Dr. Karen Overalls relaxation protocol is a set of exercises where you systematically teach your dog to relax in a sit or a down, or on a mat and look to you even and stay calm even when there are "weird" things happening around them. Using food and quiet praise the dog learns to associate good things with different stimuli. Basically it teaches a dog using classical conditioning to feel more relaxed. I have used it when I was working on Skyler and some of his reactivity issues, but gosh I know this will be great for the other dogs too. I think it will be a great foundation for some of the training I would like to start doing with Cricket, namely some of the advanced Controlled Unleashed work and I figure it would be good for the other dogs too, as long as we are at it!
If you just try to wade through the protocol on paper it looks daunting and confusing, but a few years ago I found someone had made MP3 files to walk you through the protocol, which makes it super fast and easy to actually do it. Here is a link to Champion of my Heart that has MP3 files you can download that talks you through the relaxation protocol, they really help when doing the work so you can concentrate on what you are doing and not be flipping through papers or fiddling with stop watches to figure out what to do next. I downloaded the file to my IPOD, it makes it so easy and they are working perfectly.
Here is another link to the written protocol-http://www.dogscouts.org/Protocol_for_relaxation.html
I took Cricket to a trial this weekend to work on her staying calm and connected because we have worked on that on the side lines of agility classes for awhile and I figured we were ready to move on to some more challenges. LOL, guess I raised the bar too high and too fast because Cricket was amazing outside the area and walked on a loose leash and was terrific, but when she saw dogs running, or moving quickly past her she was a little whirling dervish, LOL. I have just got the new Controlled Unleash Games DVD which I will talk about more in a different post once I watch all of it...so I got a ton of ideas on things to work on but I think I would like to work on some foundation behaviors for the controlled unleashed work.
I think a little of this work might help Breeze relax at the start line, she does great but I do notice signs of some stress when she is at the start lines at trials, and I would like her to be happier for the start line, even though she is doing marvelously on her start line-I am not sure the stress will not come back to bite us later on, so might as well work on some things that might help that down the line.
Liz is the queen of the stress cadets, so it goes without saying it could NEVER hurt to have her do a little relaxation work.
I am going to work on the relaxation protocol here at home, then take it as many places as I can, starting out with working in the living room, then the back yard, then the front yard, then maybe Lowes, Home Depot, Pets Mart, the agility yard, and work up to where we can try to do that eventually at trials, first from a long distance away and then getting closer to the action.
Our first day of working on the protocol the results were pretty predictable. Breeze was a super star even though all the other dogs started running around, the kids were walking in and out. Liz did really well. Cricket....well, lets just say she is pretty distractable. Her first session I ended up doing with Liz next to her which gave her the idea, team mat work, her second session with the first day protocol was much better and she was able to do it on her own-good job Crick! Great job Breeze and Liz!