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Changing Dog Behavior Through BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training)

Updated on April 17, 2015
How can you change dog behavior through BAT?
How can you change dog behavior through BAT? | Source

What is Behavior Adjustment Training?

In the past week we discussed Leslie McDevitt's LAT (Look at that), Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz and Kellie Snider's CAT(Constructional Aggression Treatment), today we'll instead discuss BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training). In the case of BAT, you'll have to thank dog trainer, author and founder of Ahimsa Dog Training, Grisha Stewart CPDT-KA.

What is BAT exactly? BAT is a systematic desensitization protocol used mainly for reactivity but can be virtually applied to many other behavior problems in dogs. It rewards good behavior and helps dogs make good choices. The dog is basically exposed to a known trigger sub-threshold and is rewarded for offering cut-off signals by increasing distance. However, unlike CAT where the trigger moves away, in this case the dog is the one moving away. Confused? The following paragraph will show a real-case case study I have helped by using BAT.

BAT requires good observational skills.
BAT requires good observational skills.

An Example of Behavior Adjustment Training

This is a real case study I was called to work about a while back. The owner's name and dog's name are fictional to respect privacy.

Bob called me on the phone quite frantic. His Mastiff called Cora continued to bark and chase cars, trucks and even the average child walking down the road. He explained to me that the dog was not aggressive and did not have a bite history, just she had this strong desire to chase, but being a mastiff the people in town were concerned and some children were obviously frightened. The main issue was that his yard was unfenced, so Cora got to rehearse the unwanted behavior over and over.

When I showed up in their property, Cora immediately greeted me. Her tail was wagging and she accompanied me towards her owners. I immediately sensed this was not going to be an easy case, since the yard was un-fenced and I wasn't sure if they were really willing to put up a fence. I had the impression that they were expecting me to give a miracle solution a la Cesar Millan style.

I asked them to put her on a long line and keep it loose, so I could observe her natural behavior. A truck passed by and she was getting ready to chase, but perhaps the line inhibited her a bit so she had a startle response and then was easily re-directed. I did get an idea of her behavior and that she preferred to chase the truck once it was past her rather than upon seeing it. If she saw the truck as an invasive trigger, her chasing was reinforced as it felt as if she was successful in chasing it away. We had to put this behavior to a stop before something bad happened. I thought I would give BAT a try.

So we looked for a distance where she acknowledged the trucks, but wasn't too aroused to chase them. This was quite a distance at first. As soon as she saw a truck I would click my clicker or say yes, then jog the opposite way and give her treat. By doing this Cora was rewarded in two ways: 1) by removing her from the situation, (functional reward) and by giving the treat .

We then progressed to step 2: in this case, when she acknowledged the trigger, I would wait for her to offer an alternate behavior to barking and chasing. This alternate behavior was often sniffing the ground or turning the head the other way, the moment she gave this signal I would click or say yes and then jog away and give the treat or a toy to play with.

In stage 3, we weaned the dog off treats and relied solely on the functional reward. So as soon as she acknowledged the trigger I would wait again for an alternate behavior. The moment it happened, I would say "yes" and jog away.

The more we practiced this the better. I often relied on set-ups for BAT by using decoy dogs or volunteers to act as the trigger, depending on what the trigger was. Since Cora wanted to chase our SUV, I had my hubby drive back and forth repeatedly that day. We also asked for some children to walk by and exposed the dog to a few joggers at a distance. The owner was impressed and I was happy to see they decided to follow my advice of using a long line when the dog was out to prevent rehearsal of unwanted behaviors. After several sessions, Cora was reliable enough to offer alternate behaviors even without the long line on and at closer distances. It's all about watching engage/disengage behaviors and rewarding them promptly.

Pros and Cons of Behavior Adjustment Training

As with other training methods, there are pros and cons of using BAT to modify dog behavior. You'll find trainers who embrace BAT and others who prefer to use desensitization and counterconditioning. Following are some pros and cons of BAT:

Advantages of Behavior Adjustment Training

  • Wanted dog behaviors are marked and rewarded, so they're reinforced and likely to happen again.
  • Training progresses quickly as the dog is naturally drawn to want to avoid certain situations after he's shown how.
  • Treats are not necessary (in the later stages) since the functional reward can replace them.


  • Requires the assistance of a professional. Good timing and understanding of dog body language is important.
  • The dog is put "under some pressure" through negative reinforcement. In other words, in order to work, the dog must feel somewhat stressed by the presence of the trigger so to feel relieved when he leaves after displaying the alternate behavior.
  • It may be difficult at times to create proper set-ups so to ensure proper desensitization and avoid the dog from going over threshold.

Behavior Adjustment Training


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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Look up Grisha Stewart, she's the trainer who invented BAT. Her website, books and website offer a goldmine of info. I also wrote an article on LAT not too long ago, which is also another great method. Thanks for stopping by~!

    • Recipe Gal profile image

      Recipe Gal 4 years ago

      Wow! This was a very well written and complete article! I had never heard of this method of training before, but I an eager to try it with my dogs. They are both great dogs, but they do have some behaviors I would like to change. Thanks for the great advice!

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      I am happy you enjoyed my articles on dog behavior modification techniques, thank you for stopping by!

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 4 years ago

      Very interesting! I enjoyed it very much!

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks Eiddwen for the votes up!

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Cats are cool, they can be trained but it's sort of on their terms if you find the right motivation. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Another great hub and voted up.


    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      this seems like a great program for dogs..I have two cats and they would no more listen...I just kind of laughed as I compared. Thanks for writing this.