TTouch for My Spice Girl

Last weekend Cay and I attended a TTouch seminar by Sage (Stacy) Lewis, author of Java: The True Story of a Shelter Dog Who Rescued a Woman. I had previously done some TTouch work with my other rescue dog Chase and wanted to learn and practice ways to calm Cay and help build her confidence. When Cay gets very worried, she often emits gas that can peel the paint off the walls! It’s a very noticeable stress indicator, and I’d like to eliminate it as much as possible.

During the seminar, dogs and their people were seated in a large circle around the room. Cay had a hard time settling down and would often stand up and try to keep track of everything going on around her. Being a herding dog, I’m sure she would have liked to gather the whole class into a corner and hold them there. Having us all spread out created a mental challenge for her.

Sage is a phenomenal teacher. She has a unique ability to read both people and dogs. She facilitates the class so that the human participants are comfortable and can help their canine companions relax. There is plenty of time to learn and get answers to your questions without feeling rushed or stressed. She spoke to us about appropriate ways to approach a new person, and got us thinking about how to transfer that to a dog by touching them gently on the shoulder and not handling them roughly or getting in their face. We learned how to do Noah’s March, long, sweeping, gentle strokes that are a good way to open a TTouch session. We learned the circular TTouch strokes called the Abalone Touch and the Raccoon Touch. We learned ear slides. I discovered that Cay LOVES ear slides and relaxed a lot while I was doing them. Pretty awesome for a girl whose ears were compacted with gunk and very sensitive when she first came to me. I couldn’t touch her ears back then.

Aside from learning particular strokes, the session got me thinking about how I interact with Cay at home. She’s a boisterous, high energy adolescent, but she responds well to gentle touch and even seeks it out now.

At the break, I took Cay outside. The paint peeling gas that she’d had during the first half of class materialized in a nasty pile of semi-liquid diarrhea–another sign of her stress in this new place with new dogs.

During the second half of the seminar, we put a body wrap on our dogs. This can literally be an ace bandage wrapped around the dog’s body in a specified way to provide a “hug” and give the dog a more secure feeling. Cay responded well to that and relaxed. By the end of the seminar, she was lying on her blanket on her side, dozing. That was quite a change from her nervous pacing and panting at the beginning of the session.

Even though I had been exposed to TTouch before, I learned new things from Sage that I’m going to practice at home. I’ll continue using the long gentle strokes and ear slides for Cay and my other dogs. Boisterous dogs often respond well to the gentle touches. I’ll use the body wrap sometimes around the house (I use one on Chase during thunderstorms), and when Cay goes to obedience school.

Sage did a short animal communication reading for each dog at the end of class. She mentioned that Cay enjoyed this one-on-one time with me and would like more alone time with me. Cay first came to me as a foster dog to get more attention from a person, but with two other dogs in the house, this is sometimes a challenge. I thought of rotating the three dogs when I’m working at the computer, so they can take turns sitting by me. Even though we’re not actively training, this can be a bonding time. Bandit, my most dominant herding dog, has always tried to control Cay’s movement around the house. So letting Cay be the only dog in the room with me at times is one new way to give her more individual attention. Of course, I’m trying to fit in more time where I’m giving her my full, undivided attention too.

Since the TTouch session last Sunday, Cayenne has related to me differently. She seeks me out more and seems calmer around the house. One evening the two boy dogs were sleeping in the bedroom and she brought a bone over and laid down next to me to chew on it. She used to go and hide in her crate or lay on the dog bed out of the way, but this time she came over on her own. I hadn’t even tried my plan to separate the three dogs yet. She seemed to have more confidence, probably due to the better connection between us, something she had never experienced before.

With Cay becoming more confident, Chase seems more worried that she’ll take over his position in the pack. I need to be wary of that too.

On Wednesday evening, I put the body wrap on Cay at her second Obedience 2 class. She was overloaded during the first class, with many new dogs moving around in a relatively small space. A herding dog just wants to organize all that chaos! The body wrap seemed to help Cay calm down and focus on the exercises more without worrying as much about what was going on around us.

It’s been very gratifying to see Cay develop and start to come into her own. I named her Cayenne because I knew there was some spice in there somewhere! Now Cay is turning into our own little “spice girl”.

Learn more about Sage’s TTouch seminars and other offerings at http://www.dancingporcupine.com/

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