When I first read about something called the Protocol for Relaxation, I had NO idea what it was about. None. Never heard of it.
It’s considered baseline work for serious behavior modification training, like what I’m doing with Lilly. That much I got from the start, but it wasn’t until I saw the whole thing in print that a sinking feeling sunk me. On paper, the Protocol for Relaxation is daunting.
That’s when I came up with the idea to create MP3 audio files that I could listen to on my iPod, while training Lilly. It works great for us, and I can tell from blog traffic statistics that people all over the world continue to access them.
We began using the Relaxation Protocol in fall of 2007. Back when I first posted these audio files, I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of this detailed, tedious form of behavior modification. Today, all this time later, let me be clear. The Relaxation Protocol provides critical baseline training for fearful (or reactive or aggressive) dogs. I honestly think it sets such an important foundation that I will likely use it with all dogs in my future — whether they are fearful or not.
The Relaxation Protocol: A quick recap
The original protocol developed decades ago has been updated and modified by various animal behaviorists. Dr. Karen Overall developed the version upon which these audio files were created.
I’m really boiling things down here, but essentially the protocol teaches a dog to settle and defer to you in no matter what happens. Through food rewards and calm, quiet praise, the dog learns good associations with the various stimuli. It’s essentially a formatted, systematic way to use classical conditioning to teach a dog to feel better and relax.
We did the 15-day cycle in sequence in various areas of our home. We spent literally months working on this in a safe, controlled environment before we ever attempted to take this training into public spaces.
In our current usage, we harness Relaxation Protocol strategies to get through transition times — arriving at dog training class, arriving at new places — since Lilly struggles more when we first go somewhere.
As soon as I assume the relaxed body posture, ask Lilly for a simple SIT, and begin rewarding her for remaining still and calm, she pops right into Relaxation Protocol mode and settles down. Think of it like an emotional reset.
Relaxation Protocol Audio Files
Simply right-click on each one and select Save Link As in order to save the MP3 audio file onto your computer. Then, move them … however you do that for your iPod or MP3 unit.