Science is at the heart of the Creature Teacher philosophy. Melissa has an extensive scientific background in research. As such, she is familiar with the scientific literature in animal behaviour and its applications to training and behaviour modification, and indeed, has contributed to that literature personally. Her practical methods are based on scientific data.
The human brain is an incredible thing, capable of enormous flexibility and complexity that we are usually not even conscious of. We have some fascinating processes that help us make the most of the information we receive by finding patterns and shortcuts that help us interpret information in light of our previous experiences. The downside of this is that it leads to biases, which may bring us to believe things that are not true. A scientific approach is a way for us to step away from our biases and discover what really is true. Read more about biases here.
This is particularly important in animal training because the welfare of another being is in our hands. We owe it to our animals to be better than sure of what we are doing, because they are the ones that will suffer if our biases negatively influence decisions we make on their behalf. It is very easy when working with animals to get carried away by our own beliefs and prior successes. The animals can’t tell us themselves when we are wrong. There are many ways to train an animal and many of them will be at least partially successful to some degree. This is not good enough. At Creature Teacher, it is considered a responsibility to be as sure of recommendations and as free of bias as practically possible so that the welfare of the animal comes first and foremost during training and behaviour modification.
Creature Teacher prioritises positive emotional states. There are many reasons for this, but ultimately we want happy animals. That is why we try to make life better for them through behavioural modification and training when it is appropriate. The methods used by Creature Teacher are aimed at creating safe, happy animals that like doing what you want them to do. The first step in changing behaviour is often making sure the animal’s emotional associations with the environment and people and other animals are neutral or positive and their arousal level is appropriate. Creature Teacher admits to a heavy bias towards rewards in training, because some biases are okay and backed up by lots of science.