Clicker Expo 2012 by Janice Gunn

clickerIn Portland, Oregon from January 27-29 I attended 3 action packed days at the Clicker Expo conference. I haved attended APDT conferences in the past which are similar in style to the Expo. The style of the conference is that there are multiple speakers giving talks throughout the day. You have a choice of 3-4 different speakers that you can choose to listen to. Each session is about 1-2 hours long, then a break, then off to the next speaker. This style of seminar kept me fresh the entire day and for 3 days I was alert and ready to move onto the next speaker. The Expo is hosted by the Karen Pryor Academy.

The Expo had speakers geared towards a variety of interests. For agility, for obedience, clicker training, the science of how dogs learn, business tips, tricks and so on. I found the speakers to be dynamic and they are all the top in their field.

dolphinA number of the presentors got their foundation from training primates and seals, dolphins, and different types of whales. Their talks included a power point presentation with numerous video clips. I found it absoutely amazing to watch mammals performing a variety of complex trick behaviours with joy. This all taught by using only positive reinforcement. You can’t get a whale to perform by using force-based methods but you sure can by using positive reinforcement!

So what is positive reinforcement some of you might ask? It starts by rewarding a behaviour that you want from you dog. What you reinforce will be more likely to occur time and time again. For example, you call your dog and he does not come. So you get angry and yell at him to come and he further ignores you. So you march over to him grab him and put him on the lead. Next time you let your dog off the lead chances are very high he will do exactly the same thing. You yelled at him and took away his off-lead fun time. However, try calling your dog and each time he comes to you reward that with a treat. Then send him off to play again. Call him again and reward. I keep kibble in my pockets so that I can continually reinforce my dogs for coming. Not only do they want to come when called, but they often come over to me just to check in. This is how positive reinforcement works and it has amazing power!

I completely enjoyed the Expo. There is no need to use punishment when training dogs and by doing so all you do is destroy your relationship with your dog. However one thing you must know is that positive does not mean permissive! Positive trainers still require balance and leadership with their dogs but you can find this balance without using complusion. Obedience classes at TNT will help you to build your training and relationship with your dog, it’s the time that you spend with your dog that is so very precious. And do remember dogs have huge exercise requirements, so ensure you make the time to spend both exercising and training your dog so that he can become that wonderful family pet you want.