Originally Posted By: MartieOne other thing I've been doing with Luther is Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation.
I looked at it for a long time - and always thought it seemed kind of silly - Luther can do all that stuff, I kept saying to myself.
I thought it was a bit silly at first too! I looked at the 15 day program and my dogs could easily get to day 5 or 6 with no problem, so it seemed like a waste of time to go through all those steps to get to the point where it was actually going to challenge them. But I was on Leslie McDevitt's yahoo email group (Control Unleashed) before she discontinued it, and there was a lot of discussion about RP, and I was able to ask her some questions directly. You really do need to go through the entire program because it's the process that's important, not getting to the end as quickly as possible.
I did it last year with Dena & Keefer. I crated one dog, did that day's tasks, and then switched them out and worked with the other dog. I had intended to try it with both dogs at the same time after I finished with them separately, but never got around to it. I also haven't gotten around to trying it with Halo yet, and want to do it again with Keefer at some point, and to go through the program in another location, such as the backyard.
Some tips I found helpful - rather than a sit, I put the dogs into a down because it's a more relaxing position, and I also used a mat. First I did a little work sending the dog to a mat and asking for the down, and then simply waiting for an automatic down on the mat. This took no time at all. I also counted out the stays in a very soft voice, and found that later, I was able to induce a relaxed state in Keefer by simply looking into his eyes and calmly and quietly counting to him. Sometimes I counted up from 1, sometimes I counted down from 15 or 20 or 30 seconds, however long the stay was.
One question a lot of people asked on the list was about whether or not you release the dog between exercises - NO! You simply praise softly, deliver the treat, and move on to the next exercise. My dogs sometimes get excited and grabby with treats too, so I placed it on the mat right in front of their noses so they didn't have to budge from their position. In addition to treating after each exercise, I rewarded any other signs of relaxation, such as resting his head on the mat, which he starting doing often. The nice thing about using a mat is that they start to associate the mat as the place where they hang out and chill, and you can move the mat to other places (such as the vet's office) and re-create that relaxed state.
I also paid a lot of attention to my own body language, keeping myself very loose during the stays, shifting my weight onto one hip and tilting my shoulders and sometimes my head to one side, blinking slowly and keeping my breathing regular. He really did seem to mirror my relaxed demeanor, which was what I was going for. By the end of the day's tasks I would quietly release them, and they were quite calm. Dena was so calm that she wouldn't even get off her mat when Elvis (kitty) sauntered into the room, and when she was released she'd stand there and sniff him instead of trying to herd him! Keefer did break off his mat a couple of times to chase a kitty, but overall, he was very good too. If the dog breaks at any point, you calmly return them to place and repeat the exercise until they can perform it before moving on to the next task. I would also repeat that day's tasks the next day before moving onto the next step if they broke at any point, which I only had to do a few times. Some people reported being stuck on the same day's tasks for several days or even a week or more, and that's fine.
For my dogs, staying calm and on their mat when I rang the doorbell and opened the front door was VERY challenging, as I expected it would be. I had initially started RP in my family room because it's the largest area in the house and many of the tasks require some space to work in, but when we got to this step I thought it would be easier to try it in the entryway so I would not be out of their sight when I rang the bell. That's perfectly okay - you can always modify a task or break it down into smaller steps, working up slowly to the actual task as listed or even add additional tasks (banging pots and pans? jingling your keys?) that are challenging for your dog/s. Some people want their dogs to bark at the doorbell, so that might be a task they'd skip and find something else equally hard as a substitute task. Modify the program so that it makes the most sense to you, your dogs, and your lifestyle.
I found it very difficult to keep my place in the exercises because many of them were repeated several times in a single day's tasks, so I copied the part of the document that listed the daily tasks and enlarged the font before printing it out so I could set the paper on a nearby counter or table and quickly glance at it to see what we were supposed to do next. Made it MUCH easier to follow! If anyone wants this, PM me your email address and I'll send you the Word document, or you could just do it yourself.