Tag Archives: socialisation

Belly lifts

Giving your puppy the Magic TTouch

Spike's World

Everybody loves puppies!  With their playful ways and cute appearance you can’t help but want to wrap them in cotton wool with many of the maternal feelings we have for our own children.  However in all too short a length of time they grow to become adult dogs and it is our duty to give them as good a start as we can.  In addition to puppy classes the Tellington TTouch can be extremely helpful in raising a well adjusted adult dog.

The Tellington TTouch is a unique and rewarding way of working with all animals. Developed over 30 years ago by Linda Tellington Jones, TTouch offers ways to help animals overcome a wide variety of behavioural problems without the use of dominance, fear or force.  Using a combination of bodywork and ground exercises the TTouch aims to improve the physical balance of the animal, as physical balance is achieved so mental and emotion balance follows.  The behaviour of an animal can be linked to its posture in many ways, animals with tension through the hindquarters can often be afraid of loud noises such as fireworks, they may be reluctant to being picked up and placed on a veterinarians table and may be badly behaved in the car.  With the use of TTouch these patterns of tension can be removed along with the unwanted behaviour.

Puppy brains are like sponges yet are beginning to show adult brain waves by the age of 8 weeks. Socialisation not only helps to influence emotional responses but also has been shown to increase the numbers of neural connections made within the brain, thus increasing the dog’s potential for learning.  A study was carried out with horses whereby their brain wave pattern were measured whilst being TTouched, consistently it was shown that all four brain waves (alpha, beta theta and delta) were produced when being TTouched.  Petting, stroking and brushing produced no change, only the circular TTouched produced this amazing change in the animal’s brain waves.  It has been proven that puppies raised in a stimulating environment have an increased ability to cope with stress in later life, so if we are able to stimulate our puppy’s brains with TTouch then the potential to increase their ability to learn is enormous!

Just like children, puppies have little idea of what the world expects of them and how to behave, ‘bad’ puppies are often showing signs of worry or anxiety or possibly reacting to pain or discomfort in their own bodies.  These behaviours are reactive and instinctive; nature governs how each animal will respond to the situation.  Some puppies will roll over in a submissive type gesture others will run away while others will mouth or bite.  By using TTouch it is possible to bring animals into a state of awareness whereby the animal is brought into a thinking state rather than the instinctive reactive mode normally seen.  This ‘thinking’ state does away with the need for the harsh, negative behaviour modification methods we are all trying to move away from.

As well as learning all about the world around them, puppies are also on a voyage of self discovery, if one considers how long a human baby has to learn how to coordinate its limbs of it’s own will it is amazing that a puppy can do all it can in such a shot space of time.  It is no wonder therefore ,that in the process some body parts get left behind of forgotten about, resulting in rather bumbling gangly puppies!  With the use of TTouch bodywork we can give the body feedback as to what is where allowing the animal to achieve a much more balanced posture and mind from day one.

Ear TTouch

Taking the ear in the direction it grows (Upwards for pointy eared dogs or horizontal for floppy eared dogs) and gently stroking from base to tip, with each stroke covering a different part of the ear you can soon help to calm an excitable or nervous puppy.  This is especially useful when you first take your puppy home to calm it without promoting an unhealthy attachment which will prove hard to rectify later in life.

Ear TTouch

Notice how this puppy is being settled with another hand, the use of the second hand helps to give a feeling of containment.  It is very important not to hold the puppy down at any time as it should always have the opportunity to move if it wishes.

Mouth TTouch

Many puppies will be mouthy or licky and most will go through a chewing stage.  Licking and mouthing are often emotional responses to fear or anxiety as can chewing objects. Mouth TTouches involve making small, light circular movements of the outside of the dogs mouth, with persistence you should soon be able to make the same light, circular movements on the INSIDE of the puppy’s mouth on the gums (Your fingers may need to be moistened with a little water first) This helps to calm to anxious, emotional behaviour commonly seen in new puppies.  The mouth TTouch also helps reduce the irritation caused during teething, reducing the puppy’s wish to chew every hard object you own!

Mouth work

This puppy is lying down enjoying the Mouth TTouch; however she still finds it rather unusual.  The Mouth TTouch is very light and not uncomfortable; dogs will often push you away to start with simply because it’s a strange sensation.  The Mouth TTouch is all the more important for puppies to learn to accept having their mouths handled for tooth brushing and vet visits.

Tail TTouch

As I sad puppies have to learn about their bodies in a relatively short space of time, often they are still unsure where they start and where they end!  By using the Tail TTouch we can give a puppy information as to where it is in space not only helping the puppy to balance but helping to prevent the usual clumsiness so common in adolescent dogs.

The tail TTouch involves very gently moving each vertebra from the base to the tip. I can’t stress enough how gentle these movements are as the tail is very delicate.  The Tail may also be gently circled at the base.  The aim isn’t to see how far the tail can be moved but to gently give the body information as to where its tail is and what it does!  It is also said that certain endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’ are released when the tail is moved in this way, helping to calm a puppy.

An overly anxious puppy with a continually wagging tail can be calmed by gently holding the tail, causing the dog to stop wagging, rather like a hysterical person made to sit to calm down, stopping the movement of the tail often results in an instantly calm puppy.

Tail TTouch

After an initial confusion, most puppies love the Tail TTouch, this puppy has become totally relaxed at the gentle movements.  When the Tail TTouches is being done, it is useful to feel for kinks and bumps as these can indicate levels of tension in other places.

Belly lifts

Have you ever noticed how you get ‘butterflies in your stomach’ when you feel worried? Puppies can suffer the same, often holding a great deal of tension in their abdomen often resulting in vomiting especially in the car.  Ideally we would like a puppy’s experience of the car to be as positive as possible to prevent problems in later life.  By using a small towel or your clasped hands to make slow, gentle lifting movements, you can work to reduce the tension through the abdomen.


Belly liftsBelly lifts

This puppy is having gentle Belly lifts with a piece of kitchen towel, the lifting movement is tiny, only 10mm of so.  Notice how, in picture two, the puppy has relaxed his spine allowing his back to be much more flexible, also he is now standing more squarely with both hind feet being level, as apposed to having one foot behind him as in picture one.

The TTouch offers a fun opportunity for the whole family to have a positive influence of the life of their new family member.  Children take to the TTouch movements with ease and it can be a fantastic way to teach a young child to interact with a puppy, counteracting their instinctive need to grab and cuddle!  Each TTouch movement is complete and every TTouch will make a difference.

Above all remembering that your puppy is often behaving instinctively and knows no other way,  with guidance, a lot of patience and the power of TTouch we can work to make the puppy phase run as smoothly and be as fun as possible, with a well adjusted adult dog at the end of it!

Selecting a puppy with a long pedigree family tree may seem the sure fire way to a perfect puppy.

Socialisation for the genes

Today’s post is kindly sponsored by Spike’s World – food and accessories that are out of this world!

The domestic dog is arguably one of the most genetically diverse species on the planet, in fact the World Canine Organisation recognises over 300 individual breeds. Thousands of years of artificially selecting and breeding only the individuals most suited to the needs of humanity, rapidly produced a multitude of breeds with a body plan and temperament for every aspect of human society.

Selecting a puppy with a long pedigree family tree may seem the sure fire way to a perfect puppy.

Selecting a puppy with a long pedigree family tree may seem the sure fire way to a perfect puppy.

Whilst in the main our requirement for dogs as working companions has lessened (assistance dogs aside), our obsession with pedigree and improving canine genetics is still just as prevalent as ever. The recent controversy and media coverage surrounding a spate of television documentaries highlighting the potential genetic difficulties inherent in the breeding of pedigree dogs demonstrates the emotive nature of canine genetics.

Even for those not involved in the dog-showing scene, purchasing a new puppy often involves a great deal of research into the family history of the new arrival to ensure its ancestors were as healthy as possible. It is well documented that many of the most common conditions found in our canine companions, such as hip dysplasia and allergies can have a genetic basis.

With all this knowledge and careful breeding, it might be thought that such issues would soon be confined to the past, however, research shows that our classic view of inheritance may not be as it seems, putting into question the way we breed our dogs.

Classically it was known that each parent in a breeding pair passed on its own ‘blueprint’ of genes to its offspring, so each puppy inherited half its genes from its mother and half from its father. Therefore, as long as each parent was healthy and free of behavioural issues, it was thought each puppy would all be born as a clean slate with the perfect set of genetic instructions that when nurtured with correct nutrition and socialisation, would produce equally perfect adults.

However, research has found that the blueprint of genes passed on to the next generation can be affected by the experiences (such as stress or diet) of the parents, both before and during pregnancy. Known as epigenetics (literally “on top of genetics”), the blueprint has genetic markers added to it which markedly effect the way any future offspring develop. These genetic markers can also be added to offspring as they develop in the womb, potentially moulding the young before they are even born.

The bitch may change the genetic switches of her unborn puppies whilst they are in the womb.

The bitch may change the genetic switches of her unborn puppies whilst they are in the womb.

This is not confined to animals, parents of a Swiss town who endured famine were found to produce children with a greater chance of developing diabetes in adulthood. More recently, children who were in the womb in the vicinity of the atrocities of 9/11 are now presenting with a host of terrible stress disorders, despite not even being born at the time.

These findings suggest relying on good genes and socialisation may not always be enough to ensure our dogs develop into well-rounded individuals. Potentially, the diet, everyday experiences, stresses and socialisation of a dog’s parents, grandparents and even great grandparents, may influence its health and temperament.

Such epigenetic changes to the genetic blueprint may explain the seemingly increasing prevalence of canine allergies; atopic dermatitis, for example, has become a massive problem in the Labrador retriever, despite careful selective breeding.

The link with stress may have implications for those breeders who choose to breed in a kennel environment and certainly for the rightly maligned puppy farm. A highly stressed bitch is likely to produce puppies with lower stress tolerance as adults, despite careful socialisation. The quality of the care the bitch provides her pups may affect their brain development; research with rats found that pups that did not receive regular licking from their mothers, were anxious and had ‘anxious brains’.

The prevention of stressful experiences in the pregnant mother may also prove a challenge for those who breed in a home environment; it is well documented that hormones related to stress rise when dogs are left alone and may be influenced by the interaction of other family members. Every dog owner has, at some point, witnessed his or her dog’s upset while watching a heated family discussion or argument.

Firework season may also present an issue for even the most well socialised canine, as today’s fireworks become progressively louder. If fearful experiences felt by the bitch during pregnancy can cause negative long-term changes in the puppies, it might be preferable not to breed during these months or for those looking for a new puppy to take into account exactly when their new arrival was in utero.

The move towards more biologically appropriate nutrition for our canine companions is certainly a move in the right direction, however, it is known the absence of particular nutrients, especially during pregnancy, can have a profound effect on the genetic markers the young receive. In effect, a dog’s health may not just be determined by the food it eats but by the food its mother ate too.  Can the legacy of a previously poor quality, allergen and preservative laden diet have already left its mark on our dogs’ health?

The lifestyle and upbringing of a puppy's grandparents may influence its behaviour and health. Should a puppy's family history become just as important as its family tree?

The lifestyle and upbringing of a puppy’s grandparents may influence its behaviour and health. Should a puppy’s family history become just as important as its family tree?

It is clear that changes to the genetic blueprint may occur with the experiences a dog has over its lifetime and that these experiences can be passed to the next generation. Whilst any thought of a genetic pill to wipe clean the legacy of the past is light years away, should we question the criteria we use when selecting a breeder or puppy? When asking to see the parents of a new puppy, should we in fact be asking to see their grandparents and great grandparents?  Should we be asking for records of the diet, birth date and home environment of not just the parents but also the preceding generations?

Only time will tell, but it is true to say that in light of new genetic research, the science of dog breeding may never be the same again.