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Improve your dog's performance...

Tellington TTouch Training - or TTouch for short - is a forward thinking approach to training, handling and rehabilitation for all animals. The work can have a positive influence in all areas of an animal's life and for dogs can help with behavioural and performance issues as well as for general handling and wellbeing. Toni Shelbourne, one of the UK's top practitioners, explains how it can help agility dogs.

TTouch is simple to learn and gives people practical skills to help their animal change for the better. Based on the principle that posture affects behaviour, unwanted behaviours diminish or disappear once the animal becomes more in balance. This is achieved through a series of non-habitual movement exercises. Along with self-carriage comes self-confidence and self-control, and because of this, TTouch can be very successful in helping to train agility dogs.

Performance improves once the dog can concentrate and focus on the job in hand. When they are stressed, like people, they find it hard to concentrate and listen to instructions. In agility situations, this can often be seen as hyperactivity, mouthing behaviours, barking, the knocking down of poles, inaccuracy or even dogs refusing to enter a ring. All these issues can be improved with TTouch. '

'I've worked with many agility dogs with numerous issues from anxiety or over excitement in the line up to dogs that have just become overwhelmed and have given up. TTouch is also an excellent part of your warm up and cool down routine and helps dogs recover from a hard day competing,' says Toni.

Whether your dog is a rescue or has been specifically obtained to be an agility star, TTouch will help in all aspects of their job. Many dogs become anxious or over-excited in the line up. The wait to compete can cause them to be so excited once they enter the ring the hyperactivity can cause mistakes as they can no longer listen and focus on the course or you. Other dogs can get so pent up they can redirect their frustration on their neighbours or bark uncontrollably.

Each time Toni has a stand at an agility show many owners ask her to work on this problem. Often a few minutes of body work and the use of a body wrap can be enough to help settle the dogs. She have worked on many dogs in taster sessions just before they go and line up, and many people come back to report their dog was calmer and performed better once in the ring.

A great deal of body awareness and flexibility is needed around a course. If dogs are unable to change legs quickly or flex through the body, mistakes can be made. In training, dogs can be taught to use their bodies in balance.

'It is sometimes necessary to slow a dog's movement down in the ground work to see how unbalanced they really are' says Toni. 'Once the problem is highlighted a tailor-made training programme helps correct the issue. Once improved, taking them up to speed is never a problem, with the dogs often becoming more accurate and faster; they can use their bodies in a more affective way'.

Occasionally like us, a dog can lose its confidence or be overwhelmed in a situation. They may have injured themselves or had a frightening experience whilst at a show. One owner recalls how her dog had become fearful after a scare and refused to enter the ring. Using the appropriate steps and chunking the rehabilitation down, the dog recovered and was happy to continue to compete. A few sessions with Toni really helped her to understand why Molly was acting the way she was. As the handler became more confident in the work and was able to support the dog more by using the simple steps she had been taught, her own confidence returned and they were back in the ring.

TTouch is so much more than a training method. It can help with problems like jumping up, pulling on the lead, aggression, fear of loud noises, barking, chewing and destructiveness, fear of being handled, recovery from illness, surgery or injury, car sickness, age related problems, excitability and more. For agility dogs, it can help them to warm up resulting in fewer injuries and it's a great way to cool down and recover from a hard day competing. Even if your dog has no major problems, it can just be a really lovely way of being with your dog.

Many dog trainers are now incorporating TTouch in to their training methods and seeing great results. There are TTouch practitioners in many areas of the UK. Toni suggest that just by attending a workshop, many of which are listed on the E-vents page of Agilitynet - you can learn enough tools to help improve your dog's performance and life.'

To contact Toni visit or ring tel. 0118 9413270

For details of a practitioner near you visit the national website at

Toni with DumaAuthor credit...
Toni Shelbourne has been working professionally with animals since 1989. She has been involved with TTouch since 1997 and was training by Linda Tellington Jones and other top instructors. She is now one of the highest qualified companion animal practitioners in the UK. She also works with captive wolves at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust where she is a deputy senior handler and runs their education programmes. This enables her to have a unique insight into the pack dynamics and behaviour of domesticated dogs.

Toni works privately with clients on a variety of animals including dogs, cats, small animals, bird, reptiles, wildlife and non-domesticated animals. She also runs one and two day TTouch workshops, gives talks about the work and teaches staff training at rescue centre and for working dogs.

 She is based in Reading.

Photos of Toni and dogs: Angela Griffiths

Photo with Duma the Wolf: Dominic Earl

First published 7 July 2008


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