• Kristen Renaud

30 Days of Dr. Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol - Day One

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

January 28, Day One

Kirby’s anxiety started at a young age. Even now, with her anxiety well managed, I still look for warning signs of her anxiety. These warning signs came to a peak just recently. My family and I moved from Denver, Colorado to Portland, Maine in December. The strain of the move took a toll on Kirby. Her anxiety is more heightened than it has been in years. During a recent trip to my parent’s home Kirby was growling and threatening to bite several of the house guests.

It was a wake up call. Kirby’s anxiety needed more attention and re-training. We had regressed to a dangerous point. Which brought me to Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. After journeying down a rabbit hole of dog training blogs regarding this exact protocol, I decided to put Kirby on this training plan. Although Kirby has been trained on going to her mat, and relaxation cues. I like this program as it ultimately teaches Kirby to calm herself on the mat. Something no amount of exercise can ever solve. Although this plan calls for 15 days of training, I decided to extend this training exercise and repeat the steps in numerous different places and with different family members training Kirby.

As a former management consultant I keep diligent notes on most work I do with just about anything, but especially with Kirby. What can I say old habits die hard. The point is, keeping notes on training progress can help you better understand your dog and your own methods. It is helpful to refer back to your notes on particularly frustrating days. As stated in the Relaxation Protocol instructions dogs often regress before they get better. Much like humans, new things to take time, learning is not perfectly linear. Join me, through my training notes, for the next 30 days here and on instagram.

Day One training went really well. As indicated on the protocol, and several other reviews, the first few days are relatively easy if your dog has a solid foundation of down / stay cues. Kirby is excellent at down and stay. At least once a day I try to have her stay during something incredibly distracting such as me running around the apartment or throwing treats on the floor. And so Kirby mastered Day One. However, it did make clear how important the fundamental cues are for this relaxation protocol. It required Kirby to be in a down position for durations of time (up to a 20 second hold), with distance from me (three steps back), and with distraction (clapping my hands).

I did note that Kirby seemed slightly uninterested toward the end. The protocol builds up to the hardest hold and then works back down. Giving Kirby unpredictable amounts of time to be in down. When we were towards the end of the training I noticed her walking towards the mat a little slower and glancing out the window instead of focusing fully on me. You could make the case this was because she was becoming comfortable with mat, but I would say she was a little disengaged with the training by the end. I will make an effort to

take more time between each of the cues and make sure Kirby is fully engaged.

We ended the training session, as you should all training sessions, with praise, pets and throwing a toy a few times.

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