Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More T-Touch and Impulse Control

With our newfound commitment to an ambitious self-improvement program, Fozzie and I were ready for our second T-Touch session last week. 

We went into Pam's bathroom to start out with, so she could work with Fozzie in a small space where there was not too much for him to sniff, explore, and distract himself with. 

As before, he spent the first 10 minutes or so doing everything he could to keep busy and avoid just "Being Here Now," as us hippies would say. Sniffing the toilet, the floor, the picture frame, the window, the door, the towel rack for God's sake, then whining, pacing, circling, wagging, and looking at us entreatingly. 

After a while, he finally just lay down. Pam then started narrating all the little releases she saw. Stomach gurgle-yay! Release! Burp--Yay! Sigh, yawn, lip lick, blink, flatulence--yay!

She began doing some cranio-sacral work on him, just holding the bones of his cranium as they shifted around slightly. His lips and nose began to twitch, and Pam told me when she felt his C2 vertebra release. 

And I thought, here's a dog who was hours away from being thrown away like so much trash, and now he has a T-Touch practitioner tuning in to his C2 vertebra and helping it release. Pretty cool. I wish every impulsive shelter dog awaiting rescue could get that kind of attention.  

Pam taught me a simple impulse control exercise. Sit in a chair with the dog sitting between your legs, facing away. Hold the dog's collar and just wait. 

The dog, depending on his impulsivity, will whine, struggle, paw, chew on your hands. Ignore it. Avoid eye contact and just take away any of your body parts that is being chewed upon. Eventually, the dog will lie down. Great. Keep holding the dog until he really relaxes, so when you let go he doesn't just bounce up. When you do let go, just calmly flow into getting up and doing whatever you were doing, without making a big fuss. It works like absolute magic and is a dream for any dog that is all over the place with energy and doesn't know what to do with him or herself. I tried it on Sandy the other night when she was bouncing around like a maniac, and she fell asleep, and then stayed asleep. 

After Fozzie spent some time getting in touch with himself in the bathroom, we went outside to do some groundwork. Groundwork is as integral to TTouch as is the bodywork component; it's the part where the dog gets to practice walking through obstacles, over novel surfaces, etc. so that he learns to pay attention to his body even when in stimulating outdoor environments. 

I'd brought Fozzie with his head halter and a body harness. Pam walked Fozzie through a PVC labyrinth and over some obstacles she created with boards, and showed me how to gently lead his head with me when he stares at a squirrel, tenses at a dog he sees in the distance, or otherwise starts to react. The main force of my pull is on his body harness; there is a gentle tug, but not a yank, on the head halter to make sure we don't injure that burly-looking-but-still-vulnerable neck.

She lifted his paws and rotated his legs as he stood on the board, to get him to loosen up those tense things as he inclined toward a squirrel.

I was glad that Pam got to see how impossible it is to get his attention back once he fixates on something. She was confident, though, that with regular practice of impulse control, TTouch to get him more grounded, and gentle work with the head halter, we will be able to get his attention at some point down the line.

Fozzie loves all the sweet attention he gets with Pam and I love learning so much about progressive, even revolutionary ways to interact with my powerful, distracted, sensitive, misunderstood friend.


  1. What does the C2 vertebra release do for the dog?

    This therapy you are doing looks very cool, how did Pam learn it?

    Will this eventually help with his reactivity?

    1. Not sure exactly what the C2 release does; but any release means the body is relaxing. Pam took a series of T-Touch workshops with Tellington TTouch, founded by Linda Tellington-Jones http://ttouch.com/. The things that's so exciting is that it does seem to have real effects on reactive dogs, helping them be more aware of their bodies, less fearful of new situations, more relaxed. We shall see!

  2. I'm excited to hear more about your experiences with T-touch. I attended a seminar at our local shelter when I volunteered there. We were encouraged to use basic T-touch massage when we spent time with dogs in their kennels. Though I'm no trained expert by a long shot, it did do wonders to relax them in the crazy kennel environment. I haven't really used it on my own dogs though and I know Sadie has some of the same issues as Fozzie - inability to pay attention to me on walks, especially when there are any squirrels, cats, other dogs, etc around. We're working on focus exercises but I'm thinking maybe I should incorporate pre-walk massage into our routine as well!

  3. Very cool! I am going to look into T-Touch. I see there's a few folks in NYC. Keep us updated on how its going! Izzy is very anxious and I think this could help her.

  4. That's great Kirsten. Fozzie is receiving some extra care and attention and he obviously loves it.

  5. I love "ignore." Previously, as I prepared meals, I would put everyone in their crate; after working on "my space" and "your space," only a couple dogs are crated; the rest hang out around me, knowing if I stop and turn, they need to back off. I don't see fights, I don't see counter surfing even as I hand out bowls away from the counter with a Coonhound standing there! and I am quiet; I signal with my hands and they get it :). So nice to be calm. Fozzie is indeed a blessed dog. I particularly like the labyrinth; what a great way to engage the mind and body...

  6. Just found you...look forward to learning more!! thank you. :)

  7. This is a most interesting therapy. I wonder if anyone does it here. I imagine humans would benefit hugely too from those releases :) I've had some cranial-sacral work done on myself with mixed results. Apparently some people respond better than others. It'll be great to follow Fozzie's progress.

    Thank you so much for dropping by to visit Georgia and for your well wishes! x

  8. Anything that helps Fozzie (and you) relax has to be good. Our hooman is really interested how this continues as she has been interested in T Touch for a while and heard so many good things about it.
    Pawscrossed all goes well.

    Big Nose Pokes
    The Thugletsx


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