This exercise is about creating a "Zen Zone" for yourself and your dog. Originally introduced by DVM Behaviorist Dr. Voith this particular protocol was designed Dr. Karen Overall also a DVM Behaviorist. Used in Behavior Modification Training Plans it is a wonderful way to reduce your dog (and your) stress. If I'm working with an especially stressed dog I will prepare the bedding by spraying one of my three handcrafted calming blends, and maybe even light a candle and play soundscape music. Ancillary calming tools are helpful in providing a calm environment. This way I start to relax and dissipate out only calming hormones which help relax my dog to start the process.
As you may know without knowing we condition behavior unwanted or otherwise all of the time ( i.e. jumping on us models jumping on other people, barking at us for attention models barking at all people this way). In some cases just seeing their person elicits a state of high arousal for some dogs. A dogs guardian may for example rough play with their dog all the time without using a toy to interact. They may rough play without working impulse control exercises in between for breaks (sit, wait). So the dog becomes conditioned - see guardian = play and excitement shoots up quickly ...OH BOY MY PERSONs HOME! and off they go.
How we feel has a direct affected on our dogs. As some of you may know all mammals have the ability to take in large molecules ( i.e. cortisol, the stress hormone or oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone) through the Vermonasal Organ (just under the palette of the mouth located between mouth and nose). This organ allows for mammals to take in and identify the hormone thereby understanding how another individual is feeling at any given moment. You can imagine if you don't have the ability to speak the same language but need to know if another animal was friend or foe how useful being able to smell their feelings would be.
Every day life is packed full of pressure and I'm sure we are all in agreement reducing our stress levels every now and again is good practice. So why not practice with our dogs? Plan a date with your dog or include a relaxation session as an exercise instead of or after exercise. This relaxation protocol is so useful for stressed dogs, those experiencing separation anxiety, isolation distress or ones who have come home from a rambunctious day at daycare. You can do this in the comfort of your home any time. Its probably best to practice in the evening between 7-9M when your dogs cortisol level is lowest and they are at their most relaxed state naturally. But of course you can practice anytime!
The beauty of this is you can practice anytime. Start with your dog seated. If s/he offers you a down instead of sitting, this is fine. If s/he starts in a sit and shifts to a down this is a sign of relaxation! Walk through the protocol, calmly and methodically. You can go through each Day consecutively or stay at any given Day for as long as you like.
Warm Up (use to practice a solid sit)
Day 1: Dog's Task
Day 2: Dog's Task
Day 3: Dog's Task
Day 4: Dog's Task
Day 7: Dog's Task
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