2010 APDT Conference - The Year of the Puppies

As the saying goes, the third time's the charm.  The Association of Pet Dog Trainers conference in Atlanta last month was the third one I've attended.  With the ever changing location, venue, topics and speakers, by design every conference is certainly unique, but there was something about this conference that made it stand apart from the others.  Now I could start with the obvious.  This was the first conference I've attended since being elected to the APDT Board of Directors.  It was also the first time I've been a speaker and presenter.  But still, there was something else that made this one different.  It was the the emphasis on puppies. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with APDT conferences, no, I'm not talking about real puppies.  First time conference attendees are referred to as "Conference Puppies."  In regards to actual numbers, I'm not certain there were more puppies in attendance this year than others, but boy, it sure seemed like it!  And just like real puppies, they brought an excitement, enthusiasm and freshness to the conference I've never felt before, not even when I was a puppy myself.  Undoubtedly, this can be attributed to this year's APDT Conference Committee who successfully incorporated a variety of incentives and interactive activities aimed at getting the puppies more involved.   One of the most popular activities was a "Bingo" game which could be likened to the popular "Puppy Rule of 7s' (or 12's)" that we commonly employ with real puppies.  Each conference puppy was issued a bingo card that contained various tasks.  Each completed bingo card would then be entered into a drawing with the grand prize of a free trip to next year's conference in San Diego, CA.  One popular task was to have their picture taken with an APDT Board member.  This brilliant ice breaker not only gave them an opportunity to meet board members, but gave us an opportunity to interact with them as well.  I met puppies from all over the U.S., and from abroad.   A small group from the Phillippenes were big fans of Greatest American Dog, which they informed me is in syndication there.  "Not here?" they asked.  "Not hardly," I laughed! 

And then there were the green, aluminum water bottles.  Each conference puppy was given an exclusive, limited edition water bottle with the APDT logo.  Okay, you're probably thinking, big deal, a water bottle, right?  While it might not sound like much on paper, let me tell you, these water bottles became the most coveted items at the conference.  Why?  Because only conference puppies got one!  At the APDT Foundation auction, there were some pretty heated bidding wars for those water bottles.  I know, because I was one of those bidders!  I'm happy to report, I won!

So, if I had to sum up this conference, I'd dub it the year of the puppies.  They weren't shyly fading into the background.  They were front and center with their paws in everything!  It was cool to be a puppy and everyone wanted to be one!   Puppy socialization was made a high priority, which in the end, aptly makes for the perfect metaphor for a conference put on by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, wouldn't you say?