Two BAT set-ups – January 2014 (BEFORE BAT 2.0)

February 10, 2014 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

I want to share some photos and observations from the two BAT set-ups that Boogie and I did last month.

**Please note that when we did these set-ups I had not read all the new BAT 2.0 instructions. The new BAT handouts weren’t available yet.** 

SET-UP #1
Location: A park in Torrance.
Student Dog 1: BOOGIE with me
Student Dog 2: BENTLEY with Kristin Burke
Naturally occurring reinforcers: Lots of grass, trash cans, a fence to sniff/pee on +  information from the other dogs/people in the park.
Natural triggers/aversives: Really hot midday sun, one reactive dog in the distance, open field with flat horizon so any people/dogs in the distance were more obvious (Sudden environmental changes)
Food reinforcer: Ham

Bentley is Kristin Burke‘s cattledog. We started at the distance shown in the photo below, and ended with both dogs about 20-30 feet from each other, with a fence in between.

20140102_110340

20140102_111045

SET UP #2
Location: Elysian Park.
Student dog: BOOGIE with me and Megan McGrath
Helper dog: MURRAY with Chelsea
Naturally occurring reinforcers: Grass, trees, bushes, trashcans, picnic tables, squirrels, lots of smells, giant space + information from other people/dogs
Natural triggers/aversives: Joggers, loose dogs in the distance
Food reinforcer: Turkey

Murray is Megan McGrath‘s very mellow black lab. Chelsea handled Murray while Megan walked behind me to observe and offer guidance whenever I needed it. Boogie and I  moved all around the park, sort of circling closer towards Murray, with breaks.  We also did some parallel walking with a fence between the two dogs and eventually, the two dogs met.

BATtingwithMurray

These two occasions were cool because we had the luxury of large spaces to work in that were quite peaceful, and Boogie was able to move around all over the place, in any direction, and take breaks whenever we needed to.  I felt like I was finally doing  BAT in the right sort of environment. There was a very low risk of off-leash or reactive dogs suddenly appearing. Not like my busy neighborhood street where I am constantly in ninja mode.

The updated version of BAT by Grisha Stewart is intended to be much more organic (ie, not moving back and forth in straight lines). The emphasis is now not so much on marking and rewarding specific behaviors like cut-off signals, and more on letting the dog navigate the environment.

“BAT 2.0 wasn’t developed because something was wrong with BAT 1.0, but because I was concerned about how people interpreted what I said. For example, people tended to go too close to the trigger (and walk right at it in order to get a cut-off signal. We can work at a much more subtle level and that’s what BAT 2.0 is.” – Grisha on Facebook

As I understand it, our role is to help the dog navigate on his own as much as possible… being as minimally intrusive as possible, but letting him walk in any direction he wants to except directly at the trigger.  Grisha uses the lifeguard analogy: Imagine that our dog is exploring on a beach and we (the human) are the “lifeguard” making sure our dog stays on the shore doesn’t move into the water.

The handler’s role is to rescue the dog when he’s in trouble. It would be annoying to have the lifeguard continually bugged you while you were just fine. Working at the right distance in an interesting environment means that the dog is able to do something for a bit and then choose to look up and engage with the other dog for a bit, then move on. The decoy is also just doing the same thing. So when they look at each other, there is a conversation going on. There is a chance for the dog to say, “wow, that guy isn’t so bad, after all.” – Grisha on Facebook

Our job is to give the dog plenty of space to explore and process what he is looking at, to encourage him to move in arcs and zigzags instead of directly approaching the trigger dog. We work on our leash-handling skills and make use of the environment & reward-based games as much as possible eg,  letting Boogie sniff and explore trees, bushes, trash cans, etc. and throwing treats on the ground “Find it!”

These BAT set-ups felt more like  ‘walks in the park’ than  formalized training sessions. Exploring, sniffing, eating, …. this is all stuff that Boogie would naturally want to do anyway.

In Elysian Park, twice Boogie  jumped up onto a picnic table and sat there to check out the scene. (Boogie likes jumping up on things) He could see Murray and he could see other dogs/joggers/woodland creatures far away. Best view of the park ever. After a while it seemed like he wasn’t going to move so I called him off with treats.

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Observations:

1. “frustration”
I notice that at some point during the walk-in-the-park, Boogie’s curiosity or disinterest turned into frustration. It was as if he got “partially sucked into a vortex” (Megan’s words) and he started whining, looking at me, and pulling forwards towards the trigger, like he really really really had to meet the other dog. This happened during both BAT set-ups with both Bentley and Murray. It wasn’t that he was seeing them for the first time, it was more like he had suddenly become magnetized and turned into a “frustrated greeter”.

Boogs-BAT-frustration

I had trouble with the “slow stop” or “rebalancing” because Boogie was pulling so hard.  I get eye contact from Boogie while he is pulling so it’s not like he is blowing me off… it feels more like he is desperately pleading with me and I think I may have reinforced this behavior many times because I get suckered in by that look on his face. Megan’s suggestion was that I move backwards, further away from the trigger OR move in an arc/diagonal direction/sideways towards the trigger. (Grisha: “Any direction, except straight towards the trigger”) Food on the ground helped take his mind off the trigger. The variety of trees, posts, trash cans and bushes for sniffing and peeing on helped too.

Boogs-BAT-Findit

And then when we were out of the frustration vortex, Boogie was able again to move in different directions and focus on different things. We moved closer to the trigger from the side.

2. “treat, please” (possibly over-threshold)
As we got closer to the trigger dog, Boogie switched to “Look At That”/counter conditioning mode. (Megan: “He is now in working mode”) He would look at the dog and then look at me. Treat. Look at dog, look at me, treat. I got A LOT of eye contact from him as we moved in closer  to Murray. Then he just ignored Murray the entire time and stared at me. This is the 10-30 feet zone, which is pretty much the distance we are forced to work with,  everyday on the streets of my busy neighborhood. The appearance or presence of any dog or person at this distance has been a cue for Boogie to turn around and look at me  – Yes! and treat – this game is a normal part of our daily walking ritual.  (See illustration in previous blog post ) I know that according to the BAT set-up guide, I am not supposed to use food if there are naturally occuring reinforcers (ie, environmental reinforcers) but I found it hard NOT to give Boogie a treat when he was so super focused on me.

Boogs-BAT-workmode

There was also the possibility of an Elephant In The Room type situation. How to reinforce more naturalistic movement? When Boogie has his attention set on receiving food, he doesn’t want to move. One solution was throwing food on the ground to encourage him to move further away from the trigger and for me to pay closer attention to subtler signs of stress and stopped Boogie further away from the “shore line”.  I think we might have gone too close a little too soon.

According to the  BAT 2.0 Survival Skills handout  this is the Mark And Move protocol…. which was sort of what I was doing.

3. The environment is a big deal
To Boogie, Elysian Park was way more interesting than the park in Torrance. There were so many nooks and crannies and trees and stuff. Lots of naturally-occurring reinforcers. There may even have been squirrels.  The park in Torrance was an open soccer field, and we were moving around under the hot midday sun so Boogie spent lots of time lying down in the shade of a trashcan. He didn’t feel like moving much. When he disengaged from looking at Bentley, he  turned only his head to look at me… still lying there.  I think the cool grass was relief from the heat. I waited for him to be ready to get up and move around and used food lures but he was less interested in food and seemed more interested in leaving the  park. I don’t think this wanting to leave was about the trigger dog. I think it was the heat that was stressful. (Grisha: “This would have been a good time to end the session”)

Boogs-BAT-lying down

4. The Close-Up part 
I know that  my own stress and uncertainty affects what happens in the final zone (about 5 feet distance). I always feel unsure what is going to happen with Boogie because he has a history of stiffening up as soon as he sniffs another dog. Everything that has happened prior to the final zone could have gone wonderfully (with Boogie remaining under threshold) but I, the human, have been classically-conditioned to expect the worst and so I unconsciously hold my breath and/or grip tight on that leash handle and forget that I have meaty treats in my pocket to call him away with. This is the part of BAT I can’t do on my own… I need a professional dog trainer with me to do commentary on what is happening and to remind me to relax…

So now there is a new BAT 2.0 Flowchart which is very helpful! (It’s locked into my brain now because I illustrated it)

BAT2.0flowchart

From what I can see, the key moments to consider are… When Boogie sees the trigger…

1. Does he look relaxed like he is getting info? If Yes, then I wait. If No, then I call him away ASAP. (aka Mark and Move)
2. How does he disengage? If it’s easy, DO NOTHING. (Doing NOTHING is not easy when you are used to always doing something!) Follow him. If it’s hard and he seems stuck, wait for disengagement and move further away.

*After these experiences, MORE BAT information has become available with some useful tips and illustrations (by me!)

Here are the links:

What is BAT 2.0 – new!

New BAT 2.0 handouts

BAT Los Angeles Facebook Group (invite only)

Grisha Stewart Interview on BAT2.0 on the Modern Dog Training And Behavior Advice  Facebook Group. (Alt link: Saved HERE)

Intro to BAT for Reactivity – 2 hr webinar  Feb 12th. 2014! I will be on the road listening in on my phone!

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Entry filed under: BAT sessions, Training.

A good start to 2014! Crossing Over…

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