Guide Dog Gemma

10-Jan-2011

Following the earthquake in early September, I went to Christchurch to meet with some of the Guide Dog teams that had been affected by the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.  Guide dog services arranged for me to visit with several teams as well as the puppies at walk. A group forum was also organised where we talked about how TTouch and the Bach flower remedies could help dogs cope with this stressful event.

One of the people I met in Christchurch was Susanne and her guide dog Gemma.

Gemma has shown some reactivity to noises and was unsettled at times since the earthquake. Susanne wanted to know if there were any techniques she could use to help relax Gemma and support her through the ongoing aftershocks.  After talking to Susanne, I believed that Gemma could benefit from using both the TTouch techniques and Bach Flower remedies. Susanne was keen to try so we started the session by introducing her to some basics of the TTouch method.

TTouch

TTouch is a gentle method of working with animals based on co-operation and respect.  It can help an animal to relax and develop more self awareness and in doing so influence their confidence and behaviour.

There are a variety of TTouches that are based on specific circular movements, slides or lifts. They can be applied all over the body and help to provide feedback to the dog about its own body. We can also gain information through touch work such as identifying tension patterns and changes in the dogs coat and body.

Gemma

In the initial session we identified some of the techniques that Gemma responded well to, we then developed the work in another session later on in the week.  Susanne worked with Gemma once or twice a day in short sessions over a week period.  Having a break between each session gave Gemma time to process the experience as it was important not to overwhelm her by doing too much.

Below are some of the touches and techniques that we have used with Gemma:

  • The zig-zag touch which is a great introduction touch and can help a dog to settle.
  • The basic circular touch which can help a dog to relax.

Gemma had some tension around her hind area and back legs.

  • We used the Python lift combined with circular touch around Gemma’s hind areas and then python lifts down her legs as this can help to relax and release tension. We also did some small circular touches on her paws and pads to help her feel more grounded and sure footed.
  • Ear slides as these can have a great calming and relaxing affect.
  • Introduced a Jelly scrubber {a rubber grooming glove} which is a useful way of introducing touch work to a dog that may be sensitive to touch.
  • We used a ½ wrap with Gemma as there could be possible benefits for helping her confidence and settling. Wraps can help to enhance a dog’s sense of its own body and movements.  They can provide the dog with feedback which can influence their posture and behaviour.

Bach flower remedies

The Bach Flower remedies are a complete natural system of 38 plant and flower based remedies. Each of the 38 remedies relates to a specific emotional state and they work to restore emotional balance.

We made Gemma up a Bach flower remedy treatment bottle which contained 4 remedies.

Gemma responded well to both the TTouch techniques and the Bach flower remedies. We noticed a marked improvement as Gemma became more relaxed and settled following the sessions.

Susanne commented:

Through Lib’s clear, precise instructions on how to use the TTouch technique, I am now able to use TTouch with confidence each day, both on my guide dog Gemma and cat Pepper as both fur babies are still perturbed by the heavier aftershocks.

Gemma enjoyed and responded quickly to the massage, she became much more relaxed and settled, and at one stage she began snoring!

A Bach flower remedy was used alongside the technique and this also had an excellent result for her.

The whole experience was a very positive one for Gemma and myself. It is great to be able and continue to support my beautiful Gemma, my guide and companion.

Lib, thank you for sharing your gift and knowledge, it is very much appreciated by the both of us.

Susanne and Gemma

Guide Dog Services

Paul Metcalf, Head of Guide Dog Services, said that "it was a difficult time for all affected by the quakes, and that very much includes our dogs.  Whilst getting around obstacles that may litter the path is an integral part of a Guide Dogs training, the debris created was something very much out of the ordinary - and all on top of the heightened emotional state of the dogs in having to cope with such unexpected 'commotion'.  The support Lib was able to provide certainly went a long way to ensuring we could keep our dogs guiding in the way that they have been trained and, therefore, allowing their Handlers the independence they both need and rightly deserve.  I have no hesitation in thanking Lib for her effort and commitment in supporting us the way she did."


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