- salivary cortisol
The aim of this research was to assess the effectiveness of Tellington-Touch (TT), a series of circular touches of the hands and fingers intended to activate cellular and reduce stress, as a relaxation technique for dogs, comparing its effect to a casual handling. Fourteen dogs (5 males and 9 females; 39.9 ± 27.1 month old) underwent three sessions with an experimenter who was not a t-touch practitioner. The experimental sessions were conducted in the same experimental room, where the dogs were left free for 1 minute to explore the environment and then, for 4 minutes, they were subjected to:
- a control session (CT): dogs stayed within the room with the experimenter who did not interact with the animal;
- casual handling (CA): dogs were stroked on the whole body by the experimenter;
- TT: as suggested by a recognised Tellington-touch practinioner, dogs were handled using the 3 following t-touches: Ear Slides, Clouded Leopard and Noah’s March.
In the following 4 minutes, dogs were left free and videoed for measuring the duration of behavioural signs of stress (circling, scratching the door, self-scratching, whining, lip licking, restlessness, yawning, shaking and barking).
After each session, heart rate was measured through a phonendoscope and saliva was taken for cortisol determination.
Statistical analysis revealed no statistical difference between the 3 sessions for heart rate and saliva cortisol. The comparison of behavioral date (sum of duration in seconds of single behaviors) found that the display of signs of stress was higher in CT (67.5 s) compared to both CA (6.5 s; Z=-3.234; p=0.001) and TT (11.0 s; Z=-3.108; p=0.002), but no difference was found between CA and TT (Z=-0.874; p=0.382).
The results of the current research seem to indicate that, regardless of its type, human gentle touches have a positive impact in stressed dogs. However, while short sessions of gentle handling have an immediate relaxing effect in dogs detectable in their behavior, physiological changes may need longer times of handling. These preliminary results suggest that TT, at least when carried out by a person who is not t-touch practitioner, has a relaxing effect on dogs similar to that of gentle handling.