How does massage or Tellington TTouch work to enable a dog to continue to be active as he ages?
As with people, dogs may experience many physiological changes with aging that affect their mobility and comfort. Older dogs who participate in a variety of sports may have an increased incidence of injury and a slower recovery. Often balance and coordination are decreased with aging, leading to diminished performance. Through the application of the Tellington Method, people can help their canine companions to improve overall mobility, enhance recovery from physical exertion and stress, and maintain a positive attitude towards competition.
What are the differences between ordinary canine massage and Tellington TTouch?
While both offer significant benefits, they affect the body in a different manner. Massage is directed toward the muscular tissues, while Tellington TTouch is primarily concerned with giving information to the nervous system, particularly the sensory (information from both the outer and inner environment) aspect of the nervous system. TTouch consists of a variety of circular touches, lifts, and long strokes applied with a very light pressure to the skin. This tactile input is then carried through the sensory nerves to the processing centers of the brain and results in a variety of responses in the body including release of muscle tension, improvement in body awareness and balance, and even stimulation of the body's own healing mechanisms. With the advances of neuroscience in the past decade, we now know that the nervous system communicates with other systems in the body through chemical messengers. We can have an impact on the entire body, possibly even at the cellular level, through the application of specific sensory information through TTouch.
The Tellington Method actually is much more comprehensive than just the TTouch. There are three components to the method including 1) TTouch (the bodywork described above); 2) Ground Exercises which help to improve confidence, body awareness, balance, and focus by leading dogs through a course of specific exercises slowly; and 3) TTouch Tools which includes various equipment applied to influence the dog's balance and posture and movement. The integration of all three aspects of the Tellington Method is what produces often profound changes in a dog's ability to continue an active lifestyle.
Are all dogs receptive to and able to benefit from massage or Tellington TTouch?
With Tellington TTouch there are rarely if any negative responses or resulting soreness associated with the work. TTouch is non-invasive and is performed with the intent of assisting the dog to achieve the highest level of function, both physically and emotionally. Part of the process of working with TTouch is to be very observant of the animal's response to each particular TTouch or activity. The underlying philosophy is to work with the animal in a partnership with respect, always setting the animal up to be successful. Occasionally there are dogs that have soreness or pain in the body and are reactive to being touched initially. We would approach a case like this with very gradual steps, using tools such as a sheep skin mitt or other soft material to start. It is very important to gain the dog's trust, and keep the sessions short.
Do you have an anecdote to report about an older dog who has maintained or regained her ability to participate in sports as a result of being the recipient of Tellington TTouch?
While we have many TTouch success stories involving improved performance in older dogs, perhaps my most memorable was with an older Border Collie named Pops. With a long history of competitive agility in his younger years, Pops had incurred a back injury that lead to severe weakness of his hind legs and difficulty walking. At times he was barely able to get up with out help and seemed quite depressed in general. His person, Becky, had brought Pops to one of our week-long practitioner trainings in the hope that the TTouch work could relieve some of his pain and improve his gait. At this time, quality of life was the most important goal for Pops. Being a typical Border Collie, Pops never gave up and wanted desperately to be active. We worked with him throughout the week in short sessions, paying particular attention to improving his awareness of his hindquarters with connected TTouches down his back and both legs to his feet. We also applied a TTouch Tool called the Body Wrap, which is an ace bandage applied to the dog's body to give sensation and feedback to the nervous system during movement. Over the course of the week, Pops did indeed improve in his ability to walk and stand in balance. On the last day I had the students leading dogs through the groundwork. At this particular facility, there was agility equipment set up in the room, including an A-Frame. We typically do not use this type of equipment for groundwork, but we wanted to work on asking the dogs to maneuver this obstacle slowly up and down. We noticed that Pops was getting very excited at just the sight of the equipment and so his person decided to allow Pops to try the A-Frame. I certainly thought that Pops would need a lot of help with this activity, but as the entire class watched in amazement, Pops climbed up and down the A-Frame and then literally ran around the room barking like his younger self! It certainly brought tears to his person's eyes and obviously gave Pops the joy of accomplishment he once knew.
Kathy Cascade, PT, Certified Tellington TTouch Practitioner