All About The Tellington TTouch Method

dog getting a massage
credit: BigshotD3/iStock/GettyImages

The power of touch has never been more fully realized than in the Tellington TTouch (yes, it's spelled with an extra T) method developed by Linda Tellington-Jones, Ph.D. (Hon) four decades ago. The Tellington TTouch is a positive animal training, healing, and communication method that aims to help people relate to animals in a a more compassionate way, which ultimately helps develop a deeper rapport.

The Tellington TTouch is far-reaching, and since its inception has helped zoo animals, wildlife in rehabilitation, horses, companion animals, guide dogs, and most recently, humans themselves.

What is the Tellington TTouch?

The Tellington TTouch for companion animals is based on circular movements of the fingers and hands over the entire body of a dog or cat (or any companion animal). The goal is to activate the function of the cells, which awakens cellular intelligence. Think of it like turning on the electric lights of the body.

The beauty of the method is that you do not need to understand your pet's anatomy to practice it successfully for benefits in healing injuries, ailments, or changing bad habits and undesirable behavior. The method employs a combination of specific touches, lifts, and movement exercises that are designed to release tension and increase body awareness. It's known to alleviate fear responses for effective handling of animals and allows them to more easily learn new, appropriate behaviors to replace the bad ones. For example, a dog who was previously afraid in certain situations may gain self-confidence through the TTouch method. Or a previously aggressive dog may learn new ways to deal with situations rather than reacting.

Beagle puppy lies on his back with person rubbing his belly
credit: Christian Buch/iStock/GettyImages

What can the Tellington TTouch useful for?

Designed to be gentle and positive, Tellington TTouch is used by pet owners, trainers, breeders, and veterinarians for a variety of health and behavioral issues in companion animals, including the following:

  • Assisting in recovery from surgery or illness.
  • Enhancing the quality of life, especially for older pets who may have age-related difficulties with mobility or psychological challenges.
  • Excessive barking.
  • Chewing on inappropriate items such as shoes, wood furniture, walls, etc.
  • Pulling on the leash.
  • Jumping up on people.
  • Aggressive behavior or reactivity.
  • Fearful and shy dogs, for example, fear biters.
  • Anxiety, excitability, and general nervousness.
  • Car sickness.
  • Due to the emphasis on body touches, it can increase coordination, focus, accepting equipment (as in guide or service dogs), adaptability, confidence, self-control, and distraction.

Certified TTouch Practitioners are found across the globe and if you're interested in learning more about Tellington TTouch or acquiring the services of a practitioner, check out the Practitioner Directory.

French bulldog getting a massage
credit: stphillips/iStock/GettyImages

Tellington TTouch Study: Guide Dogs

A perfect example of TTouch in action is illustrated in a study conducted in Australia with guide dogs at a guide dog school. As you can imagine, the most challenging aspect of being a guide dog is the requirement to be sensitive enough to be managed by their trainers and owners, yet simultaneously possess a stable and robust temperament that equips them to deal with the stress of training and countless challenging working environments. Certainly, these two characteristics can be at odds.

Many dogs who are well-qualified to be guide dogs just don't make it through schooling due to this dichotomy. After all, the dogs enter training at only 12-to-20 months old, so they are young and inexperienced in life and not fully mature in terms of their personalities and character traits. Most have come from foster families who nurtured them through puppyhood and they now find themselves in a completely different, certainly strange, kennel environment. These dogs have much to overcome, such as stress and anxiety related to the abrupt change in their lives.

white puppy getting massage from woman
credit: manushot/iStock/GettyImages

Guide dog training needs to incorporate techniques that help the canine candidates relax so as to gain confidence and focus to move forward and become the invaluable companions they exemplify in their role as guide dogs. According to the study, the Tellington TTouch, used in conjunction with traditional guide dog training, is shown to help achieve these goals.

In conclusion, the study found that incorporating the TTouch into guide dog training did help reduce stress and helped the dogs learn. It also identified problems and helped dogs develop skills that enhanced body movement, balance, and body awareness. Tellington TTouch also tended to enrich the training process whereby it clarified decision-making for the trainers on whether a dog was prepared to be a guide.

The study concluded that further research was required to measure the effects of integrating TTouch into the guide dog training program and how it affected the dogs' sensory system. While case studies are being prepared for publication, anecdotal evidence suggests that TTouch has positively influenced the quality of several guide dogs in Canada and New Zealand, as well as detector dogs and assistance dogs in New Zealand. In addition, companion animal owners the world over sing the praises of this unique method.

Since the TTouch has been around for decades, it's safe to say the efficacy of the program has been proven. However, it is not for everyone or every dog or cat. Yet one more option for your consideration, the Tellington TTouch is worth looking into if you are struggling with behavioral or health issues with your dog or cat.