Do you use BAT and leash skills?

Out with the girls

While I’ve been separated from our two monsters this summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about my poor leash-handling skills and the need to approximate off-leash walks in our small (but busy) town when we return in August. We have a lot of training to do, and I am excited about the continued challenge of working with our leash-reactive shepherds.

We have leash laws in my town and in our parks and on trails, so it will still be rare for our dogs to experience off-leash freedom, but I want to be able to simulate the experience of off-leash walking with them, as they are both leash reactive to other dogs.

I started thinking about Grisha Stewart’s Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) again after reading Patricia McConnell’s recent review of Stewart’s new book, BAT 2.0. I read Stewart’s first book, but I don’t think I really let the principles of BAT sink in. (Clearly, I didn’t, because I still have two leash-reactive dogs.) I was also grateful to find this recent post from Anne at All Dogs Are Smart, which is very helpful and includes some great videos on how to teach loose-leash walking (with harnesses) as well.

I would like to apply some BAT leash-handling principles but also add a food reward. Our dogs are highly food motivated, and BAT often seems a bit too “mystical” for my taste (and I am not sure our dogs would discern any reward or positive reinforcement from some of its techniques, such as “mime pulling”).

Thanksgiving in Davidson
My husband walking Eden this past fall.

Accordingly, here’s my game plan for modified BAT:

  1. Start working each dog, individually, on 15-foot leads (I like these biothane leashes from All K-9). The “individually” part is what is going to be a pain and be time-consuming, but it’s essential to work with them separately until they both have a handle on the new regime (and until I am totally up to speed with my new leash-handling skills).
  2. Start training inside, in the basement. Graduate to the backyard and then to the front walk, on up, over the weeks, until we are ready for a full walk.
  3. Implement rewards for sticking with me (and not pulling; looking at you, Eden), coming to my side when signaled, and ignoring triggers.
  4. Teach a “leave it” cue for other dogs/people, which means “don’t look at that; look at me and wait for a treat.”
  5. Then, finally, try some walks in the real world!

Do you use BAT techniques? How do you help your reactive dog on walks?

Previously in this series of thinking about dogs off leash:

Playing with Georgia

We spent another lovely, peaceful weekend with my in-laws and with the fast-growing baby Georgia!

Look how long her legs are now!

Playing with Georgia

These two continue to get on brilliantly. They romped and played all weekend long.

Playing with Georgia

Playing with Georgia

While there were a few moments in which Pyrrha would get annoyed with Georgia’s constant puppy antics, for the most part, she was very patient and gentle with her. It’s interesting to me how great she is with Georgia and how she wasn’t all that enthused with Laszlo. (I also wonder if this has something to do with the fact that Laszlo was all up in her space.)

Playing with Georgia

Update on Pyrrha’s leash reactivity:

We took the girls on several walks over the weekend. We passed a handful of dogs, and Pyrrha had two negative reactions. The first was at a golden retriever who barked and lunged at her, so she responded in kind. The second was at a pair of smaller dogs (looked like an American Eskimo and a JRT) and her reaction somewhat surprised me there, since the dogs didn’t seem very interested in her.

When walking her solo, however (apart from Georgia), she had no reactions to other dogs who passed her. Again, this leads me to believe that her aggressive reaction has something to do with either protectiveness (over Georgia) or boosted confidence (because of Georgia’s presence), leading her to put on a big show.

While I am thankful that she doesn’t display this behavior when being walked solo (she very happily and gently met a black lab puppy last night on our stroll), it is still something to be worked on, particularly as we may be getting our third foster soon. I hope to enlist Guion’s help with this and to apply some of the principles of LAT or BAT.

Playing with Georgia

Otherwise, we are expecting to have Georgia (and her humans) come visit us in mid-May, for Guion’s graduation from his graduate program. We are looking forward to it already!