners who have been advised to use punishment, harsh or inappropriate equipment, or other unsuitable methods to train their dogs or to eradicate unwanted behaviors.

While these methods may work immediately to stop the unwanted behavior, Shelbourne notes that the negative behavior will recur again at a later date. She advises that training that is proper and loving (such as TTouch) may take longer, but will be more effective and longer-lasting. While not many clinical trials have been conducted on this method to determine its effectiveness and ability to alter unwanted behaviors, this method has become quite popular in the U.K. and, more recently, in the U.S. for dogs.

What Is Tellington Touch (TTouch)?

TTouch for dogs includes specific types of touches and wraps that owners can apply to their dogs. This method was originated by Linda Tellington-Jones, who combined her wide-ranging knowledge of animals with the Feldenkrais Method (a somatic education system for humans). To watch a video of TTouch practitioners in action click here.

TTouch is broken down into two different categories: body work and ground work. The body work includes specific touches applied by the owner to the dog and body wraps. The body wraps aim to increase the dog’s consciousness and understanding of its body, as well as increase confidence in behavior and movement, while the touches are used to determine tension spots on the dog’s body, as well as relax the dog.

Tellington Touch wrap on a sheltie
Here is a sheltie with a caudal TTouch wrap

The ground work aspect of the TTouch method involves physical exercises, focusing on physically balancing the dog to increase self-control. Often, obstacle courses, which are also referred to as “confidence courses”, are created to specifically focus on building a dog’s confidence and coordination. Balance and focus are challenged with various obstacles that essentially require the dog to perform movements that are non-habitual; therefore they are encouraged to try different types of movements.

Dog Training – Puppies and Guide Dogs

TTouch has been incorporated into many puppy training and even guide dog training classes. In Integrating the Tellington TTouch Method into Guide Dog Training, the authors conclude that when this method is combined with traditional training for guide dogs, it not only helps the dogs learn their training better, it also assists in reducing stress that the dog might exhibit. Additionally, this method can also help owners to identify any potential problems and even prevent potential issues from occurring, consequently providing the owner and trainer a better understanding of the temperament and abilities of the particular dog.

Other Benefits of TTouch

In addition to the benefits already discussed, TTouch also provides a dog owner a delicate and loving way to build trust with their pet. Dogs enjoy being scratched and patted and touched, so what better way to increase trust but with loving, kind touch? This kind of touch creates a relationship that is harmonious between pet owner and dog, as opposed to scolding or punishing a dog. Beyond improving behavior, building confidence, reducing stress and establishing a bond, TTouch can also help to reduce pain and ultimately create emotional and physical balance for the dog.

TTouch for Sports and Agility Dogs

Dr. Farber talked about using TTouch for sports and agility dogs in her Sports Medicine for Dogs – Part 1: Prevention of Injury column. She says that her favorite way to start each session is to apply TTouch to the dog’s entire body, and that it gives competition dogs an advantage because it improves focus. She also notes that hyperactive dogs may be calmed with TTouch methods, but no matter what type of personality a dog has, the owner should be aware of how their touch is affecting the dog. Does he seem to be enjoying the massage? Is he moving away from the touch? Dr. Farber says that the key to successful outcomes with TTouch is to learn your dog by reading body language cues.

Some practitioners call the TTouch method “magical” because of the impact that it has on both the emotional and physical well-being of dogs. There are so many positive publications about Tellington Touch for dogs, and research has yet to turn up any negative conclusions about this method. Therefore, for dog owners who are interested in gaining a better understanding of their canine companion or increase their influence on the pet, TTouch may be worth a try.