Behavior Adjustment Training, a New Dog Training Technique
Behavior Adjustment Training or BAT is a dog training technique that was developed in 2009 by a trainer named Grisha Stewart. It is a method of desensitizing dogs to otherwise reactive situations. Dogs who participate in the BAT dog training technique are rewarded for presenting appropriate or polite “cut-off” signals instead of their usual over reactivity. These behaviors are usually reinforced, not with treats or praise, but by the simple act of walking away from the stimulus or trigger.
How does it work?
This dog training technique, Behavior Adjustment Training, works by giving the dog many opportunities to observe his or her triggers from a safe distance, and to choose to be non-reactive by offering an alternate behavior. This is done primarily through set-up training scenarios with helpers. The distance is eventually decreased over time, and the dog can be in the presence of triggers that would historically have led to extreme stress or reactivity.
What is a trigger?
A trigger is anything that the dog reacts to in an inappropriate manner. The most common triggers are people or other dogs. People could mean individuals of a certain age, mobility, race, gender, style of dress, or any number of other descriptions. It is important to know which people trigger the reaction in the dog to ensure you are setting up the proper training scenarios. Dogs could be big dogs, small dogs, long-haired dogs, short-haired dogs, black dogs, white dogs, spotted dogs, and so on. It is important to know which dogs create reactivity when you are using this dog training technique as a method of rehabilitation.
What is the dog training methodology behind it?
BAT or Behavior Adjustment Training is a dog training technique using the principles of negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is a sound learning principle; however, when most people think of negative reinforcement training, they conjure up images of trainers inflicting pain on the dog until it offers the desired behavior, or “escape training.” While those methods are employed by some trainers, they are not the only type of negative reinforcement training available. Incidentally, Behavior Adjustment Training, or BAT, is considered an approved dog training technique by those who favor the exclusive use of “positive” training methods. Technically speaking, however, it relies on the sound learning principles of negative reinforcement training.
What are the keys to making Behavior Adjustment Training Work?
In order for Behavior Adjustment Training or BAT to work, there are a number of key elements required. First, one must know and understand their dog’s body language implicitly. It is vital that the dog be worked “under threshold” during every training session in order for it to be effective. Being under threshold means that the dog does not begin to show signs of arousal, which will quickly escalate beyond the handler’s control. The dog should instead offer calming, alternate behaviors (sniffing the ground, looking away from the trigger, yawning). If one cannot recognize the replacement behaviors immediately, they will be unable to reinforce them in a timely manner. Which brings us to the next key: timing. Timing is critical when working with dogs. The reinforcement, in this case walking away, must come immediately as the dog offers a replacement or alternate behavior, otherwise the dog may make an unwanted association in its mind as to why it is being rewarded. Third, we must control the stimuli. While we do not choose what our dogs may initially choose to react to, we must have control over when they will encounter them during our dog training sessions so we can be ready to reinforce the behavior we desire. Finally, as with all training methods, consistency is vital. We must be consistent with our rewards and with our reactions. Dogs learn whenever they are with us, so we must be sure we are consistently teaching and reinforcing the behaviors we want.
Is it a feasible method to employ with pet owners to rehabilitate their dogs?
The question is not whether the BAT dog training technique works; it does, provided one has the time, the tools, the helpers, and the triggers available, as well as a solid understanding of the methodology behind Behavior Adjustment Training. The question is whether this dog training technique is a viable option for most pet owners or trainers to use in their rehabilitation of reactive dogs. The reality of the situation is that most owners do not have the time to be consistent, or the resources available to continue the training outside of formal instruction. They are reliant upon a professional trainer to implement this type of rehabilitation program.
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