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  Getting a General Feel for where your Pet is holding his Tension and Stress 
   

We know from science that we hold emotional issues in the cellular structure of our bodies. Animals do the same! Try an experiment with your pet and see if you can tell where he/she is holding his tension and issues. Do some long steady strokes over every part of your pet’s body. Is there any area where you can’t touch? Or that your pet gives an indication that he might be concerned or uncomfortable?

The signs you might get include:

  1. Moving away
  2. Sitting: especially when you get to the tail and hindquarter area
  3. Turning around to look at what you’re doing
  4. A calming signal [see Turid Rugaas’ book] such as yawning, licking of lips, scratching, chewing sniffing, etc.
  5. Fooling around! He’s trying to distract you!
  6. Growl or try to bite! Please be careful and pay attention to the information your pet is giving you.
   

 

And what does this tell you? It could be several things:

  1. Your animal could have pain in that part of his body. i.e. if he has arthritis
  2. He might have a memory of pain. Ever clipped a toenail too short and tried to go back again later? Or have a pet who was injured in the past but is still wary of that part of his body?
  3. Your pet could be holding emotional issues in this part of the body.
Make sure you work from the mouth [including inside], to the ears, down the legs into the feet and toes and go all the way back to the but and the length of the tail. If you know how to do the circles then try that as well! (See basic circular TTouch). If you’re getting reaction in a certain area, try a softer pressure or a flatter touch. Sometimes the reaction will be very subtle and sometimes quite dramatic.

Just know that this is the area where your pet feels unsafe and what we want to do is give him a NEW experience of this part of his body. You might gently try going into these areas more frequently until he is more comfortable with touch. Good luck and let us know how you do!

 

  How does your attitude affect your pet? 
   

More and more I’m coming to understand how much our feelings, attitude and reactions impact on our pets, and their well-being, both emotionally and behaviorally. When I first had Danilo and he was starting to misbehave, I did ALL OF THE WRONG THINGS! I yelled at him, chased him and punished him! I did not know any better! We all get frustrated with a dog’s behavior and resort to harsh tones. When Danilo used to run out of the gate onto the street and then didn’t come back when I called; what did I do? When he did come, I scolded him! Needless to say, today I know better.

The rule is: IF YOUR DOG DOES WHAT YOU WANT, PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE! This means that even though he was naughty about going out onto the street, [or whatever the problem might be] when he does come back, it is the desired behavior, so make him feel good. The truth is that often my yelling at him was a reinforcement of his bad behavior as all he wanted to begin with was attention!

We do the same thing in other contexts. An example is when we feel sorry for a dog. I have many clients who chose to take a rescue dog. Perhaps it’s been mistreated, so what do we do? We feel sorry for the dog and fuss over it. This might make sense to our human emotions, but it makes the dog wonder why it’s human is so concerned. The dog in turn becomes wary and unsure! Feeling sorry for an animal doesn’t empower it! We have the same problem when we go to do work in shelters.

Our first impulse is to feel terrible about these animals. In fact, they are off the street, are being looked after both medically and physically and have a chance of finding a good home. What they need is self-confidence and to feel good about themselves. When this happens, they are more balanced in mind and spirit and have a better chance of being a well-adjusted animal in a new home.

What if our pet is sick or injured? Think what you would do if it were your child. Would you sit with a child, cry and fuss or would you be strong for your child and help him to feel like he’ll be well soon! A positive attitude and the intention of helping the healing process [whether mental or physical] can have a dramatic effect. I think what I’m trying to say is that your pet will pick up on your energy what ever it is! If you are feeling sorry for your pet, he’ll probably be feeling the same way. And a “poor me” attitude is NOT a healing one.

If your dog is misbehaving and you can’t control the behavior, walk away from it and it loses what it wants: the attention! And needless to say: GET BACK TO TRAINING!

 

  Fear of Thunderstorms and Loud Noises 
    One of the opposites of fear is confidence or assurance. When our pets are fearful, how can we teach them that the fear is unwarranted? There are many ways via animal behavior that can help such as desensitizing an animal to certain things like loud noises. The problem with playing a tape of thunder is that it doesn’t take into account the change in the atmospheric pressure, which triggers many animals.

I can only tell you that I am getting many phone calls and emails from people who are having success with their pets who have been traumatized by thunderstorms. The answer is a combination of bodywork [touches], ground exercises, which boost the self-confidence of the dog, and a body wrap. If you haven’t been to a clinic and experienced the body wrap, I suggest you put a T-shirt on your dog and secure it around the belly with a piece of elastic. Even try cutting a hole for the tail so that it can go over the buttock area. We find that many animals that are fearful of loud noises hold tension in their hindquarters and if you can release this, you will start to see a change in attitude from you pet.
   



One of the opposites of fear is confidence or assurance. When our pets are fearful, how can we teach them that the fear is unwarranted? There are many ways via animal behavior that can help such as desensitizing an animal to certain things like loud noises. The problem with playing a tape of thunder is that it doesn’t take into account the change in the atmospheric pressure and electrical charges in the atmosphere, which triggers many animals.

I can only tell you that I am getting many phone calls and emails from people who are having success with their pets who have been traumatized by thunderstorms. The answer is a combination of bodywork [TTouches], ground exercises, which boost the self-confidence of the dog, and a body wrap. If you haven’t been to a clinic and experienced the body wrap, I suggest you put a T-shirt on your dog and secure it around the belly with a piece of elastic or make a knot on the back with a scrunchie. Even try cutting a hole for the tail so that it can go over the buttock area. We find that many animals that are fearful of loud noises hold tension in their hindquarters and if you can release this, you will start to see a change in attitude from you pet. A body wrap can act like a swaddling blanket on a baby. Very calming.

Ear work can be very soothing to animals and most really love it. Also if you know how to do Abalone circles, they are the most soothing touch of all. It’s the regular circle and a quarter but it uses the entire hand: both palm and fingers. When you reach the end of the last quarter circle, hold the skin for a second or two, and then do a SLOW release. If you have a shivering dog, you’ll find that often on the hold, the trembling with momentarily stop, then start again when you release the skin. Keep doing this on one side of the body, supporting with the other hand on the other side. The trembling will slowly recede.

Another thing to remember is that it is very tempting to sooth your dog to relieve his fears, but we can make them worse if we get too concerned. If the fear is mild, it’s sometimes better to go about your business, talk matter of factly to the dog and not make a big deal of it. If you want to do touch work on your dog, DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE STORM! You’ll be much more successful if you do the work now, relieve tensions in the body and boost your pets confidence. Then when the thunder starts, he’ll be less likely to react. And if you do need to do TTouch work during the storm, it’s already been established as something good and not necessarily associated with the thunder.

The idea of the groundwork is to bring more awareness into the body of your pet. If you do simple exercises at a slow pace, the body learns to be perfectly balanced. Try setting up a simple maze in your garden or see how well your dog picks up his feet over poles and different textured surfaces. If he has any problems, do some long strokes down his body into his feet as well as circles and python lifts on his legs. Remember, it “Can’t Hurt, and it Might Help”! There is a description of Python lifts as well as other touches on the International website at www.ttouch.com and a description of ear work, tail, mouth, etc. on our website at www.ttouchsa.co.za

 

  The Feldenkrais Method and Horse-riders – Barbara McCrea 
   

The roots of Linda Tellington-Jones' work lie firmly in the Feldenkrais Method of Movement Education, in which she trained in the US in the late 1970's. This Method (Fel-den-krais, it rhymes with rice) was developed by an Israeli, Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), a brilliant physicist, who studied human movement with exceptional precision and developed innovative exercises to retrain the way people use their bodies (and minds) to overcome various physical limitations.

The neuromuscular exercises are known for their gentleness, slow pace and ability to create flexibility, balance and ease of movement. They are not straightforward strengthening exercises; instead they develop the crucial element of kinesthetic awareness and body learning - our ability to feel and control what we are doing, and to be able to do things differently. Moshe Feldenkrais did not work with animals, though he worked with babies and people who were neurologically impaired - expertly using his hands to guide their bodies, to help people lengthen chronically shortened muscles and improve their ability to move, whether they could understand what he was saying to them or not. Linda took his work forward for use on animals, and combined it with her own ideas, and ways of touching, but many of the Feldenkrais principles remain intact.

One of the ideas is to use less effort, to work smarter, not to force a person or animal to break through resistance and limitations through force. Following in order to lead, is another strategy, in other words,
doing what they are already doing in order to gain acceptance, in order to then lead or bring about change in a subtle, unforceful way. I watched Linda working at a Feldenkrais practitioners' conference in
Heidleberg, Germany, a few years ago, and was amazed at how quickly she was able to establish a level of trust and relationship with the animal she was working with. Our brains and nervous systems are what control movement, and this is the arena in which a Feldenkrais practitioner works - we change the wiring, the way the brain informs the muscles.

My personal experience as a practitioner has been working with riders, rather than horses, helping them enhance their riding skills. What I enjoy most about working with riders is that, like dancers, their level of kinesthetic awareness is already developed, and there is always a keenness to develop that more, knowing that the more finely tuned, relaxed and poised their bodies are, the better they can ride and control their own movement, and so, of course improve their horse's performance.

One of the concrete ways I can help riders is, for instance, to be able to be seated equally on each sitting bone. Most people, without knowing it, or being able to control it or change it, have a little more weight on one side of their seat than the other. This will definitely influence the way you ride and the way your horse adapts to your weight. I can also help people who find there is more weight in one foot than the other, who find that their hips (or one hip) is not as free as they would like, whose inner thighs are over tight, those riders who hold their breath, or tighten their necks and tense their shoulders. We all know ideally how free our bodies need to be to ride optimally, but have no idea how to achieve that level of freedom.

I guide people through different Feldenkrais exercises over a course of a weekend. Doing a weekend itself is enormously beneficial and participants feel results straightaway - feeling relaxed, lighter, looser and taller - and they also have self-help strategies to take home with them. Individual sessions are more like receiving a treatment, except the quality of touch I use is gentle, guiding and nurturing, and very helpful for a range of physical problems or limitations.

[Barbara McCrea has had 14 years experience teaching the Feldenkrais Method, mostly in UK where she trained. She now lives in Cape Town, and comes to Johannesburg four times a year. Contact her on 021 788 9626.]