SATS (Syn Alia Training Systems) has been around for quite awhile, but it has not been brought to use with dog popularly until the last 5-10 years or so. I have found it to be extremely effective in teaching new behaviors, in helping the dog understand concepts, and in teaching the dog how to be in control of himself! Here are a few key things about how we train with SATS.
Learning Theory Applied
When we use SATS, we mostly focus on two pieces of learning theory: Positive Reinforcement, and Negative Punishment. That means that we give rewards for behavior that we want, and we take away desired things as a punishment for things we do not want. Treats and time outs, essentially.
Depending on your dog, the rewards may be as simple as a treat, or it may be as complicated as access to an activity that we previously thought the dog didn’t like (but really does!). The punishments can be as simple as backing away from a desired item, or as complicated as having to retire past his threshold to relax before being allowed to go back in and try again. It all depends on the dog!
Cognitive Components, and Language
In SATS, we spend a lot of time and energy teaching animals the names for things: their body parts, things in their environment, emotional states. We also teach concepts to the animals, such as On/Off, Up/Down, In/Out, Loose/Tight, and so on. This helps the animal to be more of a partner in the training process, rather than having his behavior manipulated ONLY through consequences.
We believe, in SATS, that we can achieve much more by working in partnership with animals than by being in control of all aspects. Syn Alia is actually a combination of the words “Synergistic Alliances,” meaning “with others.” We can get our animals to cooperate and collaborate with us, rather than simply be compliant, but it takes some new ways of thinking much of the time. In SATS, we have systems in place to support those new ways of thinking!
Bridge and Target
Bridge and Target is the part of SATS that covers the learning of new behaviors. We use Bridges (a sound associated with a treat or reward) to support the animal’s attention and behavior, and to mark the moment of success. We use Targets to guide the animal through behaviors so that we can mark and name them! It is a very fluid, conversational technique we use to work with the animals.
Here is a video of Kayce Cover working with Sara, her horse, using Bridge and Target.
Perception Modification is the part of SATS that we use to address reactivity and aggression in animals. We first teach the animal what the state of calm feels like, using the technique called Conditioned Relaxation. Many of them have never felt it before! Then, we begin to introduce triggering stimuli to the animals in small, manageable increments, called Cycles. We want the animal to be successful in staying relaxed, and to cognitively recognize their own stress levels and manage them. It has outstanding, sometimes unbelievable, results!
Check out this video of Ebony, his journey from being reactive and aggressive to a calm, enjoyable observer.
In short, I train with SATS because I enjoy working with animals as partners. It’s an amazing feeling, and I hope that you investigate more about this great technique by checking out Kayce Cover’s website: www.synalia.com. You may find that it completely transforms your relationships with your animals!