Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Fear, Frustration and Aggression in Dogs

PUBLISHING YEAR: 2011Stewart - Behavior Adjustment Training

SUMMARY: Exhaustive manual about Grisha Stewart’s influential BAT behaviour therapy techniques

AUDIENCE: Although the book is reasonably jargon-free, it relies on much experience to make the best use of it. A reader may want to read it to understand the underlying principles, whilst being coached by a certified BAT professional on execution. Warning, the review below does make use of jargon.

02 Professional


The author: Grisha Stewart is a leading figure in the do-no-harm dog training community. With her MSc in Mathematics and years of field experience in dog training, she has managed to put together an internally consistent behaviour adjustment model that has revolutionarized how dog professionals treat fear in domestic dogs. She is a popular public speaker on dog training matters, and has run various successful dog training enterprises for years in her home in Alaska.

Style and contents: BAT distinguishes itself from other behavioural treatments for dog reactivity mainly in that it uses functional rewards: giving the dog what it really wants (distance to what scares it, not necessarily food) as a reward for acting more calmly. It also focuses on a powerful concept: making it clear to the dog what choice is more desirable at critical moments, when the dog decides whether to escalate the tension, or disengage. It also makes explicit use of the dog’s comfort distance, reducing the risk of classic desensitization and counterconditioning blunders.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Lili Chin, THE serious trainers’ artist for dog illustrations. Some of the illustrations have become daily work aids for me (e.g. the classic threshold showing body language signs on a continuum from indifference to sensitizing to reacting.

The gems

The concept of BAT in itself is enough of a gem if you ask me, but here are some specific bonuses about the book:

  • The thesholds illustration remains a classic Chin illustration and can be used for any explanation about sensitization/desensitization/body language, not just BAT (p. 5).
  • (p. 30) Great ‘escalated response’ steps on asking people to keep their dogs away from your reactive dogs
  • (p. 30) Great suggestions for breaking up a dog fight (nope, no miracle cure here, and a very honest account of the risks)
  • In characteristic exhaustive fashion, Grisha has put together a breakdown of the safety precautions in and out of the house for families living with a reactive dog.
  • Finally an author who devotes a whole chapter to the treatment of frustrating greeters (chapter 8).
  • Great step-by-step explanations for classic protocols like the emergency u-turn (p. 140), or how to get your dog’s attention back with minimal prompting (p. 149).
  • An an interesting segment on the evolution of the BAT idea, and the inspiration it drew from existing techniques (p. 157)

Possible points for optimization  

  • The book’s strength is also its weakness: the systematic exhaustiveness of each topic reviewed makes for very dense reading.
  • The testimonials section did not add much in my view, and would have been more appropriate on a website promoting the technique, rather than in the book itself.
  • The setups are extremely prescriptive, down to the minutest way  in which to hold the leash and controlling the distance/intensity of the stimulus dog. Whilst I understand the value of such precautions, it bears a poor fit with clinical practice and needs to be approached more loosely if BAT is to be widely adopted.

The verdict: If you are a dog behaviour professional, familiarising yourself with BAT is imperative. At the time of writing (13 Nov 2015), though, the revised BAT book was either about to come out, or had just come out, with fundamental changes. I shall review the latest one shortly.

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Author: Stewart Grisha
Genre: professional manual
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