Behaviour Adjustment Training, or BAT, rehabilitates dog reactivity by looking at why the dog is reactive and helping him or her meet his needs in other ways. In a nutshell, BAT is a dog-friendly application of ‘functional analysis’ that gives the dogs a chance to learn to control their own comfort level through peaceful means. It’s very empowering to your dog, in a good way.
BAT Takes a Functional ApproachWhen the dog does a problem behaviour, it is usually because an event in their environment, an environmental cue, triggers the dog to want or need something. Fulfilment of the need or want that is triggered by the environmental cue is called the functional reward. Here’s the sequence:
Environmental Cue = Behaviour = Functional Reward
So the functional reward for behaviours done after seeing a steak are the eating of the steak. The functional reward of behaviours done after spotting the squirrel is getting closer to / chasing the squirrel.
To discover the functional reward of a problem behaviour, look at the consequence of the dog’s behaviour – what are they earning from the people, dogs, and world around them by doing the behaviour?
For example, when dogs bark, lunge, growl, etc., one big consequence is usually an increase in distance from the trigger (they scare it away or are allowed to leave themselves). So we use increased distance—walking away from the trigger—as a functional reward.
Basic Steps for Problem Behaviours with BAT
1. Analyze to discover the functional reward of the problem behaviour.
2. Expose to a subtle version of the trigger. Don’t go so close or make it so challenging that the dog does the problem behaviour, including panic or aggression. Make it obvious what the dog should do, but not so easy that he’s not making a choice at all. Breathing should be fairly calm.
3. Wait for good choices (ex. look at trigger, then look away or stop pulling on leash or…). If distress increases, abort the trial rather than letting the dog flounder.
4. Mark with a word or clicker.
5. Give access to a Functional Reward – fulfil the need that triggered the behaviour you are trying to change.
6. Optional Bonus Reward, like food or a toy, esp. on walks - distracts from trigger.
When to Take a Functional Approach1. You can figure out what the functional reward is for the problem behaviour.
2. You can control access to the functional reward.
3. There is an alternate behaviour that will reasonably earn the same functional reward in the dog’s everyday life.