All posts by Jill Olkoski

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BAT = Brilliant + Awesome + Tremendous!

Guest post from Margaret Hicks and Tara Dong of Pacific Assistance Dogs

Behaviour Adjustment Training it may be, but Brilliant+Awesome+Tremendous is what I want to answer whenever a new puppy-raiser asks what BAT stands for.

PADS (Pacific Assistance Dogs Society) raises and trains highly skilled Assistance Dogs for those with physical disabilities or who are deaf/hard-of-hearing. In addition, we train Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI) Dogs for placement in intervention settings with community professionals such as RCMP, counselors, therapists and teachers. It goes without saying that our dogs—who will eventually accompany their partners everywhere they go—must be confident, and well in control of their behaviour and emotions.

Some think that assistance dogs are a “super breed” that never bark, bounce or really even breathe… the reality is a success rate of roughly 50% (industry wide). This means 50% of our dogs are too “enthusiastic”, or too fearful, or too calm/passive, or have health issues) to be successful as working dogs.

As a member of Assistance Dogs International, our staff and trainers are exposed to some of the best knowledge and trainers in the industry. Collaboration is rich and the sharing of knowledge and experience is abundant. So it was the most fortuitous discovery when one day, our training manager stumbled upon BAT on YouTube while searching for something that demonstrated a technique she’d seen at a recent conference. Her reaction was instant: “This is BRILLIANT!”

As a result, when our school offered to host the 2013 ADI trainers conference, it was a natural fit to invite Grisha Stewart. She arranged for Joey Iversen to conduct a workshop for conference attendees as well as our own volunteers. It took our initial excitement and firmly grounded it into our program.

Now, we’ve integrated BAT into our volunteer puppy-raising program. These volunteers range from stay-at-home moms and retirees to singles living in downtown skyscrapers — they raise our young pups for roughly 14-16 months, attending weekly puppy classes, socializing and teaching them foundational skills.

While BAT is an amazing tool to empower reactive dogs that have existing issues, we have integrated as a foundational skill for our program. We have the privilege many do not in that we have our pups from birth, so are able to use BAT as a foundational tool to allow our volunteers to be successful and empower our dogs to build trust in their handler and confidence in their environment as they grow.

To illustrate the evolution that has taken place we introduce you to 3 of our dogs, pre-BAT “Ruby”, BAT-1.0 “Merlot” and our latest BAT 2.0 pup “Seven”.

Ruby | 2007

A sweet black lab named Ruby entered our program about 8 years ago (pre BAT). She was a push button dog, you showed her, she learned it. You asked for it she did it. Her willingness and smarts were rockstar material. She was biddable and silly, intelligent and willing. But what we couldn’t seem to give her was confidence. She crumbled under the pressures of public places, stress-forging on leash, losing control of her bladder when startled by strangers and shutting down and digging in her heels when we’d attempt to help her overcome fear with lures and rewards. Belugas to bearded men, waterfalls to car alarms, Ruby was a worrier. Her fears didn’t start out big, at first they were just a sideways look. But looking back knowing what I know now, I wonder who she would have become if those initial sideways looks had been given the time and space to build confidence. At nine months she was released from the program for generalized suspicion. A heartbreaking decision, she was a dog with so much ability and who was otherwise so well suited for a working career.

Merlot | 2013

Fast forward a few years, and Merlot, another black lab arrives. She’s an enthusiastic girl with a natural off switch, equally happy laying at your feet for hours on end or outrunning every dog at the park. In public she pads along, shuffling her feet like an old soul. She accompanies her raisers everywhere—whether it’s the mall, fireworks, concerts and sporting events. Like Ruby, she encounters things that cause her to pause, but her raisers are now familiar with BAT and see the subtle changes in her body language in new environments -- a hesitation -- her ears flattening slightly or and her “old man shuffle” turning into a bouncy prance. One such outing was to the PNE, an exhibition in Vancouver, BC with lots of large farm animals, crowds, a midway and strange sights and smells. There in the barns she met “Big Bob” a 3500lb bull. As she approached he stormed up to the edge of his pen snorting at her in protest. Merlot hit the opposite end of her leash, tail tucked, visibly shaken.

It was time for BAT. This was a girl at her most fearful. She was shut down, tail tucked, feet firmly planted, eyes fixed on “Big Bob” and unwilling to take her eyes away even for food. Her handler moved towards her gently and waited for any indication she was calming. Within a few moments she dropped her ears and turned her head. They moved away. She took in the environment. Approached. Retreated. Within 10 minutes Merlot was nose to nose with Bob. It all happened in the quiet and calm…

As the months went on, there would often be things that would give Merlot reason to pause. A statue, a piece of heavy equipment, even a particularly high frequency hair dryer at a salon … each time the BAT sessions would get shorter. Today she’s a self-assured two-year old that moderates her own worries and concerns with ease and rarely needs assistance to do so.

Seven | 2014

This spunky little yellow Labrador, from our “Star Trek” litter is named for the character Seven of Nine (though rumour has it that it’s also because she channels the energy of 7 puppies in one tiny body). Very early Seven showed us that what she lacked in size, she made up for in spunk. Even at 4 weeks old she was smart and feisty and took great pleasure in using her sibling’s tails as tug toys and zooming with glee. A leash was a force to be reckoned with and her off switch was non-existent. Seven is naturally a high arousal (lunging/barking) pup, particularly around other dogs and cats…or food or leaves or people or anything that was exciting to her in the moment. She would wake at 7:30 in the morning and often not close her eyes for more than a minute or two until 10pm at night.

And then BAT began to “happen”. Nothing prepared us for the remarkable power it would have in this young girl. We began using BAT with her off and on at roughly 6 weeks old (when she was still in the whelping home and obsessing over the resident cat). But in her first two weeks of puppy-raising she's gone from a roughly 25' threshold around other animals to being calm, cool and collected within 2 feet of stimuli at just 10 weeks old. This remarkable transformation in her self- regulation seems to have extended into all aspects of her training.

Why does this matter so much?

Our Volunteers | High-energy/arousal dogs are exhausting, challenging puppies, so providing volunteer raisers with positive, effective solutions and tools is essential. Clicker training will reward desirable behaviour, but more often than not our raisers would say “This puppy gives me nothing to click” – BAT resolved that. Even when there was opportunity to click, the timing was challenging for a lot of new raisers. BAT gives the dogs (and their people) the tools they need to shine and to experience success at a very young age; simple, easy to understand and use tools. This creates calm not just in the puppy, but their handler as well.

Our clients / We walk a tightrope in breeding dogs, we want dogs with a good off switch but enough drive that they want to work. More often than not we get dogs that are so much drive that they can’t shut off or so soft that they are fearful or lack persistence and working drive. BAT helps both. It increases our margins of success. With a 2-3 year wait list that recently had to be closed to application, every dog matters. Increasing our success rates by even one dog a year means that one less client is waiting for life-changing independence.

We are in absolute awe of the work that Grisha’s done and so grateful to both her and Joey for their willingness to share knowledge and empowering not only our organization, but our dogs like Seven and Merlot to move more confidently towards those that are patiently waiting for the day they’ll receive their leashes.


The Wastebasket Challenge (or “Changing a Habit is Hard!”)

Guest post by Joey Iversen, BAT seminar presenter

Original location - under the sink
Original location - under the sink

I recently moved to a new house because it is much better for my senior dog, Pirate. In setting up the kitchen, I started with the garbage in a cardboard box under the sink. It’s a logical spot. In my search for a permanent waste bin for the spot, I couldn’t find one that fit.

So I found a wastebasket that fit in one of the pantries in the kitchen, instead of having the trash under the sink.

Even though I have only been in my new house for a couple weeks, after moving the wastebasket I quickly realized I was locked into a habit that was so powerful, the only prompt I had to take a piece of trash to the pantry to dispose of was opening the cupboard under the sink to see the empty space. That is, I couldn’t remember to take the trash to the pantry until I had run through the old behavior of taking the trash to the kitchen and opening the cupboard under the sink. Only then could I change my behavior.

The Pantry

This went on for the next 5 days. I was experiencing increased frustration with each “duh” moment of trying an outdated behavior that didn’t work. My behavior challenges and frustration in the wastebasket location did not involve any fear or lack of safety as most of the client dogs I work with on behavior change. I thought a lot about how significantly increased my distress would be if it did involve fear.

That week, as I worked with clients and their dog with reactive responses to situations, I was keenly reminded of my personal experience with creating a new response and the intense challenge I am having with a simple relocation of a wastebasket.

The more I thought about my challenge in changing behavior I considered the immense challenge our dogs who have resorted to rehearsed aggressive behavior responses to situations that they find scary, stressful or confusing.

I had occasionally made a bit of progress that week, where I would catch myself before opening the cupboard but only if I was thinking about throwing something away. If I were thinking of what I would be doing next or pondering something else I would immediately go back to my old habit. I kept having to open the cupboard before I realized I was at the wrong spot. I was surprised at how irritating this cycle was becoming.

I decided to use TAGteach to get out of the sequence of going to the cupboard under the sink to recall the wastebasket is in the panty. The process of deciding what behavior to tag gave me some interesting insights. Recalling a session in a tennis lesson where my coach and I worked through finding the best tag point with the help of Theresa Mckeon.

In my kitchen, I used the same strategy Theresa helped us work through with tennis to find a reinforcable tag point for the wastebasket dilemma.

A tag point is the answer the question “what move/action causes the desired position, choice, or muscle movement”? I had to change an action before I started in the direction of the cupboard under the sink.

I tried a couple different tag points until I realized I needed to get much further back in the sequence. I ended up with the tag point of “say pantry.”

In TAGteach language:

  • The instructions are: When you pick up an item to throw away (trigger), before moving “say pantry”
  • The tag point is: Say Pantry

Each time I successfully do the tag point, I pull down a bead using the “tagulator” shown here. I can measure success by the number of beads I have pulled in a day. Adding a tag point has sped up my behavior change in efficient trash dispensing. (Ok, I didn’t collect data so I don’t really know the degree of change). As well there is less frustration every time I don’t go through the extra steps of going first to the sink.

What does this have to do with dogs and behavior and BAT?” you might wonder. It has broadened my observation of where might I need to begin to focus in setting up a situation to promote a new behavior response to a rehearsed behavior response to a trigger. Experiencing at what point I needed new thinking in order to make a change in my pattern was enlightening as it was much further back in the sequence than I would have thought.

In BAT, especially BAT 2.0, we emphasize setting up the environment with adequate distance from the trigger and interesting landscape for exploring (and much more). That distance is often much more than people would expect. But closer in, the dog is already headed to the cabinet under the sink, so to speak, and we need to be working at a distance where the dog is really comfortable and not locked into his old habitual behavior.

As I evaluate current and future client dogs and where I start in the sequence, I will be assessing and then looking further back. From my personal experience, I am amazed at how many steps back I needed to go to actually set up for the desired response.

Tagulator the pantry

Follow-Up. Here’s an interesting insight that I’ve noted over these last two days since first writing my experience. My frustration is even more reduced since adding the tag point. My success rate, i.e., the number of times I go to the panty without first heading to the sink has greatly improved.

Yeah! The most interesting is that my emotional response to a “duh wrong spot” event is to giggle. Really! Its now easy to find humor in that ‘oops’ empowered by the plan I have in place for change, the success I have been experiencing and I feel in control of the outcome. This empowerment, success and control are what I deeply desire to bring to both the clients and their dogs with whom I have the honor to work.

I'm well on my way to unconscious competence. Cheers!

We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


Technical Aspects of BAT Article in the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Chronicle

cover-2014-summerWant to know why BAT works in a more technical way?

Check out the second half of the BAT article that appeared in the Summer issue of the APDT Chronicle of the Dog. Click to read the article as a PDF. To learn about the APDT Chronicle or to access the full issue if you are a member, click here.

p.s. If you love this technical dog stuff, check out the BAT for Geeks streaming webinar, available for download now through our online store.

Check out the video below to see how BAT is done:

How Do I Learn More? This site has several resources. The new BAT 2.0 book, full length videos, and/or online courses are very useful, or you can work with a Certified BAT Instructor (CBATI) - many also do training sessions via video chat. I also teach live and recorded seminars and we ship fabulous custom-made long leashes worldwide.

When and How to Use BAT in Puppy Class

Written by Carly Loyer, CBATI

Any trainer that’s taught puppy classes has seen what a broad range of confidence and sociability 8 week old puppies can display, from the happy-go-lucky, “everyone’s my VERY best friend and we should all chew on each other” bruisers, to the puppies who seem traumatized by the hint that another dog or person might interact with them. Those wallflower puppies are in dire need of socialization and confidence building, but they are also at the highest risk for a long-term setback if a negative experience occurs. Continue reading When and How to Use BAT in Puppy Class

Magazine Articles about BAT 2.0

COTD-2014COTD-2014Learn about BAT 2.0 in the Spring 2014 issue of the APDT Chronicle of the Dog and in the popular UK Magazine, Dogs Today. Check them out!

Click to download the BAT 2.0 article in the APDT Chronicle (APDT members also can get the full magazine through the APDT site or in your mailbox).

The APDT article is part of a 2-part series. The first article was how to do BAT 2.0 and the second article looks under the hood to look at BAT 2.0 through a technical lens. Be ready to geek out!


Here's the cover of the March 2014 Dogs Today magazine. Click the image to go to the magazine's website.

Dogs Today is available in stores in the UK and also via iPad. If you aren't from the UK, I'd still recommend checking it out. It may give you an interesting international view of the ethical dog world.

Peanut’s Got a Girlfriend!

Here's an update on where we are at with Peanut's dog issues. I started focusing on them late last fall and have done about 7 set-ups since then. I think I've done about 4 or 5 set-ups over the years, mostly just to get the videos.

Since we moved to Alaska, Peanut had been barking at dogs at about 30-40 feet away with bigger reactions toward off-leash dogs that came up to him: growling with his fur and tail up. He air-snapped one time with a dog that was really in his face, but otherwise has only done the growling. I didn't work on this for his first 11 years because most of the time that he encountered dogs, I could keep him in working mode so he didn't have any big reactions. But now I'm not the only one walking him - my fiancee walks Peanut when I travel. I also imagine that even when I micromanaged him, Peanut would still experience some stress and a lack of control. I'd rather he were able to handle this on his own, especially since I am not always home to manage him. Besides, I had a new version of BAT to work out!

BAT 2.0 and BAT 1.0: What’s Different?

One of the most important aspects of a humane training protocol is that it is minimally intrusive. One way to think of minimally intrusive is that the animal has maximal control over significant events. BAT 2.0 shifts forward to focus even more on allowing the dog to have control of the process within a safe setting. As Dr. Susan Friedman wrote, “The degree to which a behavior reduction procedure preserves learner control is essential to developing a standard of humane, effective practice.”

Here's an example of a video by Canadian dog trainer Jennie Murphy, CBATI, CGN, DN-FSG that demonstrates a change in BAT from 1.0 to 2.0: we make sure to let the dog choose where to go, as long as that movement wouldn't put the dog in too stressful of a place.

My first book, Behavior Adjustment Training, came out in 2010. My third book, BAT 2.0 came out in 2016. I developed BAT primarily for the rehabilitation of reactivity with dogs caused by fear, frustration, or anger. In the first book and in my videos, handlers were taught to observe and mark certain behavior and/or body language and to reinforce that behavior by moving away from the Scary Monster and (sometimes) add “bonus rewards” of food, toys, etc.

While the core philosophy of BAT is still the same, BAT is no longer primarily a procedure in which the trainer marks and reinforces social behavior. BAT is now more naturalistic and the trainer’s main task is to arrange the situation to let the dog learn in a way that is similar to how well socialized dogs learned about other dogs, people, and other stimuli as puppies.

We do have a BAT 2.0 procedure called Mark and Move that reinforces social behavior with distance plus tangible reinforcers in certain situations, so some parts of it look a little bit like BAT 1.0. However, and this is important, even with Mark and Move, we do not lead the dog directly toward the trigger as we did in BAT 1.0.

In the first book, I mentioned that BAT is, and will always be, a work in progress, based on the best information available at the time. I have fine-tuned BAT over the years and I have decided that it’s time to officially announce some changes that simplify the process and make it even less stressful and more pleasant for the dogs.

Please click here to get started learning about BAT 2.0, or look for one of our upcoming seminars or online learning opportunities.

NOTE: All articles published before January 2014 are about the older (1.0) version of BAT.

Three main aspects of the original BAT still form the foundation of the new BAT:

  1. Give the dog control over their exposure to the trigger
  2. Continually assess stress and strive to reduce it
  3. Use management tools to lower stress outside of training to reduce setbacks

Here are some of the differences:

BAT 2.0 BAT in 2010 (DVD & Book)
  1. Naturally occurring reinforcers (antecedent arrangements, most reinforcers are naturally occurring, focus on respondent learning)
  2. Very dog-centered (follow the dog)
  3. Controllability due to interaction with trigger and movement in space
  4. Specific leash skills to keep handler out of the way
  5. Simpler: No stages, just a flow of how much we need to prompt
  1. Reinforcement provided by trainer (theorized walking away as R-)
  2. Moderately dog-centered (still followed the dog, but did more encouragement to approach)
  3. Controllability due to trainer marking and theoretically reinforcing behavior
  4. Minimal focus on handler leash skills 
  5. Specific Stages 1, 2, and 3, which took time to explain & learn

Here's another video example, by Dutch trainer Liselot Boersma, PgDip CABW:

Please click here to get started learning about BAT 2.0, or look for one of our upcoming seminars or online learning opportunities (Books, streaming videos, DVDs, online courses, etc).

“Lunging Lucy” & “Growly Gus”

Guest post by Jody Epstein, CPDT-KA

Picture this: You and Polly are walking together in your neighborhood. She’s showing off just how good her leash skills are. And then . . . you see it. Down the street . . . another dog is coming. Suddenly your Perfect Polly does a full-blown Jekyll & Hyde, and suddenly she’s a Lunging Lucy! Barking, pulling, growling, snarling, and you’re at a loss for how to stop it. After the strange dog disappears around the corner, Lucy does a big shake, yawns and reverts to her Perfect-Polly self.

Continue reading “Lunging Lucy” & “Growly Gus”

What Makes BAT Work?

I've done some soul-searching about what makes Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) work and my hypothesis from a behavior analytical perspective is that BAT involves desensitization, naturally occurring negative reinforcement (R-), and both naturally occurring and trainer-delivered positive reinforcement (R+). I now believe that the change in emotional response in BAT 2.0 is largely due to the controllability of the situation and desensitization/respondent extinction, not behavior built up through reinforcement (although those are always intertwined).

But why am I not extremely concerned that it may have some R- when I am a force-free trainer? Actually, it did concern me, but it doesn't any more because I have thought it through.

I take humane training very seriously and adhere to the Progressive Reinforcement Manifesto written by trainer Emily Larlham, where it is of the utmost importance that life of the dogs we care for is arranged to minimize stress to maximize learning in a way that respects the dog. I also love Susan Friedman's Humane Hierarchy. [click here for an interview with Susan]. One of the main points of that hierarchy is that trainers need to look closely at any use of aversive stimuli and watch out for things like negative reinforcement.

The naturally occurring reinforcement found in BAT is not really part of the humane hierarchy. It's not delivered or orchestrated by the trainer, it's just real life to allow dogs to move around. Controlling their own distance to stimuli is a GOOD thing. 

In short, that means we can all worrying about BAT on social media and get back to working with dogs.

Any negative reinforcement found in BAT is simply a consequence of giving the dog more control. The only way for a protocol in which we allow dogs to notice their triggers to NOT have any R- is to take away their control. That's not humane.

In BAT, moving away should really be 'moving on,'  not necessarily avoidance. Moving on after engaging with the trigger can just be satiation, they have had enough contact and are ready for something else. If you are getting complete avoidance of the trigger, you're doing something wrong; that's not BAT. We should be working at the level of curiosity, so the movement away is only because the curiosity has been satisfied. Controllability is a good thing and having it around their triggers is especially good. If you do BAT right, most of the movement done after looking at the trigger should be just due to the dog being 'done' looking. They are moving on, not escaping.

I think it is important to put ego aside and really assess what people say to see if it holds any truth, and then use that to improve the way I teach dogs. Here's what I know at this point in time. 1. Allowing the dog to behave in a way that helps them feel more comfortable (naturally occurring R-) is not the same as applying an aversive stimulus and removing it when the dog does what you want (R-) and 2. we do not yet have any techniques that avoid this aversive (the other dog), so allowing the dog to move away whenever he wants is a humane choice.

There are no unnecessary aversive stimuli in BAT, in stark contrast to the kind of R- techniques that use choke chains or electronic collars. The aversive aspect is just the decoy, at a level of engagement that the dog controls. This is less aversive than many techniques, if you really look at the lack of controllability by the dog, and no worse than the best ones out there. The dog has a huge amount of control over the BAT process. For a particular dog, you may have other tools you try before BAT, but a good trainer can always use more force-free techniques.

Continue reading What Makes BAT Work?

BAT Tip: Training should look like the dog is off leash

BAT should ideally look and feel like the dog is off leash, except that you are keeping things at enough of a distance that your dog can't accidentally go so close that he gets scared. The dog is the gas and you are the brakes.

Generally speaking, we avoid walking the dog toward the trigger. Our movements should be in a neutral direction or away from the trigger. You might very occasionally ask your dog, "hey, do you want to go this way?" with your body language, but pay close attention to the answer. If your dog is hesitant or doesn't want to go, that's absolutely his choice.

Film your session so you can watch to see if there are ways to help your dog feel more free during the training.

The level of stress should be kind of like a puppy play time with two dogs that enjoy each other's company. In a play time, sometimes one accidentally gets too close, but the other can give a cut-off signal and move away, or the other guy does.

Dogs learn this communication naturally through negative reinforcement (the dog giving the cut off signal gets a break) and positive reinforcement (the dog allowing the other dog to have a break gets rewarded by resuming the interaction) in puppy classes and play times. Puppy play times need to be set up to be safe, so they can learn to be more and more confident.

But even with that, puppies are learning through negative reinforcement in your puppy class. Don't worry. That's naturally occurring reinforcement, not kind of negative reinforcement that we definitely want to avoid, like leaning toward the dog to get a sit or pinching their ears to get them to take hold of a fetch dummy. You aren't adding any aversive stimuli beyond what's already out there, and you've set it up to be as safe as possible - it's a natural learning process about how the world works.

When working with fear or aggression, BAT is very similar to the early socialization for puppies. In both, we use some treats when necessary, but not too many, because the dog can learn more from the situation itself than from us. One major difference is that when we are doing BAT with a dog who is afraid, we can't allow the dog to run up and get into trouble, so we slow them down at a distance to let them engage with the trigger from a (mentally & physically) safe spot.

BAT gives the animal a chance to learn and practice communication. This allows them to desensitize to the trigger and also change their emotional response.

Over time, they gradually get closer and closer to other dogs, people, etc. and start to get positive reinforcement from the social interaction. That's why it's important to do multiple sessions with the same decoy, if you can, so the dogs can end up engaging in a friendly social way (which may just be exploring the same smells together, not wrestling, etc.). That's true for issues with people as well.

If this isn't what your sessions feel like, focus on learning how to handle a long line. Click here for a PDf with some tips.

New Video: Training Up Close

I just made a short video demonstrating BAT for dog-to-dog issues with my dog, Peanut. In this session, we work up close, which is the part of training that has the most risk.

Click here to check out the video on this site and learn more about BAT. I have also posted a Facebook post about this below, so you can comment on it there.

8 BAT Myths: suggested revisions for Clinical Behavioral Medicine

In her newly released book, Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Cats and Dogs, Dr. Karen Overall mentions Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) as a rehabilitation tool for fear in dogs. Unfortunately, the protocol that Overall described as BAT was similar to BAT in some aspects, but nothing like BAT in the parts that matter. I wish I had been consulted before publication.

I have contacted Dr. Overall in the hope that she will correct her errors in the next revision. In the meantime, I have written this article to address eight of the myths about BAT in that book. Overall's book addresses BAT for fear, but BAT is also useful for frustration, aggression not based on fear, and early socialization. I focus on BAT for fear in this article and limit the discussion to dogs, although BAT can be used with many species. I also focus on the standard set-up version of BAT, which is done without food, but BAT has many forms. I use the feminine pronoun "she" for the dog instead of the awkward "he or she."

MYTH #1: BAT is just like CAT.

TRUTH: CAT is only one of the many inspirations for BAT.

In Overall’s book, BAT and Constructional Aggression Treatment (CAT) are in the same section and are described as being basically the same protocol. I think it’s important that everyone understands that BAT is not CAT 2.0. BAT is no more similar to CAT than it is to clicker training or Control Unleashed™. There are similarities between BAT and CAT in that they both use an increase in distance from the triggering stimulus (“trigger”) as a reinforcer, but there are also some subtle and vast differences, as you will see below.

Although Overall does note some of the important differences with CAT, it's unfortunate that they are lumped together, because they are not the same in spirit or practice. The tendency for critics to lump CAT with BAT without thinking probably comes from the unfortunate naming similarity. If you take time to look beyond the acronyms, you will see that BAT is a modern, dog-centered training technique worth adding to your training toolbox.

MYTH #2: BAT is too trendy and not really new.

TRUTH: BAT is popular because it works. Empowerment protocols are the new face of humane animal training.

The book refers to BAT as a “trendy” technique, which seems to imply that BAT’s current popularity among trainers and pet owners is a problem. Calling something “trendy” is a way to justify dismissing something new for which we are not ready. In science, we don’t do things just because they have always been done that way. Conscientious trainers and behaviorists look for more effective, less stressful, less invasive techniques in which the animal has more control.

Not doing something because it’s trendy is like not learning how to use a computer because everyone else is doing it. It's a common way to justify things as being too trendy, though: you do still here that argument when old-school trainers refer to clicker training, for example.

BAT should not be dismissed as being the same as what we have done before. People are learning to do BAT because empowerment works and is fundamentally different from how we have been training in the canine world. We are behind science in this one, as Applied Behavior Analysis has long since focused on operant protocols to change the emotional response of a learner. With dog training, we have grabbed onto associating the trigger with food and stuck with that, because that was our first major push into rehabilitation through positive means.

BAT is a systematic desensitization technique, but it is inaccurate to write that it is "nothing more than routine desensitization and counter-conditioning (CC/DS)." For one thing, it is probably not classical counter-conditioning because we are not pairing two stimuli. There is classical conditioning, of course, because that is always happening. It is in the form of desensitization.

BAT is a desensitization protocol based on empowerment, where the dog has almost complete control over the process. The control exercised by the handler is only in the form of making changes to reduce stress and ensure safety. BAT adds the feature of ‘controllability’ to the situation. Controllability directly factors in to expression and experience of anxiety—this isn't inherent in standard CC/DS protocols in dog training.

An internal locus of control is a primary reinforcer and most training only gives the dog a token amount of control of their real environment. Through BAT, the handler learns what the dog is "saying" and honors that. While negative reinforcement (R-) probably plays a role, the dog’s control over the process is what helps the desensitization 'stick' (i.e. limits spontaneous recovery). This use of R- is not unethical and I will address that more below.

MYTH #3: People criticizing BAT are familiar with the protocol.

TRUTH: Most criticisms of BAT involve describing BAT incorrectly and then criticizing that incorrect version of BAT.

It’s best to see for yourself. Here is another video of BAT with clips from multiple dogs. I think watching it will help you better understand the rest of this article.

MYTH #4: BAT is just CC/DS as we have always done it.

TRUTH: BAT is a systematic desensitization protocol but it is also operant conditioning with real-life reinforcers. It is an improvement beyond standard ways to do CC/DS for social issues, because it has more empowerment for the dog and fewer distractions.

I developed BAT because I wanted something that would create a more profound change in my dog’s behavior and quality of life than the standard open bar / closed bar version of CC/DS (dog sees trigger --> gets treats) and other operant treat-based versions. I feel that while pairing the trigger with good things is far, far preferable to using corrections and force, it is still actually invasive in the sense of removing control and not allowing the dog to really process the situation.

Food can certainly be helpful to relax your dog, and I use it whenever it's necessary (small spaces, surprises on walks, etc.). Unfortunately, food, handler interaction, or other high-valued items used in most CC/DS protocols also draw too much of the dog’s attention, limiting how much information the dog takes in. Real-world triggers are usually intramodal compound stimuli, i.e., they are made up of stimuli from different sensory modalities. Pairing the category of "all children" or "all dogs" with food in real life is much more challenging than simply associating the sound of Pavlov’s bell with meat powder in a laboratory.

Even with a positive association with some salient aspects of the trigger, the dog may still react to other aspects, because of overshadowing and other factors. In experiments with pigeons responding to intramodal compound stimuli, the reinforcer used in the experiment determined which element of the stimulus received more attention from the pigeon (see “intramodal studies” in this article). In particular, the use of food or other high-value items may determine which elements of the trigger the dog notices and remembers. An incomplete understanding of the trigger may lead to a plateau in training where the dog is only ‘fine’ as long as she is focused on the handler.

In contrast, people who have turned to BAT often report that their dog is now “a different dog” who interacts with dogs or people like they have always dreamed their dog would do. I recommend food-based CC/DS protocols for sound sensitivity and other applications with simple triggers and as a management strategy for other situations. Even then, whenever you can do an operant protocol that brings classical conditioning along for the ride, that's the better choice. For most social situations, physical locations, and compound triggers, I use BAT, because it allows the dog to fully perceive the trigger with fewer distractions.

I have drawn from many resources to create BAT as a humane way to give the animal even more control and awareness than CC/DS. Individual cases are complicated and you can combine BAT with standard food-based CC/DS and clicker training, as needed. Whatever techniques you use, don't forget about empowerment: giving the animal more control over the process (as in BAT) leads to more complete rehabilitation. Empowerment goes beyond simply using operant techniques. Whenever possible, you should take a functional approach that involves choosing a reinforcer that is appropriate in that situation.

For body handling issues (grooming, vet procedures, etc.), dogs should be taught in ways that allow them to communicate when to start and stop the procedures, as is done in many zoo settings and with Chirag Patel’s work for companion animal husbandry. An example would be teaching a dog to rest her chin on a target during brushing. She gets treats for being brushed, but can remove her chin and stop the procedure at any time. Allowing her to manage her own stress level is less invasive than simply pairing brushing with treats. I call the behavior the dog does to signal that CC can continue a "More Please Signal."

MYTH #5: BAT works the dogs over threshold.

TRUTH: A BAT trainer only allows the dog to walk to a point where they are curious, but not over threshold.

Overall pointed out inexperienced handlers can put dogs over threshold with BAT, but that is a risk with any protocol. With BAT, watching the dog for signs of stress is our main focus. Traditional CC/DS can also be done incorrectly, too. In that case, the animal is often over the fear threshold but the person does not notice because they are using 'the dog is eating' as the criteria for being under threshold and there is also a competing reinforcer that influences behavior. BAT clients are able to keep their dogs under threshold during training by learning to watch their dogs’ behavior. Two-way communication is an invaluable skill for anyone with a dog.

The “upsetting stimulus” that Overall mentions is the same exact stimulus used in traditional CC/DS. We usually begin at a much greater distance than with those protocols, because there is no food to distract the dog in a basic BAT set-up. If it is not possible to move far enough away that the dog is below threshold, then we will use Stages 2 or 1 of BAT, which are versions of BAT that use food to help the dog handle the proximity of the trigger because they are in ‘working mode.’

We use these stages only when necessary, because of the distraction factor that I mentioned above. When she is focusing on getting treats from the handler, the dog is no longer able/motivated to fully take in information about the trigger. The dog is much less likely to exchange social cues with the trigger while she is in working mode. Of course, paying less attention to the trigger is helpful for urgent situations and when you first start working up close, but we switch back to ‘regular BAT’ whenever possible for maximum learning.

At any rate, the point is that we are using the same stimulus and the major difference is that BAT gives the dog more control over leaving and approaching while traditional CC/DS provides something appetitive. If it’s the same stimulus, at a further distance, but we are allowing the dog to sniff and look at the trigger instead of feeding her a treat, how could that possibly be less humane?

MYTH #6: BAT just teaches animals to avoid or tolerate situations.

TRUTH: BAT dogs learn to enjoy people, dogs, etc. and know how to reduce stress when needed.

The goal with BAT is not to "teach the dog that he can tolerate avoiding other dogs," as Overall writes, but rather to have the dog able to fully assess a situation and offer pro-social behavior and interaction when she desires and appropriate cut-off behavior in any situation in which she is uncomfortable. As the dog’s ability to control the level of social interaction increases, it seems that she feels more and more comfortable interacting. This is true of humans who learn active coping strategies.

Based on behavior, this appears to be true of dogs and other animals using BAT, as well. So instead of a dog who can pass by a trigger because she has associated it with amazing treats (or worse, fears a correction from a collar), we have a dog who acts like a real dog and is able to truly check things out without the need for micromanagement from the handler.

Overall writes, "If dogs learn to have the expectation that if they just stand there the other dog will leave, we have provided them with some very flawed real-world applications." This may be true of CAT. There is nothing about this statement that accurately reflects BAT, which emphasizes natural behavior and movement of the student dog. The lesson to the dog is “you have the power to de-escalate this situation peacefully.” BAT also includes very careful leash handling skills and long lines/harnesses so that the dogs have the maximum freedom of movement.

MYTH #7: BAT forces dogs to be in stressful situations. The R- in BAT is just like choke chains.

TRUTH: BAT teaches the dog that she can always leave, which allows her to learn more about “real life” and build confidence. Teaching a dog to self-soothe in a low-stress way is empowering and humane.

Overall worries about flooding, which is placing the dog in a situation that the animal would not choose and then prohibiting escape. Flooding can happen with CAT, but not BAT. It is very important to me to build up the concept of choice, not to destroy it. It is really unfortunate that BAT and CAT have been lumped together in Overall’s book and in some people’s minds.

With BAT, the dog is always allowed to leave. We never force a dog to go forward nor do we keep the dog in a place where she does not want to be using force or treats. We walk with the dog only to the point of curiosity and slow her down to a stop. We then wait for the dog to gather information and then disengage from the trigger. We verbally ask "Done?" (I originally recommended using “Yes” as the marker signal) and begin to move away. If the dog does not come with us, we wait for the dog to gather more information and fully disengage, then ask again if she is “done.” If moving away is too challenging, then we take not of that and stop her farther from the trigger the next time.

Overall writes, "even if flooding is not involved, both BAT and CAT are forms of negative reinforcement. Simply, the reward is the release from having to be in the presence of the upsetting stimulus. This is the same principle on which the use of choke collars is based, and these techniques carry the same risks of recidivism or worsening of behaviors that choke collars carry."

There are a lot of points that I'd like to discuss from this paragraph. First of all, flooding is not possible in BAT, because in BAT there is movement of the student dog and the dog is always allowed to leave at any point, no matter the behavior. Unlike in CAT, there is no risk of using extinction; extinction is not used in BAT. If the dog goes over threshold during BAT, we simply encourage her to leave and calm down.

A major concern that positive trainers have is that BAT uses R-, which is not supposed to be done until we've exhausted all other options. One thing to remember is that the primary way that BAT changes the dog's emotional response to the trigger appears to be from a desensitization process that the dog controls. The operant piece is that the association of the trigger with the ability to handle the situation and yes, that's R-. (That's a hypothesis--we don't actually know that reinforcement is happening at all. The great behavior change could just be desensitization or even R+ for looking at the trigger, but it is likely involve at least some R-). There is also R+ in BAT in the form of interaction with the handler and later with the trigger. First the dog learns that she can always move away whenever she wants to, because cut-off signals are reinforced with moving away. Then because of reduced arousal (desensitization) the dog has a chance to experience something pleasant, and social behavior from the student dog is reinforced by social behavior from the former trigger.

Nobody's worried about the R+ aspects of BAT, so let’s look at the R-. In BAT, the R- does not involve the application of an aversive TO the animal—the aversive (the other dog) is self applied as the dog walks toward it. This is different from CAT, traditional pressure-release training with horses, and the use of choke chains.

Furthermore, the aversive used with BAT is the trigger, not an artificial device like a choke chain. It is the same aversive used in all rehabilitation protocols, and usually we start farther away than you would with treats. With BAT, we are not applying pressure to get some unrelated, trainer-desired behavior. We take an environmental pressure that already exists and teach the dog to eliminate her own stress using natural behaviors chosen by her.

We allow her to approach the stimulus that triggers her fear/aggression and retreat from it whenever she wants. The human's role in BAT is primarily to gently stop the dog at the point of curiosity, before she goes too close—not to pull her toward the trigger. We neither train any specific behavior that we desire, nor do we create pressure to get it. We are not teaching the dogs merely to escape, but to thrive because they now have coping skills. They have to live with dogs/men/kids in their world and BAT teaches them to do that in a very natural way, driven by the dog's own curiosity. BAT is dog-centric.

There is no positive punishment aspect. If there were, the approach behavior would decrease, but it doesn't. A BAT dog approaches more and more and begins to offer exploratory and pro-social behavior, indicating that the trigger has become less aversive. To my knowledge, there is no research on this kind of R- and claiming that it has the same effects as choke chains is not justified.

MYTH #8: This is stressful for the decoy dog.

TRUTH: BAT should be low-stress for all animals involved.

Another issue Overall writes about is that the decoy/helper dog would feel stressed. I agree that this is important. I never support the use of a stressed dog, regardless of the training role. With BAT, the wellbeing of the decoy is an important component of the protocol. It seems very irresponsible to me to allow the decoy to have to stand there while the student dog barks, lunges, etc., as in CAT or correction-based training.

As with any systematic desensitization protocol, the handler of the helper dog should monitor stress. BAT takes care to minimize stress in all of the dogs and even the humans within the situation. A relaxed, non-threatened decoy is key as he aids the student dog in offering up her own good choices in pro-social behavior. Because of the fluidity of BAT, the decoy dog’s movement does not impact the core principles of BAT. The decoy dog can be doing BAT herself, getting treats, or doing something else to make the situation pleasant.

CONCLUSION When Karen Overall takes the time to learn about BAT, I believe she will realize that she has misinformed her readers, and will change the assessment of BAT in her (otherwise fabulous) book.

To those of you who haven’t yet learned about BAT because you are concerned about ethics and quadrants: Please take the time to understand BAT and the power that it gives to dogs and other animals. You will find it that it meshes well with other positive training techniques that you already use.

When you actually do BAT yourself you will see where the ‘trendiness’ comes from: empowerment training is humane, makes a lot of sense, and is very effective. Thank you for reading this through!

Please comment below and feel free to share on Facebook. 🙂

Streaming Video: A Critical Comparison of 7 Methods for Fear-Based Aggression

Many dogs do not come to us as clean slates. They have already gone through a variety of other training techniques from the owners and potentially other trainers. It is helpful to know exactly how the other techniques are done so that we can help our clients decide what is best for their dogs.

This new streaming video lecture compares 7 different common methods for rehabilitating fear-based aggression from a humane training perspective, including force-free techniques and punishment methods from popular books and videos. Click here to learn more or buy now!

Instructor’s Course Scholarship Unites Hawai’i and Alaska

Tomoko Nakagawa of Hawai'i is the winner of a $400 scholarship to the BAT Instructor's Course in Anchorage, Alaska.

Here's a quote from Tomoko about BAT:

"BAT is the way of helping dogs with reactivity issues by teaching them how to control social and environmental pressures in peaceful manners by using their own language, and they can earn the same functional rewards which they originally wanted with problem behaviors. The dogs will be empowered by learning that they can make choices to deal with situations, and their human understand and respect the choices, which will help rebuilt the trust between dogs and their owners."

New Radio Interview on BAT

BAT logo

Listen to this Alaska radio interview from yesterday about BAT. It covers some information about what BAT is, why I moved to Alaska in the dead of winter last year, and the upcoming seminars in that state. I'm doing a 2-hour public BAT seminar in Anchorage next week Saturday, August 10, from 10 am to noon and the 5-day instructor's course for dog trainers in Anchorage at the end of August. Both should be fun and informative. 🙂

Click here to listen to the podcast. Thanks in advance for sharing with your friends on Facebook or elsewhere. The link is

Take the Hint: How to Use the 5-Second Rule for Petting Dogs

Do you love to pet your dog? Does she love it too? Are you sure? Don't be the guy who can't take a hint! Part of BAT is understanding your dog's cut-off signals, and if you are constantly petting her or him, it's hard to see them.

Here's a way to ask your dog if he or she likes the way you are petting. I call it the 5-second rule, and every person who interacts with a dog, cat, or even horse should know it, because it's excellent bite prevention and also just basic polite manners!

Continue reading Take the Hint: How to Use the 5-Second Rule for Petting Dogs

Grisha Speaks Italian (not)

I don't actually speak Italian, but my seminar on aggression, frustration and fear in dogs this summer in Italy will be translated into Italian. Here is a video of an interview with me and Daniela Cardillo, the host for the seminar in Milan on 22-23 June, 2013. I'm dubbed over in Italian...

"BAT SEMINAR in Italia il 22 e 23 giugno 2013, con Grisha Stewart"

Direct link for sharing on Facebook or Twitter:

BAT Empowers Choices

BAT is a systematic desensitization protocol that reinforces behavior as well. The core idea of BAT is to empower dogs to make better choices. This works for all sorts of reactivity issues, but let's look at BAT for a dog whose behavior indicates fear. For this dog, we would set up multiple situations where the dog can calmly look at the 'scary monster' (trigger) and decide that it is not a threat. We let the dog walk toward the trigger and then stop him just at the point where he begins to focus on it. Then we watch for behavior like turning the head away, turning the body, shaking off, etc.

It's not quite just that, however. There are head turns and there are head turns. There is a small head turn (head only) that seems to be a sort of way to assess the situation, "if I turn my head, what do you do?" and then there is the sort where the dog's body curves and the head turns, and you can tell that the dog is really 'done' looking and gathering information. Usually there is a big blink before this sort of turn.
Continue reading BAT Empowers Choices

BAT Interview with Victoria Stilwell

If you are wondering what BAT is about or how to use it with your dog, check out this interview on Behavior Adjustment Training with dog trainer Victoria Stilwell from the TV show "It's Me or the Dog" (Interview with Grisha Stewart is just over 5 minutes. It starts at 22:40 and goes to about 36:00.)

Some of what Victoria said about BAT in the interview: "It's not just about stuffing food in your dog's face. It's about giving your dog what it needs to be successful in this crazy domestic world with us....You're working along with the dog. I think that's crucial. So people, if you are out there and you have a question....about how to deal with reactive dogs... you're going to get better results from doing techniques like the BAT technique. I've seen it done, I've done it myself, I've seen it on videos and Grisha's DVDs, I've heard about it from trainers all over the world who use it. This is a great technique and this is something else that you can do with your reactive dog to help it cope with the world around it." (our emphasis)

Question: Can you use BAT for a fearful/nonaggressive dog?

I was asked this question on Facebook today.

The answer?

Yes, definitely! The protocol is exactly the same for fearful dogs who are not barking as those who are barking/biting. One change is that you can also reward approach behaviors some of the time. But I like to let the dog still check things out fully, so I often still wait until the dog disengages before saying "yes" and walking away.

Continue reading Question: Can you use BAT for a fearful/nonaggressive dog?

Halloween BAT Tips

Guest blog by Charmaine Anthony, CPDT-KA, CBATI (Blue Line Dog Training)

Halloween is in full swing in many neighborhoods where yards can be filled with monsters, webs, and fences that were not there the day before. This is a perfect opportunity to practice BAT set ups! First and foremost, walk past the decorations from many angles without your dog, if that is possible. Some of the decorations may have mechanical movements, sounds or flashing lights. Continue reading Halloween BAT Tips

New interview on BAT

Naturally Happy Dogs, a video magazine based in the UK, has published some interviews of me talking about BAT. I thought I'd share the links in my blog, in case you wanted to check them out!

  • Introduction: a free video that introduces you to BAT--what BAT is, how and when it started, and more.
  • BAT for the Vacuum Cleaner. This is a 15-minute demo of using BAT for a dog who was attacking the vacuum cleaner. Requires a paid subscription to Naturally Happy Dogs.

Dog-Dog Issues Article

For a big list of articles and videos including some description of BAT, check out our page called "Other Sites with Info on BAT" under the "More on BAT" tab of this website. Here's a new one that has just been added:

Sarah Stremming of the Cognitive Canine has written a nice article series on dog reactivity issues. There is a nice comparison of methods at

“Why Do You Use the Name BAT Instead of Scientific Terms?”

‎This is paraphrased from a Facebook post: why don't we stick to the scientific terminology when explaining BAT? You do know that the science already existed, right?

Thank goodness for the scientific background! It helps to show why BAT works so well. But we can't always use the scientific terms in explanations, certainly not with our students. If we did that all of the time, we would be writing canis lupis familiaris in our emails to clients, instead of the word dog. And of course, that would be silly, right?

New Yahoo group for Shelter Staff

I created a new discussion group as a creative space for shelter staff and volunteers to discuss using BAT to rehabilitate dogs in their care. Training in the shelter environment has special challenges and so does working with foster dogs who will have new families, so working with either group is a fair topic. The focus should be on the aspects of training that are unique to work with dogs who are permanently in a shelter or up for adoption, versus dogs who have permanent homes with human families. Case studies, questions, suggestions, etc. are all welcome.

Shelter/rescue staff and volunteers (including foster parents) can join this new group at

May seminars: Ohio and Rhode Island

I have a few seminars coming up that don't have websites, so I wanted to say a little about them.

  • Warwick, Rhode Island: May 5, 2012, full-day seminar on BAT. Hosted by Susan Parker, contact for registration and information.
  • Toledo, Ohio: May 6, 2012, 4-hour seminar on BAT. Hosted by Tina Ferner and Agility Angels. Contact for registration and information.
  • Mentor, Ohio: May 7, 2012, 4-hour seminar on Troubled Teens and BAT. This actually has a website, but I'm mentioning it since it's on the same trip as the other seminars.

Dog is Afraid of My Husband

A person posted this problem on my blog. Her foster dog had become slightly used to her husband using classical counterconditioning and systematic desensitization. But unless the husband was seated or lying down, the foster dog would bark, growl, and lunge. She wanted ideas on applying BAT to this situation. Here was my suggestion.

The benefit of living with the Scary Monster (your husband) is that you can do lots of short set-ups. In between, let your dog rest well - with a chew bone or whatever in another room (separate from hubby, ideally not alone unless the dog prefers that). I think you might be able to make a lot of progress this weekend if you strictly kept them apart except for multiple 5-30 minute sessions. Take 1-2 hours in between, longer if you went over threshold, shorter if it was fun.

You've already gotten him used to sitting and lying down with CC/DS. I would still do some BAT set-ups in those positions, as an easy way to get started. There may be some conflict because of the lack of balogna. If so, do Stage 2 BAT at first. Make a list of all the scary things your husband might do in real life and work on the more common ones first, at a distance. Ex: standing up, talking, moving arms, walking toward , hugging a child or you, putting shoes on, wearing a hat, carrying a box...

Work outside if any of these things are too challenging in a Stage 3 set-up indoors. Use Stages 1 or 2 (food plus retreat as rewards) if you have to.

2 BAT Talks at APDT

(Lili Chin and I at the book signing)

I did two talks on BAT at the US conference for positive dog training hosted by the APDT. There was a 90 minute talk with videos and a 3 hour talk with live demo. I think both turned out well! Dogwise said they sold all but 4 of the BAT books they brought, and lots of awesome trainers came up to tell me they enjoyed the talk, so I think I did ok getting the word out about BAT.

There were a lot of people interested in participating in the research study on BAT, which will begin in earnest early next year. I'll post info here soon.

I now get November and December off from speaking, then a full 2012 series of seminars (see many of them on the right of this page). Happy BATting!

Animal Cafe Interviews Grisha about BAT

Check this out! If you are interested in learning more about BAT in an audio form, please visit the Animal Cafe to hear an interview with me by Kelly Dunbar. Animal Cafe is a great new venue with a variety of well-known dog bloggers doing not just regular blog posts, but also podcasts.

The interview is about 2o minutes long. We go over some of the basics and some of the questions you might have about BAT. If you like the interview, please share on FB, Twitter, or whatever else you're on these days. 🙂

Question: Can BAT be done with a deaf dog?

BAT (and 'regular' clicker training) can easily be adapted to use with a deaf dog. Just use a hand flash (5-fist-5 toward your dog) in place of the verbal marker or clicker. You may need a tactile (touch) signal to click when your dog is not looking at you.

With BAT, that means you'll be using the hand flash for stage 2 and 3 or set-ups and a tactile signal (like a touch to the tail or rump) in place of the clicker in stage 1.

Short BAT Clip – Fear of an Object

This BAT video was taken by Rachel Bowman of Bowman's Canine in San Diego, who's kindly given me permission to share it with you. She's using BAT to help her foster dog, Theo, get used to the scary things out in the world.

Note that the talking during much of the training was this trainer's choice for this dog, not officially part of BAT. I usually recommend being fairly quiet at the 'choice point' while the dog gathers info and then usually chooses to disengage. Praise is highly recommended after the YES marker!

Direct link:

Question: BAT in a car?

Question: I’m curious how BAT could (or maybe it can’t?) be used for dogs that bark at people and/or dogs while riding in the car? Obvioulsy crating the dog up to reduce visual stimulus wouuld be ideal, but for situations where this is not possible, any ideas???

Grisha's Answer: BAT can definitely be used for issues in the car. You do want to block the view for times when you're not training, as you mentioned, via a crate, curtains, or a calming cap. The functional reward is still distance, which can be done by the other person/dog walking away or by letting the dog out of the car to walk away. I've done it both ways and I think they prefer the latter.

Visual barriers are important to keep the dog from rehearsing the stress and behavior of barking. If a visual barrier is really not possible, then you might want to do counterconditioning while driving (passenger feeds dog or use the remote on a Manners Minder to feed the dog in the back seat). Thundershirts, Anxiety Wraps, or home-made wraps using tight t-shirts or ace bandages are also great for calming dogs down in the car. But training or a visual barrier is the only 'foolproof' solution.