“Fake Conferences” in the Dog Training Industry

The unregulated dog training industry is a breeding ground for fraud and fakery. This has been a major problem for consumers looking for dog training help, but it’s also a major problem for dog trainers who are looking for educational/professional development opportunities — in particular, the problem of “fake” conferences.

What is a “fake” conference?

A “fake” conference has two main elements. Firstly, the purpose of a “fake conference” is to make a profit, and sometimes the organizers try to disguise this by making the conference look like it’s organized by a not-for-profit. To get enough interest for people to pay to attend, the organizers need to get some big names (or people that sound like they are experts). This leads to the second element of a “fake” conference: dubious content. A “fake”conference may a few big names listed as key speakers, who may or may not have agreed to present, or who may have initially agreed to present but then withdrew but their names yet remain on the list of speakers. There may also be presenters whose content lacks high standards of peer review, meaning, the conference organizers did not make the effort to screen the content to any reputable industry standards.

How to spot a “fake” conference?

Certainly, attendees don’t want to waste their money, and professionals who might be targeted to present at a “fake” conference certainly don’t want to damage their reputations by doing so. But how can one identify a “fake” conference before paying the fees, agreeing to present, or arriving at the conference and realizing your mistake?

Look carefully at the conference website. It’s not always the case, but the design of the site can provide clues that it’s not a reputable conference. Some examples of “red flags” include typos or poor grammar/spelling, images that are poor quality or looked stretched, links that don’t work, and contact information that is difficult to find and/or incorrect.

Examine the speaker’s list. Do you recognize any names? Can you find their websites? Do their credentials seem legitimate or do they have exaggerated claims and vanity awards? Why not try to contact them to confirm they are speaking? (Or, in the case of some “fake” conferences, let them know they have been listed as a speaker without their consent.)

What about the name of the conference and the name of the organizer? Do you recognize it as a well-established conference? Is the name of the conference very similar to a popular conference in the field? Does the organizer seem to be a business that arranges a lot of conferences?

Protecting yourself from fraud and fakery isn’t always easy, especially with more sophisticated schemers. Here are some helpful links so you can learn more about the problem of “fake” conferences, how you can avoid them, and how you might help to prevent the growth of this problem in our industry.

Inside a “Fake” Conference: A Journey Into Predatory Science

Predatory Conference Scammers are Getting Smarter

9 Signs a conference is fake

Seven Telltale Signs that a Conference is a Scam

“Fake news. Fake journals. Fake conferences. What we can do”

What to Do About Fake and Predatory Conferences

Proposed Criteria for Identifying Predatory Conferences

(Photo by Charles Deluvio on UnSplash)

Teach Your Dog How to Be Alone

“Loved the book. Very straightforward. Can be read in an afternoon. Great practical advice and easy to follow steps.” — Jacqueline Paul Surdu, Regina, SK

“I have been using some tips from your book and working with Odie to go to his crate on his own with great success. This morning I was gathering things to head out the door he just knew and went to his crate without me saying a word. Almost too easy for a pup that is anything but easy“ — Stephanie Bank, Regina, SK

The e-book is now available on DOGWISE (click here) and other online stores (click here). If you are interested in purchasing a printed copy, contact me through email.

Dog Park Design

Changing Behaviour Through Environmental Design

Understanding the behaviours and needs of the primary users of a space is essential to creating one that is accessible, usable, safe, and attractive.

Creating a dog park involves much more than putting a fence around a section of open space. It’s essential that architects, city planners, developers, etc. consult a professional educated in dog behaviour early in the design phase because the problems that plague dog parks can be dramatically reduced (even prevented) simply by altering its design. 

Common Dog Park Problems (That Can Be Addressed Through Design):

  • Dog Conflicts
  • Defecation
  • Dog Owner Behaviour
  • Damage to Landscape
  • Security/Safety
  • Problems for Nearby Residents

Many of these problems can be addressed in the design phase 

Dog Park Consulting Services

Understanding Dog Body Language

Dogs use many signals to communicate and these are often used in combination. It would be unrealistic to ask people to become fluent in complex canine body language, but learning to recognize a dozen signals is a reasonable task and can make a world of difference, especially in situations where children are involved.

Illustrations of dog body language indicating stress.

Videos of dog body language:

Dog Body Language (by Fear Free Pets)

Understanding Dog Body Language Part 1 ;

Understanding Dog Body Language Part 2

Every dog is different and each will have signals they favour more than others, but listed below are twelve common signals dogs use to indicate stress (i.e. excitement, confusion, anxiety, fear). Some of these behaviors are deliberate signals to others, some are physical responses to stress, and some are used to self-calm. When you see any of these, take note that your dog is probably under stress and you may need to intervene on his/her behalf to prevent problems.

Closed mouth
Look away or turn away
Lip licking
Half-moon eye or whale-eye (white of the eye is showing)
Shaking off as if wet
Yawning when not sleepy
Breathing changes (holding breath or begining to pant when there is no temperature change or exertion)
Increased hair loss and/or exfoliation (dander)
Meticulous grooming or frequent checking of body part
Excessive salivation (when no food is present)

What can people do to manage a situation when a dog is stressed? In many cases, the dog will require extra distance and time to adjust to whatever is causing the stress, sometimes needing to be removed from the situation entirely. If children are nearby, the dog should be moved immediately to a safe distance. Many people make the mistake of assuming that because a dog isn’t growling or using other obvious signals of distress the dog must be fine with a situation.

In her book Kids and Dogs: A Professional’s Guide to Helping Families (2009) Colleen Pelar highlights this problem and suggests dog owners think of a traffic light analogy when reading their dogs.  In her experience, many dog owners describe their dogs as being “fine” with something yet what she sees is that the dogs are showing early warning signals.  She points out that there is a difference between enjoyment (“green light” signals) and tolerance (“yellow light” signals), and that a dog’s tolerance can quickly be exhausted and cause him to start using “red light” signals.  She cautions adults to intervene immediately upon seeing the dogs giving “yellow light” signals.

Many dogs have learned to stop using subtle calming signals and jump quickly to more extreme signals like lunging, growling, barking, and even biting.  In many cases dogs have learned to do this because the subtle signals aren’t working for them: the “scary thing” goes away only when they use the extreme signals – signals that read as aggression. Dogs don’t generally start off this way but become “growly” when the humans around them haven’t been picking up on the lower level signals of stress and dogs are put into difficult situations: the dog is pressured to continue to let the child lay on him; the dog is required to get closer to the other dog before he is ready to do so; the dog is forced to be held by a stranger.  Dogs eventually goes over their thresholds and this is when humans finally seem to pay attention and intervene.  The child is removed from the dog; the other dog gets farther away; the stranger stops holding the dog keeps her distance.

To complicate this problem, many people also make the mistake of scolding or punishing dogs for using warning signals like growling, lunging, and barking.  They address the symptoms rather than the cause. The problem with this approach is that the dogs learn to suppress their signals and people think the problem is solved, when in fact what they’ve created are dogs that bite without warning.  Sometimes it makes more sense to people if they consider a similar situation for a young child: if a child is scared of something, then scolding or punishing will only increase the child’s anxiety.  Instead of scolding or punishing a dog for growling, lunging, or barking, people should look for the causes of these behaviours.  The dog is giving information about his emotional state and this is where the training should focus; a positive reinforcement program of desensitization and counter-conditioning will help change the dog’s emotional responses to the “scary thing” and as a consequence, the growling, lunging, and barking will no longer be necessary.

When people learn to read their dogs better, their relationship with their dogs can only improve.  Dogs will learn to trust their people more, their reactivity will decrease, and as a result, people will want to spend more time with their dogs.

Owners of over-reactive dogs or dog owners who want to prevent their dogs from becoming over-reactive (e.g. adolescent dogs) can contact me if they are interested in taking a class.