The Touchstone

I’ve come across the concept of a touchstone several times in my reading this week and I think it’s an important subject for dog lovers. Obviously our dogs can serve as touchstones for us; as eloquently expressed by this quote from Roxanne Hawn’s article Canine Gravity for Stressful Times.

Like a small, furry source of gravity, force of nature, the dogs ground me with their presence, through their humor, by the sheer force of needing to provide for them and take care of them.

And just as they do for us, we can provide a touchstone for them. One that can help ground our dogs and help to put them more at ease in stressful situations. Many owners of shy and fearful dogs utilize this technique, but I think it is useful for every dog owner to provide a touchstone for their dog that can be used in situations where calming and centering are needed.

A recent article titled Scrunchies and Lavender Candles for Thunder Phobia? Yep, by Deborah Flick and John Visconti beautifully illustrates both the technique and result of providing a touchstone. In it, John describes how he provided soothing and positive association via all five senses in order to associate his office as a safe and soothing place to go for an extremely storm phobic dog. The tools that John used in this particular instance were extremely clever and well thought out, and have the added benefit of being extremely accessible to dog owners of every level of experience.

The thing I would like all dog lovers to take away from this is that even for well-adjusted dogs, this technique is a great way to both bond with your dog and provide a future means of establishing an object or room that serves to both center and calm our dogs when they forget how to do this for themselves.

I’d like to thank Roxanne Hawn of Champion of my Heart, Deborah Flick of Boulder Dog, and John Visconti of for providing great insights for dog lovers everywhere.


All of us at Dog Lover’s Digest


5 thoughts on “The Touchstone

  1. I was awed by John’s ingenuity, touched by his compassion and inspired by his dedication to his dog. He is a great example of the kind of people our dogs need us to be, especially if we have rescued them from shelters and they have uncertain backgrounds. It is not their fault they come with baggage and when we commit to taking them into our home, I think it only fair that we commit to helping them un-pack that baggage as well. Bravo John and those like him!

  2. Kevin, thank you so much for the shout out, and, for noticing John’s approach involved ALL 5 senses! I had not made that connection, but you are exactly right.

    And, it was clever of you to see the connection between Roxanne’s post and John’s–it’s all about grounding. Nice.

    I think your muse is back. 🙂

    • I don’t know of any studies on it but it seems to me that by involving all senses you are really cementing that positive association. It also makes sense that providing positive input on all sensory levels serves to help block negative stimuli from getting through.

      In any case I thought it was a very clever solution and one I will be trying with Annie, my fearful girl.

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