Bobbie, as a puppy was the cutest Tibetan Terrier puppy – very stubborn and with a mind of her own. She loved to play with other puppies and adored people. As she got older she developed very Tibetan Terrier traits like guarding. She also enjoyed quite rough play. Unfortunately other dogs do not appreciate the rough play and before long Bobbie got herself into trouble. She wanted to play too rough with another dog whose owner did not appreciate it and Bobbie got kicked – you can read her story on the Tip Top web site. As a result I became very nervous and whenever Bobbie made the slightest move towards other dogs I would put her on the lead and hold her really tight. This tension down the lead made her more nervous and I ended up with a poor little dog who reacted to most dogs who approached her face on. Unfortunately puppies have a habit of approaching face on so invariably Bobbie would react to puppies. Sue from Tip Top Training recommended a course for me called ‘Your end of the Lead’ which was being run at Tilley Farm in Bath. It was specifically for dog owners who had reactive dogs. On this 3 day course I learnt how to relax at my end of the lead. It was like learning to drive – the main messages were
– Don’t label your dog. Dogs, like humans, exhibit different behaviours.
Labels can be very damaging.
– Look ahead and observe who is around you. Be prepared.
– Be aware of danger points on your walk. These include blind spots, such as corners, where the unexpected happens.
– Take preventative action – I use ‘Find it’ and ‘Touch’ with Bobbie As a matter of interest I show Bobbie the back of my hand when doing touch because she wouldn’t touch the front, probably because the front of my hand signifies ‘lead on’ or ‘restraint’ in some way!!
We were also introduced to a technique called Tellington TTouch. Initially I was quite sceptical about the Tellington TTouch method because I could not understand how making small circles on my dog’s skin would help her in any way. However, I decided to take the technique home and, from time to time, try it out on Bobbie. At first I found it hard to believe what I was seeing. Bobbie, who had never been a lap dog in any way, started to want to sit on the settee next to me. She also come up to me and nudged me with her rear end until I started doing the circles. This sparked my interest so I attended a one-day Tellington TTouch course in Hertfordshire. Every time our tutor came to Bobbie and did the TTouch Bobbie seemed to really enjoy it. I invested in the recommended books and started daily. I learnt that dogs who don’t like dogs approaching face on often have tension around the mouth so TTouches around the mouth and gums would help. Bobbie was not happy being touched around the face so I found areas where she did like it and then every not and then would approach her mouth. Gradually I have noticed that Bobbie is happy to let me do the circles around her mouth and on her gums.
Subsequently I signed up for a 6 day course at Tilley Farm in Bath. The course is divided into two three day sessions – so far we have done the first part and are due to complete the second part in May. The tutors are Sarah Fisher and Marie Miller. Sarah Fisher is the TTouch expert in the UK and runs Tilley Far. Shem is a real inspiration for anyone who has a difficult dog. Her philosophy is that if a dog is displaying aggressive tendencies look for stresses or pain that the dog may be suffering, for example puppies may be suffering from teething pain and gentle TTouches around the mouth and gums will be very helpful. In adult dogs they may have muscle or spine problems so it is a good idea to get you dog checked out by a vet.
Since I have been using the TTouch on Bobbie I have noticed that she is less reactive when other dogs come nose to nose with her. She still tells them off if the approach is too direct but her reactions are more controlled. She is happy to come and sit next to me and when she wants some TTouch attention she will push that area of her body against me. When we first started doing TTouch there were areas that Bobbie would not let me touch such as round her mouth and on her paws but by gently doing the circles on areas she likes and moving towards those areas she found hard and watching her so that I stopped when she had had enough , we have built up a great bond and I think she trusts me not to overdo it.
(As a side note I met Bobbie the other week when she came down with Sue who came down with her dog Ripley. The idea behind the session was how to behave and respect dogs such as don’t run and scream if you are scared but be like a tree, slowly allow the dog to sniff you, how to stroke a dog correctly. I must say that both Bobbie and Ripley where really good with the kids – Derek)