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Many dogs do not come to us as clean slates. They have already gone through a variety of other training techniques from the owners and potentially other trainers. It is helpful to know exactly how the other techniques are done so that we can help our clients decide what is best for their dogs.
This new streaming video lecture compares 7 different common methods for rehabilitating fear-based aggression from a humane training perspective, including force-free techniques and punishment methods from popular books and videos. Click here to learn more or buy now!
I’ve done some soul-searching about what makes BAT work and my hypothesis from a behavior analytical perspective is the same as my original thought: BAT uses negative reinforcement (R-), positive reinforcement (R+), and desensitization. I believe that change in emotional response is largely due to desensitization/respondent extinction and the controllability of the situation, not behavior built up through R-.
But why am I not extremely concerned that it may have some R- when I am a force-free trainer? Actually, it did concern me, but it doesn’t any more because I have thought it through.
R- is not the main part of BAT, it’s simply a natural consequence of giving the dog control. The only way for a protocol in which we allow dogs to notice their triggers to NOT have any R- is to take away their control. That’s not humane, that’s insane.
Not all moving away in BAT is R-. Movement that happens to be away from the trigger is not necessarily related to putting distance between themselves and the trigger. We should be working at the level of curiosity, so the movement away is only because the curiosity has been satisfied. Controllability is a good thing and having it around their triggers is especially good. If you do BAT right, most of the movement done after looking at the trigger should be just due to the dog being ‘done’ looking. They are moving on, not escaping.
I take humane training very seriously and adhere to the Progressive Reinforcement Manifesto written by trainer Emily Larlham, where it is of the utmost importance that life of the dogs we care for is arranged to minimize stress to maximize learning in a way that respects the dog.
I think it is important to put ego aside and really assess what people say to see if it holds any truth, and then use that to improve the way I teach dogs. Here’s what I know at this point in time. 1. The entire R- quadrant is not the same and 2. we do not yet have any techniques that avoid this aversive (the other dog), so allowing the dog to move away whenever he wants is a humane choice.
There are no unnecessary aversives in BAT, in stark contrast to the kind of R- techniques that use choke chains or electronic collars. The aversive aspect is just the decoy, at a level of engagement that the dog controls. This is less aversive than many techniques, if you really look at them, and no worse than the best ones out there. The dog has a huge amount of control over the BAT process. For a particular dog, you may have other tools you try before BAT, but a good trainer can always use more force-free techniques.
Guest post by Jody Epstein, CPDT-KA
Picture this: You and Polly are walking together in your neighborhood. She’s showing off just how good her leash skills are. And then . . . you see it. Down the street . . . another dog is coming. Suddenly your Perfect Polly does a full-blown Jekyll & Hyde, and suddenly she’s a Lunging Lucy! Barking, pulling, growling, snarling, and you’re at a loss for how to stop it. After the strange dog disappears around the corner, Lucy does a big shake, yawns and reverts to her Perfect-Polly self.
Listen to this Alaska radio interview from yesterday about BAT. It covers some information about what BAT is, why I moved to Alaska in the dead of winter last year, and the upcoming seminars in that state. I’m doing a 2-hour public BAT seminar in Anchorage next week Saturday, August 10, from 10 am to noon and the 5-day instructor’s course for dog trainers in Anchorage at the end of August. Both should be fun and informative. :)
Click here to listen to the podcast. Thanks in advance for sharing with your friends on Facebook or elsewhere. The link is http://dogworksradio.com/2013/07/31/dog-talk-radio-presents-grisha-stewart/