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Dog Tip: Healing Touch Therapies as Health and Behavior Aids


Tellington Touch - also known as TTouch - is a bodywork technique developed by Linda Tellington-Jones for use in calming, healing and training animals. Linda started applying the techniques to calm her horses. She then applied the principles to dogs, cats and other animals. Today, certified practitioners who can apply and teach TTouch can be found worldwide.

TTouch involves circular movements of the fingers and hands all over the body. TTouch is intended to activate the function of the cells and awaken cellular intelligence. It is thought that touch therapies alter the nervous system, which sends messages to the muscles. TTouch might enable the brain to engage rarely used or damaged portions of the body. This "resetting" of an animal's brain and nervous system seems to enable changes in movement, improve mental state, alleviate some fear and improve behavior. Feeling less tense, an animal is less prone to reactive behavior.

The TTouch is done on the entire body, incorporating massaging, stroking and skin lifting to release tension, which in turn helps to relax and calm animals, ease pain, speed healing and improve behavior. A more relaxed animal is can usually be handled without provoking typical fear responses. Moreover, a calm animal can more easily learn new and more appropriate behaviors.

You can use fingertips to make full circles, in a conscious manner and a logical path around the animal's body. Touch areas can include the ears, mouth and rump area, as well as other parts of the body. Particularly with a shy or fearful animal, it helps to start the touch motions in areas in which the dog seems more comfortable, then move gradually to areas that appear to be more sensitive.

When properly used, TTouch is a tool that anyone can use to help speed the healing of injuries and ailments - and even to help change undesirable habits or behavior.

Behavior benefits:

TTouch has been used successfully with animals who display a fear of strangers or other animals, leash-pulling, excessive chewing, excessive barking, some forms of aggression, and many other undesirable behaviors.

TTouch uses a variety of non-habitual movements and manipulations to refocus the animal's attention, enabling the animal to respond to stimuli in new way. This can help to break the cycle of habitual responses such as automatically lunging at dogs who pass the yard.

For example, a dog agitated by the presence of other dogs can be calmed down relatively quickly and gently by special touches combined with use of leashes attached to a flat collar and head halter simultaneously.

The special touches help release endorphins, which is pleasing and calming to the animal. By helping animals sense environmental stimuli differently, we can help them develop new ways to respond to various environments and people. This in turn affects their overall behavior.

Another example: a cat fearful about entering a carrier is given light TTouches around his body, particularly the ears, a key target point for bodywork. Ear massage helps calm a nervous pet, aids respiratory and digestive problems, and can even reduce the chance of car sickness. The practitioner applies little circles on the animal's mouth and the front of his gums, which connect to the limbic system. Once relaxed, the cat becomes willing to enter the carrier.

Keep in mind that undesirable behaviors can be an outward sign of an animal's pain and anxiety. When we enable an animal to move more freely and with reduced pain, he becomes able to respond to environmental cues in a new way.

Emotional and bonding benefits:

TTouch offers a novel, effective way to bond with and communicate with animals. Animal welfare volunteers have used TTouch and healing touch therapies to calm frightened rescue animals.

This gentle holistic therapy can be applied to puppies and dog of any age. As a side- benefit, performing TTouch movements helps calm the person too.

Physical health benefits:

TTouch can be used to improve physical health and aid healing. For example, touch techniques can improve blood circulation near a point of injury, and they can address sore muscles. As you apply the techniques, your dog or cat will likely guide to you to problem areas that you can then work with.

Following a TTouch workshop, animal welfare volunteer Annette Erbrecht used the TTouch technique, applying some mouth circles on her dog Kashi when she was barking at people outside. "After a short time, Kashi yawned and shook herself - it was amazing," said Annette. "I think it intensifies a sort of mutual awareness between owner and dog and improves the owner's intuitive responses to behavior."

Other Touch Therapies

Healing touch and Reiki for animals are two other energy-based therapies intended to aid physical, emotional and spiritual healing. Touch therapy promotes energy balance and healing of injuries, illness, surgeries, wounds, behavioral problems and stress- related issues.

Reiki, which in Japanese means universal life force energy, is a noninvasive ancient healing technique suitable for companion animals. Reiki involves energy transference: the practitioner places his or her hands in a series of positions on the animal, thereby passing energy onto the animal.

As explained on the website for Healing Touch for Animals/Komitor Healing Method (HTA/KHM), this holistic approach uses bio-field therapies, which have been recognized by the National Institutes of Health, to integrate, balance and clear the energy body. It works by releasing endorphins to establish a deeper relaxation and state of being, allowing the body to function better. By allowing muscles to relax, circulation is increased, sending more oxygen, nutrients, and hormones into the body to support healing.

In addition to consulting with experienced practitioners nationwide, you can learn some of the techniques yourself through books such as Dr. Michael Fox's guide listed below, and at workshops. Some shelters even sponsor clinics in healing touch, such as the San Diego Humane Society.

Body wraps to help shy and fearful dogs:

A light elastic body-wrap can be placed on the dog to increase body awareness, stimulate seldom-used neural pathways and facilitate new ways of responding.

Wearing a snug body wrap helps dogs become more aware of how their bodies move and can boost their confidence. TTouch practitioners frequently make use of these wraps, anchoring them around the chest, wrapped around the trunk, and encompassing the hindquarters.

You can use ace bandages or strips of cloth to form body wraps. Wearing a body wrap for an hour can calm a dog and even build his confidence when encountering new people or environments. Body wraps have also been successfully used to reduce fear of thunderstorms.

Ready-made body wraps are available, such as the Anxiety Wrap Anxiety Wrap created by Susan Sharpe, a certified TTouch practitioner. It employs maintained pressure to calm the animal, thus enabling you to redirect her focus to you.

Reading and Resources:


The Healing Touch: The Proven Massage Program for Cats and Dogs by Michael W. Fox This book shares lessons about animal anatomy, psychology and using massage to help diagnose illness and aid healing. Photographs, drawings and diagrams illustrate the practice of this holistic therapy for animal well-being.

The Tellington TTouch: A Breakthrough Technique to Train & Care for Your Favorite Animal by Linda Tellington-Jones with Sybil Taylor Learn the the Tellington TTouch techniques that can applied to your companion animal.

Video Kit:

TTouch for Dogs Set Includes the video "Unleash your Dog's Potential", the book "Getting in TTouch with Your Dog", and the TTouch of Magic cards.


TTouch and Healing Touch

Holistic Health Tips

Flower Essences and Essential Oils

Vaccination and Vaccinosis

Acupuncture for Companion Animals

International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork http://www.iaamb.org

Notes: The information in this tipsheet is not intended to be a substitute for veterinary care. Listings of .com sources do not constitute endorsement of companies or products. The webpages contain information that may be useful in addition to other information from association and nonprofit sources.


For more of Robin's Dog Tips, see the index at  www.paw-rescue.org

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Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport