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I am so very pleased to announce that we're embarking on a third season of ClickerExpo educational conferences. It's the continued and increasing chorus of enthusiasm from the attendees and the faculty that drives the collective energy needed to put on these conferences.

What's special about ClickerExpo

ClickerExpo brings together clicker trainers from all over the world. Many work with dogs, but others who work with children, exotics, marine mammals, small pets, and horses come, too. It is a uniquely stimulating experience for teachers at every level of experience, from beginners to the most advanced. I think I'll let ClickerExpo faculty member Alexandra Kurland, the pioneer in clicker training for horses, describe her experience at our latest Expo in San Diego:

"Wow! Amazing! Wonderful! Four hundred clicker trainers all gathered together for three days—what could be better! Every presentation I attended was outstanding. As I think about all the people I met, the conversations, the laughter, the programs I attended, the dogs I watched—there is one special moment that pops out from all the rest. It's a silly little thing really. Something I could easily have missed in the flood of experiences. At the end of the day on Sunday I needed to cue up two videos in the staff workroom. In the middle of the room was a pen for a rabbit that had been part of the ‘clicking small pets' session. I wasn't really thinking about the rabbit, I was thinking about what I wanted to say about the horses on the video, but as I brushed past the rabbit's pen, he bounded out and put his paws up on the mesh of the pen. I knew this greeting. It wasn't the greeting of a hungry animal begging for food. This rabbit wanted me to play with him. He didn't know me. He was in strange environment, but he still came bounding up to the front of his pen in the hope that I'd play clicker games with him!

"Thinking about that rabbit helps me understand why I so enjoy these Expos. The people who come have such good will: we're all so eager to share, so eager to learn. It is a company of people and animals that refreshes both mind and spirit. There is nothing like a gathering of 400 clicker trainers to recharge the batteries!" — Alexandra Kurland

Read other reviews

Innovations at ClickerExpo for next season

Our upcoming season of ClickerExpo includes some wonderful innovations in teaching, additional speakers, program expansion, and new courses. We've found terrific hotels, with room for the dogs to roam in fields and parks nearby. (Yes, we listened!) We have over 49 sessions this year with new specialty courses such as High Score! The Clicker Trainers Guide to Competition Obedience; and What's So Hard About That? Tackling Your Toughest Agility Questions. You'll meet new faculty members too; for example all three ClickerExpos next season will include Debi Davis, a brilliant clicker trainer, wonderful teacher, and owner/trainer of a national Service Dog of the Year which, as many of you will know, happened to be a papillon. (More details on faculty and courses coming next month.)

ClickerExpo: now with the power of Learning Labs

We're excited perhaps most of all about the introduction of Learning Labs, a powerful way for you to integrate theory and practice during ClickerExpo. This season, the program will have five (up from four) simultaneous courses. Three of the courses will follow the format of our highly acclaimed Learning Sessions that have been the staple fare at ClickerExpo. Two of the courses will be our newest innovation: Learning Labs, hands-on sessions for practicing what you've learned under the expert eye of Expo faculty.

So how does this work? Suppose you registered for The Language of Cues: Get Connected! Behavior Chains & More Part 2 of 2, which is the second of two Sessions I deliver on cueing. You may also want to register for the linked Get a Cue: Cueing Lab, which takes place the next day. Expo faculty teams of two to four teachers will run the labs. Here's an example:

Get Connected! Cueing Lab

Experience/skill level: Intermediate

Linked course(s):

This course will provide you the opportunity to begin to practice what you learned in the Learning Session The Language of Cues: Part 2 Get Connected! A behavior chain is not just a series of behaviors that happen sequentially: it's a series of on-cue behaviors in which each step is reinforced by the cue for the next behavior.

In this session you'll practice building small behavior chains or work on repairing chains you already have in place that have "broken."

This is an Intermediate level course. Dog and handler teams who are participating in the class must:

  • Meet the criteria for Intermediate skills
  • Have at least three individual behaviors on cue from which a chain can be built! Example: touch an object, sit, roll over—each solidly on a separate cue
  • Have attended the Learning Session:The Language of Cues: Get Connected! Part 2 of 2

The session is limited to 30 dog and handler teams as participants and 30 observers. Observers may be at any level.

About the Learning Labs: take note!

Labs are intended to supplement what you learn from the Sessions at ClickerExpo, not to replace them. Remember that Learning Sessions are the heart of ClickerExpo. Most ClickerExpo attendees come without their dogs (especially our many repeat attendees) because they find they can concentrate better and learn more that way.

We also know that Learning Labs will be popular and enriching. To give everyone a fair chance, at present we calculate that each attendee who wishes to participate, with or without a dog, will be able to register for at least two Learning Labs. (And we'll provide opportunity and space to practice and learn from each other, outside of the Labs.) We hope that this increased opportunity for exposure to clicker training in action will further enhance the ClickerExpo experience for everyone, including the dogs. We will open up additional Lab space if there is room. Watch your e-mail for the opening of registration in May.

Secondly, most (but not all) Learning Labs are linked to specific Learning Sessions (like the examples above). If that is the case, you must attend the Learning Session as a prerequisite to participating in the linked Lab. Also, instructors may also set other requirements; for example that both the handler and the dog must have some agility experience, or that the dogs have a solid retrieve, or that human and dog must have lots of previous clicker training experience—or NO previous clicker training experience.

Finding the right courses for you

With over 49 courses to choose from, ClickerExpo is incredibly exciting and diverse. But the choices might make you dizzy! More than ever, it's important that you really choose courses appropriate for your skill and experience, along with your interests. All sessions at ClickerExpo are ranked and defined by skill and experience: Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced, and All Levels. So read the definitions, determine which one fits you, and choose your sessions accordingly. Don't assume that the Advanced courses are right for you, no matter how long you've been clicker training. I can tell you that the people who pick sessions based on WHAT is being taught and for WHOM it is intended feel like it's smooth sailing all the way—and are never lost in our sea of choices.

ClickerExpo discussion list

After ClickerExpo San Diego, we opened a Yahoo-based discussion group for people who have attended one or more ClickerExpos. The moderator is Denise Delaney, who is a clicker trainer and also a certified TAGteacher. The exchanges on the list have been wonderful; a high level of sophisticated questions and answers, showing me that ClickerExpo is really doing its job—taking your training to the next level! Lots of faculty has chimed in, too. It's always fun to hear from Jesus Rosalez-Ruiz or Kay Laurence, the teachers themselves, on some prickly point. If you've attended any ClickerExpo in the past, you can join. clickerexpo [at] clickertraining [dot] com (Subject: ) (Request to join)

ClickerExpo faculty: where else do THEY go to learn more?

They go to TAGteach seminars! Anyone who teaches people to train animals knows…the animals are the easy part. It's teaching the people that's hard. But what if you could shape and reward the skills of the people in your classes, while they are shaping the dogs? TAGteachers have a developed a wonderful range of clicker-based techniques for teaching people, ranging from when to use peer TAGing (pairing people off to "click" each other on specific skills), to learning how to TAGtalk (specifying what good behavior you will TAG next, rather than telling people that what they are doing is wrong).

If you teach others to train, they of course will be clicking the dogs; so how do you click the people? Our new Clicker+ gives you different sounds—a chirp, a ping, a trill—that you can use for humans, without attracting the dogs' attention. And people LOVE to get TAGed. They don't really need treats; the information itself is what they want.

TAGteach International is offering three certification seminars this spring/summer:

May 21-22 in Charlotte, North Carolina, July 9-10 in Vancouver, WA, and July 16-17 on the ocean in Marblehead, MA. And ClickerExpo faculty will be there! Sherri Lippman, Virginia Broitman, and Debi Davis are going to Charlotte. Vancouver will see Helix Fairweather and Melissa Alexander expanding their human-training know-how.

Are you teaching classes? TAGteaching may be just the missing piece you've been looking for. Besides, I can tell you, having been to three TAGteaching certification seminars myself, it is two days of nonstop learning and fun.

Go to www.TAGteach.com for detailed descriptions, registration, costs, and travel information, or e-mail the seminar directors directly: Theresa McKeon (T [at] tagteach [dot] com) for the Charlotte seminar, Keri Caporale (kcaporale [at] southwesthumane [dot] org) and Beth Wheeler (beth [at] tagteach [dot] com) for the one near us in Massachusetts.

About the author
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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

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