Alternative therapies and techniques can help relax anxious dogs
As a dog trainer, Rose Tang has to regularly cut the nails on a dog's paw. However, for some nervous pooches that would rather skip their pedicure, Tang uses a technique called TTouch (pronounced t-touch) to help them relax.
'If they are resistant, the more you hold onto them the more they fight you. And you will never succeed in cutting, trimming or grooming them,' says Tang, who started training dogs in 2000. 'But if I use TTouch they stop their resistance, and it helps your movements being accepted.'
In recent years, a number of alternative therapies, such as TTouch and Reiki, for pets have emerged that promote a holistic approach. Developed by Linda Tellington-Jones, TTouch or Tellington Touch is a hands-on method that helps an animal's ability to learn and focus. Tellington-Jones originally created the method more than 40 years ago as a way to communicate with and heal horses.
Before clipping nails, Tang uses the clouded leopard movement, which involves a steady circular rhythm around the dog's legs and paws. 'A lot of dogs associate cutting their nails with a painful experience, but I don't fight with them. I go with the flow,' she explains. 'I use circular TTouch on their nails and their resistance is drastically reduced. It just takes a little time and patience.'
In describing TTouch, Tang says it appears to be a massage, but it's more of a method to connect with an animal's state of mind. 'By using repetitive moments, we are touching the animal in a purposeful way that helps me to discover the animal, where there is coolness, heat or stiffness in certain areas.'
Sally Anderson, founder of Hong Kong Dog Rescue, regularly incorporates TTouch when she picks up dogs from Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. 'These dogs have been caught or surrendered, so either way they are very frightened. It's hard to get them out of their cage because they have no idea what is happening,' Anderson says. 'I have to gain their trust in a very short time. But by using a combination of techniques to calm them down, you can change a dog that is cowering or climbing the walls- to not just touching it, but being able to pick it up- all within a few minutes.'
As a helpful technique for dogs with behavioural issues, Anderson says TTouch incorporates how a dog thinks and its body language. It also helps that 'it's quite relaxing to a dog, especially around the ears'.
Many TTouch techniques take inspiration from animal movements, with descriptions such as python lift, running tiger and crawling monkey.
Animal communicator and healer Rosina Maria Arquati, of Animal Talk, uses Reiki when animals are in a variety of situations, from stress and pain to sickness and anxiety. Derived from two Japanese words rei, which means 'universal', and ki, which is 'vital life force energy', Reiki is a traditional Japanese art of healing which channels a universal life-force energy to heal and strengthen. 'It's a spiritual technique that communicates with the body, whether it's a human or animal, at the deepest level,' she explains.
To apply Reiki, the animal communicator places her hands close to the animal's body. 'It's not necessary to touch them as some animals might be too sick or stressed to be touched. It works equally well without having to lay your hands on the animals,' Arquati says. 'For humans, we sometimes feel heat or coolness from the hands of a Reiki practitioner, and animals would feel that too, or sometimes tingling sensations.'
Arquati says owners can see their animal's reaction to the technique almost instantly. 'They would either calm down, fall asleep or even turn their bodies to you for Reiki,' she says. 'With some animals, you can see them visibly feeling better in just a single session... The results are absolutely amazing, or I would not be practising Reiki on so many animals and pets, and owners would not be asking for such services.'