Ahimsa Dog Training, Seattle

Video of BAT in action for dog aggression

Here’s a video from a recent BAT session with a dog-reactive Aussie. For more information about how Behavior Adjustment Training works, read our other blog post.

There are lots of different ways to do BAT, but the main idea is to use what the dog is already working for to pay for a new behavior.

In this case, the dog would bark/lunge at other dogs she doesn’t know in order to increase the distance between her and the other dog. So we do the session far enough away that she can be calmer* and we use ‘permission to walk away’ as the treat for soft eyes, blinks, head turns, etc. We mostly focus on head turns for this session, as that is a nice default behavior.

When you are doing BAT for fear or aggression, you can either change the stimulus (how close is the other dog, what are they doing, etc.) or you can change your behavioral criteria (what the dog needs to do before you reward).

If you are at the edge of your dog’s comfort zone, don’t make both of those harder at the same time. For this session, we pretty much took the same behavior each time (on the continuum of looking away) and changed only the stimulus (approached closer and closer to the other dog, had other dog move or not move).

We will still need to work toward variety in another session, so that if Cassie does a head turn and it doesn’t make the other dog go away, she will have other tricks up her doggie sleeve.

*Keep in mind, some dogs need to start really far away, so that the other dog is just a speck on the horizon. Starting too far and quickly moving the approach line forward is better than starting out too close.


Session Transcript

Set-up is that the decoy dog is kitty-corner on public street (across the street, opposite corner, 50+ feet away from the ‘client’ dog. There are two handlers (Lori Stevens and Adriane Villanueva) and a camera person (Grisha Stewart). All three are professional dog trainers. Lori and Cassie are the ‘clients’ and Adriane is handling her dog, Penny, as the decoy.

The session was about 35 minutes. This is an edited version of the session. I no longer have the raw footage, so I will just call these trials 1-20 rather than what they really are, a sample of 15 of the the 60 (or so) trials.

In the initial set-up, Cassie had a double-ended leash attached to a harness in the rear and a Gentle Leader in the front. We changed this after it began to feel like the head collar was not giving Cassie enough freedom of movement (and it was distracting her).

The primary alternative behavior we rewarded during this session was a head turn, and most of them were toward the handler. In session 2, we began pushing for different behaviors, but we were working on getting one solid behavior down first, so we didn’t ignore head turns in an attempt to get variety during this session.

Both dogs approaching mark, Cassie leaving as reward. When leaving, Cassie was cued verbally to walk away, sometimes guided by the leash. The ideal is that the retreat is verbally/visually cued.

Trial 1: Alternate behavior rewarded: head turn away from decoy toward handler (0:13). She also opted for a sit when Lori stopped. Slight prompting from Lori as she leaned away from Cassie after they stopped.

Trial 2: Alternate behavior: head turn toward Lori, offered after long look at Penny while walking toward mark (0:32). Just before the head turn toward the handler, at 0:31, there was also a look away to the other side. That could have been rewarded instead.

Trial 3: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy toward handler (0:49). On this trial, Lori waited until we were back at the mark, just praising some other good head turns without retreating. If we always took the first rewardable behavior, we’d never make it to the mark! Not rewarding every acceptable alternative behavior also helps make this good behavior harder to extinguish later.

(We started making the break between trials a little longer. Cassie likes to move and is a hard worker, so if we wanted a longer break, we could also do something during those, like tricks or other training.)

Trial 4: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy toward handler (1:24). Tail was a bit higher for this trial. Head turn was prompted by Lori very lightly touching her finger to the leash, just a tiny flutter to help keep Cassie from ‘going limbic’.

(We took a slightly longer break and decided not to go as far forward the next round, to make success more likely. We were just getting started, so that mark was probably too close to the decoy).

Trial 5: Half-way to old mark. Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy toward handler (2:02). By the time they left, Cassie’s head had turned back, so she did feel the Gentle Leader guiding her away. Ideally she wouldn’t feel any leash on the retreat, but that was just a little timing issue.

Trial 6: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy (2:34). On the approach, there was also ground sniffing that we could have rewarded

Trial 7: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy toward handler (2:57).

(time gap and then decoy was moved to same side of street, across the intersection)

Trial 8: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy (3:03)

Trial 9: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy (3;17)

(Time gap – more trials and gear was switched to harness only with both front and rear attachment)

Trial 10: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy toward handler (3:33)

Trial 11: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy toward handler (3:51)

(time gap – Penny moved to same side of street, no longer moving)

Trial 12: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy toward handler (4:04). Penny barked an Aussie hello at Cassie and she barked back. She was not super-aroused, so Lori waited for an acceptable behavior before leaving.

(We got another bark after a few more trials, so we mixed things up by adding click/treat plus retreat. The barking seemed like frustration rather than aggression. The click/treat/retreat bit was much easier and more familiar to Cassie. We could also just have increased our distance again, or worked in between trials. We clicked, retreated, then treated on the retreat. That way, the retreat stood out.

Trial 13: Alternate behavior: ground sniff on approach (4:41).

(time gap)

Trial 14: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy toward handler (4:54). As they retreated, Cassie began to bark at Penny, but handler correctly continued retreating. (Penny had just seen a cat and was stiff during that trial.)

Trial 13: Half-way to mark. Alternate behavior: ground sniff on approach (5:06)

Trial 14: Alternate behavior: head turn away from decoy toward handler (5:20)

Trial 15: Alternate behavior: several head turns away from decoy toward handler (5:44). Actual click ended up being a look at the decoy, better would’ve been for a look away.

Written by Grisha Stewart, Ahimsa Dog Training, Seattle [Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon] Tweet This Post!
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4 Responses to “Video of BAT in action for dog aggression”

  1. Dennis Fehling Says:

    Grisha, I love this. I think this is a great evolution of what CAT can be. Thanks for doing this and being the rebel you are.


    I pretty much got kicked off the CAT site for my comments about what i was doing in TTouch. Oh well life goes on and so dot he doggys;;;

  2. Emily Griffin Says:


    Thank you so much for this blog! Like most barky dog owners, I am often embarrassed to admit my dog barks so much!! It seems that the method you were using in the BAT video rewarded the dog by taking away the “scary monster” – which is certainly a reward for a dog who barks out of fear. However, when I attended the Barky dog seminar, Carly suggested that my German Shepherd “puppy” Sophie (now 8 months) was probably barking in order to play – which would make sense, since she stops barking when she is able to sniff the dog and wrestle, or even if she’s been in the same area with them for a bit – basically, introduction barking. So, how can I use the BAT method to help Sophie learn how to stay quiet as we approach other dogs? We make her sit until we say she can sniff the other dog (like we learned in intermediate puppy) but she can still bark when sitting. I have been working on keeping a bubble of distance between us and a strange dog, treating and praising for her staying quiet, allowing her to come closer when she is quiet, taking her away (“too bad”) when she barks. Is this also the method you would recommend for Sophie?

    Thank you again for all your help and we hope to see you in Advanced Manners once we get the barking thing toned down a bit!

  3. Grisha Says:

    Hi Emily,  
    One way to make faster progress is to do a set-up with friends’ dogs, so you can do something like 20 or so advances in an hour. ¬†You may only get to the other dog a few times. ¬†Make the bubble big enough so that it’s error free.

    You will do pretty much doing the same thing that I do with dogs who pull toward squirrels.

    Walk forward until you see her just barely beginning to get agitated, then stop. (Furrowed brow, panting, cheeks puffing, up on her toes, or starting to pull, etc.). Wait for relaxation, then go further forward. ¬†Retreat if she barks, but also see what you could’ve done differently on that trial.

  4. Ann S Says:

    I am wondering how to apply this to training a dog to not get over stimulated when it sees a squirrel on a walk and try to take off after it.

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