You’d think I might be used to it by now. After all, as a host and a faculty member, I’ve been to, let’s see, I think it has been THIRTEEN ClickerExpos! But, no—I’m more excited this year than ever.
Partly it’s the camaraderie.
All of us get to see old friends and make new ones. We have the leisure to do so, since we’re temporarily freed from the distractions of everyday life.
Partly it’s the atmosphere.
It’s restorative to the soul to spend three days and evenings in a big group of people, most of whom have assimilated what it means to be a clicker trainer.
In giving up punishment as a training tool, these folks tend to give it up as an ordinary social gambit, too. Imagine spending whole days among hundreds of people, friends and strangers both, who not only never yank or rebuke their nice dogs, but get through their human encounters all day without snubbing, sarcasm, criticism, whining, or jostling for personal advantage. The newcomers tend to pick up on this approach and do it, too. It’s so pleasant it’s downright eerie!
Partly—and maybe this is what has me fidgeting and counting the days—it’s the chance to learn.
My life work as a scientist involves reinforcement-based interactions, and here I have hundreds of dog-human couples to watch—and a bunch of very savvy people talking about, working with, teaching, and discussing the same thing. I learn from the faculty. I learn from the attendees. I don’t just pick up a few tips here and there; I learn whole new concepts, every time.
Ken Ramirez, from the Shedd Aquarium, is always a source of new concepts, such as the US Navy’s programs for teaching animals to mimic other animals on cue, and how that can shortcut training with dogs. The other speakers all tend to sit in on Ken’s lectures whenever we can. But, Ken has told us of training challenges he was able to solve only by combining three concepts new to him that he learned from three other faculty members at ClickerExpo. It’s always that way. We all go forward together.
I’ve spent half of almost every day for the past three years working on a new book about the impact of modern training; it’s called Reaching the Animal Mind. During the process I interviewed some of the country’s leading neuroscientists. The book won’t be out until June 16, 2009, but at ClickerExpo I’m going to give you a preview of what I’ve learned from those brainy guys that explains why the click (and the cue!) are so powerful.
I can’t wait to hear what YOU think about that. So come enjoy ClickerExpo. Tell a friend. It’s going to be the best year ever, and that’s really saying something.