Relaxation Protocol Day 5: Distractions

It finally happened! Maizey laid her chin down on her mat during Relaxation Protocol!!! Who knew you could be so excited for your dog to lay her head on the floor for three seconds? I know it’s silly, but I’m excited.

It was storming again, but that didn’t seem to bother her today. We took a tiny walk, three houses down, and I think she was still stressed from that so she looks more alert to me today.

We also had several distractions today at 4:37 Mehusbandy came in the front door, but she stayed on her mat. Then at 5:40 she sees him watching us, but she still stays laying down.

Then at 6:27-6:30 the wonderful relaxing moment happens. Now don’t blink! It’s short, but sweet!

Then end may look funny since apparently me jogging in place is a hilarious thing and the more Mehusbandy laughed at me the more I laughed, but even through all that she stays on her mat.

I know some people think RP is mind numbingly boring, but I’m enjoying it. I never knew I could spend so many hours watching video of my dog laying down and learn from it, but I am!


Relaxation Protocol Day 4: Contextual Cues

Yesterday I tried rewarding Maizey for her head bob offer in hopes of getting her to lay her chin down. I don’t think that worked well, it seemed to just keep her further in work mode for me. Today I backed off of that and I did get a couple of offers, but I think it’s better to encourage her to just be bored, not offer me to work.

Today’s RP lesson was about contextual cues. Contextual cues are very interesting, because sometimes dogs learn them and their people don’t even know they’ve taught them.

When I put on a skirt Maizey gets in her crate cause she know she rarely goes with me if I wear a skirt. Who new a skirt could be a cue?

When I set up the camera on the tripod she started wagging her tail. The whole time I set up the camera, got her kibble and moved the furniture she just laid on the couch softly wagging her tail with her happy, “I’m going to play games soon” grin on her face. Then when I out her mat she just hopped down and got on her mat. Apparently the camera is now a cue that fun is to come.

As cute as that is I still see no signs of her actually relaxing. In today’s video she does lay her chin on the mat twice, but she’s offering me a trick, not relaxing.

Now my problem is that I’m running out of space. I live in a small house and at twenty steps I’m already going wall to wall. Looking at RP it seems you would have to have an enormous space to do it all literally as it’s written. I can move outside, but will face a similar problem as my yard is also very small. So how did all of you handle this?

She’s doing well, I hope we can get her to actually chill out eventually, but until then she’s getting a very solid “park it” on her mat!


Relaxation Protocol Day 3

I’m tired it’s and late so I’m throwing Maizey’s RP up here as is. I’ll add my observations later after some sleep makes me much more observant!


Relaxation Protocol Day 2 Session 2: Criteria

We redid day two today. It was a better day with only one instance of nervous behavior when a thunder storm started.

We did her RP before the storm so maybe that helped her recover faster. Compared to yesterday’s nervousness, which lasted about two hours, today’s nervousness lasted only about twenty minutes. At this point it’s hard to see a definite pattern, but it’s all interesting.

Not much to say about today’s session. The first two days there was some discussion about tail wags or lack of tail wags. Yesterday I thought perhaps the lack of tail wags could have been caused by her stress level, one comment mentioned perhaps it was from her wearing her Thundershirt and I thought that could be. Then today, no nervousness, no Thundershirt and no tail wags so perhaps it is a sign she’s relaxing a bit more.

On the other hand I’m still getting too much concentration out of her. At 1:50 she stays on her mat, but shuffles to keep her eye on me. At 4:19 is the first jogging in place exercise it’s for 3 seconds and that really gets her attention. Although the next behavior for me is jogging for 5 seconds and then 10 seconds and by the time I get to 10 seconds she seemed pretty settled with it. I may be standing a bit close to her and may try standing back a bit farther.

What do you see? Are we on the right track? Does anyone have a video of RP that is one of the more advanced days? I’d love to see it!

A thought about criteria. I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to see as we progress on. What I’d love to see is her looking bored. It’s a switch cause I tend to aim for total concentration from my pups, but in this I’d like to see the attitude, “Yeah Crazymomlady, you’re doing all that weird stuff, whatever! I’m chillin’!”

So in not anthropomorphized language I’d like to see her chin down on the mat, settled firmly on one hip perhaps even on her side, a silent tail, soft ears and eyes. This is one area I’d like to see her not trying to make eye contact with me, and follow me when I move.

How am I going to achieve this? I’m still working on that part. I’ll continue to do the Protocol, keep my eyes averted from hers, keep a quiet body myself, and I’m considering adding in rewarding her for the relaxed behavior on between the RP rewards.

Do you have any suggestions for me? As Sara said yesterday, “Boy, this is kind of like a science experiment.” It is a bit of an experiment, but I’m enjoying it and would love any input you all have!


Wordless Wednesday: The Mean


Relaxation Protocol Day 2

Today was a harder day for Maizey. There was a big thunderstorm and I think that set her off.

I’m not sure if this was the best move, but I decided to do her RP when the storm was still going. Before doing RP she had been hiding in the bathroom for most of an hour and half. After we did her RP she went back in the bathroom for ten minutes then came out and took a nap next to my bed. It was a good recovery compared to what I’ve been seeing in her.

She handled the rest of the day better. There was thunder on and off all evening and fireworks again tonight and she slept through some of the thunder and then relaxed on the bed with a Kong for the fireworks.

Sara made a good observation that Maizey was wagging her tail in anticipation of the treat coming. One difference I saw today was there was almost no tail wags. I thought that could be from the level of stress she was feeling, but it was also pointed out that tail wags are a sign of arousal so no wags could be a sign of more relaxation. So I’m not sure what to think about it.

Here’s what I did see: at 1:00, 1:30, 2:13, 3:14, 4:03 and 4:28 there was thunder and while she obviously heard it, she stayed on her mat. That seems like a good start. Her mat is obviously a cue to settle, if not totally relax. Hopefully I’ll be able to transfer that value to other more stimulating areas of life.

She even stayed on her mat when I dropped the treat and for my goofy jogging. I had to laugh at myself with my jogging. Not like there’s ever a way to make jogging in place look cool, but I have bone spurs in both heels and without shoes on I really look goofy trying to save my poor feet some agony. Maizey didn’t seem to mind though!

So my questions at this point are:

At what point do you move on from a day of RP? I’m inclined to do day 2 over again tomorrow for comparison of doing it on a day without as much stress as today.

Is it best to do it at a time the dog is most likely to relax? Or is it okay to use it as a reset on a stressful day like I did today?

As with all things this is a learning process too, and thankfully the dogs let me learn as we go along!


2o2o Training Videos

Last night I couldn’t stand it any longer and even though Magnus isn’t cleared for moderate activity till tomorrow I let him do a short session of 2o2o training. It was a blast!

He really gets aggravated when he’s only allowed to do three minutes of training at a time. He has the same attitude about not walking very far. It’s frustrating to me too, but we’re both learning some good lessons from it.

He’s learning impulse control in a large way. I started using a cue for the end of training, releasing him with an “Okay all done!” and “Go play”. This has helped him know he’s done training since he knows we would normally do more in a training session, and these short sessions tend to hype him up and not satisfy his want to work.

I’m learning impulse control too since I have a tendency too work way to long. Training is just to much fun and I don’t want to stop! I know that’s not the best habit so forcing me to train shorter is good training for me.

Magnus started 2o2o (2 On 2 Off) a few weeks ago in Tricks Class. 2o2o training is the foundation for many other behaviors. In tricks it’s used for handstands. In agility it’s one method of teaching contacts. We’ll be using it for handstands as he gets his mobility and strength back.

Since this was our first night training I used a very low book. (Actually a phone book wrapped in duct tape.) The criteria is two rear feet on the book, he already gets that so this first video was a just a refresher session. Treat placement is supposed to be low so the dog learns to keep his head down.


This session I added the board. The board is the first step to getting elevation out of a handstand. You can prop it on books, a wall, the couch, anything that you can make progressively taller so the board gets more and more vertical. Obviously since Magnus is coming off an injury I made this very low.


Last night was Maizey’s first session ever of 2o2o. She tends to think anything I set in front of her is to sit on so I can take her picture. It totally cracks me up. In session 3 I added the board, but it was too soon and in this clip you see I have to lower my criteria and explain again with a lure.


By session 5 she had the idea and started offering me 2o2o on her own.

At the end of session 6 she shows she really gets it when she stretches forward to get a treat without taking her feet off the board. This is the next step of proofing the behavior where you tempt the dog to take her feet off the board and C/T when she doesn’t.

This is the first time I’ve trained 2o2o so I hope I’m doing it right. I’m looking forward to spicing it up with the actual handstand when it’s safe for Magnus.

What do you use a 2o2o for?