Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Considering TACT

Ever since it was released several months ago, I have been very interested in checking out the TACT program by Emma Parsons and Julie RobitalleThis program is intended for dogs who have fear of people, and I am interested in possibly using it (or elements of it) for Tessa, and, of course, to help fearful dogs in my Confidence and Self Control classes.

It was on sale a couple of weeks ago, so I finally bought the DVD set.  One of my biggest questions about the program has been, "are there any techniques in this program that are distinct from those found in Control Unleashed".  I have never gotten a sufficient answer to this question, although I have asked it in several online venues.  So, I am now seeing for myself.  The basic answer is - yes, some.  There are also some elements of the TACT program for which I will substitute Control Unleashed games and structures, there is a good bit of overlap, but there are also some elements of TACT that are distinct from CU that I believe will be useful in their own right.

The first couple of DVD's provide and introduction to the program, and then detail foundation behaviors, management strategies, and safety considerations.  It is mostly all good stuff, but very little of it was new to me.  There is one foundation technique, "check it", where the dog learns to actually nose touch something (or someone) on cue, that was somewhat new to me.  In the context of CU I have had handlers teach their dog to nose touch another person's hand, but that's not really a CU game per se.

Also, "look at me" is recommended in the TACT program, and I much prefer "Look at That" from CU.  "Look at me" can be good management in a case where the dog is not ready to see a particular trigger, or the handler just wants to distract the dog from noticing something, but it is limited as a technique to actually teach a dog to see and deal with triggers in a more proactive and appropriate way.

That said, later on in the DVD, dogs are reinforced for looking calmly at their triggers, so there are LAT elements in the program, even if the technique is not named as such.

Finally, around the middle of the 3rd disk, the TACT program proper begins.  I have only gotten into that a little, but so far I like what I see.  I really like the idea of having set rituals that the dog does in the presence of a trigger, as a gauge to how well the dog is dealing with the presence of the trigger.  So far there isn't much deal with "touch", but I'm hoping that is coming soon in the parts I haven't seen yet.

One thing that I really appreciate about this program is that it is very well presented and clearly explained.  Someone who is brand new to reinforcement based behavior modification could watch this and understand it, and have a place to start in helping his or her dog.

For me it has been a great reminder that I need to get out there with Tessa and start doing some DS/CC work with her.  Thus far I have allowed her to lead the way, and she has gradually become more and more comfortable with people around her.  She actually loves the trial or competition setting where there are scads of people, all of whom are ignoring her completely!  But she has it in her to be a confident, friendly, and affectionate dog with people.  Not all shy dogs do, but Tessa certainly does.  I believe that taking her through some of the steps in TACT will help her to become exactly that.

Tessa has learned, through her former experiences, that she needs to worry about hands reaching toward her.  She can unlearn that.  She has already unlearned much, much more than that.  Tessa can learn that hands reaching toward her are a good thing that she can welcome.

This summer we are embarking on this work.

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