Just finished certifying another group of wonderful trainers. Cranston Blanks and Shelby Vadnais hosted us at their lovely property, where their extended family includes many dogs, a miniature horse and two donkeys. It was fun! And a lot of work. Many dogs with many challenging problems.
And the camp! I love this aspect of my work. I like the small groups, intensive work, and dramatic results with animals. I like getting to know the trainers – each one a unique gift to the people and animals they will help. Somehow, each camp has a theme. There seems to always be a central lesson for me, piled on top of teaching other trainers the critical basics of SATS.
This camp was definitely about refining the teaching of Perception Modification skills and information. I rewrote the notes, added a section on training plans, and drafted new sections to expand our reference notes.
The trainers did an outstanding job crafting training plans. This task requires us to discipline our minds and set down the steps by which we will accomplish our goals with the animals and their people. Nobody likes to start doing this. Nonetheless, once they are done, every single trainer exclaims, with a note of relief, how much it improves them as a trainer. I had the same experience. I don’t like it either. But I do it, for the same reason all trainers should do it. Any good presentation starts with an outline. But I, perhaps more than anyone, understand how difficult it can be to pull out that outline.
Early in my career, I trained under a number of rigorous conditions – in show settings, for research, and to solve behavioral problems. It was all challenging. However, I found it was easier to do it than to describe it! When I sat down to write about how I trained animals, I found it was like trying to walk in zero gravity. With nothing to ground you, the linear path was difficult to glimpse, and even harder to walk. Truth is, training is a 4 dimensional pursuit, and writing is a two dimensional media. We have to find a way to make the training process linear. We have to address one sense at a time. In real life, it comes at us in real time, in 4 dimensional surround, and we must move by the seat of our pants. The first time! Then, if we are to improve, we need to review our actions and results, glean the significance of them, formulate any modulations in our next presentation, and prepare.
When we encounter the animal again, we bring new clarity, and unwavering appreciation and support. We progress. The animal enjoys success. We enjoy success. We prosper together. And so it goes. With proper preparation.
But always, the plan is the most difficult part of the process. But if I can complete the plan, I can train the animal. No matter how unlikely the task – teaching chickens to star in a wild west show, or cows to tell scientists they want food, or a date with a bull – with my plan in place, the training becomes inevitable. Without a plan, I waste time with indecision and false starts.
Moreover, when working with evolving trainers, without a plan, I cannot trouble- shoot with them BEFORE the trouble occurs (always the best time!).
These trainers that practiced creating and working training plans, with difficult dogs, before even earning their certification, have given themselves a great gift. By embracing this discipline, they have clarified their understanding of how to proceed, and the animal’s understanding of their presentation! Now, yet better armed than their colleagues that came before, they leave study to put concepts to action. I get chills to think of how many more animals they will be able to help now. They will realize an the increase in efficiency. As they forge new SATS experiences in their own businesses and practice, they share their stories. I love hearing these stories of their many victories and breakthroughs. I love knowing that SATS is supporting these successes.
The certification process is rigorous (I am told!). For the many trainers who have earned certification, at this last camp and all others – Congratulations! Now, go forth, and be great. I await the stories of your conquests!
My thoughts are with the many fine trainers attending the IACP conference this year, many of whom are SATS certified. In fact, in a number of ways, I will be there with you! So that I can say hi and catch up with friends at the conference, Mark McCabe is setting up a Skype session, at 8:30 pm, Thurs, Sept 17, 2015. Hope to ‘see’ you there! (set your twitter notification to #MarkMcCabek9 for location and details) I hope that your experience with SATS will perfuse your perception of all the information you encounter there. I hope that it will raise the bar for you in what is possible and how it is best achieved. I hope you will have a great time, and make yet more friends, many of whom will also be SATS Certified Trainers. I hope your enthusiasm for your new, dearly earned skills will spill over to infect the other trainers you encounter. Thanks for being part of the SATS community.
Best wishes in St. Louis, and may SATS be with you.