In the village of Mickleton, near the honey-colored limestone town of Chipping Campden, in England's lovely Cotswolds, there's a whole lot of wagging going on.
WagMore Barn opened its double-wide doors in 2005, and is already a mecca for clicker trainers across the UK and the world. Fulfilling a long-held dream of Kay Laurence, master clicker trainer, educator and ClickerExpo faculty member, WagMore is the physical center of Learning About Dogs (LAD), Kay's training and publishing business.
With fresh paint and a new carpet (wipe your feet at the door!), a kitchen to make tea, and a great, wide expanse of open floor for whatever Kay and her team can imagine, a nineteenth century barn has been refurbished into a learning center for classes and conferences. The surrounding fields invite dogs and people to stretch their legs and drink in the countryside.
The Barn's calendar of events reflects Kay's creative and curious mind, and her belief that clicker training is "not just the application but the complete enjoyment of the canine mind and time spent with a good friend." All are welcome, from new puppy owners to advanced competitors, if they are open to learning and want the best for their dogs.
Foundation and novice courses help handlers develop shaping skills, timing, and an understanding of how to build reliable behaviors, as well as "Life Skills," those essential walking, playing, and greeting behaviors that allow dogs and humans to live side by side. Practiced trainers examine advanced strategies and complex learning, along with comparative and contextual cues in level 3 workshops. All levels of trainers feast at WagMore's "Taster Days," presenting a variety of canine sports from gundog to heelwork to tracking to agility, and preparing participants for LAD's multi-sport competitions.
The whole dog is also studied at WagMore in seminars on the biology of behavior, fitness for older dogs, and reading canine body language. The LAD team of warm and talented teachers keeps the lights on at WagMore from day to day, while an international selection of specialists drops by to present on advanced topics through the year.
Clicker trainers from across the United Kingdom and Europe noodle down the lanes of Mickleton for the National Clicker Challenge, now held at WagMore. Perhaps Kay's most inspired invention, the Clicker Challenge invites teams of trainers and dogs to compete in training a selection of clever behavioral challenges within a few hours. When the training time is up, the teams present their solutions to each challenge to a panel of judges, earning points for accuracy, originality, and strength of the behavior, and for ingenuity. In the UK, the Clicker Challenge has developed as an organized sport with several levels of difficulty, drawing hundreds of spectators. Come summer, Clicker Camp opens at WagMore for ten days of all things clicker: workshops, seminars, challenges, sports, walks, and picnics.
Named by Dog Planet, the bestselling "doglopedia," one of the top twenty dog trainers in the world, Kay Laurence has designed and taught college courses on canines, from training and behavior to history and care and welfare. Her work as an educator as well as a trainer is evident in her publications, including Teaching Dogs magazine and leveled clicker trainer course workbooks. Kay's workbooks will soon be available as ClickBooks, KPCT's new line of downloadable texts. She is also the licensee of "You don't say!"—KPCT's groundbreaking teaching game that allows you to see training through your dog's eyes and experience the power of the clicker.
Reviews of Kay's Expo seminars attest to her ability to open learners' minds, to lead you to a different way of understanding a behavior and approaching a solution. "Working with Kay," says one student, "you experience constant little brain pops. It's exciting."
Or find your way to Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds. Turn down a lane near the King's Arms pub in Mickleton, left at a small farm, and up the lane to WagMore Barn. Watch out for pheasants crossing the road.