SATS and other training methods

Many ask, what can SATS offer that is new and different? There are many fine trainers and training programs already in use.

SATS is compatible with most training systems. You simply add the bridges (signals that tell your animal it is “right” or “on the way to being right”), the information (from bridges and words we have taught), and use targets to trace behaviors for the animals to show them what you want them to do.

Many have compared SATS (short for the Syn Alia Training System) to Clicker Training, and are wondering what the differences are.
Some important differences are listed below. There are others.

The originator of Clicker Training, is Karen Pryor, circa 1991. She published rules of Clicker Training to define that method. They included a rule : “treat after every click”

The originator of SATS is Kayce Cover, circa 1990, with a manual copyrighted after testing, in 1991. SATS says vary all reinforcers and do NOT feed after every bridge (a click is just one kind of bridge).

Clicker uses a Terminal Bridge (the Clicker), which tells the animal the instant he has “it” right.

SATS uses a Terminal Bridge (TB) AND an Intermediate Bridge (IB), which tells the animal he is on the right path – so it encourages him, AND it helps to guide him straight into success, and the TB. Think of the game “hot and cold”, only turbo-charged! So, SATS gives more kinds of information, more frequent information, and therefore more support. SATS bridges are verbal, so you don’t have to buy anything, never forget your bridger, it does not break or get dirty, AND you can modulate the bridge, giving differential reinforcement using the IB. (Differential Reinforcement is when you show the animal that some things get more reinforcement than others, helping it home into the optimal action.)

Clicker allows the animal to use trial and error to figure out what the trainer/owner wants. Now, some people combine food-luring with Clicker Training, so that they can lead the animal to success with food. For some people, this leads to problems with animals fixated on food, and refusing to work without food, and requiring better and better food treats.

SATS uses food and many other reinforcers (like stroking, toys, freedom), but it does NOT use “trial and error” or “luring”. Instead, the animal is taught to touch a target, and the target is used to trace the behavior, so the animal can see exactly what the task is (or can see the piece of the task). Sometimes the animal receives food, but the emphasis is on getting the information to the animal fluently, to keep his interest. Experienced SATS animals will often work for long stretches with no food. They also tend to be very focused on the information. We steer away from frustration and over-excitement.

In Clicker Training, the behavior is not named or cued until after it has been “finished” (done correctly) by the animal.

In SATS, we name things for the animals as we teach them. We name each skill as the animal is learning it. We name events, people, activities, animals, locations, etc. We also teach concepts, like “left versus right”. We can then combine the words which we have taught to the animals, and use them to create new behaviors in new situations, often without additional training. We can also use these words to give the animals information to help them cope with things that might otherwise be stressful or scary. For example, we can say, “Look left, boy on bike!” so that the animal does not get startled by the sudden passing of a boy on a bike.

In SATS we teach by explaining to the animal what is happening and what we will be doing. We show them what we need them to do. We do not wait for them to figure out what we want. We do not generally see the animals get frustrated and they are usually quickly successful. They are usually calm and focussed during training, and speed up once they have mastered the idea/behavior. They do not generally “offer behaviors” (produce uncued behavior to try to elicit a response from the trainer).

Which is right for you and your animal? You decide! If you catch the SATS bug, look further and experiment, because there is much, much more to explore in the world of SATS. And remember, with most training methods, you don’t need to choose one over the other, you can simply add SATS to the things you already do.