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1. Top 10 Canine Commandments
2. The Rule of Sevens
3. Leadership Basics - Suzanne Clothier
4. The Dominance Myth - Morgan Spector
5. Calming Signals - Turid Rugaas
6. Aggression & some reasons behind it - Suzanne Clothier
7. Punishment from Dogs - Suzanne Clothier
8. TTouch™ for dogs - Eugenie Chopin
Top 10 Canine Commandments
1. My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years - any separation from you will be very painful.
2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.
3. Place your trust in me - it is crucial for my well being.
4. Don't be angry with me for long and don't lock me up as punishment...You have your
work, your friends, your entertainment...
I HAVE ONLY YOU!
5. Talk to me. Even if I don't understand your words, I understand your voice when you're
speaking to me.
6. Be aware that however you treat me, I'll NEVER forget it.
7. Before you hit me, remember that I have teeth that could easily crush the bones in your
hands but I choose NOT to bite YOU.
8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be
bothering me. Perhaps I'm not getting the right food, I've been out in the sun too long
or my heart may be getting old and weak.
9. Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old.
10. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say, "I can't bear to watch it" or "Let it happen
in my absence." Everything is easier for ME if you are there.
Remember that I love you!
The Rule of Sevens
By the time a puppy is seven weeks old he/she should have:
• Been on 7 different types of surfaces: carpet, concrete, wood, vinyl, grass, dirt, gravel,
• Played with 7 different types of objects: big balls, small balls, soft fabric toys, fuzzy
toys, squeaky toys, paper of cardboard items, metal items, sticks or hose pieces
• Been in 7 different locations: front yard, back yard, basement, kitchen, car, garage,
laundry room, bathroom
• Met and played with 7 new people: include children and older adults, someone walking
with a cane or stick, someone in a wheelchair or walker
• Been exposed to 7 challenges: climb on a box, climb off a box, go through a tunnel,
climb steps, go down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide and seek, in and out of a
doorway with a step up or down, run around a fence
• Eaten from 7 different containers; metal, plastic, cardboard, paper, china, pie plate,
• Eaten in 7 different locations: crate, yard, kitchen, basement, laundry room, living
That was almost too easy!
- Suzanne Clothier
There are three basic aspects to leadership:
- Control of or undisputed access to resources
- Proactive intervention
- Ability to control, direct or inhibit the behavior of others
Behaving like a leader means that you must demonstrate - to the dog's satisfaction! - that your behavior is that of a higher status animal. Each dog will have different criteria for what constitutes adequate leadership skills on your part. And his expectations may change considerably as he grows & matures, requiring that you also make shifts in your approach.
Directing, Controlling & Inhibiting Behavior
From the dog's perspective, only someone they respect has the right to control, direct or inhibit another dog's behavior. Turned around the other way, this means that if you can't control, direct or inhibit your dog's behavior (especially at critical or highly exciting times), your dog is making it quite clear that he does not consider you higher status - in other words, he doesn't respect you, a clear sign that your leadership is inadequate for that dog (though it may be quite adequate for another dog with a different personality.)
Your dog will grant you precisely the respect you have earned. No more, no less. And he will adjust that constantly. If you begin to act in sloppy ways, he'll downgrade the respect. Clean up your act, and he'll respond accordingly. You are not voted leader for life in the world of dogs - you earn the dog's respect daily. The more intelligent, confident and ambitious the dog, the more likely he is to quickly notice tiny shifts in your behavior on any given day, and to test you and the rules regularly. This is why when changes occur in our lives, which result in changes in our behavior (as simple as being rushed for time to moving, changing jobs, or other bigger life shifts) prompt new behavior from the dog - he's testing to see what the changes mean for him.
Basic training is important to help the dog understand that you can control and direct his behavior, something you will also be teaching him through your resource control actions. But you must earn the respect and the right to control the dog's behavior. If you do not have control of the dog in non-stressful times - like meals or playing ball or even walking (pulling?) down the street - I guarantee you he's not going to listen to you when something he thinks important happens (like a cat dashing across your path or a jogger going by or another dog appearing on the street, the person at the door, etc.)
Practice self-control with your dog frequently, as well as basic obedience in every place you can think of, and with you in every possible position. Act like a leader, earn the respect!
Good leaders are watchful, protective and quick to act to defend. When you are with your dog, really be with him, and watching his responses to the world around him. Plan ahead how you will handle situations you know may be troublesome. Be someone he can rely on no matter what. If it helps, think of him as a guest at a party or family gathering who is unsure of what may be the polite or appropriate thing to say or do. If you were helping such a guest, how would you do this? By paying close attention, anticipating situations where help may be needed, and avoiding those situations that he couldn't handle.
How do you know if your leadership is adequate for any given dog?
• If you can control or have access to ANY resource without the dog challenging your right
to it AND
• The dog allows you to control, direct or inhibit his behavior in highly exciting or critical
moments (quiet times with just you & the dog do NOT count; controlling the dog when a
cat dashes past or someone knocks on the door or when guests comes DO count) AND
• Your dog trusts that you will step in if necessary to protect him from other dogs or
people, and is willing to defer to you on these occasions.
If there are weak points in any of these areas, you may need to make some changes in your leadership style. One easy, non-confrontationnal way to gain your dog's respect is through resource control.
Regaining Resource Control
What Matters To Your Dog? Make a written list of the top 5-10 resources for your dog. This may be food, treats, toys, attention, play, special resting places, walks, car rides, etc. Hopefully you are on the list! Don't waste your time or the dog's by trying to control resources that don't mean much to the dog.
What Can You Ask From Your Dog? Make a list of EVERY behavior your dog knows - whether formal commands or tricks. From this list, you will draw your "request" of one or more behaviors which must be completed promptly, on one quiet command and executed exactly before you will provide the resource. For access to any resource, insist that your dog "give" you something before you provide the resource.
A sit or down is a basic starting point; however, as the dog's skills allow, make the dog work harder. Put 2 or 3 behaviors together; do not be predictable! Too many folks stay with a simple sit or down, never progressing to much more demanding requests as the dog's skills allow. Remember how your mom got all excited when you were finally able to write your name? Well, it's good to remember that these days folks take that for granted and expect much more from you. Asking a truly intelligent dog to merely sit is like asking Bill Gates for $100 - it's not exactly requiring him to give something meaningful.
Making the request meaningful relative to the dog's skills will sharpen him up - he must really concentrate and pay attention to you. Ask for any and all skills the dog has, and all the tricks he knows, and mix them up in an unexpected order.
The goal is the dog's complete attentive cooperation, not a habituated response that requires no thought from the dog.
No Grading on the Curve
Set your baseline for acceptable responses and hold tight. If you want the dog to sit within 2 seconds, then accept NO responses that are slower. Being consistent is an important part of leadership. Smart dogs will push you hard to see if you'll accept less or slower responses - that's what got you both into this situation in the first place!
Be relentless. Your dog views you as his leader 24 hours a day. He cannot and will not understand your annoying boss, your in-law problems or your IRS woes as the reasons for your inconsistency. He believes what you say - every time!
If the dog offers a wrong or slow response, you can repeat the command, try again, or even gently remind/help him, you can offer verbal praise & encouragement BUT do not provide the desired resource till he gets it absolutely right. If the dog blows you off, quietly turn away and make the resource unavailable. This may mean putting the food bowl in the refrigerator and walking away for a few minutes before nicely asking again. It may mean walking away from the door you would have opened if the dog had played by the rules. It may mean ending the game of fetch. Try again in a few minutes to see if the dog is more willing to cooperate, but be sure YOU are the one who chooses to start again, not the dog pushing you to it.
No need to be harsh, angry or confrontational. Simply draw a direct line from the dog's behavior to the consequence - "if you do this, this happens." For example, you ask the dog to lie down before throwing his ball, and he refuses. Oh well - game is over; you pocket the ball and walk away for a bit (maybe just 5-15 seconds; maybe much longer; all depends on the situation and the dog's behavior.) Take home message for the dog: "If you do not cooperate, I don't play."
Earn Your Oscar!
When necessary, be dramatic in your responses - acting shocked or deeply disappointed with the wrong response from the dog, sweetly encouraging if he's almost right, and dramatic in your withdrawal should he really blow it. Often, handlers offer such "mushy" information that the dog has a hard time telling the difference between what's right and what's wrong. Harsh or angry is not necessary; but clearly delighted or disappointed can help the dog figure things out.
Educate The Dog
The more your dog knows, the more ways he has to cooperate with you. Polish up his current skills, and keep adding new ones; more & more tricks, for example, gives your dog more ways to be right and earn what he wants. Training is communication, and communication is critical to healthy relationships. Besides, it's just plain fun!
The Dominance Myth
- Morgan Spector
Reprinted from Forward - a newsletter for Obedience Trainers - February 2002
This is a paper that I presented at the Tufts Animal Expo 2001 in Boston. It's a bit on the academic side, but that's the audience I was writing for. In my talk, I focused on a simple if perhaps unpopular idea: people are not dogs. We don't sniff crotches, lift our legs in the house, or snack out of the kitty litter box. And not only that, while people may sometimes be confused on the subject, I think dogs know that we are not dogs and that they are not people. Nonetheless, dogs do adapt to human society very well, and humans have learned to put dogs to good use in our daily lives.
Having an understanding of how dogs communicate is a good thing. Understanding calming signals, for example, lets us read signals that dogs send to us and respond in kind. This is a social lubricant and a bridge-builder, and that's a good thing. It's rare that any two species find ways to communicate. (Heck, it's rare to find true communication within a species; what is the old saying about England and America? Two countries divided by a common language.)
It is one thing to take benign forms of communication and work with them. It's quite another to take forms that we interpret as physical "discipline" or punishment and work with those. There we are in deep waters, indeed. When one dog seems to grab another and pin it, we don't really know that the "top dog" is doing, or how hard. So if we try to replicate that in some fashion we can easily overdo and misuse it.
But there is more, and here is where we are prisoners of inadequate language. I distinguish between "dominance: (a more or less benign form of intraspecific - ie. Within members of a single species - aggression) and "aggression" (non-benign interspecific aggression). The difference between the two, essentially, is that intraspecific aggression ("dominance") has as its ultimate end the well-being and even the survival of the species in question by guaranteeing that the members of the species best fitted for survival control the prime resources available to the species: on the other hand, interspecific aggression is a competition for resources between species, and the survival of one or the other species is usually at stake.
Now, dogs don't comprehend this intellectually, but I am certain that they do instinctively. If people are not dogs, then when people act violently toward dogs, I think that to the dog this does not replicate what one dog does to another, but what an enemy species (i.e., a predator) does. And although the day-to-day interaction between dogs and humans may minimize the damage, the inescapable fact is that the antagonistic overtones of the actions must inevitably poison the relationship.
And the bottom line is, we don't need it. That's what a vision of training as partnership is all about.
This is the underlying rationale for what has come to be known as "dominance" theory: Dogs see themselves as living in a pack with humans, therefore humans have to emulate pack behavior and, specifically, assume the Alpha position within the pack. Ironically, although the direct analogy to wolves was new, the notion of dogs and humans forming a pack in which humans must reign supreme was not. Most articulated the same theory in 1910. He wrote:
"In a pack of young dogs fierce fights take place to decided how they are to rank within the pack. And in a pack composed of men and dogs, canine competition for importance in the eyes of the trainer is keen… As in a pack of dogs, the order of hierarchy in a man and dog combination can only be established by physical force, that is by an actual struggle, in which the man is instantly victorious. Such a result can only be brought about by convincing the dog of the absolute physical superiority of the man. Otherwise the dog will lead and the man follow. If a dog shows the slightest sign of rebellion against his trainer or leader, the physical superiority of the man as leader of the pack must be given instant expression in the most unmistakable manner." (Most, p. 35, emphasis added).
Based on the notion that dogs and humans form a uniary pack in which humans must rule, "dominance" becomes the central issue in the relationship between human and canine. This "dominance paradigm" may be said to underlie all approaches to training rooted in the use of force to compel obedience. Disobedience is not merely a failure to perform a behavior when called upon to do so, but incipient rebellion against the Alpha. As Most put it:
"Should a dog rebel against his trainer, instant resort to severe compulsion is essential…. For, each time the dog finds that he is not instantly mastered, the canine competitive instinct will increase and his submissive instinct will weaken. One of the objects of training, however, is to inculcate the reverse condition. (Most, pp. 35-36)
There are several fallacies in this paradigm although there is a kernel of truth within it. The kernel of truth is that dogs must live appropriately within human society, both in the home and in the world at large, and that humans are responsible for teaching dogs how to do so through training. But there is no need for a theory of "dominance" to explain the need for this training. And seeing the purpose of training as achieving "dominance" sets up an approach to training that all too easily becomes unduly harsh and punishing. As noted, punitive methods are justified by the logic of the "pack" approach.
Dominance As A Product of Intraspecific Aggression
It is important to understand what "dominance" represents in the natural order. Lindsay explains that dominance is a product of a certain type of aggression occurring within members of the same species (or, intraspecific aggression).
"In general intraspecific aggression provides a countervailing and distance-increasing function over place and social attachment processes but without breaking down affiliative contact altogether. As such, ritualized intraspecific aggression imposes social order (e.g., the formation of a dominance hierarchy) and territorial limits on the interaction between individuals belonging to the same species." (Lindsay, p. 167)
Lindsay distinguishes intraspecific from interspecific aggression, pointing out that" "Interspecific aggression refers to aggressive behavior directed against another species and includes both offensive and defensive elements. Although intraspecific aggressions most often associated with competition between closely socialized animals belonging to the same species, interspecific aggression is most frequently associated with self-protective goals, as, for example, occur when a prey animal defends itself against the attach of a predator. The dog's relationship with humans is complex in this regard, with both competitive and self-protective aggression being exhibited under different situations." (Ibid)
We can understand the fallacies of the dominance paradigm if we first understand that "dominance" is really a set of behaviors that can be identified and therefore can be modified. And in almost all cases this set of behaviors exists within a larger range of social behaviors available to and exhibited by the dog within the context of social relationships within which the dogs functions.
We should also recognize that nobody really knows what is meant by the word "dominate". "Dominance" has become a catch-phrase to cover a wide range of behaviours and so-called "attitudes," many of which can be best explained or understood without an reference to "dominance." We have much the same problems with terms such as "Aggression" and "submission." The problem is exemplified by the evolution of phrases such as "submissive aggression" that almost defy explanation.
Seen from this perspective, the first major fallacy in the "dominance paradigm" is to regard the dog-inclusive family as a canine "pack". The second major fallacy is to classify a given dog as "dominate." Related to this is the third major fallacy, seeing "dominance" as though it were a psychological disorder or condition rather than a set of behaviours exhibited by the dog in response to the situation in which he lives.
Alternatives To Training Based On "Dominance"
There is an alternative to the "dominance" paradigm. This alternative rests on several perceptions, some of which are at least implicit in what has been set out above.
Dogs Are Not Humans
First, humans are not dogs and dogs are not humans. We cannot interact with dogs as though we were dogs. Our interactions are interspecific, and in our interactions we must respect the realities that distinguish humans and dogs.
Dogs are social and interactive creatures. Dogs are much better at lubrication their interactions with other dogs that humans are at lubricating interactions with other humans. It is the human lack of sensitivity to social signals that underlies much of our misunderstanding of what canine social behavior is about. For example, if two dogs meet one another and one averts its eyes, this is "good manners" - a canine calming signal that will help avoid any clash between the dogs. If two humans meet one another and one averts his eyes, it suggests shiftiness or a lack of openness. If a human meets a dog and the dog turns its head, the human may try to get the dog to look him right in the eyes. To the human this is friendly. To the dog, it is antagonistic.
We Will Interact Best If We Focus On Behaviour And Not On "Attitude"
Second, we will do best if we understand that what concerns us is the behavior that the dog produces at any given time. There may be some value in trying to determine the source of that behavior, but such analysis is often speculative and therefore may not be of much use in figuring out how to modify the behavior in questions. For example, one may diagnose a certain type of behavior as "predatory," but having done so we have not necessarily clarified our options (although the fact that a given dog consistently manifests predatory behavior may affect our assessment of whether the dog can continue to live in a given family environment.
The Model for Intraspecific Interaction is Symbiosis not Dominance
Webster's New Dictionary defines "symbiosis" as "the intimate living together of two kinds of organisms, especially if such association is of mutual advantage." Although in some ways inexact, this describes a more appropriate paradigm for the relationship between dogs and humans. There is mutual practical advantage in the relationship between dogs and humans. Dogs have their survival needs met; humans can get useful work from dogs. This useful work may consist of actual productive labour (e.g., herding or guarding livestock, hunting, or search and rescue) or it may consist of the general psychological and emotional benefits dogs can confer on humans simply by their presences.
Our training should be based on that mutual benefit. Good training affects a "training bargain" in which the human says to the dog, "You give me what I want, and I'll give you what you want." The dog, in turn, learns to "say" the same thing to the humans. This creates a mutually beneficial partnership in which "dominances" is essentially irrelevant.
Operant conditioning embodies this symbiotic "partnership" approach. Positive reinforcement is the means for giving the dog what the dog wants, which is turn makes clear to the dog what the human wants by way of the behavior. "Dominance" is not an issue. I am an operant trainer; it is essentially irrelevant to me whether the dog thinks he is "driving" me by using his actions to cause me to click. In fact, in many ways I am perfectly happy that the dog should think so, because that dog has become strongly engaged in the training "game" that we play.
This approach is not only beneficial to the professional or competitive training but to the average pet owner as well. In this writer's experience, most pet owners do not want to be in conflict with their dogs and they resist harsh training methods. Koehler viewed such people with contempt (see, e.g.: Koehler, pp 18-19). But in fact it is possible to achieve everything that a trainer wants to achieve, regardless of the type of training involved, through operant conditioning and positive reinforcement. It is not necessary to "dominate" the dog: it is essential to enlist the dog in a cooperative working relationship.
Raymond and Lorna Coppinger
Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution
Dr. Ian Dunbar
Dog Behavior: Why Dogs Do What they Do
TFH Publications, 1979
Adam's Task: Calling Animals By Name
Harper Perennial 1982
The Koehler Method of Dog Training
Howell Book Publishing, 1962
Monks of New Skete
How to Be Your Dogs' Best Friend
Little Brown, 1978
Col. Konrad Most
Training Dogs: A Manual
Popular Dogs Publishing Co. Ltd. 1954; Reprinted by Dogwise Publishers, 2001
Calming Signals - The Art of Survival
- Turid Rugaas
For species who live in packs it's important to be able to communicate with its own kind. Both in order to cooperate when they hunt, to bring up their offspring, and perhaps most importantly: to live in peace with each other. Conflicts are dangerous - they cause physical injuries and a weakened pack, which is something that no pack can afford - it will cause them to go extinct.
Dogs live in a world of sensory input: visual, olfactory, auditory perceptions. They easily perceive tiny details - a quick signal, a slight change in another's behaviour, the expression in our eyes É Pack animals are so perceptive to signals that a horse can be trained to follow the contraction in our pupils and a dog can be trained to answer your whispering voice. There's no need to shout commands, to make the tone of our voice deep and angry - what Karen Pryor refers to as swatting flies with a shovel.
The dogs have about 30 calming signals, perhaps even more. Some of these signals are used by most dogs, while other dogs have an incredibly rich ´vocabulary´. It varies from dog to dog.
Dogs use this communication system towards us humans, simply because it's the language they know and think everyone understands.
By failing to see your dog using calming signals on you, and perhaps even punish the dog for using them, you risk causing serious harm to your dog. Some may simply give up using the calming signals, including with other dogs. Others may get so desperate and frustrated that they get aggressive, nervous or stressed out as a result. Puppies and young dogs may actually go into a state of shock.
Dad calls Prince and has learned in class that he needs to sound strict and dominant so that Prince will understand who is in charge. Prince finds dad's voice to be aggressive, and being a dog he instantly give dad a calming signal in order to make him stop being aggressive.
Prince will perhaps lick his own nose, yawn, turn away - which will result in dad becoming angry for real, because dad perceives Prince as being pig-headed, stubborn and disobedient. Prince is punished for using his calming signals to calm dad. This is a typical example of something that happens on an everyday basis with many dog owners.
We need to learn to understand the language of dogs so that we can understand what our dogs are telling us. That is the secret of having a good life together.
How the dog is using the calming signals
The dog may yawn when someone bends over him, when you sound angry, when there's yelling and quarrelling in the family, when the dog is at the vet's office, when someone is walking directly at the dog, when the dog is excited with happiness and anticipation - for instance by the door when you are about to go for a walk, when you ask the dog to do something he doesn't feel like doing, when your training sessions are too long and the dog gets tired, when you have said NO for doing something you disapprove of, and in many other situations.
Threatening signals (to walk straight at, reach for the dog, bending over the dog, staring into the dog's eyes, fast movements, and so on) will always cause the dog to use a calming signal. There are about 30 different calming signals, so even when many dogs will yawn, other dogs may use another calming signal.
All dogs knows all the signals. When one dog yawns and turn his head to the side, the dog he is ´talking to´ may lick his nose and turn his back - or do something completely different.
The signals are international and universal. All dogs all over the worlds have the same language. A dog from Japan would be understood by an elkhound that lives in an isolated valley in Norway. They will have no communication problems!
Licking is another signal that is used often. Especially by black dogs, dogs with a lot of hair around their faces, and others who's facial expressions for some reasons are more difficult to see than those of dogs with lighter colours, visible eyes and long noses. But anyone can use licking, and all dogs understand it no matter how quick it is. The quick little lick on the nose is easier to see if you watch the dog from in front. It's best seen if you can find somewhere you can sit in peace and quiet and observe. Once you have learned to see the lick, you will also be able to see it while walking the dog.
Sometimes it's nothing more than a very quick lick, the tip of the tongue is barely visible outside the mouth, and only for a short second. But other dogs see it, understand it and respond to it. Any signal is always returned with a signal.
Turning away/turning of the head
The dog can turn its head slightly to one side, turn the head completely over to the side, or turn completely around so that the back and tail is facing whoever the dog is calming. This is one of the signals you may see most of the time in dogs.
When someone is approaching your dog from in front, he will turn away in one of these ways. When you seem angry, aggressive or threatening, you will also see one of these variations of the signal. When you bend over a dog to stroke him, he will turn his head away from you. When you make your training sessions too long or too difficult, he will turn his head away from you. When the dog is taken by surprise or take someone by surprise, he will turn away quickly. The same happens when someone is staring or acting in a threatening way.
In most cases, this signal will make the other dog calm down. It's a fantastic way in which to solve conflicts, and it's used a lot by all dogs, whether they are puppies or adults, high or low ranking, and so on. Allow your dog to use it! Dogs are experts at solving and avoiding conflicts - they know how to deal with conflicts.
Going down with front legs in a bowing position can be an invitation to play if the dog is moving legs from side to side in a playful manner. Just as often, the dog is standing still while bowing and is using the signal to calm someone down. These signals often have double meanings and may be used in many different ways - often the invitation to play is a calming signal by itself because the dog is making a potentially dangerous situation less tense and diverts with something safe.
Recently, in a puppy class with a mix of puppies, one of them was afraid of the others in the beginning. The others left him alone and respected his fear. In the end he would dare to approach the others. When he did, he went into a play bow as soon as one of the other dogs looked at him. It was an obvious combination of slight fear of the others, as well as wanting to take part in the playing.
When two dogs approach each other too abruptly, you will often see that they go into a play bow. This is one of the signals that are easy to see, especially because they remain standing in the bow position for a few seconds so that you have plenty of time to observe it.
Sniffing the ground
Sniffing the ground is a frequently used signal. In groups of puppies you will see it a lot, and also when you and your dog is out walking and someone is coming towards you, in places where there's a lot going on, in noisy places or when seeing objects that the dog isn't sure of what is and find intimidating.
Sniffing the ground may be anything from moving the nose swiftly down toward the ground and back up again - to sticking the nose to the ground and sniff persistently for several minutes.
Is someone approaching you on the pavement? Take a look at your dog. Did he drop the nose down toward the ground, even slightly? Did he turn his side to the one approaching and sniff the side of the road?
Of course, dogs sniff a lot, also in order to ´read the paper´ and enjoy themselves. Dogs are pre-programmed to use their noses and it's their favourite activity. However, sometimes it's calming - it depends on the situation. So pay attention to when and in which situations the sniffing occur!
High speed will be seen as threatening to many dogs, and they might want to go in to try and stop the one who is running. This is partly a hunting behaviour and is triggered by the sight of a running human or dog. If the one running is coming straight at the dog, it involves a threat and a defence mechanism sets in.
A dog who is insecure will move slowly. If you wish to make a dog feel safer, then you can move slower. When I see a dog react to me with a calming signal, I immediately respond by moving slower.
Is your dog coming very slowly when you call him? If so, check the tone of your voice - do you sound angry or strict? That may be enough for him to want to calm you down by walking slowly. Have you ever been angry with him when he came to you? Then this may be why he doesn't trust you. Another reason to calm you may be if the dog is always put on a leash when coming when called. Take a look at your dog the next time you call him. Does he give you any calming signals when coming? If he moves slowly, you may need to do something different in the way you act.
"Freezing" - is what we call it when the dog is stopping while standing completely still, sitting or laying down and remain in that position. This behaviour is believed to have something to do with hunting behavior - when the prey is running, the dog attacks. Once the prey stops, the dog will stop too. We can often see this when dogs are chasing cats. This behaviour, however, is used in several different situations. When you get angry and aggressive and appear threatening, the dog will often freeze and not move in order to make you be good again. Other times the dog may walk slowly, freeze, and then move slowly again. Many owners believe that they have very obedient dogs who is sitting, lying down or standing completely still. Perhaps they are actually using calming signals? Very often a dog will stop and remain calm when someone is approaching. If your dog wants to stop or move slowly in a situation like that, then let him. Also, should your dog be in a conflict situation with a human or dog, and is unable to escape, freezing may be one way to calm the other dog or person.
Sitting down/lifting one paw
I have only rarely seen dogs lift their paw as a calming signal, but on a few occasions it´s clearly been used to calm another dog.
To sit down, or an even stronger signal, to sit down with the back turned towards someone
- for instance the owner - has a very calming effect. It´s often seen when one dog wants to calm another dog who is approaching too quickly. Dogs may sit down with their backs turned against the owner when he or she sounds too strict or angry.
Walking in curve
This signal is frequently used as a calming signal, and it is the main reason why dogs may react so strongly towards meeting dogs when they are forced to walk straight at someone..
Their instincts tell them that it is wrong to approach someone like that - the owner says differently. The dog gets anxious and defensive. And we get a dog who is barking and lunging at other dogs, and eventually we have an aggressive dog.
Dogs, when given a chance, will walk in curves around each other. That´s what they do when they meet off leash and are free to do things their own way. Allow your dog to do the same when he´s with you.
Some dogs needs large curves, while others only need to walk slightly curved. Allow the dog decide what feels right and safe for him, then, in time and if you want to, he can learn to pass other dogs closer.
Let the dog walk in a curve around a meeting dog! Don´t make him walk in a heel position while you´re going straight forward - give him a chance to walk in a curve past the meeting dog. If you keep the leash loose and let the dog decide, you will often see that the dog chooses to walk away instead of getting hysterical.
For the same the reason, don´t walk directly toward a dog, but walk up to it in a curve. The more anxious or aggressive the dog is, the wider you make the curve.
Other calming signals
By now you have learned about some of the more common calming signals. There are around 30 of them, and many have yet to be described. I will mention a few more briefly so that you can make further observations:
• "Smiling", either by pulling the corners of the mouth up and back, or by showing the
teeth as in a grin.
• Smacking the lips
• Wagging the tail - should a dog show signs of anxiety, calming or anything that clearly
has little to do with happiness, the wagging of the tail isn't an expression of happiness,
but rather that the dog wants to calm you.
• Urinating on himself - A dog who is cowering and crawling toward his owner while
wetting himself and waving his tail, is showing three clear signs of calming - and of fear.
Wanting to get up into your face and lick the corners of your mouth.
• Making the face round and smooth with the ears close to the head in order to act like a
puppy. (No one will harm a puppy, is what the dog believes)
• Laying down with the belly against the ground. This has nothing to do with submission -
submission is when the dog lays down with the belly up. Laying down with the belly
towards the ground is a calming signal.
• ...and there are even more calming signals that are used in combination with others.
For instance, a dog may urinate at the same time as he is turning his back to some-
thing. This is a clear sign of calming by for instance an annoying adolescent dog.
Some dogs act like puppies, jumping around and act silly, throwing sticks around, etc. if they discover a fearful dog nearby. It´s supposed to have, and does have, a calming effect.
A meeting situation between two strange dogs will almost never show signs of strong submission or what people refer to as dominant behavior. A meeting situation between two dogs will usually be something like this:
King and Prince sees each other at 150 meters range and are headed toward each other.
They start sending each other message the moment they see each other. Prince stops and stands still (´freezes´), and King is walking slowly while he keeps glancing at the other dog through the corner of his eye.
As King gets closer, Prince starts licking his nose intensly, and he turns his side to King and starts sniffing the ground too. Now King is so close that he needs to be even more calming, so he starts walking in a curve and away from Prince - still slowly and now he is licking his nose too. Prince sits down, and looks away by turning his head far to one side.
By now the two dogs have ´read´ each other so well that they know whether they wish to go over and greet each other, or if this could get so intense that it is best to stay away from each other.
Never force dogs into meeting others
Allow the dogs to use their language in meeting situations so that they feel safe. Sometimes they will walk up to each other and get along, other times they feel that it´s safer to stay at a distance - after all, they have already read each other´s signals, they do so even at a several hundred meters distance - there´s no need to meet face to face.
In Canada, dog trainers who attended my lecture, came up with a new name of these calming signals: ´The Language of Peace". That´s exactly what it is. It´s a language which is there to make sure that dogs have a way to avoid and solve conflicts and live together in a peaceful manner. And the dogs are experts at it.
Start observing and you will see for yourself. Most likely, you will get a much better relationship with your dog and other dogs, too, once you are beginning to realize what the dog is really telling you. It´s likely that you will understand things you earlier were unable to figure out. It is incredibly exciting, as well as educational.
Welcome to the world of the dog, and to knowledge of a whole new language!
Aggression & some reasons behind it
- Suzanne Clothier
Whether we like it or not, we need to recognize that the wide range of behaviors labeled as aggression are communications from the dog to us. Dogs do not snap, snarl, growl, or bite without reason, and those reasons can range from feeling afraid to being confidently challenging. If you are able to recognize early signs of dog feeling uneasy or pressured in some way (whether you intended that response or not!), you can avoid pushing dog into feeling the need for more dramatic or more dangerous aggressive behavior. Many of the dogs presented to me as aggressive are often quite fair about offering warning signs, but sadly, people have not been able to accurately read the signals the dog is sending. How frustrating that must be for the dog, who may then feel the need to escalate his own behavior in order to make his message clear!
Here are some typical clues that a dog is feeling pressured, and shifting from relaxed to another state of mind:
Shifts in breathing
Typically, a dog who is feeling uncertain or threatened or is annoyed exhibits changes in the way he breathes. The breathing slows, becomes very shallow or is actually held (no breaths!). Watch rib cage or flank area - a normal relaxed dog is visibly breathing! A dog who closes his mouth, even briefly, may be offering a warning. Breathing may be monitored by visual observation, by hearing the shifts, and also by noting changes in the dog's breathing through your hands (helpful when you are handling a dog up close and may not be able to easily visually observe such changes).
Changes in whiskers
Learn to recognize what's normal for your dog in terms of how he holds his whiskers when relaxed. A stressed dog (fearful, confused, overwhelmed) often folds the whiskers back against the muzzle. A dog who is angry or challenging may have whiskers brought forward.
Changes in head & eye movements
A relaxed, comfortable dog has slow, easy movements of the head and eyes. The more rapid the movements you observe in eyes and head, the more panicky or fearful the dog is becoming, though this may rapidly escalate to a complete freeze of all movements but with the head and eyes turned slightly or markedly away from what concerns the dog. On the other end of the scale, the dog who becomes very still and stares at something with ears up and fixed (think "locked on target") is heading up the scale towards possible aggression or predatory behavior, with the whole body held quite still but oriented towards the target. Less dramatic but important shifts in head & eyes: dog looks away or turns head away from person or other dog; this dog is actively avoiding confrontation.
An overwhelmed dog may literally freeze - no movement, all body posture pulled back and down and/or away from threat. The danger here is that dogs in freeze may explode into fight or flight if pushed further. Do not mistake a frozen dog for one who is gladly accepting whatever is happening - a common mistake that leads to "he just exploded with no warning." A dog who is accepting of whatever is happening continues to have normal movement of the body, head & eyes; a dog who is simply enduring an unwelcome or unpleasant event often freezes when he cannot escape, and thus the internal pressure continues to build as evidenced by the freeze. Should that internal pressure reach an intolerable level, the dog may explode in some dramatic behaviors.
Changes in shape and expression of eyes
On the fearful/anxious end of the spectrum, the dog will look away from or glance sideways at the source of his problems, and the pupils may dilate considerably if the dog is really stressed. This change is due to shifts internally that result from the cascade of stress hormones (the ones that prepare a dog for flight/fight). Dogs are incredibly expressive in their eyes and facial muscles - attention to subtle changes here will pay off for anyone trying to understand the dog.
Changes in lips
Get a feel for how the dog normally looks when relaxed, particularly how he holds his mouth and lips. Are the lips held tightly? drawn back? panting? drawn forward? Tension around the lips and muzzle indicate a problem. The more fearful/anxious the dog is, the more drawn back the lips become. When a dog is becoming annoyed or angry, the lips may tighten and the corners are drawn forward; you may even see an "rumpling" of the whisker bed, giving the dog's muzzle a "lumpy" look which precedes an actual snarl.
Increase in muscular tension
As the dog's emotional state shifts, so will the overall tension in his body. Do not mistake stillness for "okay"! Sometimes, a dramatic shift can be seen in the dog's feet - look for clenching of toes, a sign I often see as the dog's fear/anxiety increases. Dogs who are confident & challenging and getting very annoyed or angry move "up" on their toes, whereas fearful dogs often clench or spread their toes preparatory to moving away (if they can). Of course, pay close attention to the degree of muscular tension throughout the dog's body.
Overall shifts in body posture
Consider the overall "geometry" of the dog's body posture. Calm and relaxed results in the dog being balanced, neither looking drawn forward nor drawn down and away. Fear/anxiety based response: dog backs up, turns obliquely away from the problem, may even curve his body dramatically away while holding still. This dog is trying to avoid confrontation or hoping to escape from the situation. Aroused/confident/challenging: dog comes forward, shifts to sit from down or stand from sit, all body posture aimed at person or other dog. Friendly gesture - the dog may approach with decided curves in his body, neck and tail, even a lot of wiggles, and may offer his side, often accompanied by a lot of curves through the body, neck and tail.
DETERMINING THE CAUSE
There are many different causes for the range of behaviors we may label as aggressive: barking, growling, snarling, lunging, snapping, biting. However, all these behaviors are not the same, and depending on the cause, need to be handled in specific ways. Simply labeling a dog's behavior as aggressive is not informative, nor does it help you understand what may be going on in the dog's mind.
When assessing any dog, be very specific about the behaviors you observe, as well as the precise body posture and the situation in which the behavior was presented. Precisely how, when, where and in what context the dog offers these behaviors needs to be examined in order to understand the dog.
As a rule, do not use corrections or punishment to handle behavior you consider aggressive. In most cases, treating any behavior you consider aggressive may result in the dog becoming more aggressive and possibly pushing him to escalating his own behavior and perhaps even biting. Remember - the dog has a reason for acting as he does, whether you understand it or not. Best rule of thumb: "Do not treat aggression with aggression of your own."
When in doubt, ask others what they observed in the dog. Build a careful picture: "When this was happening, the handler did X, and then the dog did Y." Don't make assumptions or use non-specific language like "he freaked out". Be specific. For example, does "freaked out" mean the dog bolted away, crashed into the wall and only then lunged forward with loud barks? Or that the dog's pupils dilated dramatically, with ears laid back tight and then he lunged forward with a snap?
If you are unsure as to what caused the dog's response, give the dog the benefit of the doubt and assume that the technique, equipment or handler created the problem. Above all, don't take aggression personally! but do take it seriously as an important communication from the dog.
Here's some typical causes for behavior that may be labeled as aggressive:
• Pain Induced Response Typical symptoms: dog comes up lead when corrected using
the lead or collar; may just snarl or growl or actually snap/bite handler. May also just
yelp or scream. Possible causes: tonsilitis (common in young dogs; suggest vet check up
ASAP; correction too harsh (have owner moderate signal if corrections must be used,
and do consider there are many ways to train that do NOT require corrections!); collar
too much physical stimulus for dog (try milder collar such as martingale type or buckle);
may have damage to or soreness in neck (switch to no-pull harness)
• Pain in Specific Area Typical symptoms: Dog may actively resist or growl when
handler tries to force/correct or even gently model dog into position. May be seen if
handler asks for quicker sit, tries to roll dog over on one hip for long down, etc.
Typically seen when dog is sore in back, through hips, has panosteitis (will especially
resent having long bones of the legs grabbed/handled), joint pain.
Watch dog moving and specifically check how the dog sits - in a dog who is comfortable
in his body, the sit should be quick, clean with no careful "adjusting" prior to or during
the sit, and feet should be neatly tucked under dog and square. ANY deviation from this
points to possible problem that may be causing dog discomfort.
Suggest all dogs have x-rays of hips & knees if they are exhibiting signs of physical
discomfort. Check also for tick borne diseases, which can leave dogs with very ouchy
joints. May also suggest veterinary chiropractic. Know common breed problems and be
alert to them (hip/elbow dysplasia, OCD, patella problems, etc).
• Redirected Aggression Typical symptoms: Redirected aggression is seen in situations
where dog is fixated on another dog/animal, object or person, highly aroused and
frustrated because they can't get to them. Any interference by handler (including
attempts to attract dog's attention but especially leash corrections or hands-on
corrections such as collar grabs, scruff shakes, muzzle grabs or slaps) may result in the
dog re-directing his frustration onto handler. The dog may also redirect the aggression
onto any other dog, person or animal in his immediate vicinity. Ideally, prevent situation
which triggers this! The dog may be quite violent in redirected aggression. Damage
control - gain dog's voluntary cooperation in any way possible; do not use force to
• Rudeness by Other Dogs Typical symptoms: dog noisily warns or actually bites other
dog who has gotten into his space. Key point: Dog was minding his own business and
under control at owner's side or where left, did NOT leave handler or place left to attack
other dog. Watch for invasion of space by another dog, even one that is friendly (refer to
article "He Just Wants To Say HI!"); retrievers & other "non-aggressive" breeds often at
fault due to their handler's view of their dog as friendly and harmless. Most likely to
trigger response in dogs with bigger personal space (working breeds, terriers).
Instruct all handlers on rude/polite dog behavior, which includes not allowing eye
contact even across the room. Keep dog who caused the incident on long line and under
instructor supervision when working on recalls or long distance stays. Keep the dog who
responded to the rudeness well protected by barriers or people between him and the
rude dog. All handlers have an obligation to protect other dogs from their own dog's
"friendliness!" Instruct handlers of both dogs involved how to avoid problems in the
future. If necessary, assign "red bandanas" to dogs needing extra space - this serves as
a warning to other handlers that the Red Bandana dog should be given room and to not
let their dog, however friendly, interact without specific invitiation by the Red Bandana
• Lack of handler leadership Typical symptoms: Dog may actively resist being forced
or even gently modeled into position by handler (i.e. tucked into sit or down) by growling,
snapping, biting, or by wrestling, pushing handler away with feet, mouthing handler's
arms & hands. The dog is saying that handler has not earned the right to handle him in
such ways. Do NOT force the issue but find reasonable compromise in class situation,
and if at home, back off and find a way to gain voluntary submission (use of lure?) to
avoid conflicts. Emphasize work on controlling resources at home to gain leadership &
• Overstimulation Typical symptoms: The excessive stimulation may come from the
collar or lead, the handler, corrections, the overall environment, other dogs or animals.
Solution: Remove dog to a "cool down zone" that offers a visual barrier and/or much
more distance from other dogs/animals; reduce sensory input to the dog with quieter
handling, less or no corrections, switch equipment to something milder, or change
between equipment as necessary in any given situation (i.e., may need prong collar or
slip when in motion but work better on slip or buckle in quieter exercises)
Many mouthy dogs respond to overstimulation by grabbing at the handler's arms, hands,
legs, feet, clothing, lead, etc. This is often not aggression but a
response to too much stimuli; attempts to use force or corrections only pour fuel on
the fire. Work quietly and reward good behavior - careful not to use physical praise,
big/fast hand movements or excited voice.
• Fear based - Typical symptoms: Usually seen when approached by other dogs or
people. May be afraid of handler; if so, watch handler's technique - may be too harsh.
Watch for grabbing of joints, pushing down on hips or back instead of tucking, holding
onto legs, pulling, pushing, etc. (This could end up with the dog both afraid and in pain.)
Encourage & show handler how to use softer approach. May need to switch to lure/
If afraid of other dogs, respect this, put red bandana on to remind other students. See if
you can find well behaved, well socialized dog who will lay quietly in a down and allow
fearful dog to approach and sniff from behind. If afraid of people, use Dunbar's
Treat/Retreat with all students participating to build confidence (can practice while
instructor holds each student's dog; doubles as practice for CGC.)
Learn to identify potential problems which may result in aggressive behavior:
• Watch for dogs with no appropriate sense of personal space & handlers who allow their
dogs to invade others' space
• Watch dogs who need extra room & space (may look unsure, frightened of other dogs
approaching or get stiff, bark, growl) - offer them a red bandana to buy them the space
• Eye contact to or from other dogs - usually accompanied by body postures (head up, tail
up, stillness). This may also be true in dogs who react to eye contact from people,
though they may also exhibit fearful, avoiding behaviors.
Sometimes, aggression follows close on the heels of resistance, especially when handlers ignore the importance of resistance as meaningful information. Resistance or refusal to cooperate are important communications from dog which say he is:
• Confused or doesn't understand - back up to previous level, re-evaluate technique
• Feeling afraid or anxious or simply unsure - work to alleviate fear & build confidence
• Is bored (often seen with repetition of exercise dog does not find enjoyable) - STOP
• Isn't motivated (examine level of motivation) - find suitable motivation (paycheck)
• Is not physically able to do as asked - evaluate dog as athlete, work with the individual
dog's limitations, do not ask for more!
• Does not respect the handler sufficiently to do what he's being asked to do in that
Possible causes for resistance:
• Handler induced - watch the handler for changes in breathing, muscular tension, facial
expression, movement. The dog will notice and respond to all of these!
• Equipment - may be giving signals to dog that are not clear or are too clear & over
stimulating or simply too harsh
• Method - any technique which uses application of force may elicit reflexive resistance
from the dog. Particularly true with pull or jerk on collar - if you must use equipment to
send information, try a pulsed (give & take) signal, "asking" not demanding
Find a way to address the resistance, and avoid the dog feeling the need to underline
how he's feeling by escalating to more dramatic behaviors.
LESSONS FROM THE MASTERS:
Learning About Punishment from Dogs Themselves
- Suzanne Clothier
NOTE: This orginally appeared in the April/May 2002 APDT newsletter, written at the request of the newsletter editor after I had written a Letter to the Editor noting that there was a lot we could learn about an appropriate & fair use of punishment from dogs themselves. This is NOT a defense of punitive training methodology - and "punishment" is defined as all students of operant conditioning understand it to be defined: one of the four possible consequences of a behavior.
There's an old lady I know who has been training puppies for years. And she does a very good job of it. Funny thing, though, she routinely uses positive punishment as part of her approach. Always has, always will. She's completely unaware of learning theories, has never attended a conference or seminar, and never once read a book about dogs. Yet the puppies she's trained are happy, respectful, and well mannered, and calmly attentive to her subtlest gesture.
How is it that she uses positive punishment to such good effect, without creating desensitization or panic or resentment in her pupils? And how does she do it without collar, leash, head halter, treats or clickers? Because this old lady is a dog. This experienced trainer of puppies is my retired brood bitch Carson.
There's a growing tendency among many dog trainers to denounce the use of positive punishment (P+), though properly defined it means only this: "the presentation of an undesirable consequence." For many trainers, P+ is a bit of jargon heavily laden with ugly images of pain, fear and outright cruelty. And there's no denying that historically, dog training has leaned heavily on punitive methodology, much of which is thinly disguised abuse in the name of training. But when we mistakenly equate P+ with abuse, we are ignoring what dogs themselves can tell us about the value of P+.
Whether we like it or not, P+ is quite natural in animal-to-animal interactions. For example, Carson is resting on a sofa. The puppy Ruby approaches, thinking about jumping up to share the space. Hardening her eyes and holding her head very still, Carson growls softly, her message clear: "Leave me alone." Ruby ignores this. Carson escalates the warning to a loud, scary air snap, and the puppy dances back a step but returns almost immediately, clearly thinking this may be a new game. Carson's next move is a threatening lunge that ends in grabbing the offending puppy by the muzzle for a few beats. Now Ruby gets the message and wisely retreats.
As classically defined, Carson's intent in meting out this punishment is to "decrease the likelihood of the behavior in the future." P+ adds something unpleasant as a consequence for a behavior. Being no fool, Ruby learns that jumping on top of her grandmother has unpleasant consequences; an unoccupied sofa is a better choice. P+ is employed by dogs among themselves all the time.
Dire warnings about the effects of using P+ have their basis in fact. Improperly applied, P+ can undermine the relationship, can lead to desensitization, abuse, cruelty, panic. Though these unhappy results are often presented as an inevitable outcome of employing P+, the truth is that these result from the use of poorly applied or extreme P+. If P+ was destructive to relationships, there would be no cohesive pack structure possible among canids. But dogs and wolves do use P+ and still have strong, affectionate, trusting relationships. Clearly then, the problem lies not with P+ itself, but in our application of it. Learning how to effectively use P+ requires that we look to our dogs for clues.
Properly applied with good timing, clarity and appropriateness of scale (something any socially skilled dog does with an ease that leaves human trainers in awe), P+ makes increasing subtlety of gesture possible. Having used P+ to convince Ruby to nap elsewhere, Carson will not have to escalate the punishment the next time. In fact, she will be able to use less to make the same point. As Ruby learns to read Carson more accurately, the stillness coupled with a hardening eye will be sufficient warning. Dog language is built around nuance and subtlety.
But it is in nuance and subtlety where we often fail in our application of P+. We do not start with stillness and shifts in our eyes and breathing. Often, we begin where Carson ended - grabbing for Ruby and "correcting" her. The puppy has no chance to learn that there are subtleties that should be heeded. From the dog's perspective, we rocket from completely unconcerned to furious action without warning - a scary situation for a dog that can and does erode the relationship. There's no appropriate beginning to our scale of warnings, and no way to back up from there; we are crude, unsophisticated communicators who do not observe proper canine protocol of escalating warnings.
We can become better trainers through careful study of the nuances of how dogs do what they do, and employing the same subtlety in our own communications. Here's an example - Ruby approaches while I'm eating lunch. My first response is to stop chewing, hold my head very still and harden my eyes a bit. If ignored, I then very slowly turn my head toward Ruby, hardening my eyes further. Ignored, I lift a lip - just a bit - while still pointedly staring at the offender. Ignored, I growl and escalate the lip lift. Still ignored, I growl louder, longer, and finally, lunge toward her with a threat bark and an air snap. This effective and very "canine" approach does not ruin our relationship in any way. Ruby understands this because it matches what other dogs are also teaching her. Like the other dogs, eventually, I can just offer the stillness and hardened eyes as warning. No equipment or treats or clickers needed - just the power of natural interaction shaped in a way the dog can easily understand, without the emotional overtones often present in human/dog interactions.
When Ruby retreats and sits, I quickly switch to offer positive reinforcement for this desirable behavior. Like all social creatures, dogs need two kinds of information from others. They need to know when they are right, and when they are wrong. Though some trainers refuse to give anything but positive responses, nothing in the dog's culture that supports that lopsided approach. A socially sophisticated dog becomes just that because other dogs told him both when he was right ("I'll keep playing with you since you're behaving nicely") and when he was wrong ("don't bump into me again!"). With a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong, Ruby can make a choice.
Though we may pride ourselves on being positive trainers, we may be surprised to recognize that we do use punishment, however mildly, from time to time. "Timeouts," disengaging from too rough play, or simply withdrawing our attention from a dog - all are punishment, and all may used as part of a humane approach. The use of punishment (+ or -) doesn't mean we are bad trainers. P+ is merely an "undesirable consequence"; we have the full responsibility for deciding how unpleasant that consequence will be. As with any consequence for a behavior, we will be most successful as trainers when we employ P+ appropriately with awareness, and when we can move past our emotional response to the mere mention of punishment.
As dogs and other social animals show us, P+ may be used effectively without destroying the relationship. They also show us that timing, subtlety, appropriateness of scale, and clarity are the critical ingredients in influencing another's behavior. When
Tellington TTouch™ for Dogs
- Eugenie Chopin
WHAT IS TTOUCH?
TTouch is a gentle and unique method of working with both health and behavioural problems in animals. Developed by internationally known animal expert, Linda Tellington-Jones, TTouch is based on cooperation and understanding. These revolutionary techniques promote optimal performance and health without fear or force. It utilizes bodywork as well as groundwork exercises.
WHAT IS BODYWORK?
TTouch bodywork uses a combination of circles, slides and lifts to increase awareness and sensation, reduce stress and relax tension held in the body. This allows the body to function to it's full potential in the healing process. As the body comes into balance, we find that the mind and emotions follow! TTouch works via the neurological system of the body. Just as the brain sends messages to the body, the reverse is also true. Therefore, if there is tension in the body, there is a blockage of information to the brain.
TTouch uses non-habitual movements to activate unused neurological pathways to the brain. This indeed turns uncooperative animals into willing partners. By stimulating different parts of the brain, we teach the animal to think and realize it has a choice of behavior!
WHEN WOULD ONE USE TTOUCH?
• For Improving behavior or temperament
• An older animal that is in pain [i.e. arthritis, hip dysplasia, etc.]
• Help injuries and surgery to heal more quickly
• To deepen the bond between you and your pet
• To improve you pet's confidence, balance, agility or performance
• If your animal is fearful of thunderstorms and loud noises
• If your animal is getting near the end of it's life and you'd like to do something to alle-
viate the pain and help in the passing for veterinary care
• Getting a General Feel for where your Pet is holding his Tension and Stress
We know from science that we hold emotional issues in the cellular structure of our bodies. Animals do the same! Try an experiment with your pet and see if you can tell where he/she is holding his tension and issues. Do some long steady strokes over every part of your pet's body. Is there any area where you can't touch? Or that your pet gives an indication that he might be concerned or uncomfortable?
The signs you might get include:
2.Sitting: especially when you get to the tail and hindquarter area
3.Turning around to look at what you're doing
4.A calming signal [see Turid Rugaas' book] such as yawning, licking of lips, scratching,
chewing sniffing, etc.
5.Fooling around! He's trying to distract you!
6.Growl or try to bite! Please be careful and pay attention to the information your pet is
And what does this tell you? It could be several things:
1.Your animal could have pain in that part of his body. i.e. if he has arthritis
2.He might have a memory of pain. Ever clipped a toenail too short and tried to go back
again later? Or have a pet who was injured in the past but is still wary of that part of his
3.Your pet could be holding emotional issues in this part of the body.
Make sure you work from the mouth [including inside], to the ears, down the legs into the feet and toes and go all the way back to the but and the length of the tail. If you know how to do the circles then try that as well! (See basic circular TTouch). If you're getting reaction in a certain area, try a softer pressure or a flatter touch. Sometimes the reaction will be very subtle and sometimes quite dramatic. Just know that this is the area where your pet feels unsafe and what we want to do is give him a NEW experience of this part of his body.
You might gently try going into these areas more frequently until he is more comfortable with touch. Good luck and let us know how you do!
DOING THE TTOUCH
There are many different touches, but numerous ones are based on a clockwise circular motion. The Clouded Leopard is the first one we teach because the techniques and principles used are basic to all TTouches.
1.Start by holding up both hands in a slightly cupped position together.
2.Let the heel of your palms touch and the ends of your fingers touch.
3.Where your 4 fingers are touching is what you will use to make the Clouded Leopard
4.Now visualize the face of the clock.
5.We want to make a circle and a quarter ONLY, in a clockwise movement.
6.Now place one hand on the animal for support and balance and use the other hand to
make the circle.
7.Rest your hand lightly on the animal, with your thumb a few centimetres from your
fingers for support, and start your fingers at the 6 o'clock position, move around the
clock by pushing (or pulling) the skin in a clockwise motion until you've done one
complete circle and a quarter, which will land you up at 9 o'clock.
8.Put your 6 o'clock position always towards the ground. So you will start by lifting the skin
away from gravity.
9.Remember to move the skin and not slide over it and always start your 6 o'clock from
the ground upwards. It really feels different to end in upward motion rather than down!
Do ONLY ONE circle in a spot, and then move on to another.
10.Because dogs and cats are usually below us, it might be easier to think of pulling your
fingers towards your thumb when starting the circle, pulling away from the ground and
always ending that last quarter circle lifting away from the ground.
11.Keep your fingers and knuckles soft and flexible. If there is tension in your hand or
wrist, that tension will go directly into the animal.
12.Keep your pressure very light until you know how comfortable the animal is with the
touch. Remember that you're activating the nervous system, so you don't need to go
13.Keep your hand as an extension on your arm to avoid getting into an awkward position
14.While you concentrate, don't forget to breathe!
Try these circles on yourself and friends and see how they feel!!! Attempt to keep the circles even and with the same pressure. Do this anywhere on the body of your pet. You might do some randomly or work your way down the body by doing a small slide between the circles. These are called connected circles. There is no right or wrong way. Just pay attention to the reaction you get. GOOD LUCK
Why do mouth work?
It's true that most of us never look into our dog's mouths! We learn to do a quick inspection at puppy class to help facilitate later Vet needs, but seldom go there again. WELL I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU HOW GOOD IT IS FOR YOUR PET TO HAVE MOUTHWORK! Why? You may ask. The mouth connects with the limbic portion of the brain, which is the seat of emotions. The limbic system controls stress, anxiety and all of the related emotions that allow your animal to think rather than slip into "reaction". By working in the mouth we can relieve a great deal of stress as well as induce feelings of "well-being".
When would you use mouth work?
I must admit that I would use it on any dog or cat, but some of the main uses are for dogs who bite, chew, bark or whine too much. I would certainly use mouth work on any aggressive dog and often for fearful animals. The tightness of the mouth area will give you an indication of how concerned your dog is about you going there. I have previously discussed how to see if your animal will let you work in all areas of the body. For the mouth it might be a little trickier as most pets NEVER get touched there.
What to do:
Start by doing long and gentle strokes on the muzzle from the nose backwards being careful of the whiskers. You might even continue to the ears if your dog likes it. [For ease, I will refer to a dog, but this is also true for cats] Then try doing small circles on the muzzle of the dog. [Refer to the basic circular touch] Remember that the circles will be small and if your pet is very small you might have to use one or two fingers instead of all four.
If your dog wants to pull away you might support the head under the jaw and if he moves - GO WITH HIM! This is not about "holding" or forcing. Try doing circles from under and/or on top of the nose. Different dogs react differently to how they are held. Now try lifting the lip and see how tight it is and if your dog will allow you in the mouth easily. If so, do small circles on the gums all over the mouth. Be careful if the mouth is dry! It can indicate some nervousness and you'll need to wet your finger in a bit of water. I can also often find saliva towards the back teeth even when the front of the mouth is dry.
People often say, "Oh my dog doesn't like that"! If this is the case, then you have found one of his "stress holding points". Well done! Remember there is always a reason why an animal doesn't want you to into a certain area of the body! As in all parts of the body we want to make sure that there is no pain involved, so for puppies, they might be teething or for older dogs, they might have teeth that are giving problems. Just be aware and know that you can help them. WHAT IF YOUR DOG HOLDS HIS BREATH?? He might get anxious and not know how to relax. Mouth work can change that in minutes!
NOTE: If you are working on someone else's dog be mindful of trying to sit behind the dog and not working with your face in his! Also as the mouth is often a big stress holder for many animals, start your touches somewhere else first and only go to the mouth when you feel the animal is more relaxed. GOOD LUCK!
Why do ear work?
One of the best places to start TTouching your pet is on the ears. You might wonder why and there are several reasons. The first being that they usually really like it! Watch you dog, he spends time every day trying to scratch deep down into his ears! So if you're prepared to put you finger there, dogs are usually VERY grateful. So it's always good to start bodywork in an area that your pet is happy with you touching.
The next reason to work the ears is that it holds many pressure points for the immune system. It's the logical place to go if your pet has any illness. There is also a pressure point for SHOCK near the tip, so if your animal has been hurt and you're off to the Vet you might actually save his life by doing ear work and helping him not go into shock! Like children, our pets often get into scraps, cut something open in the garden or just have an accident that needs attention.
Whether it's a dogfight, accident or even a road accident, it's great to know there is something we can do on the way to the Vet and while waiting to be attended to. EAR WORK! Yes, I'm serious! There are pressure points near the tip of the ears that can keep your pet from going into shock. All of the ear work is good for boosting the immune system so don't wait for an Emergency!
What to do:
a)Start by doing ear slides from deep inside the ear out to the tip. Do this on all points of
the ear from the base upwards, both on the outside and inside
b)Do small circles in the same direction from the base upwards in lines until you have
covered the entire ear. For big eared dogs, you might hold the ear open with one hand
and do circles with the other
c)Take the whole ear in your hand and do circles in BOTH directions. A great
d)Do circles around the base of the ears. There is a meridian that runs from the outer
edge of the eyes around the ears and down the front legs called the "Triple Heater"
Meridian and it works with Digestion, Respiration and Reproduction. So working this
part of the ears can help anything connected with these. An example is my golden,
Angelique who used to get carsick. I cured her with ear work and a body wrap!
The Tail and Hindquarters
The tail and (or) the hindquarters can often be a challenging place to work on an animal and there are several reasons why this might be so. The first is simply that we so often pet our animals on the head and maybe halfway down the back. How often do we go the whole way down he body and into the buttock area? So it might be that your dog (or cat, etc.) is simply not used to being touched there! But remember that we want animals to be aware of their bodies all over.
It is also possible that this is exactly where dogs and other animals hold their tension and emotional issues. It is often said that dogs hold Fear in their Hindquarters. I have seldom met a dog that was fearful of loud noises, thunderstorms or fireworks that didn't react is some way to being touched in the tail area or the buttock area. The reaction can vary from simply yawning (calming signal), to turning the head to see what you're doing, to mouthing you, to actually growling and trying to bite your hand. Dogs will also often try to move away from you. If any of these things occur when you are touching you animal, you might want to do some gentle exercises in this area.
Start by doing long strokes down the body of your dog. They are normally less concerned if they can feel you hand coming! Also by the time they realize that you're there, you have already finished! Keep it firm and steady, but not too fast. You'll want to do gentle lying leopard touches around the base of the tail as well as all around the buttocks and thigh area, both outside and inside the leg. For the actual tail, remember that the tail is an extension of the spine and giving a gentle tug is rather like traction. It can be a wonderful way of loosening the spine. BE SURE TO BE GENTLE AND MAKE SURE THAT THE TAIL IS GOING IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SPINE. I.e. if you have a GSD with a sloped back, your tail tug might almost be at a 45-degree angle towards the ground!
Then do a few circles with the tail in both directions. (Non-habitual movement for those who know about Feldenkrais) Then slide your hand down the tail a couple of inches and do again until you finally reach the bottom. For dogs with cropped tails, most have at least a stub that can be tugged and circled. And the probability of there being old trauma there from the amputation is high! Also, ever hear of phantom limbs? Many dogs react when you touch the air where the tail should have been! We actually know from modern instruments that measure energy fields that there is still an energy field where these limbs used to be so it's not the imagination!
Also just do basic circles right down the length of the tail and remember to do Noah's March afterwards. Or just a long steady stroke to consolidate. If your dog has a major problem in the tail or hindquarter areas, be respectful of his concern, but know that by helping him release tension in this area, you can make a major contribution to his overall confidence level and well-being.
Tips for Arthritis
Well the cold weather is well and truly here and many of our animals are feeling it in their joints! For those of you who know a bit about how TTouch works, there are a few things that you can do to help. And for those who know nothing I'll talk a bit about lifts. We have a touch that we use on the leg of an animal called a "Python Lift", which relaxes and stimulates circulation. Use the whole flat of the hand (the palm as well as the fingers) and lift the skin in an upward direction, hold for a couple of seconds, then holding the skin with the same pressure, return the skin to the starting point. Do this slowly and gently; if you use twice as much time in the release, you'll get a greater degree of relaxation. This is normally used on legs and is great to do when the dog (meaning all animals) is standing, but for older dogs it's also possible to do lying down. With any touch we like to use our second hand to support, balance or even hold a collar. When lying down, you will find it necessary to hold the foot while lifting the skin on the leg so that the whole leg doesn't lift with you! Be sure to start at the top and work your way down the leg. If your dog is lying down, you might then like to gently rotate the leg in circles going in both directions, keeping the circles small until it's clear what your animal is comfortable with. If your dog is standing and you want to try leg circles, be sure to keep the foot directly under the body and the circles small. IF YOUR DOG HAS HD, OR TROUBLE STANDING DUE TO AGE OR INFIRMITY, PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS STANDING, as you might be putting more weight on 3 legs than is good for your dog. If in any doubt, only do lying down and then gently, carefully and SMALL!
Now having done python lifts on the legs, it is also possible to do lifts on the body. Sometimes lifts starting at the top of the spine and working your way down can release much tension. Again, keep your pressure very light to begin with. Your dog will tell you how much you can do. Just watch his reactions.
In general, do less; be gentle and very alert to your dog's comfort. None of this should hurt or cause any pain. If your dog has trouble getting up in the morning, do 5 minutes of touches including some Zigzags or Tarantulas to wake up the body. Respect your animals need to have a warm place, preferably in the sun! And make sure that wherever your animal is sleeping, it's warm and cosy with bedding! If you want to try circles, try doing connected circles from the top of the head, down either side of the spine, and ending either at the tip of the tail or down the legs into the toes. We do a circle, then a slide to the next spot, circle, slide, etc. This has the effect of connecting the nervous system of the body. It takes information from one end of the body to the other and can go so far as to open unused neural pathways. You can do this down various parts of the body. Remember that animals who are out of balance because of pain in one part of the body always hold tension and stress in another area, so be sure to work the whole body, not just those areas that you "think" are affected! I nearly always find that animals who have mobility problems hold a lot of tension in the NECK area, so have a good feel and if your pet is tight, help him release tension with circles or just plain massage in the neck area! And don't forget Ear Work! This is always good for the immune system and seems to stimulate the whole body.
There are of course many other things you can do for your pet. For Danilo, who is now about 12, we use something I originally received from Dr. Gary Eckersley called "Joint Support". It has many wonderful natural ingredients for arthritis. You can get it delivered to your door by phoning Di at 011 789 1348 or in other parts of the country by calling 011 789 1348 to find the rep in your area. This is a Human product that can be used by anyone in the family! I also recommend Homeopathic remedies that can be effective. Please go to a homeopathic Vet to be sure your animal receives what is needed as an individual.
How does your attitude affect your pet?
More and more I'm coming to understand how much our feelings, attitude and reactions impact on our pets, and their well-being, both emotionally and behaviorally. When I first had Danilo and he was starting to misbehave, I did ALL OF THE WRONG THINGS! I yelled at him, chased him and punished him! I did not know any better! We all get frustrated with a dog's behavior and resort to harsh tones. When Danilo used to run out of the gate onto the street and then didn't come back when I called; what did I do? When he did come, I scolded him! Needless to say, today I know better. The rule is: IF YOUR DOG DOES WHAT YOU WANT, PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE! This means that even though he was naughty about going out onto the street, [or whatever the problem might be] when he does come back, it is the desired behavior, so make him feel good. The truth is that often my yelling at him was a reinforcement of his bad behavior as all he wanted to begin with was attention!
We do the same thing in other contexts. An example is when we feel sorry for a dog. I have many clients who chose to take a rescue dog. Perhaps it's been mistreated, so what do we do? We feel sorry for the dog and fuss over it. This might make sense to our human emotions, but it makes the dog wonder why it's human is so concerned. The dog in turn becomes wary and unsure! Feeling sorry for an animal doesn't empower it! We have the same problem when we go to do work in shelters. Our first impulse is to feel terrible about these animals. In fact, they are off the street, are being looked after both medically and physically and have a chance of finding a good home. What they need is self-confidence and to feel good about themselves. When this happens, they are more balanced in mind and spirit and have a better chance of being a well-adjusted animal in a new home.
What if our pet is sick or injured? Think what you would do if it were your child. Would you sit with a child, cry and fuss or would you be strong for your child and help him to feel like he'll be well soon! A positive attitude and the intention of helping the healing process [whether mental or physical] can have a dramatic effect. I think what I'm trying to say is that your pet will pick up on your energy what ever it is! If you are feeling sorry for your pet, he'll probably be feeling the same way. And a "poor me" attitude is NOT a healing one.
If your dog is misbehaving and you can't control the behavior, walk away from it and it loses what it wants: the attention! And needless to say: GET BACK TO TRAINING!
Fear of Thunderstorms and Loud Noises
One of the opposites of fear is confidence or assurance. When our pets are fearful, how can we teach them that the fear is unwarranted? There are many ways via animal behavior that can help such as desensitizing an animal to certain things like loud noises. The problem with playing a tape of thunder is that it doesn't take into account the change in the atmospheric pressure, which triggers many animals. I can only tell you that I am getting many phone calls and emails from people who are having success with their pets who have been traumatized by thunderstorms. The answer is a combination of bodywork [touches], ground exercises, which boost the self-confidence of the dog, and a body wrap. If you haven't been to a clinic and experienced the body wrap, I suggest you put a T-shirt on your dog and secure it around the belly with a piece of elastic. Even try cutting a hole for the tail so that it can go over the buttock area. We find that many animals that are fearful of loud noises hold tension in their hindquarters and if you can release this, you will start to see a change in attitude from you pet.
The idea of the groundwork is to bring more awareness into the body of your pet. If you do simple exercises at a slow pace, the body learns to be perfectly balanced. Try setting up a simple maze in your garden or see how well your dog picks up his feet over poles and different textured surfaces. If he has any problems, do some long strokes down his body into his feet as well as circles and lifts on his legs. Remember, it "Can't Hurt, and it Might Help"!
For further information please Contact Eugenie Chopin, Tel: 011 884-3156,
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.ttouch.co.za
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