A lot of you expressed the same feeling when I started talking about the Relaxation Protocol–“I want to do this/started this, but I can’t get started/keep up with it.”
So I thought I would talk a little about the best solution I came up with the manage the process. Anyone who’s successfully done it, please post in with your good ideas for how you managed.
The real problem with the relaxation protocol is that it is insanely tedious. Give the dog a cookie, wait five seconds, give the dog a cookie, take one step, give the dog a cookie, take one step in the other direction. You keep this up for stretches longer than five minutes at a time, by the time you’re a week or so in.
Not only is this tedious, it’s hard to keep up with. Unless you have a photographic memory, there’s no way to remember more than a step or two at a time. You have to manage the dog on the mat, the cookies, and the instructions. What’s worse, because the instructions for a given day might be 30 lines long, it’s very easy to lose your place.
One solution for this is to get Roxanne Hawn’s audio files, which I didn’t try.
What I learned to do was this:
1) Open the protocol file on my laptop
2) Copy the tasks for today into a new file
3) Zoom up so they’re big enough to read
4) sit the laptop on a low table, close enough to read but far enough to be out of the way
5) Read the new task as I get Silas’s cookie, and move the cursor down to be next to the next task.
It takes a few seconds to set up, but it’s much easier than juggling the paper copy.
Also, let go of being able to do everything exactly like it’s written. That’s actually why I gave up last year when we were starting this–in my small, very rectangular townhouse, I just don’t have room to walk ten steps away from the mat in three different directions. You need to be able to disappear from your dog’s sight, and you need to be able to ring your doorbell. Pick a place with that in mind, and then just do the best you can about the required steps.
If all that is too much for you, there’s still a lot of useful stuff to be done with a mat. Karen Pryor has a great article about it here. (Your dog should probably be that proficient with the mat before you start the protocol anyway.) My Rubicon Days also has a good description of how basic mat training can be just-plain-handy around the house.