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Category Archives for Audio Files

Canine Relaxation Protocol Demo

One of the things we're most famous for are FREE audio/video files that make the canine relaxation protocol easier to do. It might look like simply a way to teach dogs to stay, but the RP is much more complicated than that. It's meant to teach dogs prone to fear, stress, or over-arousal to defer to you and relax no matter what weird stimuli happens (noises, movements, etc.) Hard to believe I never made a canine relaxation protocol demo video before, but here you go. Below is a video of what it looks like when I do it with a behaviorally normal dog. In this case, first Clover and then a short snippet with Mr. Stix

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Relaxation Protocol Questions Answered

Years after we tackled the Relaxation Protocol ourselves (both the one by Dr. Karen Overall and the one our own behaviorist prescribed), it remains one of the top reasons people come to Champion of My Heart. Pretty neat, huh? So, I decided to revisit a couple of the common questions I get about our Relaxation Protocol work.

If you are new to our site, please check out the main Relaxation Protocol page with free audio files and videos.

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Preventing the Inside-Outside Issue

Even though this spring has been more like winter than winter was, I’m starting to see inklings of our summertime recall collapse, where suddenly Lilly acts like coming inside is a terrible-terrible thing in the late afternoon or evening.

It first happened in 2007, when I blamed it on a battle over a bath. Eventually come fall, her rock-solid recall returned. Here’s a recent video sample of that.

But even amid our work with the behaviorist which began in summer 2008 for this and other reasons, we ultimately had to make the rule that Lilly could NOT go outside (except to the dog pen to potty) after dinner. Coming in from there was an issue at times as well.

So, last year, we were treating the whole thing as a piece of her overall fearful puzzle. Was it the door? The lighting? TV noise? Something else?

The Plan We Used

  1. We restricted her access to outside at certain times of day so that we could avoid battles over coming inside.
  2. We also instituted a scenario where food-stuffed toys appeared ONLY in the evening. This makes being inside after dinner more fun, but it was also designed to keep Lilly from hiding in the house, which was also a problem last summer before we started her new medications.

Just like in 2007, the issue of 2008 went completely away over the fall and winter, so I stopped doing the food toy trick every night. Yet, the issue seems to be re-emerging this spring. I’m beginning to think she simply loves being outside.

So far, we have not had any real showdowns over coming inside, but Lilly will come as far as our little sidewalk out the front door, then flop to the ground in protest. A briskly worded recall usually does the trick.

BUT, I’m falling back to our Coming Inside Song. I could swear I’ve written about this before, but I cannot find the post. So, the song goes like this:

Lilly gets a puppy treat.
Lilly gets a puppy treat.
Lilly gets a puppy treat for coming inside.

Click to play.

And, basically, I sing the song over and over from the door to the treat jar, where I jackpot her like crazy for a few more rounds of the rousing song, which Tom curses because he gets it stuck in his head. (When I recorded the audio clip, Lilly came blasting into my office for treats, so I know she recognizes what it means.)

I’m also using the food toy strategy at night again to try and prevent another summer of inside-outside drama. What’s funny to me is that while Lilly enjoys the food toys, she doesn’t quite get her heart set on the pattern the way Ginko does.

Even though he’s often just had dinner, he’ll whine for food toys each night. Fix one problem, cause another. :o)

Great Radio Interview: Temple Grandin

There is a debate over at Dolitter today about dominance-based training. I personally oppose it not just for fearful dogs but all dogs. Fans of people like Milan won’t convice me, and I won’t convince them. So, let’s not go there. BUT, I came across another comment with a link to this recent Public Radio interview with Temple Grandin that’s in part about her new book, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. If this works, the audio embed will appear below. If not, here’s a link to the radio page.

The interview is about 50 minutes long.

Some of the Q&A gets tedius, but I was interested in her thoughts on the rise of separation anxiety and how breeding for puppy-like qualities may be to blame. And, considering how I’ve been hoping spending time with Katie might help Lilly, I loved hearing her thoughts on how other dogs can help those with poor dog-dog skills.

There is some great info for horse people and parents of autistic children as well.

I have not yet read the book, but I know Katie’s mom has it, so maybe I can borrow it soon.

Calming Music for Dogs

Noise of the modern world is akin to second-hand cigarette smoke. It poses a danger to us and our dogs, according to
the authors of “Through a Dog’s Ear: How to Use Sound to Improve the Health and Behavior of Your Canine Companion.” Just released March 1, the book makes the argument that many of the behavior problems we now see in dogs (and possibly some health ones too) come from the stress of noise in their world. The collaboration between a psychoacoustics experts (Joshua Leeds), a veterinary neurologist (Susan Wagner, DVM, MS, DACVIM), and a concert pianist (Lisa Spector, who does agility with her dog BTW) also includes a series of music CDs designed specifically for dogs. As professional magazine writer, I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of the book and music sample. Here’s what I want to share.

Lilly is the first dog I’ve ever known who really does hide under the bed, when noises scare her. We learned this lesson around the holidays 2004 soon after we adopted her. I madly vacuumed the rugs before guests arrived, and she spent the next few hours cowering under the bed, refusing to come out for love or money or food. That was the first indication of what life would be like with a sound-sensitive dog.

I’ve written about it before, but here’s a short list of noises that unnerve Lilly:

  • Egg cartons or any food packaging that squeak
  • Paper being torn or crumpled
  • Skateboards, scooters, and wheelie shoes rolling by
  • Noisy dogs (which is funny because she’s pretty noisy herself)
  • Computer tones, especially the one a Mac makes when saving an Excel file
  • Metal crashing or banging, especially competition agility teeter-totters
  • Changes in tone of voice, especially if expletives are used

Long before I read Temple Grandin’s book “Animals in Translation,” I told people that Lilly was much like an autistic child. She’s easily overwhelmed by auditory and visual stimuli. She still hates the vacuum, but now she simply leaves the room until I put it away, rather than hide for the rest of the day. The sound and motion of geese flying overhead, however, is enough to cause a total shutdown when we’re training. Some public statues still freak her out. And, in the wrong context, sirens throw her for a loop.

My friendship with Lilly spans nearly 3 1/2  years. Her sound issues now second nature to me, I’ve learned to adjust her environment and to help her address the frequent scares that noises cause. So, for me, the book made total sense. So much so that I found its narrative and argument for the concepts a bit tedious. Others might need the whole package. I personally did not. I just needed a quick explanation and the music itself since I live the reality the book addresses every day.

BUT, if you have a “normal” dog without obvious sound issues, this book may open your eyes to the toll noise takes on your dog(s) nervous system (and possible immune system). To learn more about the research, how to use the music in more advanced ways, read the book or visit the website:

In VERY abbreviated fashion, however, here are some basic concepts:

The “Orienting Response” is instinctual. Dogs cannot ignore sound. Their brains process everything they hear. While it takes just a few seconds for the brain to process a sound, imagine how many noises your dog hears every minute, every hour, every day (especially at dog shows, agility trials, etc). That’s a lot of interruption, and a lot of stress on the mind and body.

“Active Listening” is the process where the brain looks for a pattern in the sound. Dogs, especially when left alone, hear many sounds for which they have no context and that are intermittent. All this unresolved noise kind of piles up in the brain. It’s always trying to figure out the noise, which sets the fight-or-flight response on simmer. If that happens throughout the day, the constant nervous system response, even though its autonomic, can cause dogs to be jumpy, irritable, anxious, etc. On the other hand, it can make some wild and zoomie.

“Passive Hearing” is when the brain finds a pattern in sound and transfers processing into another area. It’s still background noise, though. And, since the dog hears it, it can either help or hinder the relaxation response.

“Psychoacoustic music” is specially designed music that takes advantage of how the brain processes sound in passive hearing mode. It relies on shifts in resonance (tone), entrainment (rhythm or speed) and pattern identification to help the brain find what it needs in the sound so that it and the whole nervous system can relax. In basic terms, music that is lower, slower and simple is much easier for the brain to process. Plus, the music is designed to calm the body’s brainwaves, heart rate and breathing.

Psychoacoustic music is used in medical clinics, classrooms, and spas. Now, this 3-person team is applying those principles to dogs. Essentially, they simplified “regular” classical music. They slowed it down and lowered the tone to make it more relaxing.

Music Research Results
Dr. Wagner tested 4 CDs of psychoacoustic classical music vs regular classical music, like what’s played on the radio. She tested it in veterinary hospitals, animal shelters, boarding kennels and private homes.

One of the four CDs stood out for its
calming effect. This music featured solo piano simplified
arrangements at 50-70 beats per minute. It tested far better than the other
psychoacoustic music options as well as a selection of music from a classical
radio station play list.

Overall, the psychoacoustic music was 20-35 percent
more effective at inducing canine relaxation than regular classical music.

In the kennel (or group) environment, a little more
than 70 percent of dogs became calmer while listening to this music.

In the
home test environment, 85 percent of dogs became calm, and more than half fell asleep.

Since this one CD of music worked so well
for dogs with average arousal issues, Wagner tested it on 10 dogs with specific
anxiety issues. These at-home tests show that 70 percent of anxiety behaviors were
reduced with the psychoacoustic music.

This super relaxing music is on a 60-minute CD sold as “Music to Calm Your Canine Companion.” Here’s an MP3 The trick, with really anxious dogs like
Lilly, is to play the special music initially when the dog is
already calm. Otherwise, you could establish a connection between being
upset and the music, which is NOT what you want. So, start off by
playing it when your dog is already mellow. Then, when you use it to
help calm later, that association is already there. I can see this helping with Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol that I’ve talked so much about.

That warning is probably not as important if your dog is “normal.”

Since Lisa Spector, the pianist, also does agility with her dog, I asked her about using the music in the crating area. She thinks it would work for dogs that need to calm down at trials. Her goal is to amp her dog up to get maximum speed, so she personally doesn’t use the music that way.

While interviewing her last week for a trade magazine article on the research, I joked about more music in the future aimed at performance dogs. Using psychoacoustic principles you could just as easily increase a dog’s arousal. Maybe there’s another CD in her future — “Music for Agility.”

The Relaxation Protocol

You found the right place to learn more about the Relaxation Protocol for Dogs! When I first read about Dr. Karen Overall’s Protocol for Relaxation in Leslie McDevitt’s book “Control Unleashed,” 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 book, but it wasn’t until I saw the whole thing in print that a sinking feeling sunk me. I’m feeling better about it now, but here’s a bit about my journey so far.

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It’s been a wet summer here, which is somewhat unusual in the high, often dry Rocky Mountains. Other places in the country easily get 2, even 4 inches of rain regularly, but around here, that’s a BIG deal. Last week, for the first time in our nearly 6 years in this house, we had a full-blown flash flood in the creek that cuts through our property. My husband was gone and had the camera at the time, but I went out after the storm passed and recorded this.

This file is a digital recording of what 1.75 inches of rain in 35 minutes sounds like as it pours through Elk Creek.

Creek audio file (MP3) *** I’m sorry to say the audio file got lost when we changed blog platforms.

The good news is that we’re in a wide valley. Our house sits on a hill well back from the creek bed, so we’re fine. Even the goldfish in our pond survived the influx of rushing water. By our count, several days later when the water cleared, no one got washed away.

Some neighbors with watershed passage issues weren’t so lucky — with flooded garages, washed out driveways and flooded kitchens.

The storm was a doozy. The rain is one thing, but the lightening was something else. One cloud-to-ground strike hit behind the fire house, which is just 3 lots up from our house. When it hit, the sky lit up and pulsated for several seconds. Then came the HUGE thunder clap.

It made me and Lilly and Ginko jump. We sat on the sofa together for a bit, but then I decided they would weather the storm better in their crates. So, I sprayed some of that dog appeasing pheromone on a couple washcloths and loaded the dogs up.

Once the storm ended, the three of us came out to look around. Lilly and Ginko both had some nervous energy to burn off. While I checked the fences through the creek and watched the water rushing by, they played a rousing game of “rabbit dog.”

That’s our name for crazy-ass chasing, where they blast around at top speed, changing direction on a dime, even flipping around in mid-air to catch the other by surprise.

Thankfully, their instints told them to avoid the creek because that was some seriously fast-moving water.

Within hours, everything was back to normal. The creek back to its usual trickle.

While the dogs ran around, and I pondered where the various fence posts now stuck in our trees came from, neighbors on both sides hollered down to be sure Lilly, Ginko and I were OK. That’s the thing about living in a rural spot. Those close by keep an eye out for each other.

Agility theme song (audio)

Thanks to the iPod nano that Lilly and I received as a prize for raising money last summer for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley I have a new appreciation for music lyrics. There’s something about being audibly cocooned with songs that allows me to hear the lyrics in a way I don’t if music just plays in the background. Here’s a song that struck me as a good agility road trip theme. So, in honor of all of you who will be traveling to big trials all over the country heading into Independence Day “weekend,” here’s a little tune.

Tom Petty “Big Weekend” from album Highway Companion

The chorus lyrics go like this:

I need a big weekend. Kick up the dust.
Yeah, a big weekend.
If you don’t run, you rust.