Features May 1999 Issue

A Calming TTouch To Noise-Phobic Dogs

TTEAM uses a different approach to phobias with surprising results.

[Updated February 4, 2016]

It’s five a.m. You’re suddenly awakened by a sound. After a moment you roll over and go back to sleep, realizing it’s Tuesday and thinking dark thoughts about garbage trucks.

Your noise-phobic dog, however, may not only think the sky is falling, but also that it’s his responsibility to make sure that everyone in the world knows about it. So much for your sleep.

When the average dog hears a loud or unusual noise, as long as no one around him panics or acts strangely, he’ll generally figure out that there is nothing to worry about. But noise-phobic dogs don’t seem to notice that the earth just keeps turning, noise or no noise. And, for many of these dogs, noises can elicit problem behavior of varying natures: territorial, fear-based, obsessive/habitual, to name a few.

The author uses Ear Slides on Rupert, the WDJ office dog.

This need not be a permanent condition. Training a dog can change a dog’s response to a noisy event. In my experience, however, training alone does not always relieve the underlying fear-based stress caused by the noise phobia in the first place, and, may in fact, contribute to its continuation. Instead, the dog may change the focus of his stress to another sound or sense; some of these dogs begin exhibiting another problem behavior, such as destructive chewing or obsessive licking.

Tellington TTouch

This is where Tellington TTouch can make a difference. While TTouch works to help every animal become better balanced and more consciously responsive to itself and its environment, it is with the fear-based and/or habitual response patterns that TTouch can truly work wonders.

TTouch body work and learning exercises affect the nervous system, interrupting habitual patterns and giving dogs the opportunity to discover and experience their own ability to respond to challenging situations in new and different ways – to think, not just react.

Improving the communication between the body and the mind promotes physical, mental, and emotional balance. Given a choice, a balanced dog will release old patterns and choose less stressful, more rewarding, more efficient patterns – ones that, with your guidance, will be mutually beneficial (aahhh, sleep!).

For some dogs, that ability can appear magical. One Great Dane I became acquainted with used to be so terrified of thunder that she would pull the couch away from the wall and hide behind it when a storm hit, damaging both the wall and the couch in the process. She had one session of TTouch (when there was no thunder), and during the next storm she was found lying ON the couch, fast asleep. Now, that’s letting go of baggage!

On the other hand, a nervous Border Collie with incredibly sensitive hearing might need TTouch on a regular basis to help him maintain his balance, and his family might always have to be mindful of the level of sound in their home and surroundings to reduce the stress, and possibly, the pain of excessive noise. (Those fine-tuned ears are a benefit in the far hills of Scotland, but a real detriment in a city that echoes with noise ‘round the clock.)

The following TTouch exercises can be particularly helpful for noise-related issues. Start when you and your dog are calm, so he develops trust in your touch and its results. From your dog’s perspective, it feels good, it’s relaxing, and it enhances communication between you. This will create memories (both mental and physical) that will be useful when he’s not so calm. Remember that TTouch works on the nervous system and a little can go a long way. Your dog needs time to process the new information, so shorter sessions of two to 10 minutes, twice a day, will be more effective than longer, more intense ones.

Ear Slides

This TTouch can help balance the entire body. Most dogs like having their ears touched, so it’s usually a safe place to start. Sit beside or behind your dog with one hand gently resting on his shoulder or supporting his chin. Curl the fingers of your other hand softly and place your thumb behind and at the base of the ear with your curled fingers in front of the ear, holding gently. Slide your hand from the base of the ear to the tip and off, in the natural direction of the dog’s ear. Cover the entire ear with repeated slides, keeping your hand (and body) relaxed and breathing naturally. For cropped or very small ears, you can use just your thumb and index finger; for large, heavy ears, use one hand to support the base of the ear while your other hand does the slides. You can also rotate the entire ear in both directions holding the base as above.

Watch your dog’s responses and experiment with different positions, pressures, and speeds to discover what he really likes best. For many dogs this is a great pleasure. If he seems to really hate it, you might want to have his ears checked to eliminate any physical cause.

Bear in mind that if your dog is responding to the sound of a perceived threat, generally he will not want his ears touched at that time – he needs all of his senses undisturbed so that he can evaluate the potential threat. If you can anticipate when a disturbing noise is about to occur (such as sirens that go off every Saturday at noon), do some ear slides before and after and apply the Body Wrap.

Click here to view the TTouch and Body Wrap techniques.

Sabra Learned, of Berkeley, CA, is a Certified TTouch Practitioner. She offers private appointments and group classes.

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