By Robyn Hood, Tellington TTouch Instructor & Editor of TTEAM Connections.
Face and head wraps are another case where a TTouch training tool developed for one species is, with minor modifications, useful with other species.
They work in a similar way to the body wraps, but on the head instead. We mostly use them on horses and dogs, humans as well, but for different reasons with each species. As the various techniques are refined while working with one species they are usually transferrable back to other species.
They are not used to hold an animal’s mouth shut but rather to bring ‘awareness’ to the area. Like all other TTouch wraps the Face Wrap is about giving ‘feedback’ to the area of the body that helps release tension. The result is usually a calmer, more focused, confidant and grounded being.
Humans: We have quite a variety of configurations to put a body wrap on a person with positive results and also find that head wraps are often very helpful. A simple 2” wrap around the forehead, like in the ‘60’s headband, may have profound effects, from helping reduce the pain of a headache, encouraging the head to become more upright and over the spine; improving vision and just instilling a sense of well-being.
Horses: We first started using an elastic bandage or leg wrap in a figure 8 around the muzzle and over the poll of a horse if it was difficult for him to accept handling in and around the mouth, or across the forehead with an ear shy or sensitive horse. We then added the face wrap to horses with neurologic damage such as EPM or with radial nerve damage and saw a positive response. With unsettled or unfocussed horses after applying a forehead wrap we often see the immediate response of the horse being quieter and more able to pay attention to the job at hand. We use a facewrap to prepare horses for wearing a fly mask and for those who don’t like being bridled or having the rein taken over their heads. Don’t be shy about letting your imagination guide you when placing the wrap. It can go between the ears and even briefly cover the eyes. You can keep a face wrap underneath the bridle when riding or doing ground- work.
Dogs: We first started applying a face wrap using a sewing elastic on dogs as preparation for a head collar in our effort to continually ‘chunk down’ a lesson. We found that not only did the face wrap provide a great step in helping dogs accept a head collar but there were other benefits such as:
Acceptance of mouthwork Reduced whining Lessening vocalization in the car Help with panting during thunder and lightning or fireworks
A must use for preparing a dog to wear a head collar or muzzle You can make a face wrap from sewing elastic, a narrow (2”) elastic bandage or a cloth head band (Alice band). Place the middle of the elastic over the dog’s nose, cross it under the chin and bring the ends up behind the dog’s ears and tie in a bow or knot. It should be loose enough that the dog can easily open his mouth and tight enough that it doesn’t just slide off. Once it is sized you can leave it knotted and just slide it over the dog’s head as a loop, twist a loop under the Tabela chin and then on the dog’s nose.
A practitioner in Ireland came up with the clever idea of using a sewing toggle (the kind that tighten the pull strings on the bottom of a jacket) on the ends of sewing elastic to make it more easily adjustable.
Ideally use some TTouch around the dog’s muzzle before put- ting on the face wrap.
If your dog has trouble accepting the wrap, change the width or texture of the elastic. Use some TTouches on his nose before placing the elastic on the dog. You can just lay it over the nose without attaching it at first when you are dealing with a reluctant animal.
Once the wrap is in place there is no rule that says it needs to stay there for a certain amount of time. If the dog tries to scratch the wrap off see if you can distract him and engage him in a familiar activity. If he takes it off, just leave it off for a minute or so and then put it on again. Some dogs may only wear the wraps for a few moments to start with, but you can generally increase the time after a few tries.
At any time when introducing the face wraps it is a good idea to give a few treats, so the dog knows he can open his mouth, or play ball or do some clicker work with him so he doesn’t think he is being punished.
Calming band – Katja Krauss, a TTouch practitioner in Germany who owns and operates a large dog training school found that her clients preferred to use something that looked like a proper piece of equipment rather than a homemade elastic band. With that in mind she and her husband developed the calming band, which has elastic attached to narrow nylon webbing with a parachute clip. It is the same principle as the face wrap but can have a very different effect. We now have these calming bands made in Canada and offer them for sale through our Canadian and US TTouch offices.
The Calming bands come in different sizes XS – toy sized breeds – Small – JRT size Medium - Belgian shepherds, Collies, Dobermans Large – Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees
Sometimes we start with sewing elastic and then graduate to the calming band, because you can get it in different widths and amount of stretch. I have found that individual dogs accept one more easily than the other. Dogs with very short noses generally do better with very narrow sewing elastic.
You may think that you will never put a head collar on your dog and he is fine in the car and does not bark inappropriately, so why go through the exercise? Remember that every single thing you can teach your dog and horse and every new experience will teach them about learning and calmly and happily accept new situations. It will write another chapter on their slate of experiences. If for instance a veterinarian needs to restrict your animal’s muzzle at some point in his future it will be a much less stressful experience for you and your pet.