The relaxation protocol is considered baseline work for serious behavior modification training, but many people use it for more everyday purposes for dogs of all ages. For example, if you have a puppy that you'd really like to stay put and hangout quietly at a brewpub or restaurant patio, or if you plan to do dog sports and want your dog to wait on a mat or platform when it isn't her turn, the relaxation protocol can help because it essentially helps dogs understand that they indeed can stay put and not respond to every weird thing they see or hear.
Full Text of the Relaxation Protocol
On request in 2014, I recorded updated audio files of the newest version of the Relaxation Protocol (if you want to see the whole thing in print).
We're kind of famous for making these audio files available for FREE. Over the years, various technical glitches and smartphone weirdness (looking at you iPhone!) require new options for relaxation protocol users. Here are the latest strategies and options (mid-October 2023). Fingers crossed that 1 of them works for you. Also, please see suggestions below for ways to solve common tech issues that sometimes work. Let me know if you still hit any snags. Thanks!
Dog Relaxation Protocol Audio File Usage - Option #1
Play each day's recording like a little podcast.
Day 1 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 2 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 3 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 4 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 5 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 6 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 7 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 8 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 9 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 10 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 11 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 12 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 13 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 14 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Day 15 - Relaxation Protocol for Dogs
Dog Relaxation Protocol Audio File Usage - Option #2
Download the files so that you can use them without needing to use wifi or cell data.
Dog Relaxation Protocol Audio File Usage - Option #3
Play them via YouTube. However, in August 2023, we started hearing that ads now play in the middle of the protocol recording, which is super annoying. It's also entirely out of my control. So frustrating! I'm hearing from some users that a browser (and app for phones) called BRAVE blocks all ads on YouTube, so if you want to continue using them there, that may be an option.
Relaxation Protocol Tech Issue - Audio Files Stop Playing After a Minute or So on iPhones Using Safari Browser
Go into your Safari settings on your iPhone & look for ADVANCED settings. It's way at the bottom of the settings options. Click that.
Then, at the bottom of the next screen look for EXPERIMENTAL FEATURES. Click that.
Scroll down to AudioSession API and AudioSession Full API ... and make sure both are turned on. When I checked my iPhone only the initial API, not the full API, was turned on. When I turned on the Full API, then the audio files now play all the way through for me on my iPhone.
This solution worked for a while me and others, but it seems maybe it no longer 100% solves the playback issue (October 2023).
Relaxation Protocol Tech Issue - Audio Files Stop Playing After a Minute or So on Apple Computers Using Safari Browser
I assume there is a similar fix on computer to what I suggest above for iPhones, but the one person I asked to try it could not figure it our or find that same setting. So, I don't yet have a solution for that other than maybe using the versions on YouTube, if you can also make your Safari settings block ads there.
Why Do We Need Relaxation Protocol Audio Files?
When I first read about something called the relaxation protocol (Protocol for Relaxation), I had NO idea what it was about. None. Never heard of it.
The relaxation protocol is considered baseline work for serious behavior modification training, like what I did with Lilly (our original canine heroine) when it became clear just how truly, deeply, and clinically fearful she was of the world at large.
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 worked great for us, and I can tell from blog traffic statistics that people all over the world continue to access them ... a lot!
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.
Champion of My Heart
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.
Common Questions Answered
Rather than make this page any longer, pop over here to get answers to the most common Relaxation Protocol questions.
With Lilly, I 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.
Later, we harnessed Relaxation Protocol strategies to get through transition times -- arriving at dog training class, arriving at new places -- since Lilly struggled more when we first go somewhere.
As soon as I assumed the relaxed body posture, asked Lilly for a simple SIT, and began rewarding her for remaining still and calm, she would pop right into Relaxation Protocol mode and settle down. Think of it like an emotional reset.
Relaxation Protocol Supplies, Process, and FAQ
Choose small treats since you will need so many. Most of the time, I use something like plain, generic Cheerios. I also sometimes cut treats like Zuke's Mini Naturals in half because they are too big as is. Zuke's also makes a tiny version that is really tiny, but they can be hard to find. If you can get them, they are really the perfect size for this kind of training.
Designate a specific relaxation mat or bed. I personally like softer mats for the floor or more comfy raised beds.
Consider a raised platform. A lot of dog sports folks have also gone to using raised platforms for a variety of training scenarios. They do make a much more defined space for your dog, but I worry about comfort, especially for larger dogs.
Reward at the end of each task. I note the end of each timed task (such as sitting for 10 seconds) by saying "Time." That's when you reward your dog for staying put. When the task is something like circling the dog while clapping your hands, I don't mark the end of that, but once you've made the full circle, then that's when you reward.
Sitting or lying down. The protocol is written and designed using SIT, but some people ask for or allow their dogs to lie down, which is fine too. Those doing the RP for serious behavior modification release and ask for a new sit for each task. There is something about the repetition of the entire cycle -- sit, weird thing happens / dog stays put, reward -- that helps create pathways in the brain so to speak. BUT, if you're doing the RP for more baseline training, without having the dog get up after each task, then it's fine to allow the dog to stay put.