As I have written about before, my dog Sasha is a leash reactive pup: she loves other dogs (a little bit too much), and gets frustrated when she is on a leash and can’t go over to say hi. This reactivity manifests itself as frantic jumping in the air, growling, and lunging toward the dog.
For five and a half months, we did consistent counter conditioning with Sasha (read more about that here), which did help to an extent: she went from seeing a dog from all the way down the street and completely losing her mind with excitement and frustration, to being able to see a dog a block away and remain calm. However, she seemed to plateau at this point and couldn’t get closer to a dog than this without being uncontrollably excited.
That’s when I found out about Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0, developed by well-known trainer Grisha Stewart. BAT is a natural way of training that helps dogs who are reactive in many ways, from being reactive out of fear, to being reactive out of frustration like Sasha. It involves setups in which the dog is near their trigger, but still under threshold. In the setups, the dog gains confidence and social skills by learning that they have control over the situation, and that they have choice in how to interact (or whether to interact or not).
As soon as I heard about BAT, I immediately bought the book by the same name and purchased the recommended 15-foot leash that is also available for purchase on Grisha’s website. With the book I learned the proper leash skills that Grisha recommends in order to avoid pulling the dog and putting pressure on the leash, how to do a setup the right way, and how to apply BAT to real-life situations like on a walk.
So far, we have been doing BAT for two weeks and have done seven total setups. I can confidently say that I have absolutely seen a difference in Sasha since we started. First of all, she is noticeably calmer when walking in our neighborhood, while not too long ago she would be hyper-vigilant and anxious, constantly scanning for dogs. She is also calmer in general when she actually sees a dog: I think this is due in part to the setups that we do, but also the leash skills in the book, which gives you the skills to keep a loose leash in order to reduce stress and tension.
Sasha’s threshold distance has also decreased since beginning BAT, which hadn’t happened in the last two months of counter conditioning. It is obvious that BAT has given her the skills to be calm and confident around other dogs, and she has learned that she has autonomy and control over the situation. I look forward to how Sasha will keep improving, since only two weeks has already helped her so much.
If you have a reactive dog, I highly recommend that you give BAT a try. It can work well in conjunction with other methods of training that you may already be doing, such as Look at That and basic counter conditioning. I am always a proponent of having all of the tools possible in order to help your dog, since one single method does not work for every single dog. Because after all, aren’t our dogs worth it?
Note: you can learn more about BAT, and purchase the BAT 2.0 book and 15-foot leash, at www.grishastewart.com .
One of the key concepts in BAT, which is also applied to everyday walks, is walking with a loose leash. This 15-foot leash, which I purchased from Grisha Stewart’s website, helps tremendously with this.