Monday, March 19, 2012

What is BAT and Who Needs it?

As most of you know, Gilda is a Reactive Dog. She has made great strides in her Dog Socialization Skills and in her willingness to pay attention during Agility classes. She continues to struggle somewhat with on-leash Reactivity and especially with at-home Reactivity!!

We have been using many of the exercises from Grisha Stewart's book: Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs. You can link to her website for more info: Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) site or see my Amazon Book Widget to the right to click and order!

One of the first things we did was to alter our home environment by Reducing Visual Stimulation. When left to her own devices for any length of time, Gilda can always be found monitoring the yard for deer, squirrels, walkers, bikers, cars turning around in the driveway, the mail carrier, and most of all... The UPS truck!

To quote Grisha Stewart (with her permission of course):

"Starting at home, one simple solution to reducing visual triggers for your dog is to eliminate any perches from which your dog can spy on passing dogs or people. Reactive dogs with lookout posts successfully practice barking all day long, and the training time you put in is nothing comapred to your dog's nine-hour shift of guarding the house! Dogs need entertainment, but working for Homeland Security all day is not fun, it's stressful. Just imagine this from the dog's perspective; She barks, the boy or dog walking by goes out of sight, and she thinks her behavior has worked to protect the house - but then it happens again and again! Her barking becomes a stronger habit with each passing day. A home with a perch is like a giant Skinner box (operant conditioning chamber): it automatically trains the dog to bark." 

This describes Gilda to a T! She doesn't destroy anything when left home alone so we thought that giving her full run of the house would keep her happier than being crated. Oh what a barking beast we inadvertently created! She also feels the need to guard us from anyone who enters the house that she doesn't already know. She has nipped the gas guy and an attorney now! (We were lucky he wasn't a litigator!!)

To remove Gilda's perches, we applied an opaque product called Wallpaper For Windows to our french doors, sidelights, and sliding glass doors. It looks like this:

{Before BAT:
the Ever-Vigilant Gilda-
note the nose-rest!}

{After BAT:
No more view for the dogs
but the Peeps still get light!}

The product was easy to apply. Once the windows were covered, we noticed an immediate decrease in barking! Gilda can no longer see her triggers. She will still bark at things she hears (doorbell, UPS truck from 3 miles away...) but the improvement is drastic!!!
We are also using BAT techniques on our walks and Gilda is responding very well. Pico, on the other hand, continues to React while on leash... He is a piece of work!

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