How to Attend a Dog Training Conference

How to Attend a Dog Training Conference

With the registration date for ClickerExpo coming up, I began to think about what learning goals to concentrate on this year, who I wanted to hear speak, and if there should be a theme or if I should just see whatever sounded interesting. I then began to think about the other part of going to conferences; meeting people and networking. So many times I’ve seen someone I haven’t seen in years passing by in between sessions and had that 7 second drive-by conversation, “Hi! How are you doing! Great to see you! Let’s meet for lunch or something!” The other person responds, “Great!” and then that’s the end of it. This year, I really want to make a plan.

1. Put people you want to meet on your schedule.

I always have the best of intentions and every conference I fail. This year I’m putting people on my schedule. Message people and ask them for a time to meet or share a meal or have a drink. Put the appointment on your schedule with a reminder so you don’t become that person that stood someone up at a training conference. You have 3 meals a day, after conference drinks, breaks in between speakers, and skipped session periods you can fill. Fill them. If meals are coordinated and prepaid you might consider skipping one and doing a DIY lunch at least one day to accommodate people who aren’t purchasing meals.

Related: Are drinks after the conference your favorite part of attending conferences? Do you like meeting online friends in-person? Ever wish you had a group of local, friendly dog trainers to chat with to continue the conversation? Check out our latest project: Mastermind Meetups for Modern Dog Trainers

2. You don’t have to fill every session.

I actually learned this when I got violently ill at a conference. Fatigue set in and I needed to prioritize my energy instead of my desire to see everything. There were some session slots where there just wasn’t anything that really perked my interest or I had seen all the presentations already. I skipped that period and took a nap, waking up refreshed for the speakers I really wanted to see. When I skipped and didn’t take a nap, I met a bunch of people that were also skipping!  If you’re just trying to fill time by seeing a speaker, meet up with people instead.

3. Introduce yourself to people sitting or eating alone.

If you haven’t filled a meal period with a scheduled meet up then scan the dining area and look for people wearing the conference badge who are sitting alone. Go introduce yourself and ask if they want company. Please don’t push in if the person says they’d rather be alone. Conferences can be overwhelming and some people need quiet time. I’ve had many amazing conversations eating with strangers. Meeting and talking to people way outside your normal circle can be more educational than some presentations. This practice also makes everyone feel welcomed and interesting. Which brings us to number 4.

4. Remember to get cards or contact information for people you meet.

I’m putting this on a post-it note on my forehead this year, “Please give me your business card.” After introducing myself and eating with a stranger and having a lovely conversation, it inevitably happens that the conference bell rings and you’re off and running to the next session. The number of times I’ve grabbed my things and said, “Thank you for the wonderful lunch!” then sprinted away is embarrassing. Take a moment, get a card or have the person put their email address in a note for you. When you get seated at your Must Get To session, make a note of where you met them, what you did together, and the general topic of conversation. Even if you never message them you will have a reminder if you see them at the next conference.

5. Organize meetups with your virtual friends.

We all have them, people we “know” from Twitter, Facebook, certification organizations, clubs, and schools. Schedule a meetup and get a few people you want to meet in one place. On Twitter you can create a hashtag and have people retweet or reply they’d like to join. You can create calendar and Facebook events so other people can invite other people. While it may seem fun to set these up for dinner at a restaurant, some trainers are on a budget. You might consider doing these in hotel common areas instead of restaurants so everyone can bring their own food yet still have dinner together. Remember to send reminders to everyone who was interested when you get to the conference.

Check out our latest project: Mastermind Meetups for Modern Dog Trainers

Did we miss anything? What is your go-to strategy for attending conferences? Tell us in the comments!

Reflections On The APDT 2015 Conference

Reflections On The APDT 2015 Conference

As a first time attendee of the 2015 APDT Annual Educational Conference & Trade Show, I was known as a “Conference Puppy” and I was thrilled to bits to travel all the way from Barbados to Dallas, Texas, USA to gain knowledge about dog training, behaviour and the business aspect of the dog industry.

Another important part of this conference, for me, was the networking. It was wonderful to meet my Facebook friends – Casey Lomonaco and Robin Bennett of the APDT’s Board of Trustees; guests I had on my Chat Time Interviews – Roger Abrantes, Michael Shikashio, Grisha Stewart and Josh Pitts; my Texan friends Abby Merlot, Jolynn Payne, Kevin Glowski, and my roommates Cheri Spaulding and Karen Reilly and so many others. Greater bonds of friendship have been made by spending our free time together and I truly value meeting them in real life.


Part of the gang networking at the Draft Lounge Catherine Steinke, Jolynn Payne, Carlos Betancourt in front, Cheri Spaulding, Kevin Glowski, Lisa White at the back.

The Sheraton Dallas Hotel, located in downtown Dallas, was huge, with lots of walking to get around. It was beautiful and the staff very friendly and helpful. The food was good and I ate from a variety – Peets was great to grab yummy Starbucks coffee (loved the Pumpkin Spice Latte) and a quick bite; I had the buffet breakfast at the Kitchen Table Restaurant, which had such a variety to choose. Most of the socialising was done at the Draft Media Sports Lounge.  It was the perfect atmosphere with great music but you could still have a conversation, watch sports on their large screen TV’s, or play pool.

I found the schedule of things to do and see to be completely filled each day.  The APDT even had an early meetup – AM Riser, Get to know your Neighbourhood Walk, from 7 – 7.45am. Errm I like my bed so that was too early for me and I didn’t make those meets. LOL.


Dr Stephen Ledoux and I

On Wednesday, day 1, the keynote speaker was Dr. Stephen Ledoux.  He gave a talk about, “Helping Our Canine Friends By Helping Ourselves With Science.”

Each day from 8am to 5pm, there were the Live Animal Workshops.  You could also choose the General Sessions which consisted of four Shorts to choose from, where speakers talked on a variety of topics for 45 minutes.  They ran from 8 to 8.45, 9 to 10.30, and 10.45 to 12.15.

Lunch was an hour and a half, but even during lunch there were roundtable discussions and demos of freestyle, Hollywood dog or you could browse the vendors at the trade show.

The presentations started back from 1.30 to 3pm and again at 3.15 to 4.45pm. Thankfully there were breaks of 15 minutes to get to the other presentations and stretch your legs.

Even after the speakers presentations, there was still something to see and do from 5 to 9.30pm – Toy Making, Scientific Poster Session, more doggy demos and on Friday night was the APDT Foundation Reception and Auction which was great.

There were 3 tables full of mostly doggie items to bid on, ranging from dog toys, collars, personal sessions with Roger Abrantes and Sue Steinberg to name a few, as well as trips to the Caribbean. There were hors d’oeuvres and music, to which I danced a lot and managed to get the DJ to play some good modern pop music.

On the last day, Saturday, I was very sad, knowing this was the last day I would see my friends for another year and I was all teary eyed. Roger Abrantes gave a wonderful closing talk on, “Animal Training My Way,” which touched on our relationship with animals – bonds and respect.

“All we need do is control ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions and our behavior.  If we do it correctly, we will produce the changes in others that exist, not against their will, not by force or manipulation of the truth, but because they want they want it.” – Roger Abrantes

If I had to choose who was the best speaker, it would be extremely difficult. A lot of interesting information was shared, some I already knew a bit about, so it was good to get it explained further and I also learnt new things.

However, where I think I truly benefited was in the business topics, since we dog trainers tend to want to learn everything we can about dogs, but neglect the business/marketing side of things.

Veronica Boutelle, myself and Gina Phairas of Dogtec. They are really nice folks.

Veronica Boutelle, myself and Gina Phairas of Dogtec. They are really nice folks.

My favourite speakers were the Dogtec duo – Veronica Boutelle and Gina Phairas, who had a variety of presentations – Newsletter Marketing, Start Your Business On the Right Paw, Put More $ In Your Pocket, and more. It was great to meet them and they are as nice in person as they were to deal with, when I was so fortunate to have won the APDT 2013 Business Makeover.

Overall, I found everyone to be friendly, even the Ph.D’s, those brainy folks, were nice and humble.  They didn’t talk down to you at all and the “famous” folks, the big names who have written books or put out DVDs, were quite welcoming. I didn’t encounter any snobs there at all, no one thought they were better than others. It truly was a great atmosphere.

Oh, here are some tips for those attending conferences that I learnt the hard way –

1. Wear warm clothes, as it seems the powers that be like to keep you cold which apparently keeps you alert. I just shiver and quake.

2. Don’t overpack.  Most people wear the same clothes from morning till night and it’s usually casual – jeans, shirt, sweater. Less clothes, means more room for dog books and toys. Oh and take a portable scale for your luggage; you don’t want to be overweight from all the goodies you buy and pay extra for your luggage.

3. Wear comfortable shoes since you will be walking all over the hotel, with warm thick socks. I made the mistake of wearing boots with heels the first day and my feet hurt from all the walking I was doing. Lesson learnt.  I then wore my fluorescent orange sneakers everywhere. A friend said, “if you cannot find Lisa, just look down at the shoes.”

4. Have extra batteries and/or chargers.  In one day my camera, cell and laptop died, grrrrrrr.

5. If allowed, take lots of pictures instead of writing notes from the Powerpoint Slides, you will always miss something. And put your camera on silent, so as to not disturb others.

6. Be organized. Know which speakers you want to see and print out the daily schedule in advance, so you are organized. Most hotel rooms don’t have free wifi, so you won’t be able to access the website.

7. If the Conference has an app, download it.  This is very useful, since it has all the info about the Conference on it.

8. If you are traveling from another country, like me, phone calls and texts will be charged at an international rate, so it will be expensive. If possible, buy a SIM card with data.  You can get one at the airport, but it would be cheaper from a local store.

9. Know where the Speakers will be located and how to get there.  You will probably still get lost (I did, many times), but you can always ask others and follow them.

10. Get out there and talk to people; no sense in being a wallflower. Conferences are a great opportunity for networking, to meet new people, to exchange ideas, to make contacts with people in the industry. And DO remember to bring business cards and exchange them with other people.

With such a great experience at the APDT 2015 Conference, will I be attending future Conferences? HECK YEAH!! I am already planning on going to next year’s conference in Las Vegas.

Hope to see you there!

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Bringing Modern Dog Trainers Together for Education

Bringing Modern Dog Trainers Together for Education

This post is a guest post by Miranda K. Workman, MS, CABC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA. We are honored to share with you a situation that proved that modern dog trainers can in fact come together to bring awareness into the community.

Bringing Modern Dog Trainers Together for Education

At a recent TEDxBuffalo presentation about building community one speaker said, “Community begins where there is conflict.” Those words came to life for me on October 17, 2015. As a certified behavior specialist, I meet many people in my professional career. One of those individuals is Melissa Henchen, the president of Going to the Dogs rescue based in Perry, NY. A newspaper in her local area had printed a story about a local trainer who presented outdated information about canine behavior. The article was filled with references to humans as alpha wolves who give direction (never affection). It was an article that was completely void of current scientific understanding about learning theory, canine behavior and ripe with anthropomorphic explanation about cross-species social relationships.

After reading this article it was clear that allowing this outdated information to go without comment was a disservice to the pet owning public who are part of the readership for this paper. The rescue president and I knew this was an opportunity to educate the public. We just needed to decide how to do it. We decided a direct response to the paper would be the best course of action. 24 hours later I had finished the first draft of a letter to the editor of the paper. After sharing the draft with the rescue president, we talked about who would sign the letter…then it hit me. This should be a community response. Not a response from one, two, or three individuals. We needed to “rally the troops.”

Over the last few years there have been a few opportunities when training and behavior professionals, leadership from various rescues, groomers, daycare operators and others have come together. Most of those meetings were informal social gatherings as we all started to get to know one another. Although our philosophies were aligned, there had been little formal effort to communicate with the general public about science-based training focused on positive reinforcement. This opportunity gave me a reason to get everyone together with a specific and formal goal. Oh…and with a deadline.

I worked on reaching out to my colleagues and other contacts in the Buffalo, NY area. Melissa reached out to those in the Rochester, NY area. Once several people agreed to participate, we used social media to collect everyone in one virtual location to discuss the letter. Realizing that media is like capturing lightening in a bottle, we knew we had to act quickly. A quick response would maximize the effect as the previous article would still be in the readership’s consciousness.

Although there was some debate and we ended up with a third, final version of the letter, after 24 hours of bringing the group together we had twenty-two individuals who were willing to stand together as a group to educate the general public. The letter was published – in its entirety including references – seven days after the original article aired. We posted the letter on social media and found supporters across the nation who joined with us by adding their signatures in the comments of the online version of our letter. By networking with others, even members in our online communities pledged their support of the efforts of this new community in WNY.

Through this conflict, I am confident and hopeful that a new community has been forged. I have already reached out to those twenty-two signers to create a regional education organization. No doubt more will join us. The sum of all the parts of this new community will no doubt become very a prominent whole in the larger community of Western New York. I am already preparing to plan the first meeting where this new community will begin to determine our mission, vision, guiding principles and goals. As a group we will work to coordinate action plans to fulfill those goals.

Ultimately, it was by being both diverse and inclusive that we met this time-sensitive goal. I hope that we will continue to be diverse in this new community’s membership while including all those who share our desire collaboration for the sake of education about current, science-based behavior and training information in our larger community.

Link to original article

Link to response

About the Author

Miranda K. Workman, MS, CABC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA has been President and CEO of Purrfect Paws Animal Behavior Center since its inception in 2006. A voracious reader and tireless researcher, she strives to understand and apply the most “up to date” developments in training and behavior.

She has over 14 years experience in applied animal behavior and training. She is an experienced behavior specialist with a well-respected reputation including being listed as a WNY expert by the Buffalo News. While she works to rehabilitate many different behavior concerns of pet owners, she especially enjoys working with multi-pet households, aggression and feline behavior problems.

She also served from 2007-2011 on the Board of Directors of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, Inc. (CCPDT); three of those years she was President of the Board and was responsible for the creation and implementation of the Certified Behavior Consultant – Canine certification exam. Currently she serves as the Chair of the Cat Division for the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Inc. (IAABC).

5 Reasons You Should Refer A Case To Another Trainer

5 Reasons You Should Refer A Case To Another Trainer

refer to another dog trainer

As a professional who takes pride in your work, it can be difficult to accept that sometimes you are in over your head.  Having a network of other trusted trainers you can either consult with or make a referral to makes you a stronger trainer.  There are several reasons you may decide to refer a case on to another trainer.

Not Your Field Of Expertise

What is most of your education/background in?  If you do mostly pet obedience, there is no shame in making a referral to another trainer if you have a potential client who is interested in IPO/Protection Sports.

Cases Beyond Your Experience Level

Sometimes cases come along that are just beyond your experience level.  If you are a new trainer, it makes sense to make a referral onward if a client has a dog with aggression issues.  If you have no experience in training service dogs, this would be a proper time to make a referral.  Perhaps when making that referral, ask if you can shadow the other trainer while they work on the case so you can learn more and gain some personal experience.  Most modern dog trainers are eager to share their expertise with those newer trainers who are sincerely interested in learning more.

Bias Against Breed Or Owner

This can be a tough one to admit to yourself.  Nobody likes to admit that they might have a bias against a person or breed of dog.  However, as human beings, it happens.  So if a client comes along with a breed of dog that you just inherently have a dislike or distrust of, make a referral to another trainer.  The same goes if you just feel you cannot work with the client for some reason.

Don’t Have Time

Some cases require a lot more training hours than others.  If you are a part-time trainer and a potential client comes along with a dog that is going to take extensive work, and you just know you will not have the proper time to dedicate to the case, make a referral.

Don’t Have Facility

If you are a trainer that works without a facility, either going to people’s homes or working in public places, there are times you will need to refer cases to those trainers who do have facilities of their own.  If a client comes to you with an extremely reactive dog, a trainer with a facility of their own will be better suited to properly set up the environment for the dog to succeed and make progress.

Knowing when to refer clients to other trainers benefits everybody involved.  The dogs and clients will get proper, safe instruction.  You will create stronger bonds with other local trainers, who might then reciprocate the referral.  And the clients will know that you are an honest person who can be trusted, making them more likely to return to you and refer friends/family to you.

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