My picks = your preview!
We just wrapped up a successful ClickerExpo in Reno, Nevada. There were so many Sessions where I took away a worthwhile new idea or concept. I thought I’d share a few of those highlights. If you missed this Expo, don’t despair; all of the Sessions that I write about will be presented again at the next two ClickerExpo conferences in Cincinnati, Ohio (March 18-20, 2016) and Billund, Denmark (October 28-30, 2016).
During the Opening Session, The Butterfly Effect, I took the opportunity to update everyone on the butterfly project I participated in this past summer. I also discussed the challenges I faced this year traveling around the world teaching and consulting. I have become increasing concerned by the obstacles that some positive reinforcement trainers put in the way of helping experienced trainers from different disciplines accept and understand clicker training. In my Session, I challenged attendees to embrace trainers who may approach training differently, and asked that we be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem in helping transition them to the use of positive reinforcement concepts. I was pleased by the number of trainers who attended ClickerExpo this year who have not yet adopted clicker training, but came to find out more. I hope this will become a trend, and that everyone will be welcoming and helpful to newcomers in their quests to learn more.
Dr. Susan Friedman is an exceptional teacher and I always learn new things from her thoughtful and clear presentation style. I thoroughly enjoyed her presentation titled Functional Analysis: The Sexy Side of ABC.
Susan has taught about functional analysis at past Expos, but in this presentation she took a deeper dive into the topic. As a consultant who is asked to resolve problem behavior, I was pleased to gain some excellent tools from Susan that will be useful in so many cases. I was also intrigued by her presentation The Rat is Never Wrong where she explored the idea of “error-free” learning and what that means and implies. Susan reminded us that the learner always responds to training based on what s/he/it has experienced previously. Thus, the animal does not make mistakes, and it is our responsibility to adjust the environment and help the animal accomplish the intended goal.
What a Pithy
Kathy Sdao is one of those speakers who, I think, could read the phone book and make it immensely enjoyable to hear. Because of her own excellent teaching skills, it was wonderful and valuable to see her share some of the secrets to good teaching in her presentation, What a Pithy. Kathy interacted with the attendees and got ideas from us; she shared various ways to make lessons and our teaching more memorable as well. Kathy focused on the use of analogies, stories, and specific words that can really help increase the effectiveness of our messages.
Animals in Control
A concept that is not discussed often in training conferences and classes is giving animals more choice. It is an extremely important topic and one that Emelie Johnson-Vegh, Eva Bertilsson, and Peggy Hogan teamed up to explain in Animals in Control: The Choice Is Theirs. They presented concepts that are important in creating the best learning environment and providing the most humane care. The presentation included ideas such as “asking the animal’s permission to proceed,” teaching the animal a behavior to indicate that they are “ready to start,” and how to respond to an animal that chooses not to participate (and what that might imply about our training). Feedback from the attendees was excellent and I believe many trainers walked away with some great ideas or new ways of thinking. I love thought-provoking seminars.
It is hard not to list all of Emma’s classes as highlights, but I did not have time to sit in on every one of them! Emma has become increasingly well known for her work with reactive dogs and for her process for teaching reactive dog classes. All of this expertise stemmed from her own challenges in dealing with her dog, Ben, many years ago.
But the issue of reactivity is a difficult one for even the most experienced trainers. There were two new Sessions on this topic that I though Emma handled extremely well. Each one of us who attended came out with new, practical tools. Ready. . . or Not? Working with Reactive Dogs was a great Session that posed the question “Are you ready to teach a reactive dog class?” Every professional trainer is asked about dealing with reactive dogs, and there is a high demand for classes that deal with this problem. Emma delved into issues and aspects related to trainer skill, working space, and other resources to assist anyone who is considering teaching a class for reactive dogs.
I am always impressed by Michele Pouliot’s practical and down-to earth-teaching style. She is innovative and clear in her approach to every topic she tackles. We asked her to bring back her presentation on Collar Cues: Communicating through Touch, because it had been so well received when first presented several years ago. The use of negative reinforcement often receives a bad rap in the positive reinforcement community because it certainly has the potential for misuse. Trainers are afraid to talk about it or fear using it because it conjures up images of poorly applied training. In reality, negative reinforcement is often a part of many training protocols, and, when in the hands of a skilled and thoughtful trainer, can be quite effective. Michele used the training work she helped pioneer in the Guide Dog for the Blind world to discuss how using touch and the feeling of the collar on a dog’s neck can be put to use effectively in cuing behaviors.
So much more
I found so many other Sessions useful and beneficial, but limited myself here to classes that those of you reading still have a chance to register for if you join us in Cincinnati or Billund.
A few other highlights for me at Expo in Reno were Sessions by Hannah Branigan, Jesús Rosales-Ruiz, Mary Hunter, Sarah Owings, Laura Monaco Torelli, Irith Bloom, Veronica Boutelle, Gina Phairas, and Terry Ryan. Anyone not mentioned here is an instructor I missed and hope to catch at the next ClickerExpo! There are always so many great things to see, and never enough time. Maybe we need a few more Expos? Hmm… well, maybe not just yet. I must still be on an Expo high!