Monday, March 21, 2011

Massage Monday: T-Touch

Have any of you ever wanted to bond better with your dog? Maybe you have a high strung dog or a senior dog who just needs a bit more TLC. T-touch is definitely a good way to go. This post is written completely from experience as I do not have any certification with T-touch: it was something we learned at guide dog school that I think is beneficial for any dog owner. If my descriptions are not clear enough, there are graphic demonstrations that can be found through your preferred search engine.
T-touch is a type of massage that is performed on dogs. There are other kinds of dog massage out there and you can take courses that would go into greater detail. These courses would also allow you to sell your trade as a dog massage therapist, but as I said above, a dog massage therapist I am not. :)
T-touch is a simple series of strokes that a handler performs on their dog in order to encourage relaxation and bonding. Touching and talking to your dog develops trust between dog and handler and therefore promotes healthier relationships. T-touch can be done either silently or with quiet, soothing remarks made by the handler. The first step is to create a relaxed environment, free from distractions. When I was at Leader Dogs for the Blind, we were encouraged to practice T-touch in our rooms with our dogs lying comfortably and quietly on their sleeping mats. We had single occupancy rooms and so it was easy to find quiet time.
After you have your spot picked out, let your dog settle in. You may have to start the first few sessions with the dog on leash in order to keep him or her from wandering off before you can get started. The key is never to force your dog, but in the beginning they may be more interested in licking your face and hands than staying put. Without physically forcing them into a down, or sitting on them to stop them from moving, gently convince them that this is a good thing. Perform the strokes slowly and gently even if they aren't quite sure at first and would rather sniff about. If your dog is good at a down stay, try giving this cue and then administering T-touch.
Now that you've got your spot and you are not sitting on your dog, let's go through the strokes of T-touch. You can use all of these, pick the ones you are most comfortable with or, most importantly, use the ones that seem to relax your dog the most. The easiest of the strokes is performed with the dog lying down. The handler starts with their palm flat and fingers relaxed. With the relaxed hand, the handler starts the stroke at the top of the dog's head and very slowly draws the hand down the dog's body, stopping at either the base of the tail or the end; depending on what your dog likes. It's like you are petting your dog, but very slowly and with one smooth stroke from nose to tail. The key to this one is the speed. If you do it too quickly you would stimulate the dog instead of relaxing him or her and the dog could become more energetic. The pressure you use is completely up to you and your dog. Experiment with differing levels of pressure. Maybe your dog likes a firmer touch because he or she is ticklish,  or perhaps your dog likes feather, light touches. You can even move in a smooth, slow stroke from the dog's shoulder/hip down the legs to the paws. This particular maneuver works well on Glacier. It makes him pass right out.
Another technique you can use is kind of like hair pulling, but it is not aggressive. You can very gently take hold of the dog's fur close to the roots between your thumb and fingers and gently pull. Some dogs like this, some don't. Glacier was kind of impartial to it. You don't have to go in any kind of pattern; just move around the dog's body tugging lightly on their fur. Make sure you get close to the roots though as that keeps this technique from being painful. If you want to know what it feels like, pull your own hair. Test it on yourself until you know what feels nice and then try it on your dog.
You can also do something similar to your dog's ears. You are not pulling the fur, but gently tugging on the ears. You start at the base of the ear and very gently run the ear through your fingers from base to tip. Again, the key is slowly and gently. Lightly squeezing different parts of the ear between your thumb and forefinger can work as well. Again, experiment with the pressure, but remember that the dog's ears are sensitive and he or she probably won't like a whole lot of pressure.
The last technique is a basic stroke that goes in a counter clockwise motion. This stroke is a bit more complicated in that it requires a bit more concentration on the part of the handler to remember to finish the stroke. I always had to think more when performing this technique. Your fingertips are held loosely together and you let your hand fall wherever it wants to on the dog's body; behind his or her ear, on top of the head, above the tail Etc.  Then you make your full counter clockwise circle with a semi-counter clockwise circle to finish the stroke off. So it's like you make the circle and continue half way  around again. On the face of the clock you would make your way from 12 to 12 and keep going in one fluid motion from 12 to 10ish. Does that make sense? :) The pressure you use is completely up to you or your dog, but remember with all of these techniques that we are trying to relax our dogs. Fast, vigorous strokes will stimulate the dog and he or she probably won't like techniques that are performed too deeply.
Learning T-touch at Leader Dogs for the Blind was a great addition to mine and Glacier's training experience. It really helped us bond. It got him used to my touch and voice and the day he fell asleep while I was performing T-touch, I knew he trusted me. I think the key is to enjoy what you are doing and let yourself relax as well. Don't worry if you only do it for five minutes or twenty. Just do what works for you. If five minute sessions throughout the day fits your schedule better, then go for it. If you know you can sit down and designate a half hour once a week, or every day, do that. It's your time together so take advantage of it. :)


Oskar said...

Great information, we are going to try it!

Nubbin wiggles,

Frankie Furter said...

It all sounds delightful to ME.. I hope my mom tries it out.

wonder if it would help me on Scary THUNDER storm days?

Torie said...

I think I shall have to try this. I had never heard of this before. Can the dog be asleep or awake? And how do you know if it is working? Can you even do it after grooming?


Sarge said...

Wow, this sounds so nice. What a great way for a person and dog to spend quality time together! I love the thought of this. I better go talk to my peeps about this. Thanks!
Grr and Woof,
Sarge, COP

browndogcbr said...

Hi Y'all,

My Human uses massage and has put me to sleep so I started to fall over from a sitting position. It is truly wonderful. They've used that and accupuncture on the horses for years.

Stop by tomorrow for an Award. Don't worry, we know you're having issues learning your new computer. We just want more people to know about your wonderful blog.

My Human had problems getting the Award thingy to show up until she figured out to right click and save it to her pictures on her computer. Then she loaded it to the blog like a regular picture...but she uses Windows, so it might not work for you.

Hawk aka BrownDog

L^2 said...

We do this at least a couple of times a week (or as often as my allergies will allow), and Jack relaxes, but his tail still pretty much wags the entire time - he just loves the extra attention. :)