Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Clicker Expo 2011 (Chicago): Overview

Before the opening session.

You guys, it was awesome. I'm no stranger to dog seminars, but Clicker Expo was beyond my wildest imagination. I was excited to learn a lot, and I totally did (you guys will be sick of Clicker Expo posts by the time I'm done), but it was so much more than that.

That sense of community was just as awesome as the lectures I attended. There were 425 people in attendance from all over the country, even all over the world. More than that, though, these were my people- clicker trainers. There were dogs everywhere (I believe the official number was somewhere around 125), and I did not see a single collar correction. I didn't hear anyone yelling at their dog. There weren't even disappointed sighs or expressions of frustration.

 A very typical sight- dogs everywhere!

I did see a ton of cookies handed out. I heard a lot of clicks and yes-es and praise. And there were tons of adoring looks, on the parts of both the dogs and the handlers. It was clear that these were strong relationships, canine-human teams that truly cared about one another.

The infamous Layla herself.
The positivity didn't stop with the dogs, though. Everywhere I went, I truly felt like I was among friends. I met people that were complete strangers, but who felt like old friends. Of course, it helped that the name tags told me that I knew many of them from the internet- from blogs and email lists. (Special shout out to blog-reader Marsha!)

Looking down the main hallway.

This atmosphere was undoubtedly aided by the tag tickets that were handed out like candy. In everyone's registration packet, there was a bunch of raffle tickets. You wrote your name and phone number on them, and then handed them out to people when they did something you liked. That person also wrote their name and number on them, and then put them in a drawing for door prizes. Both tagger and taggee would get a prize. I didn't win anything, but I didn't care. I had so much fun giving and receiving the tags that it didn't matter. I tagged people who asked good questions, who talked to me, who wore cool boots. I got tagged over and over again for my enthusiasm. And was I ever enthusiastic (perhaps even bordering on obnoxious)! I talked to people, I handed out my blog cards (a business card with a picture of Maisy and I, and our blog address), and I squealed. A lot.

Kathy Sdao TAGGED me!!

And of course, there were the presenters- Big Name Trainers whose books I've read, whose work I've admired. I shared an elevator with Karen Pryor! I ran into Emma Parsons in the hallway. I scared Ken Ramirez with my enthusiasm. I met (and subsequently stalked) Kathy Sdao. I felt a bit self-conscious, but I got my picture taken with a lot of them. They were all so nice and friendly. Lovely, lovely people.

The only part of Clicker Expo that I didn't like was having to choose between sessions. I mean, how do you choose between Ken Ramirez, Kay Laurence and Kathy Sdao? Seriously, how? The good thing is that there were no wrong choices. Although I was very sad to miss out on certain sessions, I didn't regret anything I attended. Every single session had at least one nugget of brilliance that made it worth attending.

Outside the Clicker Expo store- my kind of shopping!

I went for the sessions, but I'll return for the community. My husband and I have agreed that we both want to go next year. January's expo is supposed to be in Portland, and March's location hasn't been decided yet. I'm not sure it matters- we've already kicked around the idea of saving up and flying, no matter where it is.

That was the surprising part- how much Brian enjoyed it. He's working on a guest post on his perspective of Clicker Expo, which I'm excited to read. I am also working on posts for all the sessions I attended, including:

Karen Pryor: Punishment and the Public
Ken Ramirez: Aggression Treatment and Context- Part 1, Part 2
Kathy Sdao: You're in Great Shape!
Cecilie Koste: Top OTCh
Kathy Sdao: What a Cue Can Do (lecture and lab)- Part 1, Part 2
Cecilie Koste: Efficient Training
Helix Fairweather: Accelerating Success with Data Driven Training
Kay Laurence: Raising Criteria
Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh: Let's Make Some Noise! (Building Confidence)
Kathy Sdao: The All-Seeing I
Patricia McConnell: Emotions and Our Dogs

Finally, just let me say that it was an amazing experience, and if you ever get the chance, you should go. It was absolutely worth the time and the money, and I can't wait for next year!


Eliz said...

I cannot wait for your posts!

Marsha said...

Great review Crystal! It was an amazing experience to be in the presence of so many people who love their dogs with the same passion that I do and who want to learn about new ways to train and then put them into POSITIVE action.

It was hard to make choices about which presentation to attend and I wish I had been able to go to them all.

An amazing thing happened (or should I say didn't happen) to me, I didn't get TIRED! I'm always tired...I hope I can maintain that enthusiasm and + energy for some time to come.

Crystal, your enthusiasm was a joy to see! I'm glad we could meet in person. Keep up the good work!

Crystal said...

Okay, Marsha, HOW DID YOU AVOID THE TIRED?? My brain hurt so bad by the end of the second day. I was completely wiped out by the end of the third. It probably didn't help that I went out both Friday and Saturday with a friend who lives in Chicago (but wasn't at the conference). I could have used the time to rest and recover from all that thinking!

It was AWESOME to meet you, too! It was really neat that my blog brought us together. :)

Tegan said...

I am looking forward to your summaries, Crystal. They are always very thorough, with plenty of your own thoughts and speculations (not just regurgitation of what was said) - so they are a real joy. So I'm waiting in anticipation (and a little guilt for not posting summaries of my last seminar on my blog yet... Whoops).

Urban canines said...

Crystal, can not wait to hear your summaries. Thank you in advance for keeping such great seminar notes. I have always enjoyed your posts after seminars.

Liz said...

Crystal, I look forward to your summaries--especially because I went to Clicker Expo in CA, and it looks like you went to completely different sessions than I did! I think many of the sessions were the same, though Patricia McConnell was not in CA, I would have gone to see her for sure if she had been. Also, I cant wait to hear your commentary on Emelie and Eva--I know I am an agility person, but I found them to be so warm and just wonderful presenters.

I took copious notes but never got around to regurgitating/evaluating them. Maybe you will inspire me to do so even though my memory may make them a bit musty at this point!

Ettel, Charlie Poodle, and Emma Pitty said...

I went back in '09 and since then I've been in love with clicker training. I sat in on Kathy Sdao's What a Cue Can Do at that conference - really eye opening, I still remember it today. I can't wait to hear all about it and see pictures! What's funny is that when I went to the conference, I didn't know who most of the people were. I'm almost ashamed of myself now! I'm really hoping I can go to an upcoming one!!

Crystal said...

Boy, I have set the bar high. I'm going to have to work hard to make sure I live up to everyone's expectations! :)

Liz- I'm NOT an agility person, but even so, I really enjoyed Emelie and Eva. They are clearly brilliant trainers. I really enjoyed their presentation.

Ettel- I agree. Kathy's Cue seminar was perhaps the best I saw all weekend. Eye-opening for sure!

Lindsay said...

LOL....I have often wondered if you're as enthusiastic in "real life" as you are on your blog or more so! It's good to hear how much you liked it. The clicker expo in Portland is really close to me and I almost went this year. A friend of mine recommended it. Now that I'm doing a lot more actual clicker training, I think I might shoot for it next year!

Life with Sophie said...

Looking forward to reading about the seminars you went to! I will have to look into attending a clicker expo at some point.

elizabeth deitz said...

I can't wait to read what you learned. I was unable to go this year but have been fortunate enough to hear some of the big names...but am anxious to read about what is new!
Thanks for your posts!

Samantha said...

I'm so very jealous! I really wish we had seminars like that over here (South Africa), I feel so alone sometimes when I'm clicker training and everyone else is still using old school methods and looking at me like I'm the crazy one.

Can't wait to read your future posts about it (particularly anything regarding confidence building!)

Crystal said...

Lindsay, the funny thing is that I think of myself as kind of shy. (This is the point where everyone at Clicker Expo says, um, no. LOL)

To everyone expressing jealousy- save your money and go! It is worth it! It is amazing!!

andrea said...

looking forward to reading your posts too - people think I'm miss extovert too - I'm actually a total introvert as well - but I call myself a well socialized introvert - I like people just fine but I get my energy from within myself :)

Crystal said...

Perfect description, Andrea. I do love being around people, but I find it exhausting. I do need my alone time.

Sam said...

I am sooooo looking forward to you posts. The enthusiasm of this one had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Thanks for sharing. The clickerexpo is one place I really want to go to badly and now after reading this even more!

reddog said...

Very nice description of ClickerExpo! Looks like we were in a lot of the same sessions - sorry we didn't get to meet you in person. I enjoyed reading your summary and totally agree about what a wonderful experience it is. Can't wait until 2012!

Katie, Maizey and Magnus said...

Wow! It sounds amazing! You perfectly describe here what I love about clicker training, it creates positive energy in the dog and the handler and that carries over into the rest of your life too. I love the tag ticket thing, how fun is that?:)) I love feedback, esp positive feedback of course, but that seems such a fun way to get it.

Andrea- "socialized introvert" ROFL-that is me to a tee! I like people and strive to reach out to them, but I much prefer my quiet time. I think thats why I love blogging so much. Can I steal your title?;)

Cynthia said...

How fun! I went to the clicker expo back in 2008... in California. It was the best conference I'd ever been to. I hope I can go again someday.

Joanna said...

Looking forward to the in-depth reviews! My friend went to the one in Portland and bought me Emelie and Eva's clicker agility book, which is amazing.

Karen May said...

Crystal, I thought I saw you in the store but I wasn't sure it was you out of context! Sorry I wasn't braver... I should have said "Hi!". : )
Expo is the most amazing community, isn't it? I love it! It is my "vacation" of choice every year. Your description of Expo is so accurate. I rue the fact that I can't clone myself so I can attend everything, but I love the presentations I go to. We only overlapped on Ken's so I guess I did only get a glimpse of you once. And yes...KPA faculty are so approachable and accessible. They're real people who are changing the world one click at a time. How cool is that?!!!! Thanks for sharing your impressions. Karen May

Crystal said...

Karen, I wish you would have come said hi, but I understand why you didn't. I'm a bit shy about approaching people, especially when I think I know who they are, but am not quite sure.

Maybe next year? I'm really hoping to make it to Clicker Expo again. I agree that it makes a great vacation! :)

Raegan said...

I will never be sick of Clexpo posts!

Very excited to read your reviews, many of those are ones I would have gone to. I'd have more to say, but my mind is blank from vicarious excitement.