Holy Reactive Dog BAT, Man!

I’m always looking for new ways to work on Risa’s reactivity. We’ve made amazing strides over the past 4+ years but I know I could always do more. She’s still reactive and I doubt that will ever change. So I’m always on the look out for something new to try to help Risa learn to cope even better with the presence of other dogs.

The newest tool in my toolbox is BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training). Developed by Grisha Stewart, BAT uses the real-life reward of increased distance to reinforce appropriate behaviors. For example, if your dog gives a lip lick or looks away when they see another dog, you mark the behavior and turn to walk in the opposite direction for the reward. In the beginning you can also deliver a treat or toy. Once your dog feels more comfortable around other dogs, you can also use the increased distance reward to reinforce curious behaviors. By doing this, you teach your dog that by offering calming behaviors, she can make the scary thing go away. Your dog no longer needs to turn into a barking, lunging maniac to drive away the things that frighten her. You can learn more about BAT on Grisha’s webiste: Ahimsa Dog Training and on her Functional Rewards website.

I started doing some BAT work with Risa several weeks ago. To this date, we’ve done 4 sessions. Our most recent one was definitely the best. I really had a handle on what I was supposed to be doing which allowed me to focus more on Risa. Not to mention I got some great tips from Grisha herself and had a wonderful ‘dummy’ dog to use.

Risa turns her body away from Medo as he lauches himself at her. I waited patiently for Risa to look away, marked it, and rewarded her with distance.

My friend was nice enough to stand around with her 7-month old German shepherd puppy, Medo, while I did some BAT work with Risa. Medo was a good choice since Risa has limited experience with him. She met him once when he was just a couple months old and they didn’t exactly hit it off. She was a bit scared of him and ended up overreacting to his advances. He refused to go near her for the rest of the meeting. :( This was no longer an issue, however, as he seemed quite pleased to see her this time around! She also saw him when we last went lure coursing as he attempted to climb into my lap while she was crated. Overall, Medo was an unknown which made this a good set up.

Initially, I kept my distance so Risa would feel comfortable. But I was quickly able to her within 5 feet of Medo with no issues. He even lunged at her a few times and she did not react. She simply stood there (at least once she turned her body away from him) and I waited for her to give me a calming signal. Once she looked away, I marked the behavior and we took off in the other direction. Risa didn’t have a single moment of reactivity the entire time. Even when we weren’t working. It was amazing to see.

I hope to be able to continue doing BAT with Risa. I have been able to implement it on two separate walks so far. I plan on taking Risa to work outside the dog park using BAT again and, hopefully, can do some more set up trials as well. I’m so excited to be trying something new and I cannot wait to get Grisha Stewart’s BAT book when it comes out later this month.

I did video our BAT session with Medo as well:

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
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