Tricks and squirrels

17 Jan 2022, 5:26 a.m. by Tracey McLennan

I mentioned a while ago that I’d started trick training with my bullmastiff, Calgacus, and had found it helpful in a few ways and today I thought I’d share with you the story of my huge tricks win. I can’t remember what year this was, but I think it was 2006 or 2007. I’d not long qualified as a TTouch practitioner at the time and there was a large event being held in England to celebrate 30 years of TTouch. It was being held at a time when my normal dog sitters couldn’t look after my dogs, so I had them with me. The point of mentioning all of that is to say that we were away from home, in an unfamiliar place and there were lots of people around.

Linda Tellington-Jones, the founder of TTouch, had met Calgacus during the time I’d been training as a practitioner. During one training, I had shown her the tricks he’d been learning and talked about why I was so enthusiastic about them from a movement point of view. There is a great deal of focus in TTouch on non-habitual movement because it is thought to be beneficial on an emotional and physical level. Linda enjoyed watching Calgacus and when she saw me, she asked if I had brought him and if I had would I show at the event.

I said yes and I was asked to do a short demonstration outside the venue on a beautiful lawn with large trees dotted around. I could see squirrels running up and down the trees. Calgacus was a dog who enjoyed chasing and who had been known to catch, kill and eat rabbits. To ask him to turn up in an unfamiliar place and then perform in front of a large group of people and a few other dogs – and then to add squirrels running up and down the trees – was a big ask. Particularly as I’d started training to be a TTouch practitioner in the first place because Calgacus was aggressive toward other dogs. It was a bit frightening, but do you know what? We did our demonstration and when he noticed the squirrels, he completely ignored them. I credit our trick training as being a big part of what made that possible. Moving in non-habitual ways helped Calgacus enormously in getting over his problems with other dogs and in being able to ignore squirrels running up and down trees close to him.


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Hi - I'm Tracey

I am the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. I specialise in helping people with dogs who have a high prey drive. I have an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, am a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and an ACE Advanced Tutor. I am currently studying for an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Training.

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