5 Ways to Make the Most of Your ClickerExpo Experience

By Aaron Clayton

1. Set Simple Goals

There are a lot of luscious choices at ClickerExpo, so how do you choose wisely? Perhaps the single most important thing you can do is to set simple goals.

Even simple goals help you get the most out of Expo decisions, because you eliminate what’s extraneous and focus us on what helps meet your goals. Interested in seeing as much of Ken Ramirez as possible? Easy. You can identify his courses quickly and set up your schedule to include them.

Want to get a solid grounding in clicker training? Easy, look for the Foundation-level courses.

Want courses in particular topic areas like dog-sport competition or teaching others? That’s easy, too. Every course has an associated topic area, such as Competition, Aggression and Behavior Management, Teaching, Skill Development, Science, and more.

2. Measure Twice

The most common reason for schedule conflicts is not realizing that a Learning Lab may have a prerequisite Session

The most common reason for schedule conflicts is not realizing that a Learning Lab (an interactive course where you reserve a spot) may have a prerequisite Session (a lecture-style course with open seating). How will you know? First, that requirement is indicated in the description of the Learning Lab. Second, a clue is in the Learning Lab title. Labs with prerequisite Sessions have titles that include the lingo “In Action.”

For example the Learning Lab with Sarah Owings, Right On Source - Clicker Training and the Nosework Team - In Action!, has a Session that precedes it.

If you are participating in a Learning Lab, be sure it’s a good fit!

The description header of the Lab will detail the kinds of solid skills or behaviors you and your dog will be expected to have in order to participate. For example, here is the header to Hannah Branigan’s Orient Express - In Action!

We will have approximately 12 dog/handler teams. Teams should be clicker-savvy and have advanced experience with shaping and behavior chains. Dogs should have a repertoire of fluent behaviors including stationary positions, targeting. They should be familiar with working on platforms (without a lure). Dogs must be comfortable working in a group setting, in close quarters with other working dogs, even when excited. To participate in this Lab, you are expected to attend the prerequisite Session. You may participate with your dog or you may attend as an observer. Observers should not bring their dogs to the Lab.        

3. Know the Faculty Members

When I plan to see a musical on Broadway, I listen to the music ahead of time. It helps me get an idea if I’ll like the style of the show. Likewise, you can do pleasant research on the writing and teaching of the ClickerExpo faculty members. Watch some of their videos or some of their past presentations at ClickerExpo, or read a book that they’ve written.  With this preparation, you will get a sense of different faculty members’ ideas and styles, which can help you plan your schedule and choose courses. Of course, you can always just go with the “Surprise me!” method, too!

4. Life’s Better Shared, So Share!

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my “alone time,” but I love when others share great experiences with me. When you share you can talk about what you have heard, what you learned, and your interpretation of a new idea. Plus, if you are bringing a dog to ClickerExpo, it can be fun for both of you, but it is also a commitment to put your dog’s needs first. If you are at Expo with a friend, s/he can help you out with your four-legged friend (and vice versa!), which is all the better. Remember, you have a referral code you can give to any first-time attendee, that when applied rewards you both. Learn more about the Refer-a-Friend Program.  

5. You Have Made Good Choices

You can’t possibly see every speaker and attend Session or Learning Lab you think is going to be great, but you will see great ones all the time.

You can’t possibly see every speaker and attend every Session or Learning Lab you think is going to be great, but you will see great ones all the time. If you become “at one” with that, you’ll be what psychologists term a Satisfier, and you’ll appreciate your choices. Satisfiers feel really good about difficult choices. “Optimizers,” on the other hand, worry that they missed “the best” and that creates stress for them!

What has worked for you? What would you share with others? Let me know!