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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thoughtful walking

From my TTouch notes:  "thoughtful walking"
TTouch has shown me a way of teaching my dog to walk with me that is so different from the way most classes and trainers teach it.  It is about connection and balance.  It is about self-discovery for both the dog and the person holding the leash.  The leash becomes a communication tool, not just a way to control your dog.

When teaching my own dogs, they learn about communication and a light leash from the beginning.  Not everyone teaches their dog in this way, however, and a large strong dog can easily pull me off my feet.  When working with large dogs that have learned to pull on leash, it was difficult to try to maintain control while teaching them to walk lightly on a leash. 
With TTouch, I have tools not only to keep myself safe while keeping the dog under control, but now I also have tools to teach the dog’s person to allow walking to become a nice experience for the dog and the person.  These same tools also help to educate the dog about walking on a loose leash and in balance with the handler.

Those two words - "thoughtful walking" - tell so much about the big picture of walking with our dogs.  TTouch teaches us to be mindful of our own bodies and to walk with awareness and connectedness.  Are our bodies tight and clenched?  Or are they loose, aware, and balanced?  Which one feels better?  Are we feeling and connecting to the ground with each step?  Or are we just hurrying through life to get from one place to another?  Do we remember to breathe deeply to nourish our bodies and souls?
From the dog's end of the leash, is the dog pulling and rushing to get where she wants to go?  Towing you along behind her perhaps?  Is she aware of her body?  Is she in balance?  If she is in balance physically, she can be in balance mentally and emotionally as well.  She is able to be thoughtful.  Thoughtful about her body means that she is not pulling and she is in balance when she walks and when she stops.  Thoughtful about you means that she is paying attention and is coming with you by her own decision, not because you are forcing her.

"Thoughtful walking" -
What a wonderful image these two words leave in my head and in my heart.  An image of connection, of oneness, of being in the moment, of lightness, and of awareness.  Awareness of each other, of the process of walking, of the body and how it moves, of the environment, and that we are part of the bigger picture.  This phrase will now forever be part of my vocabulary as I continue teaching people and dogs how to connect with each other.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hold the Possibility

From my TTouch notes:  Hold the Possibility for Change
Wow, such a huge concept!  Often when we're focused on creating change in our dog's behavior, we become hyper-focused on what we don't want them to do.  Thoughts and expectations have a unique vibration all their own.  When these thoughts focus on things we don't want our dogs to do, they carry a different vibration than if we think about things we DO want our dogs to do instead. 
Dogs are very good at recognizing differences in vibrations around them.  The vibrations we put out in our thoughts affect our dogs and their behavior.  Have you ever noticed when you are frustrated or frazzled that your dog becomes more anxious or agitated?  What about when you are calm and relaxed?  Does your dog then become more relaxed also? 
So, if you think about what you don't want your dog to do, she is likely to pick up the vibrations that focus on the unwanted behavior.  This can lead to her doing the unwanted behavior even more.  Instead, create thoughts about how you DO want your dog to behave in certain situations.  See a video of your dog acting the way you want her to act.  Play that video in your mind.  As you watch it in your  mind's eye, feel the emotions of happiness and pride that you will feel when your dog acts in the way you want her to. These feelings and thoughts will create a new and different vibration which your dog will respond to.
Focusing on what you DO want your dog to do, also changes your perception of your dog's behavior.  This will open your heart and mind to the possibility that her behavior can change. 
Be careful, however, as you create this new video in your mind.  If you become too focused on and intent upon the outcome, you can create vibrations that put pressure on your dog.  Some dogs don't respond well when they feel pressured, just like some people.  Keep your mind open to see how your dog responds.  Don't try to force her to respond with your thoughts or your body language.  This also puts pressure on your dog.
Keeping your mind and heart open allows you to be more observant and responsive to what your dog is telling you.  If you are too intently focused on the outcome, you may miss what your dog is communicating with you along the way.  Change is a journey on both ends of the partnership between you and your dog. 
Change can come in an instant, or it can be a gradual process.  Be open to that process.  What does your dog need along the journey of change?  By opening your heart and your mind, you can respond easily to what your dog is showing you. 
Be excited about, and hold the possibility for change!  

Saturday, June 8, 2013


There are many TTouch tools that we can use to help our animal friends find their balance physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Notice I am using a harness with Treasure and a double-ended leash.  After our week of TTouch last fall, I introduced Treasure to the harness and double leash.  With it, I am able to give Treasure more information about where I'm going.  She can get a better sense of my speed and turns by me giving leash signals through the double-ended leash and using two points of contact. 
TTouch emphasizes lightness in our cues.  Notice my hands are open on the leash and I give the leash cues with my fingers and just a small amount of awareness on the leash.  Yes, Treasure is a small dog and does not pull on the leash, but this lightness also works well with larger dogs and dogs that pull on a leash. 
The labyrinth (the white maze made out of pipes) helps me to be more aware when walking with Treasure to keep her and myself in balance as we walk, turn and stop.  You can see me using a few TTouches on Treasure's body when we stop and she is standing in balance. 
Surfaces are an important part in boosting a dog's confidence. If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I've been working very hard with Treasure to get her to transition from one surface to another.  This has been a scary thing for her.  She doesn't understand when the surface suddenly changes under her feet.  She can't see the change in surface coming, so she has no way to prepare herself for it.
I was fairly confident she would walk on the board, since this was one of her tricks we worked on for her trick dog title.  I was not as sure that she would walk on the spongey mat and the white gate.  But she did so well!  I'm very proud of her! 

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Week of TTouch

Treasure listening during lectures

Treasure and I recently returned from a week-long Tellington TTouch workshop.  TTouch provides new ways of living with, communicating with, and teaching animals based upon trust.  We saw some amazing transformations in the animals and people this past week.  Long-standing behavior and emotional patterns were changed with no force or intimidation.  Animals learned to trust.  People learned understanding on new levels.

Treasure riding the luggage cart at the hotel

Treasure playing with toys in the hotel room
 Treasure and I made some wonderful new friends this past week and renewed some previous friendships.  While we were away, we celebrated International Sheltie Day with our roommate and her sheltie.  They both enjoyed sharing our chicken dinner and finishing it off with Frosty Paws!  We found a wonderful little shop called Bark!  Treasure enjoys spending her Mom's money, so we left with bags of new tasty treats to try! 
Mickey and Treasure celebrate Sheltie Day! 
Over the next many weeks, I hope to do some writing about what Treasure and I learned at our workshop.  It was a very special experience to learn from Linda Tellington-Jones herself (the originator of the Tellington TTouch method).  I look forward to learning from her again one day soon!