In April 2016 I attended the 11th annual Applied Animal Behavior Conference hosted by the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Each year veterinary professionals and students gather to learn about animal behavior, a subject not typically included in veterinary curricula.
The conference was divided into small and large animal presentations. I only work professionally with dogs so I chose the small animal option. The entire day was focused on Dr. Marty Becker’s Fear-Free iniative and its practical applications.
Steve Dale, CABC began by addressing feline enrichment and fear-free training. I recognized the fear-free terminology as another way of expressing force-free training. Same-same, as they say.
Sometimes advocacy opportunities sneak up on us before they pounce.
During our first break it occurred to me this was the perfect place to hand out PPG tri-fold veterinary brochures, which I happen to keep in my car. I ran from the building doing my best to dodge raindrops and puddles, grabbed my brochures and dashed back to the conference…protecting my treasure from the steady downpour. Sometimes one must make little sacrifices for the sake of PPG advocacy.
The brochures survived the gauntlet better than my water-soaked shirt and I stacked them at my table, waiting for the perfect opportunity to raise my hand.
Around the audience I saw faces perk up as I explained that PPG is able to provide viable options for pet training and behavior consultations consistent with the position statements of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and the presentations they just witnessed. “We can work together to ensure your patients enjoy the same quality of care when you refer to a trainer,” I suggested.
“And, as pet owners your clients enjoy free membership in PPG and gain access to the PPG Archive that holds over 930 articles written by animal scientists, veterinary professionals, behavior consultants and trainers. It is a reliable resource that may be searched by topic,” I added.
Advocacy opportunity number one, woohoo!
If smiling faces and nods of approval made a sound the room would have resounded with a deafening response. As we broke for lunch I handed out every last one of the brochures. I hoped that folks would discuss PPG over lunch at their respective tables, as I did.
Liz Geisen, AVA followed with afternoon presentations on low stress handling in the veterinary setting, behavioral tips and fear-free care at home. As a PPG member, Geisen represented our organization well. Her boss, Dr. Fiia Jakela finished the day explaining to other veterinarians how fear-free veterinary care benefited her practice and her client’s welfare.
Advocacy opportunity number two, woohoo!
Dale announced that this was the very first fear-free presentation he ever offered, and Geisen declared it was her first presentation to a large audience. I encouraged Dale to join PPG and provide us with webinars like his excellent presentations. Likewise I encouraged Giesen to do the same, and offered to propose her as a speaker among the force-free trainers network I engage in Wisconsin.
Advocacy opportunity number three, woohoo!
Veterinarians in the audience wanted to know how much time and money it would cost to convert to a force-free practice, which is a practical business consideration. The fact they asked such questions meant they were not ruling out the possibility but were gauging how to accomplish the final outcome. With PPG brochures in hand they left with additional resources beyond their original expectation when they first arrived.
This weekend I attend a seminar on the topic of working with fearful dogs and will take a fresh supply of PPG brochures and propose to the sponsors they should invite Dale and Geisen to speak in future.
Advocacy opportunity number four, woohoo!
PPG members are always able to advocate for the founding principles upon which we agree, and upon which we base our professional practices. If we carry business cards and brochures when we travel about then we are able to give something tangible to those whose attention we have captured for the moment.
Planting seeds of knowledge is only possible when we remember to carry seeds with us. Then we need only look for opportunities to plant them.
Daniel H. Antolec, CPT-A, CPDT-KA is the owner of Happy Buddha Dog Training. He has membership in Pet Professional Guild, Force-Free Trainers of Wisconsin, Association of Professional Dog Trainers and Dog Welfare Alliance. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Dogs on Call, Inc. and is Chairman of Pet Professional Guild Advocacy Committee.