Online resources are helpful, but if you really want to learn about BAT in-depth, check out one or more of the Published Resources:
- Intro to BAT (1.5 hour DVD)
- Organic Socialization (3 hour DVD + bonus disk)
- Full Day Seminar (5 hour DVD – out of print, replaced by 2-day DVD)
- BATting 1000 for Dog Reactivity (2 day seminar DVD)
- Give Your Puppy a Choice (2 hour DVD)
Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Aggression, Frustration, and Fear in Dogs (Book)
- Grisha also has another book that is not about BAT, but includes some BAT info: The Official Ahimsa Dog Training Manual: A Practical, Force-Free Guide to Problem Solving & Manners (Book)
What is Behavior Adjustment Training? (BAT)
BAT reduces reactivity by giving animals socially acceptable ways to communicate their needs. It is a combination of gentle leash/lead handling and systematically setting the animal up to desensitize to triggers and to be able to use active coping strategies. Most of the BAT work is described about dogs, but it works for horses and other animals, too.
BAT Takes a functional approach. When a dog does a behavior, it is usually becausesome event in their environment (“environmental cue”) or internal state that triggers the dog to want or need something. Fulfillment of a need or want that is triggered by the environmental cue is called the functional reward.
Here’s the sequence:
Environmental Cue -> Behavior -> Functional Reward
So the functional reward for behaviors done after seeing a steak are the eating of the steak. The functional reward of behaviors done after spotting the squirrel is getting closer to / chasing the squirrel.
To discover the functional reward of a problem behavior, look at the consequence of the dog’s behavior – what are they earning from the people, dogs, and world around them by doing the behavior?
For example, when dogs bark, lunge, growl, etc., one big consequence is usually an increase in distance from the trigger (they scare it away or are allowed to leave themselves). So we use increased distance—walking away from the trigger—as a functional reward.
Geek note: Technically, consequences only reinforce behavior, i.e., make behaviors more likely to occur the next time, but in everyday English, we often say that we reinforce or reward the dog. It’s just simpler.
Basic Steps for Problem Behaviors with BAT
- Analyze to discover the functional reward of the problem behavior.
- Allow your dog to engage with (look at, listen to) a subtle version of the trigger. Don’t go so close or make it so challenging that the dog does the problem behavior, including panic or aggression. Make it obvious what the dog should do next, but not so easy that he’s not making a choice at all. Breathing should be fairly calm.
- Wait for good choices (ex. look at trigger, then look away or stop pulling on leash, etc.). If distress increases, abort the trial rather than letting the dog flounder.
- Mark with a word, visual marker (hand flash), or clicker.
- Give access to a Functional Reward – fulfill the need that triggered the behavior that you are trying to change.
- Optional Bonus Reward, like food or a toy, esp. on walks – distracts from trigger.
3 Necessary Criteria for Taking a Functional Approach
- You can figure out what the functional reward is for the problem behavior.
- You can control access to the functional reward.
- There is an alternate behavior that will reasonably earn the same functional reward in the dog’s everyday life.