9 Things I Learned at BlogPaws (that have nothing to do with blogging or social media)

Honey the Golden Retriever stalks the orange ball.

I know you’re around here somewhere squeaky ball. I can smell you.

I’m a lifelong learner. And, as teachers know, the best learning comes outside the formal lessons.

So I’m not going to write about the cool new SEO tip I learned. Or why I really need to start a Pinterest page for Something Wagging.

Instead, I’d like to share the lessons I learned while wandering the halls and eating lunch at BlogPaws.

Lessons About Dogs

Here are just a few things I observed about dogs.

Pit Bulls Rock!

Of course that’s not news to many. But some of the most serene and calm dogs on the scene were the pibbles.

Does the extra scrutiny and prejudice toward pit bulls face force their people to be especially sure their pups are comfortable in the chaos? Or are they just awesome dogs? Or both?

Most Dogs would Rather Hike or Play or Sleep Than Go to a Blogging Conference

Out of dozens of dogs at BlogPaws only a few looked comfortable. Even Honey was overwhelmed by all the activity. As someone pointed out in the comments of Honey’s commentary on BlogPaws, she looked happiest when she was playing with a ball.

So don’t feel bad if your dog couldn’t handle the excitement. Many of the dogs there couldn’t either.

Nitro is a Prince

I didn’t have time to meet Nitro of Deaf Dogs Rock! But I saw him walking around all the noise and excitement with utter calmness—dare I say, a royal bearing?

I think BlogPaws should offer another award to the animal and handler who are the best good citizens of BlogPaws. Nitro would have been my nominee for this year.

Lessons About People

Honey the Golden Retriever is on the run.

Did I just hear the dinner bell?

People are my favorite subject. I learned plenty at BlogPaws.

Bloggers Understand Their Dogs Better Than the Average Person (but only a little)

The dogs and their people were better behaved at BlogPaws than if we saw some random dog people at a festival or dog park. It’s hard to write about dogs every day without learning something, huh?

Trainers Have a Dark View

Laurie Luck of Smart Dog University shared that it’s hard, as a trainer, to observe so many stressed dogs at BlogPaws. Knowledge creates a filter that prevents a trainer from seeing cute dogs.

Another trainer expressed amazement when I told her why I wasn’t willing to trust Honey to the care of some poor dog handling I observed. She asked me, “Are you a trainer?” And when I told her no, she said, “You mean you’re just a regular dog owner?” with shock in her voice.

Spending Time With Dogs Doesn’t Make You Smart About Them

When I took Honey to BlogPaws two years ago, we visited the dog park area. Within seconds she was mobbed by over-aroused dogs trying to hump her. It was obvious the people managing the dog park didn’t see that as a problem so we removed Honey and never took her back to the play area.

This year they had an outdoor play area. I brought Honey over while the dogs already in the park rushed to the gate. I waited for the handlers to coax the dogs away from the entry so Honey and I could come in. Instead, they grabbed the dogs by their collars and started pulling them which caused one of the dogs to go from barking to snarling at Honey. We turned away from the entry and never went back while the handlers were on duty.

I found out later the dog parks were run by a professional dog walking service.

Now I understand why cities are passing laws requiring dog walkers to get training and a license. Because spending time with dogs every day obviously doesn’t teach some people about dog behavior.

Lessons About Myself

BlogPaws is about self-education. So hopefully I learned something about myself.

I Choose Honey Over Friends

I missed chatting with people I would have liked to spend more time with. I ate some rushed lunches. I didn’t hang out in the halls.

Why? Because I had to play ball with Honey or give her some fresh air.

I’m sad for the socializing I missed. But I know where my first responsibilities lie.

Honey the Golden Retriever is not a dog I am afraid of.

I learned something too. BlogPaws is a great place to learn advanced ball chasing skills.

I Need to Protect Honey Better

I made a stupid mistake in the elevator. To keep her out-of-the-way, I asked Honey to sit and stay. I realized my mistake when I saw a big piece of her tail fur on the floor near a woman’s foot (unattached from her body).

Poor Honey didn’t even cry or bark.

I felt terrible. And I never made her sit again. It made her too vulnerable to people not paying attention.

I Will Have a Cat Someday

The more cats I see at BlogPaws the more I want one of my own. Someday.

Life Lessons

Lessons are everywhere. You just need to be willing to learn.

Your Turn: Whether you went to BlogPaws or not, have you learned any good lessons lately?


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  1. I think there’s a gradient of “regular dog owner” leading up to the skip between “owner'” and “actual dog trainer”. Some people work extra hard, research, etc. And some people….don’t.

    That’s very discouraging, about the handlers in the exercise area. I wish that good dog training/certification was more prevalent and easier to get access to. There’s only benefit in it.

    Great observations!

    • You’re right about the dog smarts continuum. I just hope I’m moving in the right direction even if I never have the skills of a pro.

      I’ve never been excited when I see dog walkers in the city. I think many people think anyone can do it. While I think walking several dogs on leash in the city as a major skill.

      • I do agree that walking several dogs on leash in the city is a major skill! I don’t think I could do it (at least not without some schooling and practice!)

        For what it’s worth, I think you seem to be moving in the right direction 😉 I also love the picture I’ve seen of Honey at Blogpaws. She just looks so totally confident and laid back.

  2. Blogpaws is hard with all the dogs there, and the occasional cat. Roxy did well last year, she could care less were she is as long as she is with me. Torrey made an evening debut, and was frantic at first then calmed down. People know what their dog can handle, and what they can’t.

  3. Mummy would love to go to blogpaws (well if she lived closer lol) but I don’t think I’d be allowed to go, I’m a little excitable lol

    • You just need to talk your Mummy into finding a conference you can both enjoy–perhaps one specializing in mischief? :)

  4. Your observations were so on point. I’ve been to several dog parks (and a local indoor dog park) that I don’t go back to for the very same reason. Sage needs space to run without a lot of dogs ‘in her face’, which limits us, but it also sets her free to do her thing.

    • We only take Honey to the dog park early in the morning. The people pay more attention to their dogs and there are fewer dogs to keep track of.

      Unfortunately, none of our fun areas are 1000 acres so we have to plan a bit. :)

  5. Great wrap-up! As I was walking around BlogPaws, *I* felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t imagine how my dogs would’ve felt. Some dogs are fine in situations like that but mine wouldn’t be. I think the most important thing is to know (and respect) your dog and what they can or can’t handle.

    Also loved that you started this with “pit bulls rock!” Of course, as the mom of a pit bull-type dog, I totally agree. 😀

    By the way, it’s hard to believe, but Honey is even more gorgeous “in the furs” than she is on your blog.

    • Honey says thank you for the compliment.

      She is beautiful. But I suspect my bad photography doesn’t usually do her justice. :)

      Yes, BlogPaws is quite exciting. I wasn’t too overwhelmed. But I wasn’t walking around at everyone’s knee level either. That would have been tough.

      I’m sure Mayzie was glad to give you a happy greeting when you got home. You never know how much your family misses you if you never go away from them. :)

  6. Yes to the cat! Seriously, Honey would be such a great dog for a feline friend and I know you will grow to love them as much as I do, if not as much as you love dogs. 😉 I can’t wait to read about when you take the plunge.

    Thanks for sharing your observations. You have confirmed a lot of my concerns about bringing my own dog to such an environment. Honey is an even bigger star for handling it all with such class.

    • I think you’re right that Honey would love to have a kitty friend. I’m thinking a cat might make a nice addition to a boat someday. :)

      The dogs who thrived the most had “service dog” manners. Most other dogs need to balance “act-like-a-doggy-time” with “act-like-a-people-time.”

      Of course, seeing Shiva run zoomies during breakfast would be very amusing.

  7. The Pibbles were probably the calmest dogs I saw there too, not counting the poodle with purple fur on his head who sprawled out in my first session.

    Some dogs were better than others but I felt (as I shared with you there) that it was too much for most dogs. My dogs will not go to BlogPaws, anyone that wants to meet them will have to come to my house. :-)

  8. We are use to dogs being in a city but I doubt a conference would be something for us as I too would spend all my time outside making sure Molly had time to enjoy herself. Have a terrific Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

    • I’m very lucky that Honey was happy napping in the room during workshops. That meant we only had to schedule play breaks during lunch and before and after sessions. For her, it was a similar schedule to home.

      Of course Molly is so beautiful she’d have to spend lots of time greeting her public. :)

  9. LOVED all the pitties there! And they seemed to be doing ok from what I could see. BlogPaws is always a good reminder for me that people don’t really know a whole heck of a lot about dogs and dog body language. We can all see the big, overt signs: the snarl, the bark, the lunge. But it’s the countless tinier signals and signs that we could be a whole lot better at reading. If we read our dogs better they wouldn’t have to “shout” so often. It’s a journey — we’re all trying to get better and hopefully we DO get better each day. As Maya Angelou says: “When you know better, you do better.” And we’re all just tryin’ to do better.

    • I wonder if BP attendees would be interested in a lunch time session on preparing your dog for special events or travel? It could be a good education.

      And yes, the pitties in the room really stood out for their calmness. The other dogs who really impressed me travel frequently with their people, like Preston (Preston Speaks) and Oliver (All Things Dog Blog).

  10. Didn’t learn this at BlogPaws, but it’s related to your trainer question. I’ve learend different dogs may need different trainers at different points and different techniques. When we first got Jack, he was bouncing off the ceiling. He needed get under control, just so we could walk/run him and drain some energy. Basic leash skills. Now that he has better manners, he’s ready for more advanced training and eventually I may get him into some special classes. They have a ‘Nose Class’ nearby that I think he would love. I’ve changed trainers and changed techniques based on his development.

  11. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    Great post, Pamela! As for your question about the pitties, I believe the answer is “both”. That’s one of the things I’ve always liked about Cesar Millan — he raised Daddy, and Junior to be excellent ambassadors for the breed. Too many people judge pitties by the bad rep they’ve gotten at the hands of human monsters instead of looking at the dogs themselves. Cesar has always strived to educate people about the breed.
    Ducky is forever teaching ME that having a dog with multiple anxieties is a daily challenge, but the positive steps forward are worth every second of time spent helping them. I don’t think — make that I KNOW — I could not have handled Ducky without the help of the staff at her daycare and my mentor trainer. But all the work we’ve been doing is paying off.

    • In the short time Ducky has been with you, she’s come so far. I remember how frustrated you were when she first come home with you.

      A dog’s blossoming confidence is a wonderful thing to witness.

  12. Yah, I can imagine few dogs who would really enjoy that sort of environment. Though I’m sure some would! I can see that some pitties, with their gregarious nature and love of people, would relish the opportunity to be around so many of them.

    I guess it doesn’t surprise me too much that you had that experience with a professional dog walking outfit. It’s one thing to love dogs and decide to work with them, another to be sensitive to their body language and behavior, and entirely another to be willing to change plans in response to those signals.

  13. I saw a lot of very stressed dogs at PetExpo, which I’m imagining to be a similar environment. Also, a lot of people who were using it as a training environment, which seemed like teaching someone to swim at Niagara Falls.

    I think some *people* are just so outgoing and gregarious that they don’t imagine their dog feeling any differently.

    • I understand the desire to use an event as a dog training event. But only after a dog has had lots of foundation training and for only a short time.

      And you’re right that many people can’t see what their dog is really like. Lucky for you that Silas won’t let you get away with being in denial. :)

  14. We travel for dog shows, and have had to bring the collies in elevators at the hotels. We never make them sit either, people have bumped into the collies with their luggage, and aren’t always considerate.

    Will you bring Honey again? (if you go to another Blogpaws)

    • I wish I had asked your advice about the “sitting” thing before Honey hurt her tail. :)

      If BlogPaws was a short drive from my home, I’d consider bringing Honey. She likes to travel with us and I did not expose her much to uncomfortable settings. She was as happy in the hotel napping as she would be at home. And I believe the limited exposure to new situations is good within limits.

      But it’s a trade-off. I have to spend a significant amount of time caring for her. It’s one I found worthwhile.

    • I wish I had asked your advice about the “sitting” thing before Honey hurt her tail. :)

      If BlogPaws was a short drive from my home, I’d consider bringing Honey. She likes to travel with us and I did not expose her much to uncomfortable settings. She was as happy in the hotel napping as she would be at home.

      But it’s a trade-off. I have to spend a significant amount of time caring for her. And I believe the limited exposure to new situations is good within limits.

  15. I love your observations. :) As much fun as it was to pet all the dogs, I could never bring my own dogs. It wouldn’t be fair to them. So many of those dogs should have spent more times in their rooms, resting. And the humans more time talking to ME. 😉

    What you really need are chickens. Seriously. Cute, mess outside, occasional lap buddies, with eggs. Maybe next year you can take chicks home with you …

    • You’re right that more dogs should have gotten nap time. If you bring your dog to BlogPaws, however, you need to sign an agreement with the hotel that you will never leave your dog in the room unattended.

      Since the Sheraton has a policy where you can opt not to have your room cleaned, it seems unfair.

      We were utter scofflaws and could have been kicked out of the hotel if they discovered Honey in the room without us.

      Honey would probably love a pet chicken. She loves watching the ducks in our neighborhood and doesn’t show any sign that she realizes she’s a gun dog with an instinctual need to retriever them. :)

  16. Loved this and I admire you that your FIRST priority was Honey…(as it should be) but…….I am BEYOND UPSET THAT I DIDN’T GET TO MEET HONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UGH!!!
    I should have given you my phone number. THAT is a lesson I learned. Next time you and Honey are at a BP conference, we are exchanging phone numbers so that I can be certain that we will connect!

    • Unfortunately you forget I’m one of those wackadoos who doesn’t carry a cell phone. I can be pretty hard to track down unless you run into me by accident. :)

      Honey is sorry she didn’t get any Caren lovies. I’m sure you had a lot saved up after suffering Dakota withdrawal.

  17. What a great experience! I hope I get a chance to go some day. I bet Maya would love to meet all those dogs, although I do need to work on some of her social behavior. She gets too excited when she meets new people and new dogs.

    • We’ve spent a lot of time practicing with Honey. We’ve worked very hard to teach her to walk by strange dogs without greeting every one.

      So it is possible. And if you want Maya to get her Canine Good Citizen badge, she’ll have to learn it. :)

  18. I’m so glad you posted this! I went to BlogPaws last weekend (although I don’t think I had the pleasure of meeting you), and it was a 2 hour 45 minute drive for me. Riley generally travels well and is good in hotels and elevators, but I didn’t even consider bringing her! She has had a lot of training (is a therapy dog), but I knew she would still be entirely overwhelmed by the 500+ people in a relatively small area and dozens of dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, chicks, etc around. (I also kind of figured there’d be some poorly behaved dogs and inattentive handlers there. Plus, let’s be honest, it was kind of nice to have a little vacation away without having to keep up with a dog all weekend in a hotel! :)

    Riley is very submissive and often gets attacked/bullied at dog parks, so I don’t take her to them anymore. I’m usually the one having to pull dogs off of her because their “parents” are too busy socializing with other people than paying attention to their dogs. Ugh.

    Kudos to you for being so attentive to Honey at BlogPaws! I know she probably really appreciated you being so focused on her needs! I saw far too many stressed out dogs at BlogPaws and it made me sad.

    • Actually, Elyse, we met very briefly on Saturday night. I was with my husband at the closing note party with you.

      And I think it’s very interesting that even though Riley is a therapy dog you think she’d find it too stressful. It goes to show that even a beautifully trained dog isn’t meant to go everywhere with us.

      • Oh yeah, duh! You were sitting to the right of me at the table and we even discussed Honey!! Can you tell my brain still hasn’t fully recovered from this weekend?? :)

        Riley goes to charity walks with me that have large crowds and generally does pretty well, but I think a full weekend of it would have been stressful on her. I’m glad I made the decision to let her stay at “Camp Grandma!”

  19. Those are some great observations from BlogPaws. I had the same thing happen to Apache’s tail when we were waiting in line at Corner Bakery. He was sitting and when I looked back I saw a big piece of tail fur sitting on the floor next to a man’s foot. We usually try to be aware of our dog’s tails since we’re out in public a lot. I usually tuck it under their body or butt when they’re sitting or lying down.

    • The tail issue has always been my biggest question about service pups. They have to squeeze into some awfully small spots.

      I know a guide dog who always sits on the bus seat beside his person. The bus drivers don’t make a big deal about it because he’s so big and I think they’re aware of the difficulty he’d have squeezing under the seat — especially including his tail. :)

      • Apache was a big Golden Retriever. He was close to a hundred pounds and could easily have gained another 10-15 lbs and not been overweight. He was long and tall and did have some difficulty getting under tables and chairs. I couldn’t imagine him riding a plane, but he must have done fine on his plane ride home after he started working as a PTSD dog.

  20. I dunno… many dogs are totally fine at BlogPaws. I know that any dog can be stressed in any situation, even at home. I love that Dexter is a CGC and we learned early on, together, how to be the best pet parent/doggie team we could be. I love the pet friendly aspect of BlogPaws and honestly would not attend if it was not … or if my dog had to be banished to a crowded pet park.

    Sorry we missed each other, Pamela. I would have liked to talk!

    • Yes, you were on the go-go-go but I did admire Dexter from afar. He definitely took everything in stride. And BlogPaws is never long enough to chat with everyone.

      I also love having dogs, cats, and other animals at BlogPaws. As much as I loved Clara Shih’s talk, I loved watching the fluffy Golden Retriever in the front row who never stopped wagging. :)

      However I really disliked that Sheraton forbade dogs from resting in the rooms without their person. I was a total scofflaw because I knew Honey would be quiet and calm in the room without us. But I wonder if at least some of the dogs would have been happier squeezing in a nap like they do at home.

  21. Sure sounds like you were right on target for making sure Honey had a good time (well, at least the best you could manage when she’d rather be playing ball.)

    Your description of the play area sounds like many a dog park, which is why I won’t bring my dogs to any.

    I know a performance dog trainer that refers to people like us and our dogs as “pet dog owners” and she does it with very obvious distaste. Needless to say, it bothers me, a lot. There is nothing wrong with being a “pet dog owner” and often the “performance” dogs are treated in ways that are horrific – just to get ribbons – in ways a pet dog owner would never dream of doing to their dogs.

  22. Great observations so I apologize for being so trivial but…where did the term “Pibbles” come from? I am curious because my friend has been raising Pitt Bulls for 10 years and has never heard that term for one before. I hadn’t either until about 6 months ago.

  23. Every time I see you and Honey it makes me SMILE and reminds me of Sugar. Golden Thanks for that. I’ve been told by many that I am an over protective dog owner (especially because my dog is a Golden). It hurts but at the same time I feel proud particularly going through an intensive training process with her. In a way, I am glad she did not go with me. I’m not surprised with your observation as I observe the same thing. Absolutely there’s nothing wrong being a protective dog owner. Golden LOVE n Woofs, Sugar’s mom Rosalyn

  24. Max's Ma says:

    I know I wouldn’t even try to bring Max just because I don’t think he’d really enjoy himself but also he isn’t trained sufficiently to cope with all that although he’d probably be just fine if he was in my lap the whole time!

  25. This was a great post about the conference. This year we are learning so much… especially about how to improve our dog park, how to be more inclusive of cats (although, we work hard on that every year and still have a ways to go… and we hope our cat folk will help us with suggestions!)…

    I’m reading a lot of posts about the conference and the insight is amazing! The good, the bad and the rest of it… is all important for us to hear. Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum!

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. Honey is so delightful – and we want her to come again, if possible… so, we are brainstorming ways to make sure Honey and other pets are able to enjoy the weekend and be comfortable , too! Suggestions on that front are welcomed! Do share!

  26. I was lucky enought to meet Honey. She is adorable, sweet, and very well behaved! Getting a cat for her is a very nice gesture. Cats and dogs together make perfect sense to me.

  27. If you want a cat, I can make that happen today! Just send me your address and June Buggie is on his way!

    Seriously though, the thing about the “pro” doggie handlers made me sad. If this the best they can drum up at a conference for dog bloggers, what does that say about the quality of care out there for the rest of us?

  28. As always…I knew I would find both a humorous and an informative post on your blog, and I am so glad we briefly bumped into each other a few times at BlogPaws and I think Honey looked very relaxed and both of you less nervous than the first time we met (can’t even remember if that was OH or in Tyson’s 2 years ago). I am sorry to hear of the situation at the outdoor play area (I thought how nice it was outdoors this year…til I read your post). Makes me kinda glad I have cats and can control their exposure with their stroller. And as to the hotel rules, yes after cat showing for many years and knowing that the majority of hotels have the same ‘can’t leave pets unattended’ I always travel with a large Sturdi Tent but truth be told, never use it…I just skip maid service and bring my own tiny sweeper and cleaning supplies, lol. I tried to be aware of dogs and other pets around me and steer away if I saw body language that made me nervous for the cats, as many of their owners were either distracted or just not cognizant (and I’m no genius really, just years of being a vet tech and observing). And yes, the Pibbles were serene, weren’t they?! I only gave one a wide berth due to a scary experience last year (and her owner responding “Oh, she’s never been around cats, I didn’t think she’d lunge at yours…’).

  29. Pamela,
    Thank you so much for speaking so highly of Nitro. Although I am not a professional trainer one of the benefits of having and raising a deaf dog is I highly advocate training and advise people before they adopt a deaf dog to consider committing to putting their deaf dog through training for the first 12 months. Nitro has been though the CGC, Therapy Dog Training, Agility Training and also Trick Training. Since he is deaf he does have an advantage over all the animals at BlogPaws because he could not hear the chaos which is a a huge advantage. I also kept Nitro my number one priority by not going to the last sessions of the day and making him take a nap before any evening events. We also asked the staff when we checked into the hotel to show us how to get around on the back stairs so we only took the elevator twice our whole visit.

    Nitro loved the outdoor dog park and we went there as many as four times a day but he is also used to going to a dog park daily since he was a puppy. I like you would never ever leave Nitro with anyone. He is special and I protect him at all costs. Part of my puppy training was taking him out every single day to be socialized and trained in stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Gander Mountain, Tractor Supply, Petsmart and Southern States. He goes with me everywhere (that will allow dogs) but I was still very worried how he would do at this conference since it was his first. It was almost like he knew all the training he went through was all leading up to times like BlogPaws and I can honestly say with all the hard work we have done together his foundation training has paid off big time. We are touched by your kind words. Nitro’s favorite dogs in the world to play with are Goldens and Goldendoodles! I wish Nitro and Honey would have gotten to play together but I totally understand your concerns. We had a great time this year and although I am excited about Vegas I will be sad Nitro won’t be with me.

    Thanks again, Christina and Nitro Lee – Deaf Dogs Rock