Relaxation Protocol: 2014 Attempt
The amazing gift of being alive is that no matter what, we can always begin again. Sharon Salzberg
And so we are.
Beginning again, that is.
The new year certainly begs for new beginnings, though I’ve been wanting to restart the Relaxation Protocol for quite some time. Somewhere along the way, though, I completely forgot about it.
I first learned about the Relaxation Protocol years ago on Champion of My Heart, who kindly organized each day (more on that in a minute) into downloadable MP3 files. I downloaded all the files and started in on it with Lucas, but – honestly, shamefully – it’s tedious and time-consuming and I just petered out. But, I left it on my “to do someday” list.
It wasn’t until Jessica at My Imperfect Dog (who I adore…) wrote about her progress with Silas, who is similar to Lucas in many ways even if their fears differ. She had a huge success. After I read about her victory, then clicked back and read through her experiences with the protocol, the “let’s try this again” seed was planted.
So, here we are. I downloaded this version of the whole shebang.
Here’s the gist: It’s a 15-day program that takes your dog through a series of ever-so-slightly increasing challenges. The 15-day thing is misleading though. You start in the easiest location for your fearful dog. In Lucas’ case, that’s the kitchen/living room. Then, you repeat the 15 days over and over (and over and over…) in increasingly more difficult locations. For example, you could do the whole thing in your living room, then move to your backyard, then to your front porch, and so on. The idea is to teach your pup to relax in potentially overwhelming situations. So, even though it’s a 15-day protocol, theoretically you could be working on this for years…
That’s a grossly oversimplified version, but I hope you get the idea.
Even though it doesn’t say to in the official protocol, I’m combining it with the “safe mat” idea from numerous other reactive dog training resources (most recently, I read and loved Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out: Training the Crazy Dog from Over the Top to Under Control*, which strongly advocates mat training). So, I’m running through the entire protocol with Lucas executing all the behaviors on his mat.
As an aside, I’m also starting to do the whole thing with Cooper. He’s not reactive in the way that Lucas is in that he doesn’t lunge/snap/snarl/etc. Rather, Cooper is just scared. Of pretty much everything. His coping mechanism is to cower behind me in scary situations like the vet. I’m hoping that going through this with the mat will enable me to take the mat and help him stay calm and relaxed… and, ideally someday, confident.
Thanks, Jessica, for inspiring me to tackle this whole deal all over again! I’m committed to sticking it out with my guys this time around, so I’ll be sure to check back in and share our progress.