Forgive me. I needed to get this video out of my system and since I don’t have any serious footage to accompany this week’s post on Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) it seemed like the perfect fit.
BAT was created by Grisha Stewart, and is being discussed here by her fellow trainer and BAT expert Irith Bloom. Last week we covered some basic theory and techniques. Here I continue to grill Irith about how BAT works.
How, when, and why did you start using BAT?
I began using BAT about a year ago, when a friend and fellow trainer mentioned it to me as an alternative to CAT (Constructional Aggression Treatment)
a technique that uses negative reinforcement to teach animals with fear and aggression a different way of responding to things that cause them stress. BAT sounded like a kinder, gentler variation of CAT, so I was immediately intrigued. Although bothuse negative reinforcement, I find BAT is a little easier for my clients to apply when I am not around.
Could you explain negative reinforcement, which always sounds like punishment to me?
“Reinforcement” is anything that increases the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated. “Negative reinforcement” means taking something away from — rather than adding to —
environment to increase the likelihood of a behavior happening again.
In the case of Fido and men with hats — see last week’s post — the negative reinforcement is moving Fido away from the man with the hat (or the man away from Fido), thereby taking something scary away from Fido’s environment. Removing the scary thing rewards Fido and makes him feel better, so that he is more likely to repeat the behaviorn.
You said clients can apply BAT when you’re not around. How?
I advise clients to use in “real life” situations. There are two main ways to do this:
A. As soon as the animal notices the stress-inducing thing, the handler says “Yes!” and immediately gives the animal what it wants, which is called
functional reward. This helps keep the animal from getting overly stressed in the first place. The handler can then add a bonus reward. This might be a food treat or an opportunity to play with a favorite toy, but regardless of what the bonus reward is, it always comes after the functional reward.
B. When the animal notices the stress-inducing thing, the handler stays still, breathes calmly and deeply, and waits for the animal to offer an acceptable behavior. As soon as the handler sees that behavior, the handler marks it and gives the animal what he or she wants. Again,
functional reward can be followed by a bonus reward.
Grisha recommends the use of bonus rewards initially in the real world since it’s so much harder to control the triggers (the man with the hat might come straight at you). Note, however, that she recommends fading the bonus rewards and
towards using only functional rewards as you and the animal get more experienced.
Does BAT replace or just supplement the other positive techniques that you had been using, i.e., are there certain dogs that it’s ideal for, others that it’s not?
BAT is a supplemental technique that I use with
On the other hand, BAT can be extremely helpful for clients whose pets respond fearfully or aggressively to other animals or people.
BAT neatly sidesteps the issue of whether the animal is interested enough in food to take
while under stress by focusing on giving the animal relief from the stress. As a result, BAT works very well for many different animals, even those who aren’t normally interested in food or . It’s a great training system for semi-feral animals who would prefer to avoid contact with anyone outside a few trusted humans, as well as for diabetic animals and those who fill up easily. Best of all, based on what I have seen, BAT work faster than CC&D.
Coming next week: An example of how BAT worked with a dog that got upset at people entering his home, and a list of behaviors that BAT trainers are looking for.
And no more bat cartoons, honest. The editor reserves the right to continue to use bad bat puns, however.
Irith Bloom is the owner of The Sophisticated Dog, a pet training business offering services to clients on the Westside of Los Angeles. She specializes in clicker training and other pet-friendly methods of animal training and behavior modification. Irith is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner) and a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). You can see more of her writing on her Sophisticated Dog website, on Karen Pryor Clickertraining’s website and on Examiner.com.