Category Archives: Training


I learned a great technique to calm myself – and later my pets – in an unexpected and unorthoox way.  It was a beautiful summer day in Minnesota, and I was attending my first day of training for the Tellington TTouch® Method. Returning from lunch, a young driver hit the rear of my rental car.

One of my passengers was an experienced practitioner and training assistant. While we waited for the police to arrive, she taught us all how to do Tellington TTouch® Ear Slides, also known as the Ear TTouch. Immediately we all felt better. They helped us to calm down, breathe easier, and handle the situation better.

Ear Slides Help Pets Relax, Be Calm, and More

Ear Slides Help Pets Relax -and much more!

Ear Slides are often the first technique I teach. Clients find it especially good to help their pets be calmer or less reactive.

They are done in a specific way to have the desired effect on your pet. See the resource links below or contact me to learn how to do them.

Ear Slides help:

  • Dogs, cats, and other pets (and people):
    • Be calmer.
    • Be more aware, think better, and make better behavior choices.
    • Breathe normally, which also helps with calmness and making better choices.
  • Fears:
    • Fireworks, Thunderstorms, and Loud Noises.
    • Vet Visits.
  • Grooming, Nail Trimming and Ear Cleaning.
  • Improve health and wellness by stimulating hundreds of acupressure points that connect to every organ and body function, including the brain.
  • Improve digestion, immune system, circulation, and blood pressure.
  • Regulate body temperature, especially for an overheated pet.
  • Performance.
  • Overall Wellness.

And they are Easy to Learn and Easy to Do!

Buddy, our Australian Cattle Dog mix, turned into a terrified wimp when he needed his blood drawn. Read how Ear Slides helped Buddy overcome his needle phobia and made veterinarian visits pleasant and easy.

Read this explanation of How to do Ear Slides. 

Watch this Video Demonstration of Ear Slides by fellow practitioner Elaine Garley.

Want more help?  Call or email me to learn how, when, and where to do Ear Slides to best help you and your pet.




By working the ear, we can influence the entire body, the mind, emotions, and behavior of our pets. That’s why Ear Slides (also known as Eas Ear TTouch) are one of the most useful of all Tellington TTouch® Method TTouches.

Just some of the many ways they can help your pet are to: relax and be calm; overcome fear of storms and loud noises; improve digestion, immune system, circulation, and overall wellness; and improve performance.  Read more benefits of Ear Slides, and the unusual way by which I first learned to do them!

Ear TTouches on Cat and Dog

With one exception, Ear Slides are done the same way for dogs and cats.  The pressure is light for both, but even lighter for cats.  For cats, think of stroking a rose petal.  The directions below talk about dogs, but the technique is for both.


  1. Place your dog and yourself in a comfortable position.
  2. Take a deep breath, exhale, and relax yourself.  Remember that your dog is likely to reflect your breathing pattern and your tension.
  3. Support dog’s head with one hand.
  4. Use your other hand to work your dog’s ear.
  5. Place your hand at the base of your dog’s ear, so that the thumb is on the outside, and one or more of your fingers are on the inner part of your dog’s ear.  Always include the index finger, and use more fingers if your dog’s ear is larger.
  6. Alternatively, if your wrist is in an awkward position, you can place the thumb inside the ear and the fingers on the outside.
  7. Begin working the ear:
    1. Use very light pressure.
    2. Start at the base of the ear.
    3. Rotate the base in a circular motion one time, then,
    4. Slide your finger(s) and thumb along the ear, following the natural direction of the ear – up, down, or out.
      For very large ears that hang down, support the ear as you slide.
    5. Be sure to include the tip of the ear.
    6. Finish slightly beyond the ear tip.
    7. The sliding motion should take 2-3 seconds to complete, with the lesser time needed for smaller ears and more for larger ears.
      Dogs with exceptionally large ears, like basset hounds, may take 4 seconds.
  8. Repeat this motion until the entire ear is covered.
  9. Switch hands and do the same thing on the other ear.
  10. You only need to do this once on each ear, covering the entire ear.  If you wish, you may do a few more, but no more than 4 slides on each ear, because they can increase body temperature and blood pressure.
  11. Do the Ear Slide as often as you wish and your dog will allow.
  • An alternative way to do the Ear Slide is to gently fold the ear on itself, with the thumb on one side and the fingers on the other.  The motion, pressure, and time it takes to do the TTouch are the same as above.

Ear TTouch Close Up, Ear Folded

  • Activating” Ear Slides stimulate pets and increase alertness.
  • They are used:
    • in cases of emergency to reduce shock (There are many cases of Ear Slides saving a pet’s life after a trauma);
    • to restore consciousness faster after sedation or anesthesia; and
    • to enhance performance.
  • They use the same position and motion as above.  However, they are done:
    • with a little more pressure,
    • a little faster, and
    • with extra attention being paid to the ear tips.
  • They can be done frequently or continuously, depending on the severity of the situation.
  • Because of the very strong effect on blood pressure and body temperature, they should be stopped as soon as your pet has stabilized, regains full consciousness, or seems ready to perform.

Watch this Video Demonstration of Ear Slides, presented by fellow practitioner Elaine Garley.

Buddy, our Australian Cattle Dog mix, turned into a terrified wimp when he needed his blood drawn.  Read how Ear Slides helped Buddy overcome his needle phobia and made veterinarian visits pleasant and easy.

Call or email me to learn how, when, and where to do Ear Slides to best help you and your pet.




Successful Training – Some Basic Tips

Penny A. Watkins-Zdrojewski
© March 2014

A lot of the work I do with pets focuses on behavior or health issues. Because health and behavior or inseparable, training always is a part of the equation.  So I look at how well a dog or cat listens and can follow simple directions.  A pet who is able to cooperate can more easily learn new behaviors or accept various procedures.  Here are some tips you can use with your pet, whether just starting with a puppy or kitten, or retraining a pet who has lived with you for a long time.

These tips work for both dogs and cats. You can’t train a cat you say?  Well, yes, it can be done.  It may take a little more patience, but the process is very similar to training a dog or any other mammal.  While cats tend to be more independent, at heart they want to live in harmony with you and please you.

My goal with any kind of training or work is to help an animal to be cooperative, not submissive.  Rather than being an “alpha,” I prefer to be a good leader, who has happy, confident companions and followers.  Most obedience training talks about giving commands.  I prefer the term directions, which suggests cooperation.

Use a Soft Voice

When giving directions, speak in a normal voice, including normal tone and volume, or soften your voice more than usual.  Dogs and cats have excellent hearing and don’t need to be shouted at.  Test this by standing some distance away and offering something they really like in a very soft voice.  You’ll likely find that they pay more attention than if you’d spoken loudly or harshly.

Give Them a Choice

Giving your pet a chance to make the right choice improves their learning and makes them more likely to provide the desired behavior in the future.

When giving a direction, give your pet a chance to follow it, as well as a chance to make the right choice.

Say what you want only one time and wait for your pet to figure it out.

When you continually repeat a direction, “Sit, sit, sit,”  for instance, you are actually teaching your pet to not follow the direction until they have heard it several times.

If they have the opportunity to make the choice and don’t make the right one, gently correct them, make sure you have their attention, and repeat the direction, saying it only one time.

Keep Directions Simple

A single word can be used for many situations.  For instance, my husband and I use “off” to let our dogs know that they need to stop doing whatever they are doing right now — picking up or eating something they shouldn’t, jumping up, starting to play rough with each other, and a multitude of other undesired activities.  When they hear “off,” they know they need to stop and listen.  After stopping an undesired behavior, remember to direct your pet to a desired behavior, so they know what they should be doing and don’t return to the unwanted activity.

For more information on this principle, called redirection, see my article, “Train for What You Want,”

Each step of an action should have its own direction.  For instance, “sit” and “down” are two, separate behaviors, and should not be combined.  “Sit down” can be confusing to your pet — should he sit or lay down?  Which do you really want?

The Most Important Directions

I believe that a few directions and their associated verbal and physical cues are the most important things you can teach your pet.  These are: Wait; Off; Sit; and Down.

Additional directions are gravy, and enrich the meat of the work you and your pet are doing together.

Keep Things Positive

Always praise your pet for doing the right thing, and never punish them for mistakes.  It’s okay to correct, but not punish.  Punishment can lead to fear, defiance, and a host of other problems that may take years to change.

Be Consistent

Use the same verbal and physical cues each time you give a direction.  Ensure that everyone in your house is using them as well.  Expect your pet to follow a direction every time you give it, and help them to make the right choice if they do not.

Make Training Fun

Enjoy the time you are spending with your pet.  Keep training sessions short, no more than 5 minutes for young animals and 15 minutes for adult pets.  Find activities and use reinforcers (positive motivators, like a toy or treat) that make both you and your pet happy.

Whether you are just starting to train your pet, or want to start or reinforce directions with a pet you’ve already trained, applying these basic concepts can help you have a cooperative, happy pet and reduce stress in your home.

For help and additional tips, contact Penny at Happy PAWZ for a free, 20-minute consultation.

Train for What You Want

Penny A. Watkins-Zdrojewski
© December 2013

“Train for what you want, not for what you don’t want.”  This was stated by instructor Debby Potts at one of my Tellington TTouch® trainings.  Such a simple statement, yet how many of us stop to think about it and take this advice?

The principle is pretty basic: If we focus on correcting our animals for undesired behaviors, we have to work at it constantly, and it’s generally not effective in the long run.  Instead, let’s focus on asking and guiding them to do desired behaviors.  Is this a basic concept for dog training?  Yes.  And it works for other animals, too.

My friend Whitney asked me about an issue she was having with her cat Goblin.  Whitney lives in an apartment in a converted house.  Each time she tried to exit the apartment for the shared laundry, Goblin would make a dash for the door, escape into the common area, and try to get to the basement, where she could not only annoy neighbors, but get into dangerous situations.  “How can I stop her from doing this,” Whitney asked.  My first question?  “What would you rather have her do instead?”

She thought for a moment, and we discussed some options.  Goblin is particularly fond of sitting in one window.  Great!  Now, let’s make sitting in that window more rewarding than dashing out the door.  I suggested that she use a treat, a toy reward, or possibly a treat puzzle — something special that Goblin would only get in that spot, and only when it was time for Whitney to head for the laundry.

The next time we talked, Whitney had a big smile as she reported her success.  She’d purchased some special treats.  When it was time to do laundry, she showed the treats to Goblin, then put one in the window sill for her.  The cat leapt onto the sill and became very interested in the treat.  Whitney headed out the door, and Goblin paid no attention at all.  The next time Goblin saw the laundry basket and the treats, she immediately went to the window sill, a behavior she continued every time Whitney needed to do laundry.  It only took one time for her cat to “get it right.”

With most of our fur family members, it may take a little more effort and time to change undesired behavior into the behavior we want.  But, with consistency and patience, change can happen, sometimes very quickly.

Here is the basic approach I teach most of my clients:

  1. When your animal is doing something you don’t want, calmly interrupt the behavior.  Using sounds like “unh-uh,” “bup-bup,” or a single hand clap is much more effective than saying “no,” “stop,” or “don’t,” because animals (especially dogs) don’t understand any form of “no.”
  2. If appropriate, thank your animal for doing what they were doing.  For instance, if your dog was barking to let you know someone is at the door, they are doing their job and should be thanked for it.
  3. Redirect your animal to the behavior you want them to do, such as being quiet, sitting calmly, laying down in a specific spot, playing appropriately with a toy, and so on.
  4. As soon as they do what you want, reward them with praise, physical affection, a treat, or any combination of these.  Treats can be phased out as they learn and become consistent with the behavior.  TTouch ear slides, zig-zags and other body TTouches can be extremely effective for reinforcing the desired behavior.

Nearly any undesired behavior can be retrained using this basic principle.  If your animal has a serious, underlying mental, emotional, or physical cause for the behavior, it may take more time, and you may need help from a professional.

If you are unsure about exactly what behavior you want to train, try the simple exercise below.

When you need help or advice, contact Penny at Happy PAWZ for assistance with Tellington TTouch Training®; other positive training methods; holistic products; nutritional counseling; and advice on consulting a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist.


  1. In 10 words or less, state what your pet does that you do not like.
  2. In 10 words or less, state what you would like your pet to do instead.
  3. Now restate the desired behavior using 5 words or less, and only use positive, action-oriented words.  Avoid words like stop, no, don’t, quit, etc.
  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3, with a different desired behavior.

Now you have two behaviors that you can train your pet to do in place of the behavior that you wish to change.  The next step is to decide which behavior you prefer, and train for that.

Any time that your pet does the desired behavior without being guided, immediately praise and reward them for doing well.  This is called “capturing the behavior,” and will help to reinforce and accelerate training.

Stress Management For Pets

Penny A. Watkins-Zdrojewski
September 2012

This article focuses on a common issue that affects both health and behavior in pets. Recently, Buddy, our 9-year old Australian Cattle Dog mix, had an experience that reminded me just how much stress can affect our pets.  He became agitated by a wild animal and tried to go over our fence, cutting his leg in the process.  While sitting in the ER waiting room in the wee hours of the morning, I realized what a good lesson he was teaching me.

  • Did you know that many behavior problems are caused by stress?
  • Did you know that stress can be caused by underlying health concerns?
  • Did you know that stress is one of the leading causes of illness and death in animals?

Read on to learn about how stress works, causes, effects and tools you can use to help your pet.

How does stress work?

When a stressful situation or stimulant is present, animals, like humans, respond with changes that are physiological, psychological, emotional, and behavioral.  Nearly every system in the body responds in some way.  The endocrine system produces an overabundance of corticosteroids, and the ability to produce and absorb “good” brain chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins, is greatly decreased.

The mere presence of stressful stimulants is not the biggest problem.  More important is how the animal deals with stress—how well they are able to cope, and how long their systems continue to be affected.

Acute Stress And Chronic Stress

Acute stress is generally a short lived response to a one-time event, such as a trip to the vet or a thunderstorm.  Acute stress is generally not a problem, provided your pet can respond to the stress in appropriate ways and quickly recover from its effects.  Buddy’s injury and treatment caused acute stress, from which he was able to recover pretty quickly.

Chronic stress results from long-time or multiple experiences of stress, resulting in a state of ongoing physical arousal. Effects of stress can continue long after the cause is gone.   Chronic stress is often more difficult to recognize and alleviate.  The causes may be hidden, and you may need to enlist professional help.  Chronic stress, left undiagnosed and unmanaged, will generally continue to increase, leading your beloved pet to live in a constant state of anxiety, stress, unbalance and un-wellness.

Animals are built to handle acute stress, which is short-lived, but not chronic stress, which is steady continual.

Effects of Stress

Chronic stress can adversely affect the immune, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems, create or intensify anxiety, strain the heart, create chemical imbalances, and contribute to the development of major illnesses.

Causes of Stress

The causes of stress may be environmental, situational, or physical.  Stressful situations cause physical changes, and some physical factors can be the cause of stress.  The mental/emotional aspects of stress and the physical aspects of stress are intricately connected.  It is very common for animals with chronic physical issues, such as undiagnosed or untreated chronic pain, to exhibit behavior problems.  Therefore, when choosing how to deal with stress, it is very important to look at all aspects of your pet’s life—environmental, social, emotional, psychological, and physical

Hidden Stress

Some stress, particularly acute stress, is obvious – the cat that fights getting into its carrier to go to the vet; the dog that doesn’t like its nails trimmed; the rabbit that bolts or charges when its going to be picked up.  Other types of stress are less obvious.

An increasing number of household pets are rescues, adopted from shelters and rescue groups.  These animals may have experienced days, weeks or years of stress about which we have no knowledge.  Pets adopted through the very best, reputable breeders may not be stress-free.

Hidden stress is often a major cause of behavior issues.  It can also cause a host of health concerns.  And undiagnosed or untreated health issues can also be a major source of hidden stress.

Regardless of the cause of stress, known or unknown, there are ways to help your pet.

Tools to Manage and Alleviate Stress

In cases of acute stress, you will generally know the cause – loud noises, fear of a vet visit, injuries, strangers visiting, and so on.  Some of the tools discussed below can help your pet deal with these acute situations.  For chronic stress, whether the cause is known or unknown, there are several things you can do to help your pet cope with stress, relax,  and become the best they can be – mentally, physically and emotionally balanced.

If you know that certain things cause stress for your pet, think about ways you can make changes so that the instance, situation or environment is less stressful.  For example, our dog Murphy reacts to the sound of pop cans being opened – he barks and becomes hyper-vigilant.  We invite him to sniff the can and watch us open it, then reward him when he reacts calmly, which he now does nearly all of the time.

Your pet may need a multidiscipline approach, combining two or more tools or therapies.  This will depend on the degree of stress, underlying causes, how long they have been experiencing symptoms, and your pet as an individual.  When working with professionals, let each know what you are doing with the other.  Whenever possible, it is best to have your professionals share information and collaborate with one another.

  • Exercise and Play help to release physical tension and stimulate the mind.  Spend some time each day actively engaging your pet in play time or stimulating walks.
  • Healthy Food is essential.  If your pet’s food has ingredients that they cannot digest well or that turn into too many sugars in the system, they can experience digestive distress, compromised immune systems, anxiety and a host of other issues.  The problems may show up as physical issues, anxiety, behavior concerns, or a combination.  My last newsletter discussed commercial foods in depth.  If you would like a copy, just let me know.
  • Therapeutic Touch
    • Therapeutic touch begins with mindful touch – simply be aware of how you are petting and holding your animal, and more importantly, the effects of your touch on your pet.
    • Massage can decrease physical tension and help your pet relax.
    • TTouch can also decrease physical tension and help your pet relax.  Moreover, it can promote a greater state of calm and balance.  By influencing the mind-body connection and central nervous system, TTouch can help your animal change patterns, learn new behaviors, and improve many physical conditions that cause stress.
  • Music can help with both acute and chronic stress.  For noise phobias, try rock- or world-music with a strong, steady beat.  For soothing in general, calm, low-key classical music can be beneficial.  There are also CDs orchestrated specifically to promote a sense of calm.
  • Pheromone products are available for dogs and cats.  They mimic a mother’s natural comforting pheromones to calm stress and relieve anxiety.
  • Diagnose and treat underlying causes, whether physical or mental.  It is usually necessary to consult a professional for help.  Professional counselors, veterinarians and behaviorists not only have the training to evaluate your pet and suggest solutions, but can view your pet from a different perspective, noting things that can easily be overlooked by someone who lives with the animal.
  • Behavior Modification uses operant conditioning to replace undesirable behaviors with more desirable ones.  You can teach your pet an appropriate activity to do each time they encounter a specific stressful stimulus.  This will help them to know what to do, will reduce their internal conflict, and help them relax.
  • Natural Supplements come in many varieties and forms that can help with different types of acute or chronic stress.
    • Bach Flower Remedies help animals as well as humans.  Rescue Remedy can help acute stress and can be found at most health food stores.  Certified Bach practitioners can create formulas for your pet’s specific needs.
    • Homeopathic Remedies are available in formulations for either acute or chronic stress.  Homeopet® has a line of anxiety remedies developed for pets.
    • Vitamins, Fish Oil, Joint Support Supplements and Digestive Aids can help to alleviate the symptoms and reduce the effects of certain health conditions, thereby reducing associated stress.  Before using these, consult your licensed veterinarian.
  • Medications can be prescribed by your veterinarian or a Veterinary Behaviorist.  The current thinking among most Veterinary Behaviorists is to use psychoactive medications only for as long as it takes for the animal to be calm and learn appropriate behaviors, then wean them off of the medication.  They can also prescribe natural supplements, such as Composure, that have a strong calming effect.

Consulting a Professional

Seeking professional help for pet stress management is wise.  Animal Wellness Counselors (like me), Animal Behaviorists, and Veterinary Behaviorists can help identify the symptoms and underlying causes of stress in your pet, then work with you to develop a plan to reduce your pet’s stress.  When choosing a professional, ask questions: are they certified, and in what; where did they get their training; how long have they been doing this; what kind of success have they had; what kind of work will they do with your pet;  will they consult with your veterinarian and other professionals?

Buddy’s Experience and Outcome

Buddy was able to handle all of the activities and treatments in the ER pretty well.  While I was with him, I was able to do some TTouch techniques to help him.  The ER veterinarians took an interest and learned how to do TTouch Earslides to help him when I was not allowed to be with him.  I also used Earslides and other TTouches to help reduce my own stress.

Buddy is doing well now, and the entire experience is a distant memory for him, if that.  With the help of stress-reduction techniques and my use of TTouch, his wound healed remarkably fast, and he has completely recovered from the physical and emotional effects of spending 10 days in an e-collar.

In Summary

Stress in pets is difficult.  It affects their mental, emotional and physical well-being, and it affects the well-being of the humans who live with them.  With careful observation, the use of stress-reducing tools, and the help of a professional to determine causes and the best approaches to management, you and your pet can lead a happy, well-balanced life together.


Contact me for additional information and help.  You can request a phone consultation for assistance on these tips, or we can schedule an assessment and work session in your home.