C.A.T. for Overcoming Extreme Fear or Aggressive Responses


By Barbara Heidenreich

C.A.T.  is the constructional approach for addressing aggressive behavior and fear responses. It was originally called CAT because in the initial applications it was primarily being used to address aggressive behavior. (Please note the video needs updating on the nomenclature) The current nomenclature is the Constructional Approach because it can be used to construct new behaviors under many conditions. Although it relies on fundamental principles of behavior science with which many of us are familiar, the application is somewhat unique and innovative for most contemporary animal trainers.

Constructional means building or constructing new behaviors that work better than what they are currently doing (Snider 2017)

This approach is one I have been finding extremely successful when working with animals that will not engage with caregivers at all to accept food or other potential reinforcers. I am also finding it useful for animals that will participate, but their body language is not relaxed and comfortable throughout the process.  The beauty of this technique is I typically see an animal transition to wanting to engage within 1-2 sessions.

Dr Jesus Rosales Ruiz and the students from O.R.C.A. while not the first to ever use this approach, were the first to really start applying this broadly to help address dog on dog aggression back in 2007.  They also saw the value and lectured frequently to the dog community helping to bring more attention to this practical application procedure. Over the years they have refined the technique.

Dr Rosales’ former student Kellie Snider, who was the principle on the initial study, has also recently published a book on the topic catered towards companion animal owners Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly: Using Constructional Aggression Treatment to Rehabilitate Aggressive and Reactive Dogs  If you want something more academic try this link to Kellie’s thesis

The dog training community has been using C.A.T regularly with success. As you will see in the course, I am having success with it too. It would be great to see and share more examples from those working with exotic species or other domestic species.  If you apply this technique, please share your experiences in the Forum and chat group. The more discussion generated on successful application, the more this technique can be used to help more people and animals.


Snider; K. (2017) Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly: Using Constructional Aggression Treatment to Rehabilitate Aggressive and Reactive Dogs

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