Relocating Puppies helped by Using BAT
Readers of my blog may have seen posts recently about a litter of miniature poodle puppies I have been involved with.
Read my previous blog on the importance of the first 14 weeks of life for a puppy.
Sadly the time had come when these lovely puppies had to move out into the big wide world, to live with new owners. I got a call from a lovely couple living in Sydney very keen on one of the black girls. After a long chat I found they lived in an inner city apartment in Sydney, were very active outdoors, experienced with poodles and very keen to adopt one of the girls. We settled on the more outgoing of the two black girls for them as we felt she would be more likely to adapt to their lifestyle and environment.
Poodles are smart, intelligent and protective. They were initially bred as retrievers or gun dogs and have a reputation at times to be noisy due to their inherent tendency to react to environmental stimuli, barking and alerting to let their companions know something strange is about. These poodles had been born and raised in a small country town of approximately 2000 people. When I got the call from the couple in Sydney I was naturally apprehensive about how a country born, genetically reactive dog would fit into a busy inner-city environment.
Luckily I had attended a seminar recently where I got the opportunity to further my knowledge about a training technique called Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) developed by Grisha Stewart MA, CPDT-KA.
“This technique was developed to rehabilitate dogs who are reactive by looking at why the dog is reactive and helping him to meet his needs in other ways. It is a dog-friendly application of ‘functional analysis’ that gives the dog a chance to learn to control their own comfort level through peaceful means. “ http://functionalrewards.com/
I immediately added BAT to my training techniques with these puppies. They lived on a property and had started reacting to the cows when they came near the house. With the pups free I allowed the initial reaction and then said “yes” as they turned their heads. Soon the pups were far less reactive to the cows. I then applied this process to any time they reacted to any environmental stimulus. Saying yes the minute they turned their heads. If necessary I then also redirected them away from the stimulus, however as they were off lead this was entirely up to them to move away.
Fast forward onto last Wednesday when black girl was placed in a crate at 8 am in the morning, separated from her sisters, mother, father and other friends and driven to Sydney (500 kms away) She was the world’s worst travelling companion as she slept the entire way, walking only when the car stopped for her to have a wee break. Travelling around Sydney doing a few other errands we finally arrived at her new home at 6.30 pm. It was not until the last 15 minutes of the whole trip that she got restless. Getting her out of the car we went to the closest patch of park-like grass which happened to be where all the local dogs were off lead having fun chasing balls, running in the fountain and playing doggie / human games. In addition there was a group of teenagers busking and generally skylarking. All of this was in the middle of tall skyscrapers, neon city lighting, more people, dogs and cars in a small area than this pup had ever seen in her entire life. If ever there was a time that trigger stacking could occur we were in it.
I immediately started doing BAT with anything and everything she was thinking about reacting to. Very quickly she was looking at the trigger and offering me an almost immediate head turn. I had never trained her to these triggers and I was astounded at her ability to generalize the technique she had learnt on cows to weird guy in funny hat carrying a guitar, strange car right next to her, dogs of breeds she had never seen, the fountain making a weird noise and numerous other triggers.
We then left the park to investigate her new home. Remember this is a dog that had previously only seen a house on one level with one door in and out. The new home was on the 8th floor of a large apartment block, complete with automatic opening doors, security swipe card system to enter, a lift and mirrors on every wall. Poor dog thought she had walked into a room full of all these black poodle puppies staring back at her in a totally confrontational manner, and that was before getting into the lift which also had mirrors and those black puppies. I was doing what seemed to be continuous BAT training and she never went over threshold. Wow was I impressed as were her new owners.
Upstairs she took to her new crate, new mat, new toys and her new owners in an exceptionally fast fashion. I stayed for nearly two hours making sure the new owners had all the techniques and information needed to make her transition comfortable for everyone and then commenced the drive home, shedding a few tears as I left but secure in the knowledge Sitges now had a great new home. I have since had a couple of texts saying she has settled in really well.
Am I hooked on BAT?
You bet, it has not replaced any of my other training methods but it has added a powerful tool to my bag of tricks as a positive reward based trainer and I will be using it as often as possible on dogs of all ages and temperaments.
Thank you Grisha Stewart for such a great technique and when is the BAT for puppies’ book being released?
The Pet Care Magician
http://www.elitepetcare.com.au | www.petcaremagician.com
Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.