Over the weekend, Friday through Sunday, I was in St. Louis, attending my third ClickerExpo. And, holy cow, it blows my mind. Every. Single. Year.
ClickerExpo is a three-day animal training conference that provides animal trainers the opportunity to improve their training skills, learn some new tips and tricks, and keep up with all the latest science in positive reinforcement. All of the sessions throughout the three-day conference are presented by the world's leading experts in positive reinforcement animal training. In a nutshell, it's a training nerd's heaven. This was actually ClickerExpo's 15th anniversary, too!
As I said, this was my third year attending ClickerExpo and each year I leave with pages of notes, lists of new things to try with my own dog and with clients' dogs, and humble pie.*
By no means am I suggesting that I'm this super, amazing, awesome dog trainer; I have, however, over the past year especially, gained a lot more experience, learned a lot more, and earned a lot more confidence in myself and my skills as a trainer. I've had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people, their SideKicks, and their diverse set of training goals.
I THOUGHT I was attending my third ClickerExpo as much less of a newbie than the past two years. I didn't and don't view myself as a seasoned, veteran dog trainer, but I don't think I'm a super green trainer either.
I was wrong.
"The more you know, the more you know you don't know." - Aristotle
Well, ok, no; I wasn't wrong. I just fall somewhere in the middle between green trainer and veteran trainer - and probably a little closer to green than the past year's experiences led me to believe and feel!
There were several moments throughout the three-day conference when a presenter might as well have said, "Oh, so you think you've got a good handle on this topic...? Well, have you thought about THIS?"
Cue the explosion of my brain.
Aristotle's quote up there hits home with this year's ClickerExpo.
I found myself scooping up half the books in the ClickerExpo store on topics about Separation Anxiety, managing a household of multiple dogs, ways to be a better teacher / coach / trainer / person-who-gives-others-knowledge-and-guidance, and others!
I found a couple times that I had completely forgotten to type notes during a couple sessions because I was so enthralled by what the presenter had to say and the ideas they were sharing with us.
I was reminded at every turn during the three days that no matter how much experience I have, no matter how much I learn, no matter how well I think I've mastered something (even non-dog training topics), there is ALWAYS more to learn!
A bit of the Type A personality / perfectionist in me started feeling a little panicky about all the things I still need / want to learn to be the best trainer I can be and to help as many people and their SideKicks as I can!
A few deep breaths later...
I left ClickerExpo again this year with a renewed desire to absorb everything I can get my paws on (see what I did there...?). I'm feeling inspired to try new things and to challenge the techniques I currently use and teach to clients. I've had a good serving of humble pie and can't wait to start putting the new ideas I've acquired into practice!
*To be clear, there was no actual pie, which is disappointing...