BAT = Brilliant + Awesome + Tremendous!

Guest post from Margaret Hicks and Tara Dong of Pacific Assistance Dogs

Behaviour Adjustment Training it may be, but Brilliant+Awesome+Tremendous is what I want to answer whenever a new puppy-raiser asks what BAT stands for.

PADS-1PADS (Pacific Assistance Dogs Society) raises and trains highly skilled Assistance Dogs for those with physical disabilities or who are deaf/hard-of-hearing. In addition, we train Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI) Dogs for placement in intervention settings with community professionals such as RCMP, counselors, therapists and teachers. It goes without saying that our dogs—who will eventually accompany their partners everywhere they go—must be confident, and well in control of their behaviour and emotions.

Some think that assistance dogs are a “super breed” that never bark, bounce or really even breathe… the reality is a success rate of roughly 50% (industry wide). This means 50% of our dogs are too “enthusiastic”, or too fearful, or too calm/passive, or have health issues) to be successful as working dogs.

As a member of Assistance Dogs International, our staff and trainers are exposed to some of the best knowledge and trainers in the industry. Collaboration is rich and the sharing of knowledge and experience is abundant. So it was the most fortuitous discovery when one day, our training manager stumbled upon BAT on YouTube while searching for something that demonstrated a technique she’d seen at a recent conference. Her reaction was instant: “This is BRILLIANT!”

As a result, when our school offered to host the 2013 ADI trainers conference, it was a natural fit to invite Grisha Stewart. She arranged for Joey Iversen to conduct a workshop for conference attendees as well as our own volunteers.  It took our initial excitement and firmly grounded it into our program.

Now, we’ve integrated BAT into our volunteer puppy-raising program. These volunteers range from stay-at-home moms and retirees to singles living in downtown skyscrapers — they raise our young pups for roughly 14-16 months, attending weekly puppy classes, socializing and teaching them foundational skills.

While BAT is an amazing tool to empower reactive dogs that have existing issues, we have integrated as a foundational skill for our program. We have the privilege many do not in that we have our pups from birth, so are able to use BAT as a foundational tool to allow our volunteers to be successful and empower our dogs to build trust in their handler and confidence in their environment as they grow.

To illustrate the evolution that has taken place we introduce you to 3 of our dogs, pre-BAT “Ruby”, BAT-1.0 “Merlot” and our latest BAT 2.0 pup “Seven”.

Ruby | 2007

PADS-2A sweet black lab named Ruby entered our program about 8 years ago (pre BAT). She was a push button dog, you showed her, she learned it. You asked for it she did it. Her willingness and smarts were rockstar material. She was biddable and silly, intelligent and willing. But what we couldn’t seem to give her was confidence. She crumbled under the pressures of public places, stress-forging on leash, losing control of her bladder when startled by strangers and shutting down and digging in her heels when we’d attempt to help her overcome fear with lures and rewards. Belugas to bearded men, waterfalls to car alarms, Ruby was a worrier. Her fears didn’t start out big, at first they were just a sideways look. But looking back knowing what I know now, I wonder who she would have become if those initial sideways looks had been given the time and space to build confidence. At nine months she was released from the program for generalized suspicion. A heartbreaking decision, she was a dog with so much ability and who was otherwise so well suited for a working career.

Merlot | 2013

PADS-3Fast forward a few years, and Merlot, another black lab arrives. She’s an enthusiastic girl with a natural off switch, equally happy laying at your feet for hours on end or outrunning every dog at the park. In public she pads along, shuffling her feet like an old soul. She accompanies her raisers everywhere—whether it’s the mall, fireworks, concerts and sporting events. Like Ruby, she encounters things that cause her to pause, but her raisers are now familiar with BAT and see the subtle changes in her body language in new environments — a hesitation — her ears flattening slightly or and her “old man shuffle” turning into a bouncy prance. One such outing was to the PNE, an exhibition in Vancouver, BC with lots of large farm animals, crowds, a midway and strange sights and smells. There in the barns she met “Big Bob” a 3500lb bull. As she approached he stormed up to the edge of his pen snorting at her in protest. Merlot hit the opposite end of her leash, tail tucked, visibly shaken.

It was time for BAT. This was a girl at her most fearful. She was shut down, tail tucked, feet firmly planted, eyes fixed on “Big Bob” and unwilling to take her eyes away even for food. Her handler moved towards her gently and waited for any indication she was calming. Within a few moments she dropped her ears and turned her head. They moved away. She took in the environment. Approached. Retreated. Within 10 minutes Merlot was nose to nose with Bob. It all happened in the quiet and calm…

As the months went on, there would often be things that would give Merlot reason to pause. A statue, a piece of heavy equipment, even a particularly high frequency hair dryer at a salon … each time the BAT sessions would get shorter. Today she’s a self-assured two-year old that moderates her own worries and concerns with ease and rarely needs assistance to do so. 

Seven | 2014

PADS-4This spunky little yellow Labrador, from our “Star Trek” litter is named for the character Seven of Nine (though rumour has it that it’s also because she channels the energy of 7 puppies in one tiny body). Very early Seven showed us that what she lacked in size, she made up for in spunk. Even at 4 weeks old she was smart and feisty and took great pleasure in using her sibling’s tails as tug toys and zooming with glee. A leash was a force to be reckoned with and her off switch was non-existent. Seven is naturally a high arousal (lunging/barking) pup, particularly around other dogs and cats…or food or leaves or people or anything that was exciting to her in the moment. She would wake at 7:30 in the morning and often not close her eyes for more than a minute or two until 10pm at night.

PADS-5And then BAT began to “happen”. Nothing prepared us for the remarkable power it would have in this young girl. We began using BAT with her off and on at roughly 6 weeks old (when she was still in the whelping home and obsessing over the resident cat). But in her first two weeks of puppy-raising she’s gone from a roughly 25′ threshold around other animals to being calm, cool and collected within 2 feet of stimuli at just 10 weeks old. This remarkable transformation in her self- regulation seems to have extended into all aspects of her training.

Why does this matter so much?

Our Volunteers | High-energy/arousal dogs are exhausting, challenging puppies, so providing volunteer raisers with positive, effective solutions and tools is essential. Clicker training will reward desirable behaviour, but more often than not our raisers would say “This puppy gives me nothing to click” – BAT resolved that. Even when there was opportunity to click, the timing was challenging for a lot of new raisers. BAT gives the dogs (and their people) the tools they need to shine and to experience success at a very young age; simple, easy to understand and use tools. This creates calm not just in the puppy, but their handler as well.

Our clients / We walk a tightrope in breeding dogs, we want dogs with a good off switch but enough drive that they want to work. More often than not we get dogs that are so much drive that they can’t shut off or so soft that they are fearful or lack persistence and working drive. BAT helps both. It increases our margins of success. With a 2-3 year wait list that recently had to be closed to application, every dog matters. Increasing our success rates by even one dog a year means that one less client is waiting for life-changing independence.

We are in absolute awe of the work that Grisha’s done and so grateful to both her and Joey for their willingness to share knowledge and empowering not only our organization, but our dogs like Seven and Merlot to move more confidently towards those that are patiently waiting for the day they’ll receive their leashes.


Click here to learn more about BAT.

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“BAT for Geeks” Video

Get some of the technical foundations of BAT 2.0 Be sure to watch the earlier videos in this series as well.

Here are some clips from the new “BAT For Geeks” video published by Tawzer Dog. You can buy it directly from Grisha via instant streaming individually or as part of the Empowered Animals BAT 2.0 series. Or click here to order a DVD from Tawzer.

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“BAT 2.0 Set-ups” Video

Learn how to do Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0! Be sure to watch the earlier videos in this series as well.

Here are some clips from the new “BAT 2.0 Set-Ups” video published by Tawzer Dog. You can buy it directly from Grisha via instant streaming individually or as part of the Empowered Animals BAT 2.0 series. Or click here to order a DVD from Tawzer.

Please note that the clip above is explained more in the DVD series and one thing I want to make sure you are aware of is that we almost never lead the dog toward the trigger. In the cases here where I am making a kissy noise to move the dog along it is a) away from something we don’t the dog to go to (the water) or b) the dog hasn’t yet noticed the trigger. In the case of b, we usually also do a slow zig zag pattern, which was challenging in this location but still could have been done better.

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“Problem Prevention” Video – Prevent Dog Problems Before They Start!

Make life with your dog less frustrating. :) This video talks you through various ways to prevent and solve problems with your dog.

Here’s a video with some of the clips from the new “Problem Prevention” video published by Tawzer Dog. You can buy it directly from Grisha via instant streaming individually or as part of the Empowered Animals BAT 2.0 series. Or click here to order a DVD from Tawzer.

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“Walk With Me” Video

The walk with your dog should be fun, not stressful! It’s not about dominating your dog, it’s about both of you learning how to walk together.

Here are some clips from the new “Walk With Me” video published by Tawzer Dog. You can buy it directly from Grisha via instant streaming individually or as part of the Empowered Animals BAT 2.0 series. Or click here to order a DVD from Tawzer.

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“Survival Skills” Video

Looking for info on how to help your dog out in the real world? Here are some clips from the new “Survival Skills” video published by Tawzer Dog. You can buy it directly from Grisha via instant streaming individually or as part of the Empowered Animals BAT 2.0 series. Or click here to order a DVD from Tawzer.

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“Talk With Me” Video

How can you communicate clearly with your dog? Dogs are masters of body language and association, so let’s use that to help you understand each other.

Here’s a video with some of the clips from the new “Talk With Me” video published by Tawzer Dog. You can buy it directly from Grisha via instant streaming individually or as part of the Empowered Animals BAT 2.0 series. Or click here to order a DVD from Tawzer.

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The Wastebasket Challenge (or “Changing a Habit is Hard!”)

Guest post by Joey Iversen, BAT seminar presenter

Original location - under the sink

Original location – under the sink

I recently moved to a new house because it is much better for my senior dog, Pirate. In setting up the kitchen, I started with the garbage in a cardboard box under the sink. It’s a logical spot. In my search for a permanent waste bin for the spot, I couldn’t find one that fit.

So I found a wastebasket that fit in one of the pantries in the kitchen, instead of having the trash under the sink.

Even though I have only been in my new house for a couple weeks, after moving the wastebasket I quickly realized I was locked into a habit that was so powerful, the only prompt I had to take a piece of trash to the pantry to dispose of was opening the cupboard under the sink to see the empty space. That is, I couldn’t remember to take the trash to the pantry until I had run through the old behavior of taking the trash to the kitchen and opening the cupboard under the sink. Only then could I change my behavior.


The Pantry

This went on for the next 5 days. I was experiencing increased frustration with each “duh” moment of trying an outdated behavior that didn’t work. My behavior challenges and frustration in the wastebasket location did not involve any fear or lack of safety as most of the client dogs I work with on behavior change. I thought a lot about how significantly increased my distress would be if it did involve fear.

That week, as I worked with clients and their dog with reactive responses to situations, I was keenly reminded of my personal experience with creating a new response and the intense challenge I am having with a simple relocation of a wastebasket.

The more I thought about my challenge in changing behavior I considered the immense challenge our dogs who have resorted to rehearsed aggressive behavior responses to situations that they find scary, stressful or confusing.

I had occasionally made a bit of progress that week, where I would catch myself before opening the cupboard but only if I was thinking about throwing something away. If I were thinking of what I would be doing next or pondering something else I would immediately go back to my old habit. I kept having to open the cupboard before I realized I was at the wrong spot. I was surprised at how irritating this cycle was becoming.

I decided to use TAGteach to get out of the sequence of going to the cupboard under the sink to recall the wastebasket is in the panty. The process of deciding what behavior to tag gave me some interesting insights. Recalling a session in a tennis lesson where my coach and I worked through finding the best tag point with the help of Theresa Mckeon.

In my kitchen, I used the same strategy Theresa helped us work through with tennis to find a reinforcable tag point for the wastebasket dilemma.

A tag point is the answer the question “what move/action causes the desired position, choice, or muscle movement”? I had to change an action before I started in the direction of the cupboard under the sink.

I tried a couple different tag points until I realized I needed to get much further back in the sequence. I ended up with the tag point of “say pantry.”

In TAGteach language:

  • The instructions are: When you pick up an item to throw away (trigger), before moving “say pantry”
  • The tag point is: Say Pantry


Each time I successfully do the tag point, I pull down a bead using the “tagulator” shown here. I can measure success by the number of beads I have pulled in a day. Adding a tag point has sped up my behavior change in efficient trash dispensing. (Ok, I didn’t collect data so I don’t really know the degree of change). As well there is less frustration every time I don’t go through the extra steps of going first to the sink.

What does this have to do with dogs and behavior and BAT?” you might wonder. It has broadened my observation of where might I need to begin to focus in setting up a situation to promote a new behavior response to a rehearsed behavior response to a trigger.  Experiencing at what point I needed new thinking in order to make a change in my pattern was enlightening as it was much further back in the sequence than I would have thought.

In BAT, especially BAT 2.0, we emphasize setting up the environment with adequate distance from the trigger and interesting landscape for exploring (and much more). That distance is often much more than people would expect. But closer in, the dog is already headed to the cabinet under the sink, so to speak, and we need to be working at a distance where the dog is really comfortable and not locked into his old habitual behavior.

As I evaluate current and future client dogs and where I start in the sequence, I will be assessing and then looking further back. From my personal experience, I am amazed at how many steps back I needed to go to actually set up for the desired response.


Tagulator the pantry

Follow-Up. Here’s an interesting insight that I’ve noted over these last two days since first writing my experience. My frustration is even more reduced since adding the tag point. My success rate, i.e., the number of times I go to the panty without first heading to the sink has greatly improved.

Yeah! The most interesting is that my emotional response to a “duh wrong spot” event is to giggle. Really! Its now easy to find humor in that ‘oops’ empowered by the plan I have in place for change, the success I have been experiencing and I feel in control of the outcome. This empowerment, success and control are what I deeply desire to bring to both the clients and their dogs with whom I have the honor to work.

I’m well on my way to unconscious competence. Cheers!

We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


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Technical Aspects of BAT Article in the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Chronicle

COTD-2014-summer-coverWant to know why BAT works in a more technical way?

Check out the second half of the BAT article that appeared in the Summer issue of the APDT Chronicle of the Dog. Click to read the article as a PDF. To learn about the APDT Chronicle or to access the full issue if you are a member, click here.

p.s. If you love this technical dog stuff, check out the BAT for Geeks streaming webinar, available for download now through our online store.

Check out the video below for a quick look at how BAT is done:

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Would You Like To Sell The Ahimsa Manual?

This post is for book resellers, including trainers who want to include the Ahimsa Dog Training Manual in their classes or breeders who want to give the book to their puppy owners. You can apply for an account by clicking here.


  • English: 1478176415
  • Spanish Edition: 1494459191

You must be a licensed business and provide an active reseller certification.

After submitting your information, CreateSpace will validate your qualifications for access to CreateSpace Direct’s wholesale pricing and notify you of your status within one business day.

Purchase Discount from List Price through CreateSpace Direct:
Libraries – 20%
Retail – 35%
Distribution – 45%

The Ahimsa Dog Training Manual is also distributed by Ingram (615-793-5000) and NACSCORP (800-622-7498).

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