Mark your calendars
Each year our audience is more sophisticated. And each year, learning and building on the previous seasons, we are more sophisticated, too. We're more skilled at helping the newcomer who has never before picked up a clicker, but we also have a lot more to give experienced trainers.
New faces, new (competition) skills
For ClickerExpo 2008, we have three new faculty members concentrating on advanced students. The first two are Morten Egtvedt and Cecilie Køste, the married training team from Norway. With their flat-coated retrievers, Morten and Ceci have been top European competitors in obedience, tracking, and agility. They were early adopters of clicker training and are Scandinavia's leading authors on this technology. They edit and publish a full-color magazine on dog training, and publish and sell Don't Shoot the Dog, as well as many other clicker titles in Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and Finnish.
Morten and Ceci also run a clicker training school with multiple locations in Norway, focusing not on the average dog trainer, but on using clicker training to win in competition—any competition. Their teachers and students are not just top clicker trainers, but also top-notch competitors in European dog-related sports.
We are incredibly lucky to have persuaded Morten and Ceci to join us this season. Besides running their business, the couple are new parents (baby Caroline is coming with them). Ceci is a doctor just finishing her hospital residency, so getting leave for this trip was especially difficult for her. Morten and Ceci will be teaching Learning Sessions and Learning Labs focused on how to use the clicker edge in obedience competition. A major emphasis will be placed on back-chaining, the tool that they consider the key to precision and reliability.
American and European obedience competitions differ slightly. I've had people ask me, "Will Morten and Ceci be familiar with American obedience competition rules?"
I don't think that's the right question. The right question is, "How do you train for the precision, teamwork, and energy level it takes to win, in the US or anywhere else?"
Morten and Ceci are the clicker folks who focus on competition, understand clicker technology inside and out, and have years of experience teaching it to competitors. Take advantage of their visit! (Otherwise, you might have to go to Norway.)
Our third new faculty member, Michele Pouliot, learned clicker training early on and worked with guide horse clicker trainer Alexandra Kurland. For many years Michele was a head trainer for Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California, one of the largest, most renowned schools for guide dogs in the US. Now director of research and development, Michele has been leading Guide Dogs for the Blind through a gradual changeover from traditional training to clicker training throughout the organization.
As clicker training is adopted, Guide Dogs for the Blind has the assistance and experience of Kathy Sdao as an expert consultant. TAGteach™ is also being used at Guide Dogs for the Blind, to help blind clients learn how to train and handle their new dogs. In 2008, even the puppy raisers will switch over to clicker training.
Requests for consultation and teaching are flooding in from other guide dog organizations. Have you had trouble, in your classes or your dog club, converting others to clicker training? Come and learn from a delightful woman and brilliant trainer, someone who has done it on a large scale in a fortress of traditionalism, with tact and success.
And, she's done more than that: Michele recently started clicker training her own dogs for freestyle competition. The training's a snap for this clicker virtuoso; designing and choreographing the routines was a new challenge. Michele and her handsome dogs have triumphed in competition every time they've gone into the ring!
If freestyle is your sport, catch this stylish newcomer. For sheer training fascination, sign up for Michele's instructive Learning Lab on how to teach a blind handler (maybe you, blindfolded?) how to clicker train without vision.
New teachings from existing faculty are more "musts" for the advanced trainer. Kathy Sdao will be teaching two Sessions and two Learning Labs on cues and cueing—an intensive new look at this crucial element of reinforcement-based training. Ken Ramirez is giving an intensive Session (and a practical Lab) on non-food reinforcers. Another must-see is Ken's wonderful Session on complicated advanced training tools that are often misused: the no-reward marker, keep going signals, jackpots, and more.
Helix Fairweather and Joan Orr, scientists and expert teachers, are joining forces to teach a new Session and Learning Lab on shaping, that important skill and heart of the difference between clicker training and traditional training. If you use the clicker to reward behavior, but tend to use your leash, voice, or body instead of shaping to get things started, don't miss this Session with these brainy, skilled trainers.
Virginia Broitman is teaching intensive Learning Sessions and Learning Lab on fluency—developing distance, duration, and distraction, and improving precision, latency, and speed. Virginia's also reprising last year's extremely popular Learning Session and Lab on a "jillion" ways to use the tool of targeting.
Steve White and Jen White are giving us a new simple four-step program for problem-solving with the clicker, the way Steve teaches problem management to law-enforcement canine teams. They're also presenting a new Learning Session on understanding scent work—and of course they are repeating their all-time spectator-favorite challenge Lab: can your dog retrieve and deliver a hotdog?
Jesús Rosales-Ruiz is bringing us the absolute latest word from the research front on two crucial subjects: one Learning Session on how people mess up reinforcement delivery and what that does to behavior, and another Session on the newest discoveries about poisoned cues. If you are a competitor or an instructor, you need this information! Our own faculty members begged us to juggle the schedule so that every one of them could catch at least one of these two vital presentations, and we did that for them—and for you, too.
If you're a beginner, we have some great new courses for you. Let Emma Parsons take you by the hand and lead you and your dog into the wonderful world of clicker training in her Learning Lab Out of the Gate. Check out our Foundation Curriculum to get the basics clear from the start.
All about Karen Pryor Academy—and me!
As you may know, Karen Pryor Academy has launched its first teaching program for clicker training, online and with teachers around the country. Program Manager Tia Guest and some of the Academy faculty members will be on hand at ClickerExpo to tell you about the program and how the first students responded. It's a smash hit with everyone so far!
And how about me? For the past two years I've been working hard on a new book, Reaching the Animal Mind, to be published by Scribner in 2008. That's cut into my other working time hugely, so I won't be teaching Sessions or Labs at ClickerExpo, but I will host the shaping competition on Saturday afternoon, and I'll tell you all about the new book when we get together on Friday morning. This is the FIRST ClickerExpo when I will actually have some free time, so I hope to get around to meet as many of you as possible during the three days. Please say hi!