Posts Tagged ‘tellington ttouch training’

Fulfill the need and you fulfill the dog!


Dennis and his amazing dogs

Dennis and his amazing dogs

I have been thinking about this for quite sometime now and decided it was time I put my thoughts into words through a case study of a great dog and family I have been working with.  I am not going to mention names because of privacy issues but am hoping you will enjoy the read. I have chosen an amazing profession where I get to work with people and their dogs.  Could there be anything better in life to do and get paid for it?  In the last six years I have become a behavior junkie and have devoted my life to helping as many dogs and people as I can through positive training with people and their dogs.  I have been thinking for awhile how as a trainer am I addressing the real needs of my clients and their dogs which is why the saying ” fulfill the need and you fulfill the dog” has become my mantra of sorts. 

On to my case study.  I first met my clients after their dog had bitten another trainer and also my client on many occasions.  Although the bites were not to the point where hospital visits were required they were still bites which for dogs are never good things.  It had gotten so bad that my clients were becoming afraid of their dog and I have to admit this dog did worry me.  They had been to puppy classes, adult dog classes and although their dog could perform the task there was something missing for this dog.  One of my favorite people, trainer/behaviorists in the world the amazing Kathy Sdao recently wrote a great book call ” plenty in life is free” her book really hit home for me.  Kathy’s book was a very personal essay on the dangers and over use of the NILIF protocol (nothing in life is free) as it applies to dogs.  NILIF pretty much says that your dog has to earn everything it wants from affection to tug games or anything else that your dog values. 

Kathy herself will admit that the NILIF protocol was something she had advised her clients to do with their dogs for years until her own dog Nick bit one of her friends.  I think she said in the book ” what am I doing” this was a huge revelation for Kathy which led to her book.  I have never been a fan of the NILIF protocol but have to admit I have advised my clients to ask their dogs to do things like sit for their food, sit before having the leash put on but never agreed that a dog has to preform for attention.  Like any training method it can take on a life of its own and get out of  hand by well meaning people and trainers trying to figure out how to address behavior issues. 

I consulted with my client and their dog after the last bite to the previous trainer had happened.  What I found is that they had been taking their dog to the dog park then immediately after the visit were going to classes.  They thought that they were fulfilling their dogs needs by socializing him as well as making sure he got daily amounts of exercise which most American dogs never get enough or at least an appropriate amount for their breed.  After the bite the trainer recommended they see me, which I will forever be grateful to this trainer.  This dog was seriously at the point where the owners were considering putting him down as they could no longer trust him and their lives were constantly in a state of anxiety day to day because of his erratic behavior.  The bite to my client was totally out of the blue and according to them there was no warning. In my opinion there is always some kind of a warning if we really look close.  This dog had been giving all of the signals and responses to situations but most had gone unnoticed by everyone. 

I think the dog park visits for this dog were very overwhelming at the time, especially when he was expected to perform at class right after.  He had been playing with other dogs, had free access to the other dogs and people and if I could get in his head I am sure he would have told me that it was way too much for him as far as attending class and to be expected to do the required task without being able to interact with the other dogs in class.  I think he just did not understand why he could not play anymore and it took him over the top with frustration and he bit.  After our initial consultation I recommend that he discontinued the classes as well as the dog park visits for the near future until we could work through some of the more serious issues as we did not want another bite to happen.

I recommended that they get rid of the NILIF protocol and had my clients start the Karen Overall relaxation protocol.  This dog was very stressed by having a harness put on him, he would become very mouthy and grab very forcefully on the leash as well as becoming very mouthy while attempting to put the harness on.  His behavior would deteriorate progressively as they made their way out the door, he would chew on his leash, jump, snap, bite the leash and would not let go so walking was very difficult.  My clients could not walk him together as he would jump very forcefully on the female (client) to the point she was becoming more afraid of her own dog and her safety was being questioned. 

The relaxation protocol was working great and the mouthing while putting on the harness was getting much better, the walking however was not.  I recommended that only one person take the dog for his walk (the male client) he was much more relaxed then his wife and had never been bitten.  We got rid of the leather leash and went to a very lightweight chain leash to help stop the mouthing while waking (worked wonders right away).  I had my client give his dog something to carry while on their walks, when I was with them the first time I gave him my glove and he seemed very relaxed until he got bored with the glove. He had started to jump on me very forcefully and at one point grabbed my arm pretty hard. I then stayed away on the rest of the walk about twenty feet away, which seemed to help him calm down.  I still felt that something was missing with this dog, his needs were not being met. 



As the weeks went by we did some TTouch ground work to help with teaching his brain new patterns of movement. He did very well and the mouthing seemed to be getting much better.  We followed this up with a play session with our dog Cole.  Cole is a rescue wolf dog that has been invaluable to us working with dog dog issues. My clients dog really seemed to enjoy the play session after training.  My clients sent me a very nice and positive e-mail the next day saying that he was so calm after the training and that the walk the next day was almost perfect, some mouthing was still happening but not to the level it had been. 

Dog sniffing

Dog sniffing

I recommended that the relaxation protocol continue as well as some structured play session with Cole and our assistant Andrea’s dog.  I also started my clients dog on a nose work program that my wife Pam Bigoni teaches.  We started out with just Cole and then added a few other dogs to the class.  While my client waited their turn to search I had them practice the relaxation protocol which worked very well between searches.  Each day my clients reported that their dog was becoming the dog they really envisioned and hope to have.  My client (female part) was still not able to walk her dog because of not only her fears but her dogs over the top behavior when she would join the walk, jumping, mouthing, grabbing etc,etc.  I also forgot to mention that their dog has very bad night terrors (doggy nightmares) which I am sure was contributing to his behavior and anxiety.  I want to mention that during all of this we were working with a veterinarian. 

My wife Pam and I had teamed up for a home visit because one of their other concerns was their dogs behavior when company would come over.  He would constantly beg for attention, get very mouthy and overall very stressed whenever anyone would come over.  So our visit was meant to duplicate a couple of friends coming for a visit.  In the beginning he was kept behind a barrier so he could calm down a little before the greeting.  He got a frozen kong to chew on as well as clicks and treats for good behavior.  He caught on very quick.  They let him out and right away he started to get a little obnoxious and mouthy. It was right then when a huge light bulb went on in my head, this dog is screaming to get attention but has no clue as to how to ask in a way that was acceptable (thump on my own head) his needs were not being met or fulfilled to his satisfaction. 

I borrowed a great acronym from another very gifted trainer that I met during a seminar in seattle last year. Her name is Emily Larlam.  The acronym is RIP(not rest in peace) Reinforce, Interrupt and Prevent (brilliant), I teach this to all of my clients as a way of noticing great behaviors their dogs do on their own without being asked.  It basically sets our dogs up to succeed in everyway while adding some great management tools.  I had my clients write down a list of the things they would like their dog to do more on his own without being told.  I also had them write a list of all the great things they love about their dog as well as the things they wanted to change.  I also do this with all of my clients, as the training progresses the list of the things they want to change gets shorter and is a way for them to see real change.  I had them start to reward (R) all great behavior they see as well (I), interrupt behavior they are about to see and then by setting their dog up to succeed they really learn to  get creative about management and (P) prevention. 

I also borrowed abother great trainng tool from Kathy Sdao called SMART training.  (S) see, (M) mark with clicker or verbal marker like yes (A) and (R) reward (T) training.  This has really been helpful to my client as far as noticing more good behaviors in their dog, marking the behaviors and rewarding them.  They have noticed a dramatic increase in good behavior.   

We did another play session with Cole and a K9 nose work class that followed and the next day I was sent another great e-mail about how calm their dog was and how the walks were actually becoming enjoyable.  She still could  not go for a walk though so here is where I went out on a limb by talking with my clients in detail about what needs were not being met and recommending a dog park visit.  This is a park that they were very familiar with and had been taking their dog when he was in previous classes.  I know I am probably going to take some flak for the recommendation but they agreed and so we went.  I forgot to mention one of the other issues was getting in and out of the car which was becoming a huge problem after clicker training and shaping this is no longer a problem.    

We spent about an hour at the park and monitored his play very carefully.  The next day I got another e-mail telling me how thankful hey were because for the first time in 8 months she could actually walk her dog.  OK, were we onto something with their dog?  I think so.  They told me that they had some friends with a dog about the same age and breed and could be available for play dates, they started having this dog spend the day with their dog, they included the other dog on walks and trips in the car.  I also recommended that dog park visits would not be a bad thing (I know what you are going to say).  They started to make visits to the park two times a week as well as play days with other dogs at their home.  Each day we would talk and the news just continued to get better.  My client actually cried when she told me that for the first time in 8 months she was able to walk her own dog by herself. 

It has been almost two months since their dog has mouthed them, they have gotten rid of the chain leash and they are also in our K9 nose work class with 5 other dogs and their dog is doing amazing (one of our best students).  They also have for the first time since they got their dog they have been able to get away for a vacation.  We recommended our pet sitters to them and the meeting went very well, no mouthing.  She said he was an absolute perfect gentleman.  They recently had a huge gathering at their home and reported that their dog was so calm and relaxed and everyone had a great time.  I had talked to her at an event and she asked me ” is this normal”?  I said is what normal? She said that you see such an overnight turn around in behavior.  I said it was not actualy overnight but I was surprised that it did happen so quick.  I told her that a combination of changes that they made, positive training and fulfilling their dogs needs played a huge role in the change. 

I said that it was not just one thing that has really helped to change this dog but a combination of the relaxation protocol, K9 nose work, TTouch training, clicker training, getting rid of NILIF and alot of patience.  I also told that above all there is one common thing with all of this, we did it in a very positive way where nothing was forced and we came up with ways to fulfill the needs of their dog.  I am so proud of this case for a lot of reasons most of all that he is still around to have been able to change as he was very close to loosing his life.  They never gave up on him and did so much good work and had the patience that few have.  This dog has also taught me so much as far as how the dogs in my care are getting their needs met in a way that works for my clients and their dogs. 

Whenever someone ask me why their dogs do what they do, I ask them what they think their dog is getting out of the behavior.  Most will say attention is what their dog is getting.  This is where the conversation can begin and how I try and teach them to fulfill their dogs needs before their dogs fulfill their needs for themselves. 

Disclaimer. I have never been a fan of dog parks and caution all of my clients as far as the safety of dog parks.  In the end it is their choice to make.  If they decide to take their dog to the dog park I try and educate them as best as I can and hope that they have good experiences with their dogs.  Thanks for reading


Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA)

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - December 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm

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Tellington TTouch. Does it really work?

Dennis Fehling and His friend for life Meika

Hello again everyone.  This is the very same question I asked myself about four years ago when I was looking for another way of expanding my knowledge of dog training.  I had heard or Tellington TTouch almost 6 years ago when I had a client who just raved about it and told me how this magical thing that Linda Tellington Jones had discovered really worked on her horses.  This client had been to a couple of workshops that were in Central Oregon and was really impressed at how  calm her horses were.  I kind of dismissed it as soon as she said magical and didn’t really think about it much for the next couple of years until I was at a crossroads as far as my training and education was heading.  I have always been a positive reinforcement trainer and I had a choice of to different programs and directions.  One was the Karen Pryor Academy and the other was the Tellington TTouch two year practitioner training program.

I researched both programs very carefully and made my decision and went with the TTouch program and I have to say it was the best decision I could have made.  I attended my first 6 day training in Portland Oregon at the Oregon humane society.  At my first training I discovered that this was definitely going to be a very different training experience.  I was the only guy at this course which seemed to attract women from all different walks of life.  Some were professional trainers already and like me were looking to add something different to their “trainers tool box” Quote stolen from another great trainer Terry Ryan.  Some were professional women from other fields, lawyers, doctors, writers, Gardner’s, you name it and they were there.  This is when I first met Kathy Cascade the person whom inspired me to continue with the program.  Kathy is a Tellington TTouch instructor and a gifted teacher who in the first week convinced me that this is where I belonged.

So began my journey with the Tellington TTouch program.  The program consist of 6 week long training’s and does take quite a time commitment over a two year period.  As practitioners in training you are required to complete 15 case studies of animals that you have worked with as well as complete all of the training’s. During the course we also learned the business side of promoting yourself through demonstrations that we did in front of our class mates.  This was a blast because we did these little 15 minute presentations of why our program should be included in places like prisons, humane societies and other animal welfare groups.  I had the honor of working with some of the nicest people and developed life long friendships.

At the end of the week long training we would have a little get together at a restaurant and just sit around a talk about our animals and lives back home.  Then on the final day when the training would wrap up we had a little pow wow and it was not unusual for people just to start crying(me included) because of the dramatic changes we had seen and the positive changes we had made in the lives of the dogs and people we worked with.  After your third training you actually got to work with clients and their dogs and it was pretty amazing what an hour long session could do for both dog and human.  Sometimes it would just be recommending a no pull harness for a pulling dog or with more serious behavior issues we would work with the client to form a treatment plan.  I remember one lady and her dog who really touched me when she wrote me about our session and said what a difference TTouch had made in her and her dogs life.

This is a letter I had received from a woman I had told about TTouch and had told her I had been to four training’s.  My wife Pam and I were going to be at the coast and were only a few miles from where her and her dog Bobby and husband lived.  She asked me if I could meet with her and teach her some TTouch techniques.

Dennis Fehling takes an integrated approach to enriching canine/human friendships and behaviors. Dennis helped my 4-year old Aussie “Bobby” and myself to achieve an easy, fun, responsible and respectful relationship. During our work together Dennis drew from his years of knowledge and experience, carefully observing and considering, and then suggesting a combination of techniques that might work for us.


His “hands on” approach really worked as we learned TTouch (halter, gentle lead, and body work with focus on the ears) and other techniques including the use of verbal commands, body language and distraction as an attention grabber (touch to treat). The touch to treat trick when used in conjunction with smooth and simple avoidance techniques has almost completely eliminated the threats we were experiencing from aggressive dogs or pushy humans while playing on the Oregon beaches. We are now “as one” walking the beaches, calm, relaxed, aware, confident and happy.


Dennis is a an excellent teacher and mentor – a real professional! He has a way of making you enjoy yourself so you don’t worry about learning the “right way” or lose focus on the moment by feeling guilty about the wrong ways of the past. He presents a holistic approach and communicates his understanding of animals in a clear and non-demeaning manner. After our work with Dennis Bobby and I were highly inspired, encouraged and excited about learning more. We use TTouch and the other training methods daily. My husband Steve cannot believe the transformation that has occurred and our friends and family have commented on how wonderful Bobby is to be around. Bobby sets up and bats his eyes at all of the compliments he receives.


Kathy and Bobby Minta

Newport, Oregon

Kathy Minta and her friends

I had already been a professional dog trainer for years but I felt that the addition of TTouch really made the difference and added another component to my skills as a dog and human trainer. I saw Kathy a year later a a week long training and her and Bobby were doing just great and adopted another friend for Bobby to play with.  She was certain that Bobby could never have had a playmate.  Bobby is the one on the right with his new friend.


Tellington TTouch training in Vernon BC with Beau my wonder dog and friends

I completed the two year Tellington TTouch program in Nov 2010.  along the way met some of the best trainers and people in the world.  I learned a very valuable skill and another way of interacting with not only the dogs I work with but the people also.  It was an incredible journey and still is a large part of who I am as a trainer.  We combine TTouch into all of our training at our dog training facility  in Redmond Oregon.  So the answer to the original question “does TTouch work?” I have to say yes it does and it works very well.  What it has taught me the most is to be more patient in my interactions with dog’s, respect the choices they make and not judge them for those choices.  TTouch teaches respect for all living things.  If you have ever even thought about attending a training then think no more and just do it because you will not regret it.  I want to thank my teachers Kathy Cascade, Edie Jane Eaton, Debbie Potts, Lauren McCall, Lori Stevens, Robyn Hood and Linda Tellington Jones for bringing this incredible work to life for us.



Dennis Fehling


11 comments - What do you think?  Posted by admin - October 4, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Categories: Dog Training   Tags: , ,