Relaxation Protocols

Protocol for Relaxation by Dr. Karen Overall

This protocol is about calming your dog, relaxing his/her body and mind, helping reduce his/her frustration by giving him lots of opportunities for easy wins, and helping him/her focus on you. It also helps cultivate a rock solid Sit-Stay, but that is more of a byproduct than the real goal of this protocol. This is as much about you as it is about your dog.

Each day you will find a list of simple tasks to perform with your dog. You can do this exercise on a mat, with your dog in her crate, or anywhere you want to slow things down. We’ve done this protocol with all our program dogs at the shelter, and most if not all have managed to settle into the program and succeed!

Start by asking your dog to sit. If she offers you a down instead of sitting, this is fine. If she starts in a sit and shifts to a down part-way through the protocol, smile inwardly as this is an awesome sign of relaxation!

While the protocol is broken into “days”, this does not mean you have to get through the whole thing in a single day. The goal is to make sure your dog can do the whole day’s task list well and easily before you move on to the next day. We have found our program dogs living at the shelter take about a week to get through the first day, whereas dogs living homes getting more consistent work might get through a little faster.

To start off, go through each task for the “day” you’re on. The first item from day 1 is “Sit for 5 seconds“.

Ask your dog to Sit in a calm tone. You do not need to say “stay”; that is implied, and if your dog gets up before you complete the task, simply reposition him/her and start over.

Count to five. You are welcome to count out loud at first if needed and really engage with your dog if that helps him/her succeed! Over time, you can take it down a little so s/he really gets into relaxation mode! When you reach five seconds and she is still in a sit or a down, click and treat.

Then move on to the next item. You can either have your dog stay in place, or if your dog is new to this or particularly bouncy, you may want to reposition to set him/her up for success.

Say “sit for 10 seconds” and start counting softly to 10. If s/he gets up before you’re done, again, simply reposition her and try again.

When you reach 10 seconds and s/he is still in a sit or a down, click and treat.

Some steps have you take a few steps back or to the side, such as “Sit while you take 2 steps back and return“. You may need to take a little half step or just a really tiny step, and maybe even keep a treat right in front of your dog for the first couple of times you do this, just until s/he learns what you are doing. End this as quickly as possible, though, and try to get to the point where you can take bigger and bigger steps away.

If your dog stands up or breaks his/her sit or down, return to him/her right away, reposition if needed, and ask for a sit. Click and treat for sitting, and if needed, modify the task a little to help your dog succeed.

Have fun getting relaxed with your best friend!


The Protocol

Day 1: Dog’s Task

Sit for 5 seconds
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you take 1 step back and return
Sit while you take 2 steps back and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you take 1 step to the right and return
Sit while you take 1 step to the left and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you take 2 steps back and return
Sit while you take 2 steps to the right and return
Sit for 15 seconds
Sit while you take 2 steps to the left and return
Sit while you clap your hands softly once
Sit while you take 3 steps back and return
Sit while you count out loud to 10
Sit while you clap your hands softly once
Sit while you count out loud to 20
Sit while you take 3 steps to the right and return
Sit while you clap your hands softly twice
Sit for 3 seconds
Sit for 5 seconds
Sit while you take 1 step back and return
Sit for 3 seconds
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit for 5 seconds
Sit for 3 seconds

Day 2: Dog’s Task

Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you take 1 step back and return
Sit while you take 3 steps back and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you take 3 steps to the right and return
Sit while you take 3 steps to the left and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you take 3 steps to the right and clap your hands
Sit while you take 3 steps to the left and clap your hands
Sit for 5 seconds
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you walk one fourth of the way around the dog to the right
Sit while you take 4 steps back
Sit while you walk one fourth of the way around the dog to the left
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you take 5 steps back from the dog, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you walk halfway around the dog to the right and return
Sit while you walk halfway around the dog to the left and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you jog quietly in place for 3 seconds
Sit while you jog quietly in place for 5 seconds
Sit while you jog quietly in place for 10 seconds
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you jog one fourth of the way around the dog to the right and return
Sit while you jog one fourth of the way around the dog to the left and re¬turn
Sit for 5 seconds
Sit for 10 seconds

Day 3: Dog’s Task                                                                           

Sit for 10 seconds
Sit for 15 seconds
Sit while you take 2 steps backward and return
Sit while you jog 5 steps backward from the dog and return
Sit while you walk halfway around the dog to the right and return
Sit while you walk halfway around the dog to the left and return
Sit while you take 10 steps backward and return
Sit for 15 seconds
Sit while you take 10 steps to the left and return
Sit while you take 10 steps to the right and return          
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit while you walk halfway around the dog to the right, clapping your hands, and return
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit while you walk halfway around the dog to the left, clapping your hands, and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you jog 10 steps to the right and return
Sit while you job 10 steps to the left and return
Sit while you jog in place for 10 seconds
Sit for 15 seconds
Sit while you jog in place for 20 seconds
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you jog backward 5 steps and return
Sit while you jog to the right 5 steps and return
Sit while you jog to the left 5 steps and return
Sit for 5 seconds while you clap your hands
Sit for 10 seconds while you clap your hands
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit for 5 seconds

Day 4: Dog’s Task

Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you jog backward 5 steps and return
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit while you jog halfway around the dog to the right and return
Sit while you jog halfway around the dog to the left and return
Sit while you move three fourths of the way around the dog to the right and return
Sit while you move three fourths of the way around the dog to the left and return
Sit while you jog backward 5 steps, clapping your hands, and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you clap your hands for 20 seconds
Sit while you move quickly backward 10 steps and return
Sit while you move quickly 15 steps backward and return
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit while you jog halfway around the dog to the right and return
Sit while you jog halfway around the dog to the left and return     ‘
Sit while you walk quickly 15 steps to the left and return
Sit while you walk quickly 15 steps to the right and return
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit while you move three fourths of the way around the dog to the right and return
Sit while you move three fourths of the way around the dog to the left and return
Sit while you walk all the way around the dog
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance and return
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you walk around the dog, quietly clapping your hands, and then return
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit while you jog quickly around the dog
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit for 10 seconds while you clap your hands

Day 5: Dog’s Task                                                                                   
                                                                                                               
Sit for 5 seconds
Sit for 15 seconds
Sit while you walk quickly 15 steps to the right and return
Sit while you walk quickly 15 steps to the left and return
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance and return
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance, clapping your hands, and return
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit while you walk around the dog, clapping your hands
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you walk quickly backward, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance and return
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you go to an entrance and just touch the doorknob or wall and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you walk quickly backward, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance and return
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you go to an entrance and just touch the doorknob or wall and return
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you go to an entrance and just touch the doorknob or wall and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while the doorknob is touched or you move into entryway and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit for 15 seconds while you clap your hands
Sit for 10 seconds while you jog in place
Sit for 5 seconds

Day 6: Dog’s Task
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit for 20 seconds while you jog back and forth in front of the dog
Sit for 15 seconds
Sit while you walk approximately 20 steps to an entrance and return
Sit while you walk quickly backward, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you go to an entrance and just touch the doorknob or wall and return
Sit for 20 seconds while jogging
Sit while you walk around the dog
Sit while you walk around the dog, clapping your hands
Sit for 15 seconds
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit for 30 seconds
Sit while you walk quickly backward, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you go to an entrance and just touch the doorknob or wall and return
Sit while you open the door or go into the entranceway for 5 seconds and return
Sit while you open the door or go into the entranceway for 10 seconds and return
Sit for 30 seconds
Sit while you walk quickly backward, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you go to an entrance and just touch the doorknob or wall and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit while you go through the door or the entranceway and return
Sit while you go through the door or the entranceway, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you open the door or go though the entranceway for 10 seconds and return
Sit for 30 seconds
Sit while you disappear from view for 5 seconds and return
Sit for 20 seconds
Sit for 10 seconds while you clap your hands
Sit for 5 seconds

Day 7: Dog’s Task

Sit for 10 seconds
Sit for 20 seconds while you clap your hands
Sit while you take 10 steps backward and return
Sit while you walk around the dog
Sit while you go through the door or the entranceway and then return
Sit while you go through the door or the entranceway, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you open the door or go through the entranceway for 10 sec¬onds and return
Sit for 30 seconds
Sit while you disappear from view for 5 seconds and return
Sit while you go through the door or the entranceway and return
Sit while you go through the door or the entranceway, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you open the door or go through the entranceway for 10 sec¬onds and return
Sit for 30 seconds
Sit while you disappear from view for 10 seconds and return
Sit while you disappear from view for 15 seconds and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit for 15 seconds
Sit for 5 seconds while you clap your hands
Sit while you jog in place for 10 seconds
Sit while you jog three fourths of the way to the right and return
Sit while you jog three fourths of the way to the left and return
Sit while you go through the door or the entranceway, clapping your hands, and return
Sit while you open the door or go through the entranceway for 10 sec¬onds and return
Sit for 30 seconds
Sit while you disappear from view for 15 seconds and return
Sit for 10 seconds
Sit for 5 seconds

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Click here to download a set of Day 1 cards, or click here for a set of Days 2-5 cards.