Friday, February 15, 2013

BAT work (finally!)

I've been doing a little BAT foundation here and there with Cai, by praising him when he looks away from something in the distance and then moving away and continuing praise. We've done a few more walks in our neighborhood, and his leash walking is improving and reactivity is decreasing. I've realized that BAT and Kay Laurence's "connected walking" gel very well together -- really, they're almost the same thing -- and I think that's why.

When he's gone over threshold, I either move him away as quickly as I can (either picking him up or using the leash), or (if it's a minor reaction to something far away) body blocking and giving a no reward marker. More and more, he's doing frustration barking rather than alarm barking at dogs (even big ones), and at the same time he's developing more emotional control. I've seen that when his reaction is minor and it's clearly frustration-based, the NRM works well to interrupt him and he's able to reengage with me. It's not something I planned to do in training, but it slipped out here and there, and it's working well for us.

On Thursday I met my friend Miki and we did a formal BAT session. I brought boiled chicken with me but I didn't even bring it out. We started off a block away from each other on the same side of the street. Immediately after we started, everyone in the neighborhood decided to take their own dogs out for a walk and we were assailed from every side!! Cai went over threshold many times because of dogs suddenly appearing. Because he was amped up and nervous, he also started alarm barking at the sound of people's voices and a couple of people wearing hats. Uuuugghh.

Once there was a break in the stream of dogs, we went back to approaching Miki and her dog. After a few reps from a block away, he switched over from tense body language to curious, and we covered the ground between us quickly. Because he was very interested in the sniffing the ground, that ended up being an alternate reward to moving away from her. When we did move away, I sometimes ran with him, which he liked. In fact, a few times when he ran away from the other dogs, he seemed relieved. He also liked it when I gave sincere praise -- he would perk up and give me a happy expression.

At the end, when he was hanging out six feet away from Miki's dog and totally ignoring her, we crossed the street to do parallel walking. Cai tensed up again when they started walking but didn't go over threshold, and seemed happy when he figured out that it was the same game.

His leash walking was terrible at first but not shabby by the end, again because I think the two methods are so complimentary. He's learning to disengage when alarmed/interested/frustrated. I've been teaching him a bit more rules and self control as well, so everything's slowly coming together.

I have the realistic Melissa and Doug Jack Russel Terrier, and I should practice with that on the street outside. Other than the structured practice sessions, it looks like I can just drive over to that neighborhood at the same time of day for lots of stealth BAT work, although I have to be very careful to keep him under threshold.


  1. This is awesome! I can't wait to start doing BAT work with Albee. I'm trying to find a time and a place to do it; the other dog I'll be BATing with needs a ton of distance and a place without "surprise" people and dogs appearing. It's really tough to find a place we can use!

    1. Yes, it is SO hard to find good places to set up!