There are three main dogmas that permeate throughout all Tellington TTouch Method exercises and techniques, regardless of the animal or experience level:
One of the most important pieces that you will walk away with from a workshop is this tenant: “Change your mind, change your animal”. That is; how much our perception and labels affect how we deal with a specific animal or behavior. We look at behavior as a means of communication rather than being the dog’s innate personality or attitude. It is up to us to find the root cause of behavior, because there is always a reason!
We are very quick to apply labels to behaviour and tendencies in our animals, and each other. “They’re dominant”, “they’re stubborn”, “they’re naughty”. What do any of these labels mean? Once we place them there, how easily can we remove them? Any of these “behaviours” that earned these labels were in a specific context and in response to that context or stimuli, they are not what innately makes the animal who they are.
It is always useful to hold a positive picture of the animal rather than focusing on what they are not doing or doing poorly. Remember what you really like about your animal. It can be useful to know what things about their behaviour would make life easier were it to change but you need to stay unattached to outcome.
When working with an animal it is important to stay “neutral” about behaviour rather than taking it personally. Understanding that an animal is simply doing their best to survive and cope in their environment rather than “dominate” or “win” makes it easier to look a situation rationally and objectively. Taking the ego out of working with animals and approaching every interaction from a place of understanding goes a long way.
Chunk it down. Whether it be Bodywork techniques, working towards loose leash walking, or navigating unusual elements in the Playground for Higher Learning, using the approach of “Chunking it Down” follows through. To Chunk it Down, simply means breaking an exercise
into a small enough piece so that it is easy for an animal to accept or implement.
If an animal does not feel comfortable with being touched in a certain place on their body, we would not simply keep at it incessantly until they accepted it. First we notice where it is that they show the smallest sign of apprehension or anxiety. Usually this is not in the exact spot that they “don’t like to be touched” but somewhere around it. Listening to “whispers” rather than the animal’s “shouts” is part of understanding “Feedback”. As soon as we notice concern we pause and change our approach. This may be a different part of the hand, different speed, a buffer between the hand etc. ( See Unit 5 for specific Bodywork Approaches). We have found that slowing down the process into small pieces allows us to be more successful with our initial goal and have longer lasting change even if it takes slightly longer to accomplish at the front end.
To “Chunk” something “Down” can be taken in a variety of contexts in practically all areas of our life. Slowing down the process leads to a deeper, longer lasting understanding. When the process is done in such a way that there is no fear, fear of pain, or pain there is true learning rather than acceptance or learned helplessness in the moment.
Change the Posture; Change the Animal, speaks to the idea that physical, mental, and emotional balance , or imbalance, are interconnected. Over the years we have noticed that an animal who tends to have a dysfunctional or out of balance posture will also tend to be more reactive and easily distracted or surprised. All of the Tellington TTouch exercises and techniques strive to help release tension to help an animal work in a better posture with less habitual bracing.
Through bodywork and mindful ground exercises we can help improve physical balance which creates self-carriage. When an animal is in balance physically, they tend to feel safer. When an animal feels safer they are more self-confident in their environment and can more easily oblige our requests. An animal who is self-confident has more self-control and can act rather than simply react to stimuli. This makes for a more cooperative, balanced animal who is in a thinking state.