Does the title sound like a Dr. Seuss book? I confess, the hat part I threw in just because. Hat, as pertaining to dog training really means nothing. Except possibly as viewed perched atop Bridget’s head. However, LAT and BAT are acronyms for current and popular dog training protocols, with a wide variety of uses. Links will be provided; my intent is to give a general overview.
LAT literally is Look At That, as in the dog training game popularized by Philadelphia’s Leslie McDevitt, author of Control Unleashed. If your dog is overly amped up in general, do investigate. Essentially, dogs are rewarded for looking at the very thing (trigger) that elicits fear or reactivity. Suppose your dog is afraid of kids. While walking past the playground, every time Susie looks at a kid you mark that behavior and immediately deliver a treat. Guess what? Susie is learning to look at the scary thing and feel better about it.
Dogs understand this very clear communication; marking successful behavior (yes you just did the right thing) and delivering a treat immediately. What could be easier? Anyways, I digress.(As Dr. Ian Dunbar rather famously says.) Take a peek at the LAT video demo; observe a dog being rapidly reinforced for looking at a trigger (another dog.) Why do I love this? People understand, dogs get it and you can use this to make dogs feel better about a wide variety of triggers.
So often we force our dogs NOT to look at the scary thing, requiring they WATCH ME while the scary thing looms in the background. Sure, we end up with a dog who will stare at us, but do they really feel better about the scary thing? Not so much. In order to address fears, you need to regard that which elicits fear. I must add: all this work is done at or below stress threshold, at a distance where your dog is alert to the trigger but not reacting.
Look at that, let`s move on to BAT, known as Behavior Adjustment Training. What do I love about BAT? We are marking naturally occurring dog body language and reinforcing correct choices. Being able to disengage (hey dude its` cool) from another dog, instead of staring and escalating is highly desirable. And guess what? We can teach our dogs to make these choices. As opposed to the immediate reinforcement of LAT, we turn and move away ~ 15 feet, then reinforce with a treat. The latter is really viewed as a bonus; the **functional** reward ( what the dog really wants) is being able to move away from the trigger, in most cases.
Suppose you make the choice of going to another check out line instead of yelling at the slow person in front, and score a bag of hershey kisses. Might you be more inclined to repeat this behavior as opposed to aggressing towards that which annoys you? If you are now thoroughly confused, visit Grisha Stewart’s Official Bat Page for a wonderfully clear overview and outstanding illustrations. I highly recommend Grisha`s Behavior Adjustment Training book and have been using these protocols often in my own dog training. Recently I was fortunate enough to see Grisha at the California APDT Conference.
Training scenario: My 6 year old English lab Talley has a distinct aversion to humans wearing coveralls, and the neighbor is raking leaves (even worse) dressed thus. Following is a brief description of how I might use each technique.
LAT: Stroll Talley past at a distance where she can remain calm (at stress threshold) without becoming reactive (bark lunge) and click/treat every time she regards the raker of leaves. Continue doing thus at a comfortable distance for a few minutes, then move off and take a break. Return and do another few minutes. It can help to count out a finite number of treats, say 15, for each short session.
BAT: Comfortable non-reactive approach towards the cover-alled boogey person: wait for the look, the disengage,(look away) mark latter, walk/jog away 15 feet and deliver a treat. Continue, gradually moving closer, so long as Talley remains at or below stress threshold. The neighbor, unaware that they are a training “set up” in a controlled environment, probably wonders what the Sam Hill you are doing. Just smile and wave!
All dogs deserve another chance, as behavior issues are never their fault. These are but brief overviews of BAT LAT but not HAT, alternative methods you may want to investigate. From my perspective, both are very useful and practical, (can literally use anywhere) and can work for a wide variety of dogs. I wholeheartedly recommend any dog training professional and/or dog owner take a look at BAT and LAT.
Until next week, Leslie Fisher, Pat Miller Certified Trainer, CPDT-KA
Cecil County MD “your pet positively trained”