APDT Conference 2008 - We're Off and Running!

“We’re Off and Running,” was the theme for the 15th annual APDT conference held in Louisville, Kentucky last week -- and what a conference it was!!

The conference opened with a parade of adorable puppies from Kentucky Humane and was followed by a most memorable keynote address by Robert M. Miller, DVM, on “The Revolution in Horsemanship.” Miller’s video footage showed the remarkable progress made in horse training over the past thirty years, clearly demonstrating the benefits of a gentle and patient approach in achieving a long-term relationship of trust with the horse. This training approach was especially poignant in his footage of working with wild mustangs. Miller impressed upon us that in past decades, millions of horses had given their lives to protect our country and that a kinder approach to training was the least we could do for them in honor of their service and sacrifice.

The APDT Awards ceremony followed Dr. Miller’s keynote address and honored several individuals for their commitment to dogs and dog training. Dr. Robert K. Anderson, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, DACVB -- fondly known as “RK,” was recipient of the APDT Lifetime Achievement Award for his many accomplishments over several decades. Above and beyond his numerous veterinary awards, RK served as President of the Minnesota Public Health Association (1965) and the Colorado Public Health Association(1955), and in 1968, was President of the St. Paul Association of Retarded Children (ARC). He was a co-founder of the Delta Society and in 1992, received the Michael J. Mulloch Award in recognition of Outstanding Contributions Related to the Human Animal Bond. In 2000, the American Humane Association honored him with their Waco E. Childers Award for Lifetime Achievements in animal welfare, and in 2002, the Student Chapter of the AVMA at Iowa State University presented him with the “Gentle Doctor” award. In 2003, Dr. Anderson and his colleague Ruth E. Foster were honored by the Smithsonian Institute by having their picture and their Gentle Leader® invention featured in an exhibit of inventions such as Post It® notes and Velcro®. In 2007, the Morris Animal Foundation honored him by establishing the RK Anderson Behavior Research Endowment Fund to study genetics, physiology, behavior and environments to improve interactions among animals and people – and in 2008, Pet Industry News International named him, at age 85, as one of 25 leaders in the industry to watch for leading change in the pet industry in 2008! He continues to have a most amazing career and has had a long track record of accomplishments – we are most pleased that each year he chooses to spend a week playing and learning with us at the APDT Conference. Congratulations RK!!

Patricia McConnell, Ian Dunbar and several others followed the next day with information about play behavior in dogs, the purpose it served in the development of social relationships, and how to use it in treating behavior problems. An entire day was devoted to play, and it was a recurring theme throughout the conference. On Saturday morning, the SPOT & CO. crew from Iowa City pulled in a few dogs from Kentucky Humane and the conference crowd, and demonstrated Games to Energize Classes and Clients. Thanks to our Iowa City classes who graciously agreed to video taping prior to the conference!

Several conference presentations focused on making classes successful and fun for the people at the other end of the leash, and numerous workshops included a trip to the Louisville Zoo with Grey Stafford, dancing with dogs, training with kids, and working shelter dogs.

And, lest you think the conference was all play and no work, there were also scientific lectures which covered neurobiology, canine cognition, and use of the scientific method to address behavioral concerns – as well as a call to action from several presenters, encouraging trainers to conduct their own research on a number of unanswered questions related to training and behavior.

“SaturDog Night Live” was the homegrown entertainment on Friday night and included APDT Idol (with Randy Jack Russell, Pawla Airedale, and Simon Chow Chow), interviews with mavericky politicians, a Church Chat with the Church Lady, a Rear End Update, and a commercial for ViWagra. The Beagles, a British singing group, also made a surprise appearance and performed “Cold, Cold Nose” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidoxie.” Lyrics to these smash hits will be featured in my next blog.

Victoria Stillwell from the Animal Planet series “It’s Me or the Dog” closed the conference on Sunday afternoon and (bow) wowed the crowd with her stories and videos about client cases.

This 15th annual APDT conference was absolutely, hands down, one of the best ever. Attended by over a thousand international trainers, there was something for everyone, so if you missed it, you missed a lot. Make sure you don’t repeat the mistake next year and join us in Berkeley, California for our Sweet Sixteenth celebration!