2018 Convention

April 6–8, 2018 in Solvang, California

Registration has ended, and we’re almost done accepting sponsors for 2018. Get some name recognition while helping a unique charity’s community thrive!

Bronze sponsors:

Simple logo with text: Santa Ynez Valley TRANSIT, Solvang • Buellton • Santa Ynez • Los Olivos

Attendees smile in a circle discussion at the 2017 PSDP Convention

Smiling friendships and inclusive openness are plentiful at PSDP conventions

Good times and good friends await you in Solvang, California! Our 2018 Convention returns us to a familiar haunt. Consult your calendar now for the first *full* weekend in April!

The quaint, walkable Danish town of Solvang features a diverse choice of eateries and shopping opportunities, with green spaces at regular intervals for nature lovers (and the canine call of nature). Solvang is flagrantly tourist-oriented and a mild-weathered, international vacation destination, sporting Nordic-seeming architecture, neo-Nordic culture, and cosmopolitan consumers. The area is reminiscent of a theme park, but without an admission price, all with a splash of wine country thrown in!

Solvang sits roughly eight miles inland from the Pacific Ocean amid a region halfway between the major coastal California population centers, making it drivable for several prospective attendees. For those not able or inclined to drive the whole distance, minor and major airports and train stations dot the region.


Our convention activities begin Friday evening on April 6th in the Legion Wing of the Veterans Memorial Building at the end of the main drag in Solvang, California. We’ll keep you engaged throughout the weekend on the 7th and 8th. Most attendees prefer to arrive or depart with an extra day or two, both to recover from the stress of travel and especially to spend more quality time with loving peers. This especially includes a traditional Monday morning breakfast together.

Registration is open until March 2nd. Details are on the 2018 Convention Registration page.

We may have scholarships available. Find out more on our Scholarships page; applications are due January 31st (deadline has passed for this convention).

Info packet

Here’s where we feature new info packet sections or announcements every week or so leading up to the convention, so you can keep checking back to stay up-to-date. If you want to look ahead, you can check out the whole (pdf) info packet draft for the 2018 convention below, noting that it is basically complete except for the schedule and activity descriptions:

DRAFT 2018 Convention Info Packet

———March 2nd, 2018: Registration was due———

Activities (subject to change)

(mandatory), welcome, and meet & greet

Check in, socialize with other teams, hear convention policies, and be welcomed by Dr. Veronica Morris. The welcome on Friday night starts at 7:30 PM. Say hi to old friends, meet new ones, and share in the excitement of the convention! Sign-in will be available and is required to use the room. If you cannot make this event and sign in on Friday, get in touch with Deanna to sign in before using the meeting space.

Social breakfast for non-testers

This is an informal time to hang out and eat, if you’re not taking a test that morning. Coordinate with others to decide whether you want to meet at the convention space before heading over to Birkholm’s Bakery (or wherever you prefer).

Interactive activities

Interactive activities are designed to promote practical understanding of a focused topic that is best learned about in person.

Training opportunity: A bus at our pace: Santa Ynez (“ee-NEZ”) Valley Transit is generously providing a bus and driver for us to train around, both while in the parking lot and in motion. The driver will be operating the wheelchair lift. This is a great opportunity to train around public transit at our own pace.

Training spotlight: Teaching retrieve: Andrea Bratt and her team from K9sBehave will join us for a fun and positive training session, primarily on how to teach and refine retrieve. Not to be missed, even if your dog already knows retrieve!

Handling the general public, with practice: Dr. Veronica Morris leads this practical discussion on interacting with people who are not gatekeepers when you’re out and about. Participants will have the opportunity to role-play and learn from each what works and what doesn’t, based on your goals.

Circle discussions

Circle discussions are guided discussions of service dog related topics. Questions, stories, advice, and support are key parts of our circle discussions. The convention will have three circles.

Re-thinking what it means to be a service dog advocate: PSDP works hard to advocate in traditional ways and at a large scale—but is that the only way you can work to improve lives for service dog users? Brad Morris will lead a discussion that promises to unveil some surprising insights into what it means to be an advocate, helping participants tailor their advocacy to what works best for them.

Setting yourself (and your dog) up for success: Chanda Hagen and Dr. Veronica Morris facilitate a discussion with a lot of opportunities for participant growth. What does it mean to set yourself up for success—or your dog? What practical tips and tricks has the community discovered to make things easier for service dog teams’ training and lives?

Living with your disability and embracing your service dog use: Elaine Malkin will lead the group to explore how community members come to grips with their disabilities and how to mitigate them. Handling the feeling and thoughts on this topic is no small deal, but sharing with others—or even just listening—can give participants invaluable perspective.

Decompression and closing thoughts: Share what this convention has meant to you, what you’ve learned, and what you’d like to see next time.

Videos and pictures for the PSDP community

Throughout the convention, PSDP volunteers will take pictures and occasionally record video to help the cause. Be sure to catch one of our photographers for a portrait shot during the convention! (Let us know clearly if you’d prefer we don’t identify you by name.)

Social hour

Saturday night is a time to relax and have fun with other PSDP convention-goers. We will have art supplies available, as well! Hang out, chat with peers, and possibly enjoy some informal musical stylings!

CGC & Public access test

Allison Brooks facilitates two tests on Saturday morning: Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and a public access test (PAT). If you are interested and have not signed up, get in touch with Allison.

CGCA & CGCU tests

Dr. Veronica Morris facilitates two tests on Sunday morning: Community Canine (CGCA) and the CGC Urban (CGCU).  If you are interested and have not signed up, get in touch with Veronica.

CGC, CGCA, CGCU, and PAT fees:

Number of tests     Total cost of tests     Cost per test

1                  $20              $20

2                  $35              $17.50

3                  $45              $15

4                  $55             $13.75

A note about AKC fees: In order for your dog to have any AKC title/certificate (CGC, CGCA, or CGCU in this case), your dog must have an AKC number (for which the AKC charges a fee). The AKC also charges for CGC, CGCA, and CGCU certificates and titles. While you and your dog can qualify for the CGC, CGCA, and CGCU certificates simultaneously at the convention, in order to get the CGCA or CGCU certificate/title, you first must get your dog’s CGC certificate/title on record.

February 2nd, 2018: Schedule (subject to change)

Friday, April 6th
7:30 p.m. Sign-in and welcome meeting, mandatory, convention meet & greet

Saturday, April 7th
8:30–10:30 CGC & public access test (mandatory breakfast at 8:00 at Birkholm’s Bakery, cost not included in PAT fee)
9:00–10:30 Social breakfast for non-testers
10:30–11:00 Committee meeting (closed meeting)
11:00–12:30 Training opportunity: A bus at our pace (interactive activity)
12:30–2:00 Lunch on your own
2:00–3:00 Re-thinking what it means to be a service dog advocate (circle discussion)
3:00–3:30 Break
3:30–5:00 Setting yourself (and your dog) up for success (circle discussion)
5:00–7:00 Dinner on your own
6:30–7:00 Committee meeting (closed meeting, tentative)
7:00–8:00 Social hour (informal)

Sunday, April 8th
8:30–10:30 CGC(A) & CGC(U)
9:00–10:30 Social breakfast for non-testers
10:30–11:00 Committee meeting (closed meeting)
11:00–noon Living with your disability and embracing your service dog use (circle discussion)
noon–1:30 Lunch on your own
1:30–3:00 Training spotlight: Teaching retrieve (interactive activity)
3:00–3:30 Break
3:30–5:00 Handling the general public, with practice (interactive activity)
5:00–7:00 Dinner on your own
7:00–8:00 Decompression and closing thoughts, room cleanup

Monday, April 9th
9:00–10:30 Social breakfast on the town (Birkholm’s Bakery)

What’s it like?

PSDP conventions are times to network with service dog handlers through workshops, training, and support. For a taste of what they’re like, enjoy the quotations below and the 2016 convention pictures and videos, and find more on the pages of previous conventions.

Group photo at the 2017 PSDP Convention

Your community is waiting to welcome you!

Our 2017 convention was rated 4.836 / 5 overall by convention-goers! They had the following to pass along to those considering joining us at future conventions:

This was my first convention and I can honestly say “that meeting the other attendees has changed my life for the better” If at all possible I will be at next year’s convention. I found it to be a very profound experience. I had no idea meeting “my own kind” so to speak would affect me so deeply.

Meeting new people was better than I thought. Everyone was so accepting

The annual convention is like a family reunion I actually want to attend.

I loved meeting new convention goers. I made some good friendships.

I look forward to and save for the annual PSDP convention every year starting the day that the last convention is over. The conventions give me so much life, inspiration, hope, and education. For once I am the “normal” one. Everyone there understands my mental illness, and my service dog, and all are so supportive. The best part of my year!

This convention is really the only place where I am completely accepted, and understood, with my MI and my service dog.

I feel as if I belong when I am at the convention. I am not the weird person with a dog. I am part of a whole.

PSDP Convention is a great way to grow as a service dog team. Yes, I was nervous going but the benefits sure outweighed the challenges of my MI. Everyone was so welcoming and understanding.

WONDERFUL convention – helped my husband understand & accept validity of benefits from my service dog

The convention is a meetup like no other, full of priceless experiences and surprisingly fast friendships. If you’re a PSD handler and want to know what home feels like, do an enormous favor for yourself and be sure you make it to a PSDP convention!

Wow! I’m left wanting more and plan to attend all the future PSDP conventions I can.

Great work planning committee! See y’all in California!