BAT Even Helps Service Dog Teams Walk Better!

Guest blogger Kate Rehman

Guest post by Kate Rehman of K9 Triumph Training

I am disabled young lady who has a service dog to mitigate my disabilities in my every day life. I do tons of charity volunteer training sessions which are private one on one with rescues, pets, fosters and service dogs.

When you at me, you won't see my disabilities; they're invisible.  Rest assured they do exist. I am Deaf; a rare genetic disease is to blame, amongst other disabling issues. I do not hear at all. My service dog alerts me for fire alarms, knocking, my name, dropped items that hit the floor, and other sounds that I might not notice.

I am owner/trainer of K9 Triumph Training, which focuses on empowered canine partnership.
Allow dogs to sniff when possible

I have had the pleasure of implementing Grisha's BAT techniques/protocols with service dogs.

At K9 Triumph, I frequently have had disabled handlers who have had traumatic experiences with their service dogs on or off duty or their service dogs have picked up some unwanted behaviors.

By law, service animals must be under control when working. That means we have to figure out ways to reestablish training, and 'empowered partnership' means we do it in a way that also meets the dogs' emotional needs.

This is where Grisha's BAT leash protocols come in. Within 2-3 sessions of BAT leash skills, their dogs are relaxed, calmer and walking loosely without pulling. They are checking in with their handlers and stopping waiting for to catch up (hence before they would just pull).

I go through the handler's stance by gliding my hands over their shoulders (with permission). I go over their arms, their wrists and hands. I tell them what their body is showing, their energy, and what I see with their body language. Dogs responds to this.

When we walk I watch the handler and how they walk. I stop them, ask questions and get in their minds/what they are feeling?

My questions are, 'Are you in the moment?' and 'Can you look at how you holding the leash?' I slide my hands gently down the leash and pull a tad (this is where you are creating tension).  I remind them, 'Remember to be in the moment with your partner.'

 I physically move their arm, gently guide their hands, I tell them to relax.

[Grisha's note - touching the client can be distracting or it can be really useful. Please use your best judgement when working with clients and always get their consent, verbally and by observing their body language! Just as with the dogs, we need to respect their boundaries.]

 Communication goes down this leash. I role play the motions and slightly coach them by physically showing them how to walk with their service dogs. Not the dog walking them, or us walking the dog. It's a unified skill. Togetherness. Partnership. After all these are working dogs, not pets. They go above and beyond the call of duty. These service dogs save our lives every day.

Usually the handlers are almost paranoid, edgy and worried about judgement when we start; trying to correct their dog every move they make.

I tell them the vest is off, they are with me to learn and no judgement here. Only good things.
I am here to help and empower them as a team.
As take my harness out and properly fit it onto a dog (whichever breed I have that's in service). We treat and reward for acceptance of the harness. Then we walk. No expectations, no tension and we walk with 12 feet of leash.

We let them sniff and as they start to pull I slowly and gently stop the leash and turn/bend and make kissing sounds; as the dog immediately comes, I reward and smile. Usually we continue this one way. We allow the dog to be busy and sniff again, but if they pull we turn a different direction: bend, turn, kissing sounds and again the dog comes immediately and is rewarded. As I am finishing, reeling the leash in without tension, I treat and give a friendly smile.
Power is the dog's choosing to come. We start with the dog taking an entire slack with the lead wanting to pull.
On the way back from one way walking; the dog is voluntarily looking at me and walking beside me on a loose on the leash.

It takes no time for them to figure out and we have communicated clearly what we would like.

 After we are done a few rounds I pass the dog off to the disabled owner/handler. I get shocks of laughter, surprise and their dismay. Is this my dog? What have you done with my service dog?
Their dog is relaxed, no tension and choosing to walk nicely with their handler.

No fighting, no pulling back and no frustration.

The team's energy shifts. Walking is now enjoyable. Working or not.
I get a ton of pullers as clients. They all cannot believe the change. That's what BAT is about. Behavior Adjustment Training.

Even though some don't have fearful or aggressive issues, the BAT leash protocols work excellent for unwanted behaviors and habits that have formed.

 I continue to enjoy seeing these service dogs be in sync with their handlers and being able to master leash walking skills by their choices. All we do is show them and they follow through. They give so much to us with serving.

We need to give respect and empathy to these amazing working dogs. BAT is one great way to help these dogs, whether it's maintenance BAT leash protocols or BAT aggressive and fearful adjustment training.

Things happen on the job, but there is a solution, and if handlers are willing to find a professional trainer that does BAT things could definitely turn around for all.

Thank you for reading!
Kate Rehman
'Empowered Canine Partnership'

Related article: BAT = BRILLIANT + AWESOME + TREMENDOUS! about using BAT to train assistance dogs in Canada

To learn more about BAT, visit Grisha's Campus Store for a self-paced online courses, streaming videos, and the BAT book.