Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation

As mentioned in previous entries, I'm currently working through Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. In it, very early on, she references Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation as a foundation exercise for the work.

Years ago, I stumbled upon it, and at the time (back when I didn't really have a good understanding of classical conditioning), I dismissed it as a series of down-stay exercises of increasing duration and distraction. Now, knowing better, I realize that its an invaluable way to condition a relaxed state in a hyperactive, vigilant, or anxious dog!

So, I started the work tonight with Petey. Petey is an awesome dog to work with, but when we first fostered him, he had NO impulse control. It wouldn't take much stimulation to get him into a frenzy (i.e. if a dog was playing fetch, he'd chase after the other dog and bite them). He's much better now, but with his reactivity at agility class recently, I've decided that Petey's next challenge (and my next training challenge) is to do the work McDevitt prescribes in Control Unleashed and make him my own "Snap" (Leslie's hyper vigilant reactive rescue that became the genesis for her program).

The book itself doesn't actually tell you how to implement the protocol, so I've googled high and low and found the following resources:

A video showing a dog working on the Day 1 exercise. No event marker/clicker. Just feeding in place.

This is the complete document with instructions and the training plan. The problem with the training plan is there are a ton of exercises to be done consecutively and if you don't have the luxury of a friend reading them to you as you do the work, its awkward trying to read a piece of paper.

Courtesy of www.championofmyheart.com - Roxanne Hawn has made audio files of the protocol! Now, you can just put the tracks on your iPod and do the work ANYWHERE!

With these resources, anyone can do the work now on their own. I can't wait to share my findings as we proceed. If any readers have done the work themselves, please comment and let us know what your personal experience has been.


Kate and Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate and Rob said...

did you see the video posted on Pat Miller's facebook with interview with Dr. Overall?


She's amazing. Pat Miller had a blog post about visiting her w/client. One of the invaluable things she quoted was

"She talked about treats, toys and praise, etc., being various reinforcers for dogs at various times, but, she said, “a dog’s most important currency is information.” They are always seeking to understand how their world works, and how to make it work for them, and they need information in order to do this. For an anxious dog, many behaviors we may read as “aggression” – growling, lunging – are ways of testing the environment to seek information.

Kate and Rob said...

it's outlined in Dr. Overall's book
Clinical Behavioural Medicine for Small Animals

What I've done is tailor it to each dog's weakness. basically looking at the babysteps, and I used what I knew would be the lowest distraction for that particular dog. Then you just ping pong duration in short increments so they are successful.

ie. walking around while dog stationary...or waving arms for a motion reactive dog would be too tough right off the bat, so I'd choose to do something more with sounds like squeeking a toy in my pocket, or saying a word "pop!" or bending my knees and going into a stretch ...Most important thing to remember is it's an outline but really you'll need to tailor it to the dog you're working with.

Laura said...

Thank you so much for sharing this info - I too have just started the Control Unleashed book :o)

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