Really Real Relaxation

Every fiber of the Connection, Cooperation & Control program (CCC) -- each component, every exercise -- is aimed at teaching the dog the gift of finding balance within himself.

Suzanne Clothier’s Really Real Relaxation protocol (RRR) is one of those components. Unlike most other relaxation protocols, which depend on prompting and handler monitoring, the end result of RRR is that the dog is equipped with a skill he can use on his own, when he’s feeling unbalanced, whether he’s inhibited or activated.

I was reminded of how effective RRR is just the other day when I was doing some filming with my CCC students. We were at a local park, in a small area between two active baseball fields. The goal was to capture the dog and handler walking through the area connected and on a loose leash.

One handler and her Lab/Golden mix Tyrus were staged to begin moving toward the camera. Tyrus didn’t know about our goals for filming. He had other things on his mind, like sorting out the balls flying, the kids running and the fans cheering. As we watched and waited for him to be ready, he lay down and looked at his handler as if asking her to join him. So she did. It took less than a minute for him to find his balance, at which point, calmly, in connection, they walked towards me.

More recently a canine house guest came to stay for a few days. Belgian Tervuren Jinx had stayed with us many times before. But even in this familiar setting, she had a difficult time settling, even though our five dogs were quiet and relaxed. She would wander, seemingly looking for something to do, exploring, inciting the other dogs, seeking social interaction from anyone who would offer it. Only when she was put in a crate would she rest. 

A few months ago Jinx’s owner Sue enrolled in the CCC program. They practiced their new skills, including RRR regularly and in many ways and places. Sue reported many shifts in their relationship at home, when they’re out and about, and in competition.

When Jinx arrived this time, all the dogs enjoyed a beautiful spring afternoon outside, playing hard and long as they always do. That evening, shortly after the dogs came in they settled and soon fell asleep. All of them. I decided that Jinx must have been really tired, although that never seemed to matter in previous stays.

But in the 48 hours since Jinx arrived, the same pattern has occurred over and over again. I keep looking around for Jinx to make sure she’s comfortable and able to rest, and there she is amongst the other dogs, curled up and sleeping, or just relaxing and looking around. Best of all, because she’s getting the rest she needs, Jinx is in a different state emotionally. She isn’t challenging the other dogs as she has in the past. We haven’t had to step in to give anyone their space.

Jinx has mastered the art of finding her own balance – without needing Sue in her presence or dependency on a prompt from me. She owns it. The power and gift of RRR is evident in the new balance and comfort Jinx has found in her world, wherever she is.