Animal Centred Education - ACE Free Work
ACE Free Work is a simple, low impact activity that was developed by Sarah Fisher at Tilley Farm. It can be rewarding for the dog, and illuminating for the guardian/care giver, and can be set up in any environment.
The aim is to give the dog opportunities to engage with a variety of different items enabling guardians and care-givers to highlight items the dog really enjoys, and those he actively avoids.
As the dog starts to relax and slow down, postural struggles, habits, and worries about handling or other aspects of daily life become more apparent enabling guardians and caregivers to modify their own habits and address these small, or more obvious, concerns. Sometimes it is our own habits that create the behaviours in our animals we wish to modify. Making small adaptations to the way we interact with dogs can often bring the biggest change.
Benefits of Free Work
Many dogs struggle when in novel situations and many cannot tolerate contact from even familiar people when aroused, worried or in new or exciting environments. Free Work has provided an invaluable stepping stone towards further learning including quiet interactions, and bodywork (including some of the Tellington TTouches) by encouraging dogs to engage with a variety of items at liberty.
If safe to do so, all equipment, including the collar, is removed. Stripping everything back and giving the dog complete freedom of choice enables dogs to reset, rebalance and release.
It also gives the guardian the opportunity to gather data from the dog whilst the dog is at liberty to gather data from the environment. This low impact exercise can help to improve the posture and ensure the dog works every muscle in his body without engaging in fast, arousing games.
Free Work can help dogs to settle and calm and has been beneficial for some dog with noise sensitivity as they focus more on what they smell, eat and feel rather than focusing purely on what they hear. A dog that is more relaxed through the body will be more relaxed on an emotional level too.
Note: ACE Free Work has proved to be beneficial to other species of animals as well as dogs
Jo is an ACE Associate Tutor and a Tellington TTouch Practitioner for all Companion Animals (P2) and Equines (P1).