Lorraine's Reviews > Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs

Behavior Adjustment Training by Grisha Stewart
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: canines, own

Before I get to the actual content, I just want to talk about how exceedingly well the material is presented. Regular training books can suffer from being overly dry, unclear, difficult to apply, de-motivating, and other issues that either make useful information that would in fact work for a given dog anywhere from unhelpful to useless due to learner difficulty on the human’s part or make a given book unhelpful for/inapplicable to a given dog or of little use in general to dog kind, especially the average pet owner. This is enough of an issue when people are trying to learn how to learn along with their dogs in order to teach basic household manners and obedience cues. It is even more so when they have “problem” dogs and may feel that the situation is hopeless or that they personally just are not up to it, either skills, time, or progress-wise. Grisha’s BAT book is technically much longer than my treasured Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell, but it shares the same sensibility of giving people what they need to know, including the encouragement and the “this is the real world so things aren’t always going to go perfectly so here’s what you can do when it hits the fan,” so that they can get on with the process of helping their dogs and making progress with doing so. This then reinforces ‘them’ for the time and effort they have put in and encourages them to stick to the training and keep going even with the natural ups and downs involving in any training and with behaviour problems that sometimes are going to take a long while to resolve in full. To this end, the info graphics are invaluable. Paired with the prose explanations, they accommodate different human learning styles as well as providing repetition of key information while presenting it in a new way each time. Information may not be fully grasped or retained on the first pass but beating a dead horse is also ineffective in keeping a learner engaged with material and ensuring retention because they will start to tune out the information-provider or pair that mental departure with a physical one (closing a book in this case). The clear, concise info graphics bypass this problem and their “cute” nature, which I admittedly enjoy for its own sake, also helps keep the learner engaged and puts them at ease, because owning, no less trying to rehabilitate, a “problem” dog can cause a great deal of continual stress and tension so a “friendly”-looking manual is helpful.

Now, on to the actual methodology and content in general. I love the elegant simplicity of skilful, humane use of negative reinforcement for training and serious behaviour rehab and BAT clearly fits the bill. Especially as explained in Grisha’s lovely manual, it is easy to understand and apply, even and especially for the average pet owner, kind and effective for the dog, and while not ideal, it can be done and progress can be made, and safely, even if one is not able to procure the training decoys and spaces necessary for formal BAT set-ups. CAT (Constructional Aggression Treatment) also partakes of the elegant simplicity but having the trigger move away is something that is unlikely to happen naturally or regularly or that you can prompt to happen with regularity on everyday walks either at all or without alarming your dog, since you would need to tell someone, possibly at a distance away, meaning raising your voice, to put distance between themselves and any dogs with them and your own dog once you had marked a more appropriate distance-increasing social signal (say, a head turn as opposed to an old behaviour of lunging, snarling, etc). BAT places the onus on you to provide the distance that rewards your dog’s new, more appropriate social signalling, so regardless of the potential amenability or not of triggers encountered on daily walks to being roped into a training set-up, you will still be able to successfully and repeatedly perform informal set-ups. Of course, real life happens, which is why the chapter on safety and management is invaluable and worth the price of the book on its own. If you follow Grisha’s directives, and the book makes it, as I already mentioned, very easy to do so, the deck will be strongly stacked in your and your dog’s favour so that strong rehearsal of “problem” behaviour is unlikely (i.e. that your dog ends up with a bite history or more of one or becomes even more and extremely fearful if it was a cautious-but-highly-bite-inhibited dog) and you will know when and how to intervene if your dog starts to go over-threshold.

The appendices could count as a small book or large booklet on their own and like the chapter on safety and management essentials are worth the admission price. I have my own favourite training manual and general approach but Appendix I makes a great, already there at your disposal intro to clicker training and to a selection of core behaviours that are useful and desirable in general and especially so to readers and clients with “problem” dogs. Feeling overwhelmed can be a major factor in quitting or in giving up before even beginning so including a small and once again “friendly” primer for basic training is a great way to keep people “in the game” and able to succeed easily. There is a nice mix of prose, info graphics, and photos of actual people and their dogs and the information is already there in the same small paperback as the behaviour modification info. That is key, because then the reader or client does not feel overfaced by a large reading list on top of all of the management and training they will soon be doing and they also only have to read, remember, and have at hand one volume. The other appendices are also excellent, although those who are not serious non-pros, trainers, and behaviorists may want to accept Grisha’s free-pass to skip over them totally or for the moment to prevent information overload, especially when it does not directly relate to being able to apply BAT to their dog. My caveat though is that reading Appendix 4, “Trainers and Clients Share Their Experiences with BAT,” might help readers and clients feel encouraged and empowered to start and to stick with the training, since the stories in those chapters include a variety of dogs with a variety of issues and how BAT was able to help them and some of the stories are from pet owners themselves, not from pros. Ending out of order, I loved, though it is probably the least practicable/relevant to the average pet owner, is Appendix 3, “For Trainers and Behaviorists: Geek Speak on Terms and Quadrants,” especially for dealing with the thorny and sometimes divisive issue of what operant conditioning quadrants are and are not “good”/acceptable for clicker/positive/purely positive/etc trainers to use and whether BAT will get your clicker membership card revoked. :) I may have to just refer people to that section of Appendix 3 in the future since Grisha’s views echo my own and offer a more concrete way of explaining to people that I am a Suzanne Clothier-style “light in the dog’s eye” trainer and let the dog define what is humane and effective instead of becoming caught up in quadrants at the dog’s expense and at the cost of an open, flexible mind and creative, humane, encompassing training.
3 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Behavior Adjustment Training.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

December 2, 2011 – Started Reading
December 3, 2011 – Shelved
December 3, 2011 – Shelved as: canines
December 3, 2011 – Shelved as: own
December 3, 2011 –
page 90
December 4, 2011 –
page 155
December 4, 2011 –
page 172
December 5, 2011 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.