Behaviour adjustment training is a highly effective approach to reduce leash reactivity, it involves creating scenarios that allow the dog to “openly” figure things out at their own pace.
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What is BAT?
BAT is a very interesting approach to treating reactivity, it basically involves creating a certain scenario but you allow your dog to take things at their own pace.
They don’t have to make any interaction, in fact you are still in control of the scenario but more like a silent driver; giving your dog an opportunity to understand these scenarios aren’t in fact negative. Check out the concept in the video below.
Who’s it for?
There is a lot of information in this ebook which I feel can be used by anyone, for example the leash skills are quite good to know for people with a reactive dog or one that doesn’t know how to heel properly.
Your dog doesn’t have to be reactive to dogs though. Reactivity extends across a variety of triggers:
Obviously the main focus is to reactive dogs and I feel it is perfect for anxious reactive dogs such as Jasper. Either way the concept works in the same way.
As seen further above in the video, the concept is simple. The concept involves walking your dog around on a long line with a decoy dog in the distance and slowly making your way closer via various directions allowing your dog to notice the trigger and giving them the choice of making a decision of whether to go back to explore or maybe inspect a bit further (remember you are in control of the scenarios but make sure you take things slow).
Normally when your dog comes in contact with another dog at the end of the day they know that you make the decision and most of the time that decision is to avoid confrontation right? You walk the other way to avoid overreacting but it doesn’t have to be like this.
Giving your dog options
I really like the idea of letting the dog go their own pace and figure things out, I like how it changes previous experiences.
For example at the moment with Jasper I’m standing in busy areas and treating him for behaving calmly in these situations. Now I thought it was quite effective with desensitising him with his triggers of dogs which is did for its part, slowly but surely he was improving.
The thing I like about BAT though is it is as close to a real experience as I can give to Jasper. I can give him freedom to decide whether or not he wants to investigate the trigger or not, obviously I wouldn’t go straight on and I might not even let an interaction occur for a while but the concept of allowing your dog the freedom of choices is pretty genius I must admit. It changes the normal role of pulling your dog away and getting them frustrated and tensions rise from not letting them fully get to the basics of interacting with other dogs.
Understanding your Dogs Stress Levels
Leash reactive warning signs are given by many reactive dogs when they are being forced into a situation they don’t want to be in, you walk towards a dog that they don’t like the look of and they will start giving you signs to change the situation before they outburst:
- Raised tail and ears
- Heavy breathing
- Pulling on the leash
- Stiff body
With BAT you work at a distance so you are actually working on the threshold of your dog. When your dog is content and sniffing around and exploring then they are under threshold, if they start pulling towards the trigger then you’ve gone too far too quickly.
When I work with Jasper in anything that could involve an interaction with a dog, I’ve started to use a muzzle. This doesn’t include walks around the block or when we play fetch in the field but instead for when I want to walk around and work on his reactivity I will use a muzzle to prevent biting. As a rescue I don’t know how he will react and even though we haven’t had any accidents yet I feel safer knowing that I’ve got one on me even if I don’t use it at the time (if I’m not using it I clip it to Jasper’s dog bag which I carry with me everywhere!).
Work slowly with your dog, watch for signs of stress if they get closer to their trigger, you have a silent control of the scenario so make sure it doesn’t spiral out of control, if your dog seems uncomfortable or is showing leash reactive warning signs near the trigger then call them back and try from further.
Behaviour Adjustment Training – A New Direction
Having read up a bit more of behaviour adjustment training, I think it would work really well with Jasper and his leash aggression training.
So how am I going to implement this training you ask?
At the moment me and Jasper have a morning routine of getting to the park, 15/20 minutes fetch, obedience/trick work and then socialisation. The socialisation is us standing in the field and acknowledging his triggers, if he’s calm he gets treats, I try to keep below his threshold, avoiding direct confrontation when I can.
However, with this new information our socialising will include Jasper on a long line and us doing sneak Behaviour Adjustment Training (following and arcing around other dogs) so that he notices these triggers and can move on.
Obviously there is more that I’ll go over such as marking and moving, working under the threshold, creating positive experiences, leash control etc.
I highly recommend you check out the book as it provides a lot of information on how to rehabilitate a reactive dog. I’ve gone through the first section and there is a lot of really good information which I wouldn’t really have got from elsewhere.
Looks like we’ve got a bit more “light reading” today to better understand how we are going to add this into our training sessions but I will keep you updated with the progress we are making with this new approach so you can decide for yourselves whether it’s worth it.