Book Review: Behavior Adjustment Training by Grisha Stewart

This book provides a solid foundation to functional reinforcement for managing, treating and preventing stimuli-specific reactivity problems in dogs.  

Reward-based trainers focus their efforts on rewarding desired behaviours in dogs, to minimise or prevent the behaviours we don’t want.  Often the reward is food, as a matter of convenience, and the fact that if you have the right food item, it should be reliably rewarding for your dog when trainng. But food, or toys, are not the be all and end all; this is where the concept of functional reinforcement is so important to understand in all aspects of training our dogs, but no more so than in aggression due to fear or frustration. 

Reactivity towards other dogs, or people can be approached in a number of different ways, but these are not mutually exclusive and inevitably in an ideal scenario classical and operant conditioning will work seemlessly together to reduce negative emotions and the problem behaviour the owner is dealing with.  

BAT primarily focusses on functional reinforcement – or how the dogs current behaviour is reinforcing the dog, and how an alternative – more acceptable – behaviour can be reinforced by skilled and attentive handling.

The book is not just a toolkit for dealing with reactive dogs – it provides an excellent grounding in the most misunderstood and misinterpreted concept of reactivity thresholds, as well as a clear review of how to reward your dog effectively.  Grisha Stewarts writing is clear and accessible for pet dog owners and professionals alike, the illustrations by Lili Chin are invaluable, and Grisha provides guidelines for different types of set-ups as well as classes and a grounding in clicker training.

I would consider this book essential for any trainer or professional dealing in reactivity or aggression in dogs; owners just wanting to understand a little more about the underlying emotional state of their dog and why they behave as they do can be directed to Lili Chins illustrations.  




About cambridgedogs

Dog training and behaviour in Cambridgeshire
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