While many debate whether animals are self aware, or have empathy, or can use vocabulary or form concepts, SATS trainers get to work. The best way to answer these questions is by asking the animals directly. We do that, and they tell us, sometimes by their outstanding performance, and sometimes by directly answering questions about what they know, that they can do all this, and more.
The scientific perspective is not to be prejudiced about what is possible. The scientific perspective is to ask, without prejudice, what is there to observe. Then observe, test observations, and put our new understanding to work. Anyone who does not believe that animals have all these abilities, and are very similar to us in many ways, is not working with animals at the level that is possible. They are not working with animals at the level of a SATS trainer.
The Syn Alia Training System recognizes that animals can be aware, thinking, responsible, partners – and should be treated as such. They deserve to know the training goals and requirements, and to get feedback in their success in achieving these goals and requirements. They are most effectively managed with respect and fairness. In our interactions with animals, SATS trainers strive for mutual respect, responsibility, benefit, and integrity. We give the animal a lot of support and information during the training process. We seek to empower our animal partners to be successful in all their dealings with humans.
The philosophy of SATS is that in our interactions “With Others” , we treat others as we would want to be treated, if our positions were reversed.
When animals are treated this way, we find they embrace learning. Rather than working for treats or to avoid punishment, the animals work for the love of what we are doing. SATS trainers do use treats, toys, fun activities, during training, but food is not essential. As the great dolphin trainer, Erica Abt, said, “All things being equal, most animals love to learn.” She even went so far as to say, “If they do not love learning, check carefully. That is one of the first signs of illness.” We agree.
Even animals like sharks, rays and crabs love to learn. Animals will run, fly, jump and swim to get to their trainers and the chance to learn and interact.
WHAT can they learn?
When we teach animals like we teach people, we find that they are capable of learning many, many words, concepts, places, people, animals, behaviors and more. And they learn quickly.
If you admire the work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s Alex, who had mathematical abilities equal or exceeding those of an average six year old human child, if you were fascinated to learn that chimps have better memories than humans, if you thought is was amazing that Rico knew the names of all his toys, if you saw that the genome data shows that we are biologically extremely similar to animals so it’s not likely or logical that we would be fundamentally different… If you saw and this and felt exhilerated rather than frightened, then the question is, what are you doing to tap the amazing abilities of your animals?
Imagine the companionship of an animal that can understand you when you talk to him. Imagine the fun of exploring the possibilities in learning, with your animal partner. Imagine the edge of working with an animal partner who can TELL you what he found.
Now, stop imagining and start creating!
It’s a wonderful world of partnership, exploration and communion. It all starts with seeing animals as they are, and not as they have been portrayed historically. It starts with treating animals the way all beings want to be treated – with respect, fairness, integrity and inclusion.
The journey starts here!