Published in TTEAM News International, Vol 16, No. 4, Winter 1996


BY Barbara Janelle B.Sc., M.A.

As a Tellington Touch Animal Companion Training Practitioner, I see a lot of dogs with behavior and health problems. Many of these difficulties can be alleviated and even prevented through some of the following basic care and training procedures.


All dogs up to the age of nine or ten (and some even after that) need a minimum of an hour off leash exercise every day. Walking on leash is not exercise.

Some ways of achieving this include taking the dog for long walks off leash, playing games, and letting the dog play with another dog each day for an hour. Without an outlet for all their pent-up energy, young dogs in particular are very difficult to handle and develop a wide range of behavior problems. Owners with dogs who have already developed problems will be delighted with the effect of this 1-hour a day exercise program.

Allowing dogs to play together off leash provides great exercise and prevents fear and aggression problems toward other dogs. Teaching dogs that people, especially children, are wonderful is essential to everyone’s safety. Encouraging children play with puppies (under the supervision of an adult) and giving each visitor to the home a dog biscuit to feed to the dog develops the animal’s trust in people. Any concerns about this destroying the dog’s ability to protect the owner in dangerous situations are misdirected. Even the gentlest dogs quickly sense danger from an attacker’s stance and the owner’s breathing, and will move to protect.


Ann Martin of London, ON Canada has done remarkable investigative work on what goes into commercial dog foods and the list is not pleasant. Animal protein comes from dead, diseased, and decayed carcasses of all kinds of animals including euthanized pets. The chemicals and drugs used to treat, euthanize do not disappear in the rendering process. Organs where growth hormones and other chemicals lodge are a normal part of commercial dog and cat foods.

Many commercial dog foods are directly implicated in the high incidence of various kinds of cancer and skin ailments (notably flea allergy). Behavior problems from aggression to extreme shyness and ultra sensitivity to sound may be due to diet too. Behavior problems like these are often reduced or eliminated within 6 weeks of changing the animal’s diet.

Holistic veterinarians recommend, that as a bare minimum change, the dog be taken off of beef products (because growth hormones are used with cattle) and put on lamb and rice or chicken and rice. In addition, the most common food allergens for dogs, wheat, dairy, and corn products, should be eliminated from the diet of dogs with severe skin allergies, and health problems. Ideally, home cooked meals that rely heavily on chicken, rice, vegetables and oatmeal should be used instead.


Good quality water is essential to animal’s health. Companion animals should not drink chlorinated water because it is implicated in bladder, colon and rectal cancer in humans and animals. As a bare minimum, water should go through a Brita or other kind of filter before being given to dogs and cats.


Avoid the use of toxic chemicals on animals, in the house and in the yard. Richard H. Pitcairn DVM lists a wide range of toxic items including common household cleaners with a phenol base (these destroy liver cells upon inhalation). The best cleaning substances are simple soap and water.

Dogs should NOT be allowed on grass that has been treated with herbicides because they absorb the residue of these chemicals through the pads of their feet and through inhalation. Seven studies at the University of Guelph, Ontario Canada implicate 2,4-D herbicides in lymphoma and soft tissue sarcoma in children and animals. Given the growing numbers of these studies, we should be seeing bans on the use of many herbicides before long.

Fleas and other biting insects irritate the skin and cause the animal to scratch. This rubbing and movement of the skin actually supports the animal’s health by stimulating acupressure points and internal energy flows, as well as increasing blood circulation in the skin. Animals that are handled all over every day are much less prone to flea infestations than those that receive very little touch. Tellington Touch or massage all over the animal every day is a major health support.

Focusing on things like touch, diet and exercise that support the animal’s health is much more effective and safer than continual dousing with chemical shampoos, powders and sprays. When an agent to kill fleas has to be used, safe products are much better than strong chemicals. Ivory soap will kill fleas just as effectively as flea shampoos. Putting a little borax or diatomaceous earth in the vacuum cleaner bag and vacuuming regularly will control fleas. Dusting the dog with these products and brushing the coat out immediately will kill fleas without harming the pet.

Dogs living in households where someone smokes are at risk. The cadmium in cigarette smoke depresses the immune system and affects the kidneys. Eliminating smoking in the home and near the dog is essential to its health.


When an animal develops a health problem, the very first step an owner should take is to consult a veterinarian. An increasing number of vets are offering holistic approaches including nutritional counseling, homeopathy, vitamin and herbal supplements. These combined with standard veterinary assessment and treatment, provide a very effective approach to supporting an animal’s well being.

Many veterinarians recommend that vaccinations be given singly with three or more weeks between injections. Live vaccines are dangerous and too many injections given at once stress the animal’s health and can cause epilepsy and other problems.

The daily heartworm pill is much safer for dogs than the once a month dose.


One of the most effective ways of calming a dog, supporting its overall health and changing behavior is work on the ears. Each ear has close to 400 acupressure points that affect all the major systems in the body. Using a firm slip-slide movement on each ear from the base to the tip relaxes the dog as it supports its health.

The point at the very tip of the ear is for shock and squeezing this a little more as the ears are massaged can bring an animal out of shock quickly in emergency situations and keep it alive until it gets to a veterinarian. Many vets and vet technicians now work the ears on animals as standard procedure before they undergo surgery and as they come out of anesthetic. This shortens recovery time.

Many dog trainers have owners work their dogs’ ears for five minutes before class begins. The dogs are quieter, more attentive and learn more quickly as a result of this work. Work on the ears is helpful for dogs that are being shown too. For dogs who are afraid of thunder, working the ears through one to three thunderstorms not only reduces anxiety, but can help an animal over come this fear permanently.


Owners recognize easily that shy dogs are fearful, but the truth is that aggressive dogs are fearful too. Aggression, flight, freezing, fainting and fooling around are five instinctive responses to fear. Fear usually is lodged in the body-mind as tension. The mouth is often dry, closed and tense. The hindquarters are usually tense and the tail is rigid and even tucked under. An animal that is afraid will walk with little awareness of its feet and of the ground. Eye-ear-foot coordination may be off too.

Tellington TTouch circles on these parts of the body and ground exercises to improve balance, coordination and awareness are very effective for improving behavior. As an animal grows in self-awareness and self-confidence, it breathes better and can maintain self-control in very difficult situations.

The combination of exercise and Tellington TTouch and Ground Exercises helps young and exuberant animals to focus and take in more information.


Daily exercise and socialization training, good food and water, a safe environment, good veterinary care and daily touch all over, prevent a lot of problems and can solve many that already exist. They are the minimum basics for a dog’s health and well being.