Top 10 Animal Training Conferences for 2016

The Ultimate Animal Training Conference Wish List for 2016

Click HERE to see the Top Dog Training Conferences for 2017.

Education, networking, adventure, and fun! Here are the best training and education conferences for you to attend in 2016. It was particularly difficult to whittle down the list this year. If your conference didn’t make the cut please post registration information in the comments! Conferences are listed in chronological order due to the author’s inability to decide which should be first.


ClickerExpo will be held in 3 locations throughout 2016. This year ClickerExpos have slightly different labs and workshops depending on the location.
Reno, Nevada
When: Friday, January 22-24, 2016
Where: Reno, Nevada
Why: New for 2016 are Educational Themes. Themes include: Trainer Skill Development, Teaching People, Aggression and General Behavior Management. Feel free to follow a single theme or skip around. There’s something for everyone! CCPDT, IAABC, and KPA Continuing Education Units are available for professionals attending this event.
More Information:
Cincinnati, Ohio
When: Friday, March 18-20, 2016
Where: Cincinnati, Ohio
Why: New for 2016 is a complete Equine Theme which includes Husbandry, Saddling, Trailer Loading, and much more! This is in addition to the Themes listed for Reno above.  CCPDT, IAABC, and KPA Continuing Education Units are available for professionals attending this event.
More Information:
ClickerExpo Europe
When: Friday, October 28-30, 2016
Where: Billund, Denmark
Why: The ClickerExpo 2016 schedule for Denmark has not been released yet. It will be released by 15 February 2016. The highlight so far? The conference is going to be held in the LegoLand Hotel!
More Information:

ORCA 8th Annual Art and Science of Animal Training

When: Saturday, February 20-21, 2016
Where: Dallas, Texas
Why: ORCA is now a two day event! This conference has become a staple for all animal trainers. Bringing together trainers and behavior analysts, the conference covers a broad spectrum of knowledge of animal behavior and how to get it. This year has two themes. Saturday will cover shaping behavior in both animal and human learners, and Sunday will cover concepts and tools for improving animal welfare and human-animal interactions. This year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Iver Iversen, will discuss: “Selection and creation processes involved in shaping of novel behavior: Method and Theory.”
More Information:

Penn Vet Working Dog Conference

When: Friday, April 8-11, 2016
Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Why: You may have seen this conference’s DVD’s on TawzerDog. Did you know you could attend the Penn Vet Working Dog Conference?  This year’s theme is “Whole Dog 360: A multidisciplinary approach.” Individual topics will be addressed with a series of four (4) – ½ day sessions: Advancements in working dog health and medicine; Training the working dog using current scientifically-based methods; Implications of handler training on the successful working dog team; Driving progress in the working dog field through research & innovation. This year’s keynote speaker will be Ken Ramirez.
More Information:

IAABC Animal Behavior Conference

When: Saturday, April 9-10, 2016
Where: Anaheim, California
Why: The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants has creatively merged their Feline and Canine Conferences into one event. Choose to follow the Feline or Canine track, or pick and choose which presentations you’d like to join. The dual-track conference features speakers discussing the latest science, treatments, and protocols for managing and modifying behavior in dogs and cats.
More Information:

Animal Management Behavior Alliance (ABMA) Annual Conference

When: Monday, April 17-22, 2016
Where: Tampa, Florida
Why: The Animal Behavior Management Alliance (ABMA) specializes in animal care and training through enrichment. This year’s theme is “Breaking Down Barriers: New Possibilities in Animal Welfare.” Conference locations include multiple zoos and a post conference trip to Natural Encounters. This year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Susie Ellis of the International Rhino Foundation. Details will be posted as they are finalized.
More Information:

DogEvent 2016

When: Thursday, May 5-8, 2016
Where: Nice, France
Why: You’ve always wanted to see Nice and now you have an excuse! 4 days of dog training, behavior workshops, and demos. Each day has a theme: Shelter Dogs, Behavior Analysis, Training, Canine Nutrition, and Advanced Behavior Techniques. Speakers include Dr. Clive Wynne, Ken McCort, Jean Lessard, Nancy Tucker, and Dr. Jean Dodds. This conference has a limit of 100 attendees.
More Information:

Fenzi Dog Sports Academy Training Camp

When: Friday, June 19-22, 2016
Where: Purina Farms – Gray Summit, MO
Why: It’s bigger. It’s better. It’s at Purina Farms! The Ultimate Dog Sports Training Camp covers Obedience, Rally, Agility, Nosework, Freestyle, and Rally FrEe!  Join the dynamic dog sports goddesses Denise Fenzi, Deb Jones, Hannah Branigan, Julie Flanery, Loretta Mueller, Nancy Gagliardi Little, Shade Whitesel, Sue Ailsby, Amy Cook, Julie Symons, and Stacy Barnett for 4 days of fun. Work on heeling, scenting, retrieves, utilizing play to build motivation, and so much more.
More Information:

Canine Science Forum

When: Tuesday, June 28-July 1, 2016
Where: Padova, Italy
Why: The CSF is a biannual event. This year’s topics include: Evolution of canines; Ecology and conservation of canines; Dogs and humans; Applied aspects of canine biology; Behavioural biology of canines; Cognition; Canine genetics and endo/phenotyping. The Forum also includes a Round Table on service dogs that will introduce some of the main issues related to service dogs and defining the needs and critical points of this area.
More Information:

APDT Annual Conference and Trade Show

When: Wednesday, October 12-15, 2016
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
Why: You’re a professional dog trainer, this is your Association. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers Annual Conference is full of prestigious speakers and engaging seminars. The speakers and schedule for 2016 is still pending. This entry will be updated as information becomes available.
More Information:

Pet Professional Guild Educational Summit

When: Tuesday, November 8-11, 2016
Where: Tampa, FL
Why: The speakers and schedule for 2016 is still pending. This entry will be updated as information becomes available.
More Information:

Looking Forward to 2017 – WOOF! is Back!

When: Friday, February 10-12, 2017
Where: University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.
Why:  It’s back! It’s’ back! The very successful WOOF! European Behaviour & Training Conference has been on hiatus since 2013, but it’s back for 2017. Why look that far ahead? This baby is going to fill up fast! Speakers include Sean Pogson, Susan M. Schneider, Susan Friedman, Steve Martin and Chirag Patel. The full topics and speaker schedule is still pending. This entry will be updated as information becomes available.
More Information:


Training Camps and Workshops

In addition to the conferences, these training camps should be on every trainer’s Must Do list.

Terry Ryan Coaching People to Train Their Dogs
When: February 11-15th, 2015
Where: Waialua, Oahu
Why: Coaching People to Train Their Dogs is for anyone with an above average interest in dog training, animal training, and/or student instruction. This course is also for anyone who has read the book by the same name and wants to put it into practice.
More Information:

Bailey-Farhoody CHICKEN CAMPS
When: Summer 2016
Where: Columbia, MD
Why: Dogs are incredibly forgiving. If you want to test your training skills, train a chicken! Dr. Bob Bailey and Ms. Parvene Farhoody, MA, teach these Workshops using chickens as a behavior model in order to teach operant conditioning (OC) and applied behavior analysis (ABA) principles. The 2016 schedule is still pending.
More Information:

When: 2016
Where: Pending
Why: Training a chicken is a stretch and a boost to your mechanical skills. The average chicken is faster than the average dog, giving you a chance to improve your coordination and timing. The 2016 schedule is pending.
More Information:!chicken-workshops/cfvg

When: Monday, March 28 – April 1, 2016 and Monday, August 22-26, 2016
Where: Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL
Why: This is a full graduate course adapted to a one-week format for zoo training professionals. Although originally designed for zoo trainers, many dog trainers take the course each year. This course fills up early.
More Information:

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My Thoughts About The First PPG Summit

It was an honor to be a part of the historic, first-ever Pet Professional Guild Summit in Tampa, Florida, November 11, 12, and 13, 2015. I attended as a presenter (Training and Maintaining Therapy and Crisis Response Dogs) and as an attendee. The Pet Professional Guild provided me with a one-day registration for presenting and provided a Media Pass for the other two days so that I could share information on the Modern Dog Trainer blog.

World Renowned Presenters at the PPG Summit

Pet Professional Guild assembled an impressive group of knowledgeable and skilled force-free animal trainers to share their expertise with other trainers from around the world – Niki Tudge, Dr. Karen Overall, Chirag Patel, Emily Larlham, Pat Miller, Ken McCort, Jacqueline Munera, Dr. Soraya Juarbe Diaz, Pamela Johnson, Mark Hines, Angleica Steinker, Janis Bradley, Theresa McKeon, Laurie Schlossnagle, Diane Garrod, Lisa Morrissey, Shari Sprague, Diana Pappert, Scott Baggett, Nancy Tucker, Linda Michaels, Debra Milliken, Lara Joseph, Maureen Backman, Dr. Michelle Duda, JJ Bachant Brown, and Emily Cassell.

With so many sessions to choose from, it was difficult to decide what to attend. I finally decided to attend:

  • Dr. Overall’s keynote session with the opening by Niki Tudge
  • Chirag Patel – Shaping the Perfect Patient
  • Janis Bradley – That’s the Lab in Him. Breed Bias, a Distraction from the Dog in Front of You
  • Diane Garrod – Solving the Aggression Puzzle and Multi-Dog Household Aggression,
  • Pamela Johnson – Training Snake Aversion the Force-Free Way,
  • Lara Joseph – Online Behavior and Training Consultations and How They are Successful,
  • Linda Michaels – Understanding Research: Making the Case for Force-Free Training, and
  • Theresa McKeon – TAG Don’t Nag: Techniques to be Force-Free with the Humans in Your Life.

There were also panel discussions on Wednesday and Friday, but I did not attend those (on Wednesday I needed to let my brain rest and on Friday I left to fly home).

For me, two sessions really struck a cord with me – Chirag Patel and Theresa McKeon. In both of those sessions, I learned practical information that I will be integrating into my training, both personally and professionally. They were both excellent, organized, engaging presenters. I will be adding both of them to my list of must-see speakers!

Theresa McKeon’s session was especially wonderful. She created a comfortable atmosphere and allowed personal interactions through which I learned a lot. Overall, the PPG Summit was well organized and the speakers were prepared. Scheduling is a challenge at any conference and can make it difficult to attend every speaker you want to see. The sheer variety of speakers and topics was impressive and valuable.

Most attendees were privileged to session notes before the conference. I missed out on those emails, but Niki Tudge, the Founder of PPG, went above and beyond to make sure I received the notes once I asked about them!

Tampa was a great city to hold the conference. The weather was beautiful and travel was relatively quick and easy. The conference was held in both a hotel and in a convention center which made moving in between sessions time-consuming. Distance played a factor in deciding which sessions I would attend. There were so many interesting speakers and topics to choose from!

Conference Accommodations

The Sheraton Riverwalk Hotel staff had amazing customer service which made my stay very enjoyable. I was able to easily access WiFi in my hotel room and in the conference rooms (at the hotel) which we all know can be difficult to get when traveling!

It looked like there were some very interesting meals to be had in great company, but I was not able to attend them due to a break down in communication. Hotel meals and restaurant meals added up financially, not to mention missing out on stimulating discussions on animal behavior.


In the future, I hope to see more vendors attend the PPG Summit. There are a lot of opportunities to meet reputable people in the industry. The effort and planning that goes into an event, let alone a first-ever event, is enormous! Niki Tudge and her team put together a quality educational event for force-free trainers. Trainers came from all over the world to participate and to learn. The 2016 Summit is already being discussed and trainers are looking forward to attending.

It is often said that if you have two dog trainers the only thing they will agree on is that they disagree. The great thing about a conference of dog trainers is that while we still may disagree, we enjoy learning together and being able to be in the same place at the same time with other like-minded trainers. Thank you Pet Professional Guild for offering us this opportunity!!!

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IAABC Animal Behavior Conference 2015, Day 2

IAABC Animal Behavior Conference 2015, Day 2

Due to the generosity of IAABC President Michael Shikashio, The Modern Dog Trainer was able to send a writer to the Animal Behavior Conference in Chicago, IL.  Notes from day 1 can be found here.  


Living With And Loving A Pet With Behavior Problems, by Kristin Buller, LCSW and Kelly Ballantyne, DVM

Kristin and Dr. Ballantyne conducted a small research project on the impact that living with a pet with behavior issues can have on the owners.  The research consisted of 63 participants, 40 of whom answered all questions.  The questions covered how their pet’s behavior impacted their social and personal lives.  Their results showed the impact is huge, sometimes devastating.  Owners feel stress, guilt, embarrassment, and socially isolated from friends and family.  Couples can have increased arguments due to disagreements on how to manage/care for the pet.  People can feel judged by society, friends, and even family.

They spoke about how even professionals occasionally come across as judgmental to those with difficult pets.  How many times have you heard, “there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.”  Imagine the impact that one simple statement has on a person who has tried their hardest and still has a difficult dog.

They said that as trainers, we have a responsibility to keep in the mind how any management instructions we give our clients will impact their lives and possibly create isolation from friends and family.  Most of the participants said that their trainers and veterinarians provided hope and trust.  That’s not to be taken lightly!  Kristin runs a support group for people living with difficult pets, where owners can come and talk to other people who truly understand.  No training tips, just emotional support.

They spoke about euthanasia for maybe two minutes, and how it is the last show of love we can give our pets, yet people often don’t extend this grace when the decision is made for a behavioral/mental illness in the pet.  This leaves owners again feeling judged and blamed.  Just a personal note here, but just in the couple of minutes that this was discussed, the entire room was sniffling and many were wiping eyes.  It was profound to me to see how many of us had obviously been touched by a shared experience of euthanizing a beloved pet or helping somebody else come to that decision.

To end, they discussed how trainers are first responders – people reach out to us in a time of crisis.  This is a huge responsibility.  We might not have the tools for dealing with the emotional crisis and that’s okay.  We cannot be trainers and therapists or we get compassion fatigue and burnout.  We don’t have to have all the answers.  So what can we do?

  • Let clients know it’s normal to have these feelings; validate them.
  • Let them know it’s okay to still love their pet.  When people accept the dog they have, instead of the dog they wanted, everybody is happier.
  • Use reflective and empathetic listening.
  • Use self-care to avoid compassion fatigue.
  • Read a book entitled “Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others” by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky.

Introducing Highly Reactive And Aggressive Dogs by Ken Ramirez

The author of this blog having a fangirl moment with Ken Ramirez.

The author of this blog having a fangirl moment with Ken Ramirez.

Ken received a grant to do research on introducing three reactive/aggressive dogs to each other, using the same techniques used in zoos and aquariums.  The research is still proprietary so cannot be shared to those who were not present at the seminar.  However, trust me when I say it was fascinating and you should definitely keep your eyes peeled for when it becomes available to the general public.

Simplifying Complex Training Tools by Ken Ramirez

Ken considers an advanced concept anything that ventures beyond “reward desirable behavior and ignore unwanted behavior.”  He made sure to specify that just understanding the theory isn’t enough – you must have the practical skills before using a tool, let alone introducing it to a client.  He said that training is all about adapting and changing procedures based upon the animal’s behavior.  He discussed many different tools that trainers should have in their toolbox:

  1. Keep Going Signal/Intermediate Bridge/Tertiary Reinforcer
  2. Jackpots
  3. No Reinforcement/Reward Markers (NRM)
  4. Time Outs
  5. Least Reinforcing Scenario/Stimulus (LRS)
  6. Differential Reinforcement of Alternate Behaviors
  7. Recall Signal (not a tool but included in lecture due to frequency of misuse)
  8. End Of Session Signal

For each of these, he discussed what the science has shown, how and when to use them, and whether he personally uses them or not.  He ended by talking about how all tools exist for a reason.  Many are very specialized and seldom needed, but we shouldn’t throw them out of the toolbox.  We need to understand all the tools and how to use them if we want to help people STOP using them.  On the other hand, don’t use a tool just because you have it.  Successful use of complex tools depends on thorough understanding of the benefits and challenges of their use.

Final Thoughts Of This Writer

I cannot thank Michael Shikashio and the IAABC enough for his generosity in providing The Modern Dog Trainer a ticket to this conference.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and I learned so much.  It is frustrating as I know the blogs I wrote of this conference cannot convey the sheer brilliance of the speakers that were present, nor the massive amount of information they so generously shared with all of us.

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IAABC Animal Behavior Conference 2015, Day 1

IAABC Animal Behavior Conference 2015, Day 1

iaabcDue to the generosity of IAABC President Michael Shikashio, The Modern Dog Trainer was able to send a writer to the Animal Behavior Conference in Chicago, IL.  

On April 18th and 19th, the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) held a conference on animal behavior at The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago.  It was two full information-packed days.  Fortunately, I had taken my laptop because 14 pages of single-spaced, typed notes later, I was floating on an education high!

Steve Dale – Being Real About The Human/Animal Bond

Steve started the weekend with a bang, throwing out some sobering statistics about the state of pets in our world today.  Obesity issues, behavior issues, health issues, end of life issues.  However, as he pointed out, many of these issues are because we love our pets so very much.  Loving them to death, you could say.  He did offer some other reasons we are seeing so many more behavioral issues in our beloved pets:

  • we pay more attention to our animals, so we are bound to notice more issues
  • “latch key” pets, home alone for much of the day
  • genetic predisposition
  • aversive training techniques
  • lack of training/socialization
  • not listening to real experts, only Google “experts”
  • treating pets like people

So, as a modern dog trainer, what can you do to help combat this?

  • community involvement
  • education of clients/public
  • social and traditional media
  • introduce yourself to public officials
  • good marketing – senior discounts, kitten classes, work with a shelter
  • emphasize the importance of end of life care

Dr. John Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB – Fear Based Aggression

As a Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, Dr. Ciribassi said the issue he sees the most is fear based aggression.  He discussed how so often it is made worse by well-intentioned owners trying to punish the behavior out of their dogs to maintain pack leadership.  Doing this simply creates what he calls conflict aggression.  The dog is throwing submissive body language – he is not at all confident.  But he has learned that humans are unpredictable and that aggression gets him out of the situation.  Dr. Ciribassi said that conflict/fear-based aggression generally shows up either at sexual maturity (6-8 months) or, more likely, social maturity (1-2 years).

Dr. Ciribassi’s protocol for treating this is:

  • counter conditioning
  • remove exposure to inciting stimuli
  • desensitization
  • appropriate use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals

Dr. Ciribassi said he does not advise taking dogs off pharmaceuticals if they are working.  Work with a vet to taper them to the lowest effective dose, but trying to wean a dog off is similar to trying to wean a diabetic off insulin.  It’s a disease that isn’t cured, a medical abnormality.  He did say that it’s a lifelong process, that we never “cure” these problems; we just help people manage the problems so the dogs can stay in the home.

Dr. John Ciribassi – Possessive Aggression/Resource Guarding

“Dominance – assertion of one member of a group over another in acquiring access to a piece of food, a mate, a place to display, a sleeping site, or any other requisite that adds to the genetic fitness of the dominant individual…” E.O. Wilson

When Dr. Ciribassi talks about resource guarding, he has two different tests for it.  The first, the equal opportunity test, involves putting a valued resource equidistant between two dogs and releasing them at the same time.  The dog that gets the resource is more dominant when it comes to equal opportunity.  However, the next test, the established possession test, is more telling.  In this test, one dog is given a valued resource and allowed to enjoy it and establish possession.  The other dog is then released.  Whichever dog ends up with the resource is more dominant when establishing possession.  The established possession test is the one Dr. Ciribassi was talking about during this session.

He pointed out that resource guarding has nothing to do with hierarchy between a dog and a person.  It is all about resource holding potential.  If it were based on dogs being dominant over people, it would imply that dogs would be able to come over and get us to leave something we have that they want.  It is simply not about hierarchy.  It is about value, possession, and the need to maintain control over a resource.

When it comes to resource guarding, punishing the dog or taking away the item is the worst thing to do.  It increases the likelihood of the dog increasing their guarding or moving on to guarding benign objects.  Dr. Ciribassi emphasized that hand feeding is not recommended because it keeps that conflict present with the dog.

Dr. John Ciribassi – Separation Anxiety

Dr. Ciribassi started by saying that people cannot cause separation anxiety.  It’s a genetic abnormality.  What people can do, however, is exacerbate the issue.  He said that before beginning treatment/b-mod, it is essential to not only get an extensive behavioral history, but also a physical exam and lab work to rule out any medical issues.  This is especially critical when the issue suddenly rears its ugly head in a dog that is full-grown.

Dr. Ciribassi said that the overall goal of treatment is to reduce dependence on owners and reduce significance of departure and arrival routines.  This is managed through an extensive treatment plan that would require its own blog.  He does pair the behavior modification with anti-anxiety medication.

Dr. Ciribassi listed several factors that can affect the outcome of treatment:

  • the older the dog at time of diagnosis, the poorer the prognosis
  • a dog with multiple diagnoses (noise anxiety, conflict aggression, etc) will have a poorer prognosis
  • can the owners follow through with the extensive modification to their lives?
  • can the owners follow through with medication compliance with their dogs?
  • basic living situation of the owners

Laura Monaco Torelli – From Exotic To Domestic Animals

Laura spent some time telling us of the lessons she learned from working with exotic animals that have helped her become a more effective dog trainer, especially on the human side of things.  Here are some of her tips:

  • When working with your clients, it is important to remember “WOOF.”

W – What you want

O – One thing at a time

O – Observable and definable

F – Five words or less

  • Be an empathetic teacher to both animal and owner
  • Give discrete criteria that is easily followed, less than 5 words:
    • “leash thumb in pocket” or “leash hand along seam”
  • Have owners practice the skills before the dog gets involved
  • We shape human behavior – avoid flooding your clients!
  • Teach proactive husbandry care
  • Slow steps = progress
  • Learning is dynamic

Finally, Laura shared with us what she teaches first to clients – TACOS!

T – Targeting

A – Attention to handler

C – Cue a behavior

O – Offer a behavior

S – Stationing or settle on mat

Dr. Ciribassi, Steve Dale, Ruth Crisler, Michael Shikashio – What Is A Veterinary Behaviorist, A Behavior Consultant, A Trainer?

This was a panel discussion to round out the day.  Many ideas were bounced around and much emphasis was made on the point that trainers, behavior consultants, vets and veterinary behaviorists all have to work together as a team to aid clients.  Here are a few basic points that were thrown out for discussion:

  • Trainers prevent problems behaviors
  • Behavior consultants solve problem behaviors
  • As trainers and behavior consultants, we never make diagnoses – we refer to vets
  • There are only about 65 true Veterinary Behaviorists in the United States.

That was all just on day one!!! Click here for notes from day two!

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