This exercise is about creating a "Zen Zone" for yourself and your dog. Originally introduced by DVM Behaviorist Dr. Voith this particular protocol was designed Dr. Karen Overall also a DVM Behaviorist. Used in Behavior Modification Training Plans it is a wonderful way to reduce your dog (and your) stress. If I'm working with an especially stressed dog I will prepare the bedding by spraying one of my three handcrafted calming blends, and maybe even light a candle and play soundscape music. Ancillary calming tools are helpful in providing a calm environment. This way I start to relax and dissipate out only calming hormones which help relax my dog to start the process.
As you may know without knowing we condition behavior unwanted or otherwise all of the time ( i.e. jumping on us models jumping on other people, barking at us for attention models barking at all people this way). In some cases just seeing their person elicits a state of high arousal for some dogs. A dogs guardian may for example rough play with their dog all the time without using a toy to interact. They may rough play without working impulse control exercises in between for breaks (sit, wait). So the dog becomes conditioned - see guardian = play and excitement shoots up quickly ...OH BOY MY PERSONs HOME! and off they go.
How we feel has a direct affected on our dogs. As some of you may know all mammals have the ability to take in large molecules ( i.e. cortisol, the stress hormone or oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone) through the Vermonasal Organ (just under the palette of the mouth located between mouth and nose). This organ allows for mammals to take in and identify the hormone thereby understanding how another individual is feeling at any given moment. You can imagine if you don't have the ability to speak the same language but need to know if another animal was friend or foe how useful being able to smell their feelings would be.
Every day life is packed full of pressure and I'm sure we are all in agreement reducing our stress levels every now and again is good practice. So why not practice with our dogs? Plan a date with your dog or include a relaxation session as an exercise instead of or after exercise. This relaxation protocol is so useful for stressed dogs, those experiencing separation anxiety, isolation distress or ones who have come home from a rambunctious day at daycare. You can do this in the comfort of your home any time. Its probably best to practice in the evening between 7-9M when your dogs cortisol level is lowest and they are at their most relaxed state naturally. But of course you can practice anytime!
The beauty of this is you can practice anytime. Start with your dog seated. If s/he offers you a down instead of sitting, this is fine. If s/he starts in a sit and shifts to a down this is a sign of relaxation! Walk through the protocol, calmly and methodically. You can go through each Day consecutively or stay at any given Day for as long as you like.
Warm Up (use to practice a solid sit)
Day 1: Dog's Task
Day 2: Dog's Task
Day 3: Dog's Task
Day 4: Dog's Task
Day 7: Dog's Task
When ever you sense your dog tensing up or perhaps observe them behaving stressed and anxious (pacing, head turns etc) or just acting hyper. Try moving away from the "trigger" you believe making them anxious (car, person, dog etc) and sit or kneel down beside them. Begin to gently massage their back side, near the tail area. Use light strokes. A dogs hind side is analogous to our neck/shoulder area. Like us they hold all the stress in this area. Doesn't it feel good to get a neck and shoulder massaged? Breath slowly and deeply, massage your dog in the same rythmic way. I promise you your dog will immediately relax. They may move their rump closer to you inviting you to rub them a little more. This helps them decompress. Its a great way to diffuse trigger stacking (consessive cummulative occurances of events that cause stress ). This weekend I'm participating in a a day long Tellignton Touch dog massage workshop. I look forward to folding what I learn into my practice working with dogs. I will be learning more massage techniques by a certified TTouch practicioner.
WHAT IS TTouch:
TTouch consists of light, non-invasive massage movements and guided walking exercises designed to enhance the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of your dog, cat or other companion animal. TTouch exercises improve an animal’s confidence, balance and focus, relieve stress and fear, and allow thinking before reacting, thus breaking the cycle of repetitive behavior patterns. Developed more than 30 years ago by internationally renowned equestrian trainer, Linda Tellington-Jones, this work complements massage therapy, veterinary care, training, and behavior modification while creating a deeper rapport between humans and animals through increased understanding and more effective communication.
Tellington TTouch Method consists of light, non-invasive massage movements and guided walking exercises that are easy to learn and use. These movements effect the body’s nervous system, resulting in increased awareness and range of motion, tension and pain reduction, and a re-patterning of habitual ways of holding the body which can have a profound effect on a dog's behavior.
• Puppies who are very mouthy, lack focus or don’t like to be handled Adolescent dogs who are over stimulated, rambunctious and hard to control on leash
• Aggression issues with people or other dogs
• Separation anxiety, noise sensitivity and other fears and phobias
• Service, show or athletic dogs who underperform due to nervousness or lack of confidence
• Dogs who are recovering from injury or illness
• Older dogs with stiffness or pain from arthritis or hip dysplasia... and much more
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