Starting the Year off with Puppies, Puppies and more Puppies…

What really happens when hundreds of dog people are gathered for a weekend of learning?

Column by Alice Clark RVN

I started my year with an event I’d been looking forward to for a long time. The eagerly awaited, first ever, aptly named ‘Puppy Conference’. Three full days of jam-packed lectures from fantastic canine trainers, behaviourists, professors and all-round dog enthusiasts formed an absolute paradise for dog nerds. Having started running puppy socialisation classes at work, I attended hoping to gain extra information on all things puppy and was not disappointed. The conference did, however, lack the presence of actual puppies. I hope someone is making notes for next year.

To anyone who isn’t a ‘dog person’, it probably seemed insane that we could stay enthused for over three days but that’s what happens when you eat, sleep and breathe dogs.

Here are just a few of my observations from a brilliant weekend.

Dogs barking under the tables distracted no one. At any other event, non-dog people would be outraged. The conference was, of course, held at a dog friendly venue so delegates were able to bring their own pooches. The thought of bringing Etty along (very briefly) crossed my mind, until I realised most of the other delegates are actually dog trainers who probably have very well behaved dogs. Etty definitely would’ve been thrown out for picking fights with dogs five times her size and lurking under tables ready to grab the trouser legs of hotel staff. I was so impressed by all of the dogs that attended, as they were expected to sit still for the best part of three days, only the odd woof or small tantrum was had. Saying that, unbelievably, a delegate did complain about a dog barking. At a dog conference. Awkward.

Everyone is as equally impressed by dog world ‘celebrities’ but some play it cool better than others. There were some amazing international and national speakers at the conference who were more than happy to answer question upon question. Even when they were trying to grab a coffee and snack, people still had questions to ask. That’s what happens when you’re a dog person; you’ll forgo food to carry on discussing them.

You will be asked about your dog before they ask your name. You’ll also be ready at all times to defend your chosen breed and there will be many healthy debates over whose breed is best will follow. Everyone has their favourites and it’s nice to see so many people who are passionate about so many different breeds and types of dog.

No one bats an eyelid at your ‘dog voice’ because theirs is just as weird. You know that odd, high-pitched, excited voice I’ve talked about before…? Yes, that one. You won’t be judged here because everyone has one. Completely socially acceptable. I’d like to point out that there were some ‘dog voices’ which were so much odder, higher-pitched and way more excited than mine, that even I was taken aback.

Everyone is fluent in dog terminology. And I don’t even mean the scientific stuff. Everyone knows what ‘zoomies’ are and how exactly you should ‘boop a snoot’. Finally, people who can speak my language!

You’re eager to show everyone photos of your dog. Let’s face it, 90 per cent of the photos on your phone are probably pooch related anyway (the other ten percent on my phone consists of weird and wonderful gory images from work), so why not show them off? You’ll then politely smile, nod and make noises of appreciation as your companion shows you photos of their dogs and whilst some may be cute, we all know that our own dogs are the cutest.

Everyone has the same appreciation for certain dog products. Plus you can share tips and ideas on new games for your dogs. Not to mention the goody bag on arrival and the freebies. I will guard my branded pens with my life, as anyone who works in a veterinary practice knows that no pen is ever safe. My precious!

You’re all members of several dog-themed Facebook groups. Which means you’ll probably recognise them because their dog looks familiar. There are some seriously great Facebook groups out there, filled with knowledgeable people, valuable snippets of information and ideas for you and your dog. Whether you’re looking for breed groups, training groups, dog sports groups or games groups, there’s something for everyone and you’ll be enriching your dogs’ life too.

You could all happily talk about dogs for hours. Even after a solid nine hours of puppy talk each day, the hotel bar (and spa!) was full of canine related chat in the evening. Plus, for those that hadn’t brought their dogs along with them, the delegates with dogs were generous enough to share their pooches’ cuddles with anyone who wanted them. It was also nice to speak to like-minded people, who are passionate about similar charities, causes and subjects.

I arrived home after the conference exhausted, full of enthusiasm and very pleased to see my own pooches. I think I’ll count this experience as a warm up for Crufts, which is surely the biggest gathering of dog people in the world. My shopping list and comfy shoes are at the ready.

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Enquiries: Alice Clark RVN, MediK9 LTD, 10 Gorse Knoll Drive, Verwood, Dorset, BH31 7PL / 01202 823175 /  /   

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