As I posted about the other day, Sasha and I have been using Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0, or BAT, for about two and a half weeks in order to help her overcome her leash reactivity when it comes to other dogs (or to at least decrease her threshold).
I gave an overview of BAT the other day in another post, but in a nutshell, it involves a series of setups in which you keep the dog under threshold and teach them the proper social skills when in the presence of a certain trigger. Although ideally I would do each setup with a new dog, we do not live in a perfect world: I don’t have many close friends in the area that have dogs, and of the friends that do, the dogs aren’t quite calm enough to be a BAT helper dog.
So, I have to get creative with my BAT setups. One solution that I have come up with is frequenting the parking lots of some of the dog parks in town. Madison, WI, where I live, is a very active dog community, and is home to many dog parks just a short driving distance from my house. Sasha and I hang out at the edge of the parking lot and use the dogs entering and exiting to practice BAT. I actually believe that this helps Sasha a lot compared to a typical BAT setup because she gets exposure to a variety of dogs. It is also good practice for her to be around dogs that are moving, since moving dogs are much more of a trigger for her.
We also live near a field that is encircled by a walking trail, which is a very popular place for people to walk their dogs. We often place ourselves in the middle of the field and practice with the dogs walking around it; and though this is not quite as close to a classic BAT setup, it is good practice in a pinch.
We also frequently do “stealth BAT” while on walks, which entails following other dogs at a distance in order to practice. We do this with other people walking their dogs, and with dogs in their yard, as long as they do not seem anxious about it.
Although the BAT setups seem intimidating, try not to get discouraged by how much work they seem to be: there are creative ways to do it that do not require finding twenty different friends with twenty different dogs (although you should still do as many traditional setups as you possibly can). In just a few short weeks, doing nine setups (so far!), Sasha has already greatly improved. Her threshold distance has decreased, and she has had a few unavoidable instances in which dogs get too close to her and she remains relatively calm! This is huge for her, since not too long ago she would have gotten uncontrollably excited.
If you are just learning about BAT for the first time, I encourage you to check out Grisha Stewart’s website, where you can learn more about BAT and order the book if you are interested. Your dog will thank you for it!