BAT for dogs: a Training Method for Aggressive Dogs

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BAT, which stands for Behavior Adjustment Training, is an educational rehabilitation technique for dogs with issues that make them develop aggressive attitudes.

BAT, or Behavior Adjustment Training, for dogs is a canine training method and a fairly new behavior-based therapy. It was introduced in 2009 by Grisha Stewart, MA, who, after finishing her Master’s degree in Psychology with an emphasis in animal behavior, began to focus her studies in methods that could modify behavior in dogs.

The BAT method applied in dogs is founded on principles already used in the training field, in desensitization, and counter conditioning in the dog; and uses both techniques by associating them in a sequence of negative reinforcement followed by more positive reinforcements.

It should be mentioned that by negative reinforcement we do not mean punishment, but simply eliminating the stimulus causing the dog’s aggressive reaction, which for our 4-legged friend constitutes a functional reward, that is, a reinforcement.

Why does my dog have aggressive reactions?

When the dog barks, growls, or raises its hair as soon as it sees another dog or a person, it does that so these animals or people stay away from it. In most cases, this occurs because the dog is afraid, and when it sees this kind of behavior accomplishes the result it seeks, it feels gratification and is stimulated. Owners find this vicious circle hard to be interrupted.

On the other hand, with the BAT method the dog obtains the same intended result, that is, the stimulus causing in him this reaction is eliminated, but only when he adopts a non-aggressive attitude.

Therefore, the dog will understand there is another way to achieve the intended result: if it does not react, but remains calm, the dog will obtain gratification (positive reinforcements) in the form of prizes like food, and pampering with this new attitude.

The Behavior Adjustment Training is, therefore, a technique for any coercive conduct, it not only builds confidence and raises the dog’s self-esteem, but also it teaches your furry friend to control itself and its environment, to change its attitude towards himself and to learn how effective this alternative behavior is.

BAT for Dogs: From Theory to Practice, How is it Applied?

How is BAT actually applied in dogs? We need to create a typical scenario, copying the situation that generally triggers the dog’s reaction: for example, if your 4-legged friend is aggressive when it sees other dogs nearby, you must use the assistance of another dog that is quiet and patient and its owner’s, obviously.

BAT in Dogs: Exercises

The perfect scenario is an initial distance of around 230 feet (or 70 mt). Then, with a leash on your dog (that is being reeducated) continue in the direction of the “decoy” dog; as soon as it begins to react, you must stop and watch the dog attentively.

At the first sign of calm in the animal’s training, when it looks to a side, turns its head, sniffs the ground, licks its nose, etc., you must give it a clicker (if you use this tool) or a positive voice alert (like “Good” or “Yes”). Then turn immediately and run with the dog in the opposite direction of the 4-legged “decoy”, rewarding your dog at the same time with a treat, pampering and congratulations.

By repeating this exercise several times you will see the dog will be able to get more and more close to the stimulus without showing any reactive signs. If initially the aggressive attitude appeared at a distance of 200 feet (60 mt), it will later appear at 160 feet (50 mt), 130 feet (40), and it may be shortened even more, until the dog’s reaction is eliminated completely.

This is due to the fact that dogs become desensitized progressively, by understanding that when it approaches the object of its fears nothing negative happens; the dog will readapt because it will learn that to get the desired result (the elimination) it must not be aggressive, but it must remain calm and peaceful.

If you have more doubts, you may consult a licenced vet near your house, who will provide you with the best service and will answer all your questions.

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