Tellington TTouch Training Canada

Let it Go

Many of the animal guardians who come to trainings are seeking help with “more control”. It could be that their dog pulls on the leash. Perhaps their horse is rushing or tense under saddle. Maybe they have a dog who reacts to other dogs.

As humans, it is often our nature to “micro-manage” every moment we are handling an animal, in an effort to feel safer. Restriction and tension is often a reflexive reaction to feeling unsafe or nervous but unfortunately it often has the opposite effect on our animals – making them feel less safe and more “trapped” which continue the cycle we were trying to interrupt in the first place! The cycle of bracing between handler and animal is not always an easy one to override, especially if the handler has underlying fear of “what if”.

So what is the solution? Perhaps counter-intuitively, many Tellington Method exercises allow animals more space, freedom and choice (in a safe context) to address behaviors their guardians would like to change. When we allow animals the chance to improve their physical balance through mindful, non-habitual exercises WHILE allowing freedom of movement and the potential of choice, we help them feel safer. As an animal feels safer and more in control of their body, they are better able to respond rather than simply react. This confidence to override basic, primitive brain instincts means that an animal can make more appropriate choices, in situations beyond ones they have just be trained for.

Exercises such as the Bee-line, where a dog or horse is on a long sliding line between two handlers at a distance requires people to clearly use their body language to guide the animals and reduces the reliance on a signal on the line.  Dogs have the freedom to move towards or away from a handler and find their own balance and eventually, more confidence.  This is a fabulous exercise for dogs who have separate anxiety or are nervous of new people.  Having the option to move towards or away as they feel comfortable helps them feels safer and gives them the ability to explore making choices, rather than being “forced” into a scenario they are not confident about.

Two Tellington TTouch Practitioners lead a Boston Terrier in the Bee Line leading position.

Under saddle, it is the norm for tense, rushy horses to be more relaxed and in self-carriage when ridden with the Liberty Lariat neck ring and no rein restriction through their neck.  By reducing backward pull and the reflexive reaction to brace, horses also feel safer to explore new postures, ways of movement and balance, which in turns helps rider gain more influence when they do ride with a regular bridle and reins again.

A rider rides a horse with a tellington ttouch lariat neck ring

Both of these exercises will clearly teach the handlers that the most important concept when attached to an animal is to “trust the give”.  In most cases and animal will be able to come into their own balance and appropriately respond to a signal a moment after the release, rather than during, which is a more commonly taught practice in -R training.  Responding during pressure/signal is not always possible for animals who tend to be physically out of balance.  In this case the animal requires a “Pause” before they are able to respond.

Allowing more choice and freedom can be done in smaller steps as well.  For dogs, using the TTouch Harmony Leash & Handle System or TTouch Connector, can be scaled down version of allowing dogs more freedom while still being on leash.  The sliding ring attachment and two points of contact mean that there is not one fixed point of pressure.  Dogs can find their balance without straining against the pressure of the leash and handlers can allow for more exploration and “sniffari’s” while having the peace of mind that they can have control if a situation requires it for safety’s sake.

For horses, the Balance Rein may be an incremental step for finding self-carriage and balance, without totally removing the bridle.

Balance Rein

Allowing animals the space to explore their potential and find varying, more functional ways of moving can be transformative. Trusting that we can have more influence over what an animal is doing if we are willing to give up a little “control” can be scary at first, but once you allow yourself to “Let it go” the results speak for themselves.

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