If you have an extended family in the way of a canine companion, then you’ll understand what a joy it is to share your life with a beloved pet. However, owning a dog can be challenging, especially if your furry friend is of a nervous disposition or displays reactive behavior.
You may have had the experience of walking your dog on a leash only to come face to face with another canine who’s off leash and full of confidence and energy.
You know your dog will react, and it’s difficult to know how to respond, do you tell him off and increase his anxiety? Or do you just grin and bear it, hoping the other dog’s owner will take control of theirs?
Thankfully, there is a solution, and it isn’t hard to master.
BAT training or behavior adjustment training is a technique that helps dogs get used to certain situations in a controlled way before they face it in reality.
It means that you can take some time helping your dog realize that there is no danger, and they can explore the situation calmly, thus helping them desensitize to it.
It involves repetitive actions and made up scenarios similar to those he will face in real life. BAT will increase your dog’s confidence and enable them to realize that they are in control of their behavior and adjust it accordingly.
It gives your dog a choice which ultimately empowers them, helping them negotiate the world successfully and without fear. So how does it work, and how can you incorporate BAT training into your everyday life?
Firstly, you should decide if you are going to use a professional trainer or do the training yourself. The advantage of training your dog on your own is that it develops a close bond, and you know your dog better than anyone else.
There are many books available online to purchase that can assist you in the training process. Before starting any formal training, it’s important to observe your dog and try to identify the most common triggers. This will give you a starting point.
It may be that your dog is triggered by something in the environment such as another dog, a car, or a person. Once you identify this, you can start setting up situations to teach him to manage his feelings when faced with a trigger.
BAT training doesn’t always have to be used when you already have a reactive dog, it is very useful to practice as a preventative measure and can help empower your puppy or dog early on in his life.
Teaching your dog to behave on a leash is important, as it acts as a safety measure for him and other canines.
Before you can trust your dog off leash you must establish a good leash walking routine, especially during early puppyhood whilst you are training them to respond to your voice and develop good recall.
Furthermore, it can also be a way of communication between dog and owner. The leash acts as a positive reinforcement tool and not something to be used as punishment.
Purchasing a long leash is ideal (not too long due to entanglement issues) to give the feeling of freedom but still keeping an element of control.
The idea of leash training is it helps with socialization in the early months, and it also helps reduce pulling, which is common with enthusiastic dogs. It’s important to hold the leash in the correct way to eliminate the risk of it slipping out of your hand.
The way to avoid this is to put your wrist right through the handle and let it settle between your thumb and forefinger.
This provides reassurance that you have a firm grip, enabling you to use your other hand for training purposes. You can use your left hand to control the direction of the leash. (think how horse riders use this when riding).
The length of the leash in your hand controls braking distance and allows you to slow your dog down if needed. In addition, It also prevents abruptly stopping your dog and causing pain.
The slide technique is a way of communicating with your dog that you are stopping, or that he needs to pay attention.
You do this by placing both hands over each other and slowly pulling the leash towards you. It’s a gentle way of teaching your dog when he needs to slow down, and most dogs will understand this with repetition and consistency.
This technique is useful when you know you are heading towards a trigger. It’s a gentle way to help him feel relaxed in a stressful situation. Once the dog has stopped you can release the leash, so he doesn’t feel too restrained.
Rebalancing your dog when he has stopped is important, so he doesn’t feel vulnerable. To alleviate this, try relaxing pressure on the leash by leaning your arm slowly until the leash is looser and the dog is balanced once more.
You can do this gradually with a long leash, so the whole movement is calm and relaxed, instilling confidence into your dog. It’s also important to keep yourself centered and strong.
If you are off balance then your dog will be too. Standing to the right with arms and legs relaxed will help you stay upright if your dog pulls. Keeping the leash as slack as possible will help your dog not feel restrained, which can lead to aggression and frustration.
If your dog feels an element of control and freedom when out on walks, he is less likely to feel vulnerable when faced with challenging situations. The less tension your dog feels, the more likely he is to cooperate and the quicker he will learn to be less reactive.
There are a plethora of leash skills you can teach your dog that will help him in situations he finds threatening. Through hard work and practice, gradually he will learn through BAT to be more relaxed and confident.
The idea with survival skills is to distract your dog from any potential triggers during the desensitization stage. Once you are armed with all the knowledge you’ve gathered through observation, you are able to pinpoint triggers before your dog does.
If your dog is nervous around men and barks every time you approach one, it is crucial you are alert and take action before your dog is exposed to the trigger.
Crossing the road or taking a different route will help him not to get overwhelmed during the training period. A good BAT technique is positive reinforcement.
If you spot a triggering situation, use the leash to get your dog’s attention and then give them a treat or a toy, it’s similar to clicker training but involves movement.
Once you have spent enough time using treat based training, your dog will need it less and less and start to get used to the situations that previously made them uncomfortable.
BT provides an effective communication system between you and your dog that will last a lifetime once mastered.
Owning a dog comes with a huge responsibility, and it’s important that enough time and effort is put into helping them feel safe in the modern world. You will be repaid with unconditional love and a wonderful companion.