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 ARTICLES > TTouch > Shanti Update
  TTouch  Article:
Article By: Eugenie Chopin        Publish Date: 2008-10-31

A Look at Dog Reactivity in the Home – Chapter 2

by Eugenie Chopin

Well, this time with Shanti has been challenging to say the least. I am blessed to have friend and colleague, Niki Elliott helping me work with the dogs. In the early days, we tried working Shanti and Angelique together, and while we could do a lot with the 2 of them even off lead outside, when the crunch came inside, Shanti would still get that look on her face and that stillness in her body that did not bode well for dear Angelique.


As a result, at the moment we are doing a lot of work with Shanti on her own. The fact that Shanti has always been super skin sensitive makes it all the harder. As a TTouch Practitioner, having a dog that is sensitive to a body wrap, harness or anything on her body really stretches the imagination on how to “chunk it down” to a truly bite size portion for her. So although Niki and I have been doing many behavioural things with Shanti including clicker training and behavioural modifications, I thought I’d write this month on exactly how we’re tackling working with her body.


As most of our regular readers know, we have a tool we use called a body wrap. This is just an elastic bandage that goes around the body, but it has the amazing effect of often calming the dog down along with bringing more awareness to the body and focus to the mind.  The wrap can be configured in many different ways, including over the muzzle. (See the full article on Body wraps at www.ttouch.co.za) When Shanti was a puppy she scratched at her collar for a full 3 months before accepting it as part of her attire! German Short-haired Pointers have very short hair and somehow even a fly landing on her bum will get Shanti to whip around and chase it away!


Understanding that changing the body can change the behaviour, Niki and I have decided to move forward with seeing if we can get Shanti to accept more bodywork as well as equipment on her body. We know that changing the physical can change the emotional state of the dog (or human!) and this is what needs to happen with Shanti. There are a few things that have been ongoing with her throughout her life, but as I didn’t really have a problem, it didn’t seem to matter. (This by the way holds true for most things in life. Until it becomes a problem, we usually let it go.) The first is the tension in her hindquarter and back legs. Shanti was breed for longer back legs (the better to point with, my dear) and so is slightly out of balance there. She has always been sensitive to touch in that area and more so when she is excited. She does a small type of growl when one touches her there some of the time and while I know she’s just telling me it’s sensitive there rather than “I’ll kill you if you don’t stop” – it certainly gives us lots of information on how she’s feeling.


I know her hips are 100% so there should be no pain in that area. When we do try to do bodywork in her hindquarter area, she usually moves away. However, she’s more amenable when we use the Troika touch, light pressures and other “sliding” types of touches like Zig-Zags or Tarantulas. Of course what we really want is to do python lifts on her legs as well as some leg circles. She does struggle with the stiffness and tightness in her legs and getting those back knees to bend isn’t easy. If a dog is truly physically in balance, then one should be able to lift one leg with the dog being well balanced on the other three. Shanti finds this difficult so there’s more to do in this area.


Interestingly, if we put a body wrap on her, she will stand still for the touches, but it’s more of an immoveable feeling she gets with the wrap on. Because it stops her in her tracks, I find myself tossing treat or toys for fetching when I add something to her body that is hard for her to take. This at least shows her that she can move, eat and have fun with a body wrap on!


On the other hand, we have tried to desensitise her by having something as small as a thin piece of elastic around her neck only. One would think that wearing a collar would make this easy for her, but it obviously feels different! So even this is a challenge. From that we progress to a thin piece of elastic around her body as well. This does help her focus and be more “with us”. I have also been putting an elastic over her nose and playing with her and feeding her. The time will come when I’ll have to let Shanti lose with Angelique without a lead and I’d like to be able to have a muzzle on her when that happens. I’d rather not take too many chances and a muzzle will certainly help me remain calm and collected while being with them. So each day we try to help Shanti become more aware of her body, get used to having on some sort of wrap or just have her on a lead with Angelique in the room.


Last week I decided to give Shanti a chance to be on the bed. I had her tethered so that I could be relaxed and amazingly Angelique came and lay in the dog bed at the foot of the bed, not a foot away from Shanti’s nose. I was so impressed with them that I made the critical mistake of reaching over to tell them what good dogs they were. This was too much for Shanti who then needed to protest at Angelique’s presence. If I had just let it be, the result would have been totally positive.  I was thinking that some praise would be a good thing, but in hindsight I can see that just allowing them to be would have been far wiser!


The progress is slow, but being so busy and away so much of the last 2 months, I’m learning patience to just let things be, without the pressure of “having to fix it” yesterday!


NOTE: Shanti also has a medium fear reaction to thunder and fireworks and doing specifically this work on her hindquarters and use of the body wrap may very well help this as well.

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