#42 - Dr. Kristina Spaulding:
The Stress Factor in Dogs

[00:00:00] Kristina: So, the thing about stress is it relates to everything. It influences everything. And you know, every time I say that, I feel a little bit like I’m over exaggerating, but I’m really not. It’s incredible. So the, the hormones that are released when animals are stressed, well actually there’s one paper that I was reading that said they basically impact every tissue in the body. I, I mean, it literally impacts everything. And so, if you don’t understand stress, and you don’t understand how stress impacts behavior, and or health, and how to help an animal cope with that stress, and deal with that stress, then I, I think, you know, it’s gonna be really, really difficult to maximize our ability to help animals or maybe even to help them at all to a certain degree.

[00:00:46] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:01:04] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:01:05] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts.

The voice you heard at the beginning of today’s episode was Dr. Kristina Spaulding. Dr. Kristina Spaulding has been in the dog training and behavior profession for over 20 years. She owns Science Matters Academy of Animal Behavior, LLC. She has a PhD in bio psychology, the study of the biological basis of behavior, and as a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.

She taught college courses in psychology for several years and is currently a co-instructor for the graduate level course in Animal Behavior Consulting at Virginia Tech. Dr. Spalding teaches a variety of online courses and webinars on the science of behavior through her website, ScienceMattersllc.com.

She is the author of The Stress Factor in Dogs Unlocking Resiliency and Enhancing Wellbeing, and she regularly presents on canine behavior science at conferences and other events. In 2019, Dr. Spaulding received the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, APDT’s Member of the Year Award. She currently serves on the IAABC Foundation Board.

I am so excited for you to hear this episode. Stress and its effect on behavior is one of those topics that I think everyone needs to know about. It’s such an integral part of understanding behavior and addressing needs in every individual, and Kristina talks about it in a way that is so down to earth. In this episode, you’re going to hear Emily and Kristina talk about the difference between eustress, tolerable stress, and toxic stress, the three components of successful behavior therapies, why agency is critical for dealing with stress, and working through frustration for resiliency.

All right. Here it is. Today’s episode, Kristina Spaulding: The Stress Factor in Dogs.

[00:03:12] Emily: Okay, so tell us your name, your pronouns, and your pets.

[00:03:17] Kristina: I am Kristina Spaulding, my pronouns are she, her, and then we have a beagle mixed named Darwin, he is 10 years old and mostly enjoys sleeping, and chasing chipmunks, and eating. Those are sort of his three loves in life. And then we have a five-year-old Australian Shepherd named Finn, who is a crazy maniac.

And he’s actually the one that, he’s one of the primary reasons I’ve gotten really interested in and things like hyperactivity, and impulsivity, and issues with emotional regulation. So, he has a lot of issues, and he’s also really an amazing, fantastic dog who just loves us with all of his heart to be non-scientific.

But he just, you know, he has big feelings about everything, and he has the good big feelings and the bad ones too. So those are our dogs.

[00:04:12] Emily: That’s so cute. I also am fascinated by the, you know, emotionality and these big feels that happen. I am a learner who has big feels and a lot of emotionality. So, it’s, it’s a very personal point of curiosity for me, but I think that’s probably, like you, that’s probably what, like draws me to those kiddos.

So, tell us your story and how you got to where you.

[00:04:35] Kristina: Yeah, so my story actually starts when I was pretty young. I’ve always loved animals and you know, dogs were the ones that were most available to me. We didn’t have cats growing up because my mom’s allergic to cats and I am too, which is why we don’t have cats now. Much to the constant complaining of my husband and my 15-year-old.

But so, I’ve always been really interested in animals, behavior and science. And so, I, I don’t think there was ever any question that I was gonna do something that combined those three things. And I think I shared this on another podcast recently, but I’m like, you know, you’re really, really geeky when you find out in third grade what a PhD is and decide that day that you’re going to get one.

But the idea of like being able to just keep going to school and keep getting more and more specific and what I learned was just amazing to me. And so, I was interested in animal behavior, and we were in the Midwest, so there were a lot of Ag schools, and you know, I did training of my dogs in high school and a little bit younger.

The very first training class that we went to was punishment based and it was in the eighties. And so, I followed those rules, but I very quickly decided that that’s not how I wanted to train because my dog didn’t like it. And so, for her, it was our standard poodle named Heidi. I just decided I wasn’t gonna train her cause I didn’t know there was another option.

So, I was like, okay, well I, and she was one of those dogs that sort of trains herself, like you really didn’t need to train her. But then we got a sheltie who was very, very shy, and somehow, I just can’t believe how lucky I got because it was in the early nineties and I was training through 4H and somehow the two advanced trainers there were very positive reinforcement based in the early nineties. And then there was another trainer that I started going to privately when I kind of outgrew 4H and she was also very positive reinforcement, I don’t think any of them were exclusively positive reinforcement, but they were way further to that end than most people were at that time.

And then I went to college, and I was, I started off in Zoology cuz I, you know, liked animals and it seemed like a good fit, but it didn’t, it really, there was not a focus on behavior at all. And so, I ended up switching to Wildlife Ecology, which was a little bit more holistic. And then again, totally by accident, I was having a discussion with one of my TAs and he asked me what I wanted to do.

And I remember saying, “Well, what I really want to do is rehabilitate aggressive dogs, but I know you can’t make any money doing that. So instead, I’m gonna do something probably, you know, I wanted to become like a wildlife conservationist or something.” And he said, “Well, you know, there’s a professor here that does that.”

And that was Patricia McConnell. So I just accidentally went to a school where she was teaching, um, she was adjunct, but, so I got connected with her and then basically found out what she did, and what her career path was, and, and tried to essentially just repeat that, and there’s a lot more after that. But I, you know, I, after I finished college, came out to New York. I opened my own training business and then several years after that, when I was definitely sure this is what I wanted to do, I went back to school and I got my PhD. So, when I was getting my PhD, I already had quite a bit of experience working with dogs and doing behavior, and so I think that was actually a really nice going through that program because I could combine those two sources of information together.

So, that was a really long answer, but, feel free to cut it down if you need to.

[00:08:10] Emily: So, first of all, that was not long at all. But secondly, I think what’s interesting is that you knew that animal behavior was a thing because when I was little, that was always what I like played at or what I wanted to do.

And I was constantly training animals, even like praying mantids, I had pet praying mantids and I just didn’t know that that was like, it was possible to do that as a career until much later. So, in my head I was like, vet school is the only way that you get to work with animals. And then when I realized that I didn’t wanna go to vet school, I was like, I guess I can’t work with animals.

And I just like did a really long circuitous thing to get back.

[00:08:46] Kristina: I don’t think I knew it was a thing. I, I just, I’m just very goal oriented, so I was like, I’m just gonna make it happen, but I was very lucky though in a lot of ways because of, you know, being around these positive reinforcement trainers so early on and then having access to Ag schools, which I think helped a lot cuz we were in the Midwest, so all of the big public schools around me were Ag schools, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin. They were all Ag schools. So that was the only thing, like really on my radar. But, but yeah, I was, I was just gonna make it happen one way or another.

[00:09:21] Emily: Kudos to you for that, because when I was, you know, that young, I, I just thought, I, I wanna have this relationship with them where like we communicate, and we can do things together. So, it wasn’t about training so much as just like getting that component of it. And I just had no idea that you could make relationship building with animals a career. It’s like, I can’t believe this is what we do for a living.

Okay. So, you know, we’re obviously, we’re gonna be talking a lot today about stress and how it relates to behavior because of your wonderful book. But for people who are listening and maybe aren’t familiar with you and your book, how does this relate to them? What is it about this conversation that’s gonna be relevant to their lives?

[00:09:57] Kristina: So, the thing about stress is it relates to everything. It influences everything. And you know, every time I say that I feel a little bit like I’m over exaggerating, but I’m really not. It’s incredible. So, the, the hormones that are released when animals are stressed, well actually there’s one paper that I was reading that said they basically impact every tissue in the body. I, I mean, it literally impacts everything. And so, if you don’t understand stress, and you don’t understand how stress impacts behavior, and or health, and how to help an animal cope with that stress, and deal with that stress, then I, I think, you know, it’s gonna be really, really difficult to maximize our ability to help animals or maybe even to help them at all to a certain degree.

I mean, it’s, sure there’s certain things that we can do, and it’s not that learning theory and things like that aren’t important because they are, but I think if we’re operating without having stress at the center of what we’re doing, it, it’s really gonna limit our, our ability to, to make change.

[00:11:00] Emily: Yeah, I really agree with that. I think one of the things that I have noticed, and I, I just recently moved from an area that was overwhelmingly more aversive training, not as much of a culture of humane and science-based training, and also just not as many resources. Like there just wasn’t as much access to that.

And one of the things that I learned from working with and observing, you know, a lot of the trainers in that area is that their decisions and their thought processes were very logical if you don’t know anything about stress and you don’t know how to identify it, right? And so, a lot of like the things that were happening to these animals that to me were really sad and unnecessary, I understood the logic because they weren’t able to see, perceive in the body language that stress was happening, or understand what that even meant.

And they had a lot of like stories surrounding why those behaviors were happening that were completely inaccurate. But if that’s what you believe, if that’s what you’ve been taught, and you don’t know how to read or recognize stress signals, and you don’t understand the impact of stress on everything, like you said, those decisions are logical. They make sense, right?

So, to me, I, I completely agree with you that like that’s the crux of, be teaching people how to recognize stress and understand how it impacts everything is critical to becoming a humane and effective behavior change professional.

So, as you know, I’ve been excitedly waiting for your book to come out for a long time, and that’s because of what we just talked about, right? How crucial it is to the competent construction of an enrichment or, and or behavior change plan to understand stress, be able to identify it. You can’t really meet an animal’s needs as effectively if you think that all stress is bad, or if you think conversely that all stress is good or it’s fine or okay.

Or if you can’t even recognize when your learners are experiencing it like we just talked about. So, being able to identify and differentiate between eustress, tolerable stress, and toxic stress is really fundamental to animal care. So, can you please briefly explain the differences between each of those three types of stress for our listeners who haven’t had a chance to read your book yet.

[00:13:17] Kristina: Yeah, so eustress is essentially good stress, and it’s funny because eustress is like a more technical term, and I don’t see it as much in the literature anymore. And it, but I think part of that is just that the vast majority, and I’m talking about like something like 90% or more of the research on stress has focused on, you know, toxic and tolerable stress, which I’ll get to in a minute.

But people just haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to eustress, which is unfortunate, but let’s go back to stress, because stress is basically change. I mean, that’s how I define it. It’s, it’s anything that that challenges or disrupts status quo. And so, that means that it happens all the time.

So, exercise, for example, is stress, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad stress. I mean, it could be depending on how you’re doing the exercise or why, but in many cases that’s gonna be an example of positive stress or eustress and so eustress is stress that is challenging because all stress is challenging, but it’s not aversive. And often it will result in personal growth, though it doesn’t have to. So that is, that is good stress or eustress.

Then you have tolerable stress, which occurs when you have a stressor that is unpleasant or aversive, and the animal is able to cope with it. So, an example of that might be going to the vet clinic. Like you go to the vet clinic, it’s not so great. You get some vaccinations, you don’t necessarily, you know, the dog doesn’t necessarily have a fun time, but then they’re okay afterwards.

And then the last category of stress is toxic stress, and this is what happens when an animal has an unpleasant and aversive experience that they are not able to cope with. And that will ultimately start to result sort of, uh, breaking down of the animal’s ability to cope with the world around them. And an example of toxic stress could also be going to the vet.

So, it’s not the actual stressor itself that matters, it’s how the animal is responding to that stressor. So, if the animal goes to the vet and has a horrible, terrifying experience, and takes a long time to recover or becomes that much more scared next time they go to the vet, then that would be an example of toxic stress.

And we can get more into the details of this if you want to, but the last thing I’ll say about toxic stress is that chronic stress, which is stress that’s taking place over an extended period of time, generally more than two to three weeks, is almost always toxic stress.

[00:15:55] Emily: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Thank you for that explanation. I wanna go back to eustress because I have a question for myself, and I did read your book, but as you know, nobody absorbs a hundred percent of the things all the time. So, maybe I missed it, missed this explanation. So, forgive me if I’m asking you something you already explained in your book, but, one of the things that I was taught, and then in reading your book, I was like, that might not be accurate, I should ask Kristina is, um, this concept of eustress trigger stacking.

And I understand by the way that the term trigger stacking is an animal trainer jargon term. It’s not scientific, but the idea that like we, we observe this with like small children, and the example I give a lot is like bridezillas, and we see it in dogs too, where there’s good stress, and there’s a lot, you’re like having fun and you’re playing, but you’re like amping up.

And with, with children and with dogs we see it’s like they don’t have the ability to recognize that they’re amping up. And so, they’ll, they can’t give themselves breaks to sort of come calm back down again. And so even though it’s eustress they’re having fun, they’re playing, they’re enjoying themselves, they get this like escalation, and then it kind of flips to what I would consider toxic stress where they’re having fun, and they’re play fighting, and then they’re real fighting, and then everybody’s having a bad day.

So, how accurate is that concept of eustress trigger stacking? What’s actually going on there?

[00:17:21] Kristina: That’s a really good question. And the reason that I don’t talk about it much in the book is cuz there’s just not really research on it. So, I looked for research on eustress and good stress and that I, I just really couldn’t find much of anything. Um, I think I mentioned at one point in the book doing searches on the different kinds of stress and there was like, I don’t know, like 2 million for, you know, just regular stress or distress and then like, I don’t know, a hundred thousand for eustress or something.

But it, yeah, I mean, we don’t know. I do, so if, if stress is change, which is, we say stress is change. And the reason, the reason we go through stress is cuz something happens, and the body has to adjust to that. Something has changed. We’re hungry, that’s stress. We have to, you know, we have to do something, we have to kind of make adjustments to deal with that.

We get out of breath, you know, we go through a natural disaster, everything’s all, you know, out of whack and we’re constantly adjusting. And those adjustments are taxing on the body. And if you’re doing that too often, then it starts to have negative impacts in the long run, which is why chronic stress is such a problem.

So, in theory, eustress that is continuing to happen has the potential to be damaging, but I just don’t think anyone has looked at it. What I can say is that I do think when you have individuals that have this increasing arousal and they’re having a difficult time, as you said, maybe potentially recognizing that that’s getting out of control and or doing something about it, I think that is probably related to issues with emotional regulation and executive function, which is the, the body’s ability to sort of regulate emotions and, and implement implementation, and planning, and self-monitoring and all of that. So, I would say that when you see these kids and, and animals becoming over aroused, and I have one, well, actually I had a kid and a dog that that struggle with this, that is probably strongly related to issues with executive function, which is related to stress, but a different thing.

[00:19:34] Emily: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Okay. That is, that is fascinating and I think we could probably spend decades just delving into that, but thank you for clearing that up because when I was reading your book and the differences between eustress, tolerable stress and, and distress, or toxic stress, I was like, “Okay, so where does this concept that I’ve been taught as being eustress trigger stacking fit in?” so, that is, really fascinating and helping me to reframe that. So, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

All right. So, I wanna move on to another thing that I really loved in your book that, as I was reading it, I, I kind of realized that, there’s more to discuss in terms of how we approach reactivity. Because you were talking about your relationship to exposure therapy, and how you used to think that it maybe wasn’t super effective, at least with non-humans.

And then you realized that what you were doing is a type of exposure therapy, and for those of you who are listening who haven’t read the book, actually Kristina, you’ll do a better job of explaining. Go ahead and explain how you work through those cases as described in the book.

[00:20:40] Kristina: Yeah, so when I work with fearful dogs, although it doesn’t necessarily always have to be fearful dogs, but the specific cases that I’m thinking about is primarily has to do with fearful dogs, or dogs that I want to improve their confidence.

I will go through this procedure of shaping them to interact with those scary objects, and over time I have pulled back more, and more, and more in terms of how much I am encouraging them. So, at this point, I basically don’t encourage them at all. It’s just a pure shaping. So, we, we might start by putting, a shovel in the yard and, you know, this might be a dog that’s a little extreme, but I’ve certainly worked with those dogs that anything, that is not normally there is, is very, very scary.

And so, we put the shovel in the yard, the dog is, you know, able to be as far away from it as they want. And then if they look at the shovel, they are reinforced. And then, you know, that turns into, if they move towards the shovel, or lean towards the shovel, they are reinforced, and eventually working up to touching or interacting with the shovel in some way.

And so, that is something that I had been doing for a while that I basically just figured out through trial and error as well as sort of picking things up from different people. So, I believe that this Touch the Goblin concept originally comes from Alexandra Kurland, who is a horse person. But it occurred to me as I was doing the research for this book that that is basically exposure therapy.

So, exposure therapy with people involves having them voluntarily interact with a scary thing. And so, I was just going through my materials for the Science of Fear course that I’m teaching right now, and I was checking some of the videos for that course to make sure that the links still worked.

I happen to just be looking at exposure therapy videos today, and so there was this woman that was terrified of cockroaches and would basically have a panic attack every time she saw a cockroach. And so, she went through a process with a therapist of doing things like holding a fake cockroach. And even that they, you know, they should video, they put it on her hand and, and then she just sort of, you know, got very upset and like threw it back onto the table after maybe one second of it being on her hand. And they worked up to. I don’t remember what the last step was, but they worked up to her, like having it loose and running around in a room.

And I think they maybe even had her bring one home in a cage and take care of it. So, but the, the key point here is that she was a knowing and willing participant in every step, and she always had the ability to stop. And so initially I thought, “Well, we can’t do this with nonverbal animals because they can’t, we can’t explain to them why we’re doing it and therefore they can’t consent.” right? But now that we’ve been doing all this cooperative care work and all of this other stuff, we’ve found ways to get around that inability to verbally consent.

And so, I think if we can do shaping and you know, I’m calling it exposure therapy. I don’t know if a psychologist that works with, with exposure therapy would necessarily agree or disagree with me, but what you’re doing is you’re having the animal voluntarily interact with the thing that is scary to them.

And it does a lot of things that we can talk more about if you want to, but one of the things that it does is it addresses avoidance. And one of the problems with fear and avoidance is that if you are constantly avoiding the thing that you are scared of, you never have the opportunity to learn that it’s okay, and that you can cope with it, and that you are gonna survive and you’re gonna be okay. But if we force animals to do that, it becomes counterproductive in almost every case because they’re losing that control.

But if they are voluntarily interacting with the scary thing and getting reinforced for it, then they’re having the opportunity for extinction to occur, we’re talking about classical conditioning, fear extinction, and then also a little bit of counter conditioning, associating that scary thing with good things.

But also, and I think this is one of the most important components, figuring out that they’re okay, like that they can do it. And it’s really amazing. I mean, I’m sure I’m not the only one that does that, does this, but it’s really amazing to put dogs through that process, and see them become more confident, and start to run up to things, and touch them and then look at you like, “Did you see what I did?!”

And like, yeah, they’re probably looking for that food reinforcement, and you know, again, this is very non-scientific, but I don’t think that’s the only part of it that’s reinforcing. I think there’s something about being able to do it that is reinforcing to them and that that removal of that fear.

[00:25:29] Emily: Mm-hmm. Yeah, for sure. So, Yeah, cuz I, I was reading your explanation of how you work through that, and it kind of struck me in that moment that all of the, there are a lot of protocols out there for working with fear and reactivity, and the ones that seem to be the most impactful and effective most of the time when they’re applied skillfully, involve three components actually. And I think a lot of people are thinking of it as a single thing: we need to change the way they feel about the fear or help them. But every protocol that I’ve seen that’s really impactful has three, three components.

One is uh, teaching them that they can escape from the thing when it’s too hard. The other is, teaching them that they can exist, and that the thing isn’t gonna hurt them, that it’s okay. So, exposure. And then the other, the third is investigation that they can go and check it out.

So what I found interesting about your description of how you work through this is that really you are kind of doing all three of those things at the same time. Cuz you were describing in the book how when you do pay them, you actually move the food away. So, they do get to escape, right? They get to move away. It’s like they did the brave thing, they investigated, and then they get to go away from the thing to get the food. So I’m, I was noticing that your description of how you’re doing this still includes those three components, but you’re almost doing all of them at the same time. Right?

So, they’re learning to escape, they’re learning to, acknowledge and they’re learning to investigate kind of in the same, in the same instance. And I think the most important thing for people to read in that is that you weren’t actually encouraging, or luring, or prompting in any way. You were waiting for them to offer whatever investigation they, they offered and then almost like capturing, those little approximations, right?

So, I think that’s really important because as you said that the ability to make that choice to decide to do it, and it’s coming internally, like, ” I can, I can investigate, I can be brave.” I agree with you that that is a really important component. I mean, I don’t have any science to back that up. I just from experience have seen that to be true. And when we were researching for our book, we actually did find, a paper, having just said, I don’t have any research to back this up, I have very little. We did find a, a paper that was studying in humans, this idea of the Security Motivation System where when you perceive a threat, you’ve got these kind of alarm bells going off in your head, and you have to investigate them to kind of turn that Security Motivation System off and say, “Okay, the cat just knocked dishes into the sink. It wasn’t an intruder.” Right? And so, I think for me, that has always been my perception of like, if you teach animals that they can escape if they need to, but when they investigate, good things will happen. Like the other thing that’s reinforcing that is that they have the power to turn off their own alarm system, right? Does that align with what you’ve experienced, and what you’ve researched?

[00:28:28] Kristina: Yeah, I think so. You know what I would, so you talked about escape, exposure, and investigation, and I would probably call the escape part agency. So, the animal learning that the, that they have the ability to control their environment. And of course, we can’t totally control our environment, but even knowing that you have some influence over how likely certain outcomes are, that is very meaningful and very powerful.

And this is something that shows up quite a lot in the human research as well and is something that is very strongly connected to emotional health, and I prefer emotional health to mental health. That I, I, I’m seeing a shift in that because I, I just think that’s a more accurate term.

And I could talk could go on and on about that too, but when we were talking about emotional regulation before, I think that’s a major component of a lot of mental health issues and people, we would call them behavior issues and dogs. I would say they’re the same thing basically.

But I think that, yeah, being able to have some level of control over your environment seems to be one of the most important things when it comes to the ability to cope with stress is, is a perception of control.

[00:29:53] Emily: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think that every stage along the way, the learner being able to control their experience and make the decisions, whether to move away, we can reframe, escape as moving away, or whether to sit in that moment and just observe an intake, or whether to move towards the thing, all of that has to, agency has to be a part of that. All of that should be controlled by the learner, right? So, I absolutely agree with you about that.

And then in a related topic, I loved your section on enrichment. It brought me so much joy. It was a really beautiful and concise explanation of what we’re trying to teach people in our book, in the courses that we teach, in this podcast.

I was like, “Wow. Kristina Spaulding knocking it outta the park with her like few pages just summarizing everything, right?” So, I loved it, and also, I was a little bit like, ” Why didn’t we do that?”

This conversation that we just had about how teaching learners how to engage with their stressors is such an important and critical component to the enrichment discussion for many reasons.

I think one of them is that, by definition, if an animal’s not learning to engage with something, it’s not enrichment, right? So right off the bat, we’re talking about agency as being critical to both this the learner interacting with their stressors, and also how enrichment happens. But I also loved how you kind of summarized, what I learned as the concept of constructive discontent. That’s how we talk about it in the book cuz that’s how I was taught. But you frame it as high skill, high challenge, right? Where they are learning to do a thing and, and kind of like overcome a challenge, and get something from doing that. That that discussion that we just had about giving learners control over that, and making sure that they get abundant reinforcement for investigating and trying things, I think is so critical to the ability to actually, introduce high skill, high challenge, in a productive and effective way.

Because you have to be able to recognize when the learner is stressed, and also, let them kind of take control or take ownership of that, right? So, can you talk a little bit about how you would implement that and what people need to look for when they’re trying to decide, because your emphasis in the book was on making sure that they’re given a challenge that’s appropriate to their skill level.

Can you talk about what people should be looking for in terms of how do we identify what is actually an appropriate level of, of challenge to give this learner so that they’re experiencing potentially eustress, maybe brief or temporary tolerable stress, but toxic stress is just not a part of the equation at all.

[00:32:47] Kristina: Yeah. And, and the first thing I wanna, wanna do is just clarify that this concept of high skill, high challenge, that did not come directly from me, that was something that was framed by a couple or several different researchers, so both Clark and Meehan and Mench who are, referenced in the book, so if you wanna look them up and read those papers directly, so I can’t take kind of, all I did was translate it. But, yeah, so they talked about how important it is that we provide a challenge that is well matched, the animal’s skill level.

And so, and I, I really think we could have a very long conversation about how to assess if you are appropriately managing the skill level or not, because there’s a lot of nuance here, but, you know, so we wanna look for signs of avoidance, I think is, that’s probably where I would start. So, is the animal showing signs of avoidance? Are they walking away? Are they disengaging from the session? Are they showing signs of stress? You know, that’s probably an indication, it could be an indication that it’s too hard or too easy, right? Because if it’s, depending on what the animal’s motivation is, whatever reinforcer you’re using, it just, you know, they may not wanna sit, you know, 15 times in a row, even if you are offering them food.

I mean, my beagle would sit 3000 times in a row if he got food every time, but not every dog cares that much. And, and you know, if we’re not talking about dog, you know, whatever species we’re talking about. But so those are those, that’s the first thing I would look at is as body language that’s indicating that the animal is stressed in some way, or that they’re just avoiding the session.

And then in terms, how do we determine if it’s too hard or too easy, in that particular scenario, you know, hopefully you have some background on the animals, so you have some idea of what they have and have not done in the past. If you don’t have a lot of background on them, if you’re working with a shelter dog or something, certainly my first thing would be that I would decrease the challenge level, right?

Cause I’m going to assume that they haven’t been through extensive levels of training. So, that’s one thing to look for, I would also look for signs of frustration, and increasing arousal. And this is where I think we could get into a really long discussion, about how much frustration and arousal is okay, and how much is too much.

Some people would say none is okay. I actually disagree with that, and we can talk about why that is. But you know, I want the dog to be to, basically, I want them to look like they’re having a great time. I mean, I think if you are engaging in an activity where the animal seems to be really excited to participate, and they’re really enjoying themselves, that that’s a pretty good sign that you have the appropriate level of stress.

And if, if they’re enjoying themselves and you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again, and it starts to feel like it’s too easy, that’s probably a sign that we need to increase the difficulty level a little bit. So that’s, I guess that’s what I would say is that I, I want them to be happy.

I want them to be engaged and excited about what we’re doing, and once it feels too easy, I would increase the challenge level. And I know that that’s not, that’s not very precise, but what I will tell you is that I used to give my clients very specific criteria for when they should move forward, and they would always get confused.

They would move forward too soon, or not soon enough, and finally I gave up and just started saying, when it feels easy, move forward. And that worked, like there just seems to be something intuitive about that. They’re like, “Oh, this is, you know, this is super easy now.” And then, and then you can make things more challenging. So, I know it’s not technical, but it seems to work. So that’s why I use that approach.

[00:36:42] Emily: That’s an amazing tip and I’m stealing it from you for sure. But I would like you to go back, and you said, you know, we can talk about that later, but I think it is really important to talk about the balance that is to be struck, and when we’re talking about giving learners a challenge, and how there may be some kind of ephemeral, unpleasant types of stress.

Because for me personally, the things that I have worked really hard at that have been really challenging, building all the programs that Allie and I have built, continuing to build this mentorship program, the, even things not related to work at all, like major video games that I’ve done, or hobby projects.

There are elements of like, terror that I’m gonna ruin everything, or like I get, I just am exhausted and I’m like, “Why am I even doing this? I bit off more than I can chew.” And then you know it when I get to the end and we’ve launched the thing that we’ve been working on for years, or I, I beat the final boss of a game, or whatever, that feeling is like hashtag worth it, right?

But I think the important thing, I’m not promoting that we intentionally cause toxic stress to our learners, because for me, all of that came from me. Those were my decisions, I had agency, I was the one who chose to put myself through those the terror, and the stress, and the doubt, and the self-doubt and the anxiety. That was my choice. So, I would love to hear your take on how we, we implement that with non-human learners. Should the choice come from them? Can it come from them? How do we do that? How do we balance that? Like, you may have some temporary minor distress, but you’ll, you’ll love it in the end.

[00:38:22] Kristina: Yeah. So, I have a lot of thoughts about this. And so, and, and so one of the things that you mentioned is that all of those challenges were challenges that were initiated by you. And the other thing that I think it’s important to keep in mind is if, let’s just go with the video game example, cuz that’s nice and simple.

You know, if you were given a new video game and you were immediately taken to the final boss and said beat this. A, you probably wouldn’t succeed, and B, it probably would not be a fun experience, right? So, part of it is making sure that we are building up the challenge level gradually enough that you have the opportunity to gain skills, to gain confidence, and to learn that if you keep working through that frustration, that you will be reinforced.

And so, there’s a theory about, well, there’s a theory about the partial reinforcement effect. So, most of people listening to this are probably familiar with this idea that, um, if you intermittently reinforce an animal for behavior, that that behavior tends to last longer than if you’re reinforcing them every single time.

And the common example is the slot machine versus the soda machine. So, if you put money in a soda machine, and now it’s like 2, 2 50, I dunno, I remember what soda was 50 cents. But so you put money in the soda machine, and you hit the button and nothing comes out. Maybe you’ll do it one more time if you’re really desperate, but you’re probably gonna give up really quickly.

But then, you know, for those, for people who gamble, if you put money in the slot machine, there is an expectation that you’re not gonna get it back right away. And so, you continue to put money in, and that behavior is sustained for much longer. And this is, you, you people may not be aware of this, but this is something that has been of great interest to learning theory researchers of why does this happen?

And so, there’s a lot of different theories about why it happens. And I don’t, as far as I know, it’s not something that’s been totally settled yet. But one of the theories, and I’m, I’m gonna forget the researcher, unfortunately, but one of the theories that was presented is called the Frustration Theory.

And the idea is that the animals use to continuous reinforcement, so you have a dog and they’re getting a treat every single time they sit. And then one time you withhold the reinforcer. So, what does the dog do? They, they feel, they probably feel a little bit frustrated or confused, but they’re gonna sit again.

And as long as you reinforce them, that time you have now just taught them to work through this tiny amount of frustration, and that they’ll get reinforced for that. And so, I think the researcher’s name is Amsel, A M S E L. And so, what Amsel suggested is that what happens is if, if that period of frustration is followed up immediately by reinforcement enough times frustration actually begins to predict reinforcement. And so, that feeling of frustration can ultimately motivate continued work. And so, if that’s the case, it seems to me that it’s very beneficial to teach animals to work through that frustration instead of having a meltdown because they’re not getting what they want right away. The hard part is doing this, you know, walking that fine line so that you are not going into toxic stress, and I don’t have a super great answer for this, but I do have some, I guess tips or guidelines that I can give people?

So, the first thing is that I would say, so for example, if you’re working with clients, I don’t think we need to have this discussion with clients.

They’re frustrating their animals anyway, right? So, I would never tell one of my clients, I mean, unless I had someone that was super, super advanced, right? But for those of us who worked with like typical pet dog owners, I would never tell any of them to frustrate their dogs because they’re doing it. So, we don’t need, and, and most of us are doing it, right? I don’t think most people have to intentionally frustrate their animals. But there is a, you know, there is a contingent of trainers out there that are so good that they probably very rarely are frustrating their animals, and for those people, I do think there can be benefits to just working in a tiny bit of frustration. And certainly not beating yourself up if the animal is getting a little bit frustrated. So that’s one thing is that typically we don’t have to manufacture this.

The other thing is, this is not something I’m talking about doing with beginner dogs, right? They’re getting frustrated anyway. This is something that we’re talking about doing with super duper advanced dogs that are maybe sort of know a lot of behaviors really well already, and, and aren’t getting challenged sufficiently anymore, right? And then, and, and I wouldn’t do this with shut down dogs, you know? So, this is really with a specific subpopulation of people, and a specific subpopulation of dogs because everyone else is happening anyway.

And then I also do it in tiny, tiny steps. You know, so very, very short sessions and then followed by a whole bunch of easy stuff. So, I wouldn’t, you know, if I was working on frustration, I might do like one minute of that, and then we would do other stuff that’s not eliciting frustration. So, I do think this is great for those hyperactive, impulsive dogs that are having temper tantrums all the time. And again, I have one of them, and I didn’t need to intentionally frustrate him. I, I could just like look at him, and he would become frustrated. But as he progressed, we did start to work on it intentionally a little bit.

One of my favorite ways to work on frustration is through enrichment, actually. And so doing things like hiding a toy and starting off really, really super duper easy, like lifting up the blanket, and placing the toy, and then covering half the toy with the blanket, and saying, “Where’s the toy?” And then, you know, they get the toy, and then just gradually making it harder and harder.

But what you’re doing is you’re teaching them to work through hard things. And I think that huge value in that, this is totally not dog related at all, but some people may be familiar with Glennon Doyle and, she’s an author and had battles with addiction and is sober now, and she talks about how we can do hard things.

And I think that’s ultimately the message is finding a way to teach her animals that they can do hard things but doing in a way where you’re not creating toxic stress in the meantime. And I don’t even know about tolerable stress. I mean, I’m not, like, remember that good stress can still result in personal growth.

So, I, I I’m not really looking for my animals to be distressed. I mean, maybe a teeny, tiny, you know, moment of the, you know, smallest briefest distress maybe, but that’s really not what I’m going for. I, I’m teaching them that they can do hard things and that it’s worthwhile for them. Like you said, it’s worth it in the end. So, I hope that’s a helpful, clear answer.

[00:45:37] Emily: It is. I mean, it is, well, for me, it, it is super helpful because I, I struggle to articulate this. You know, people make arguments to never frustrate animals or, you know, that frustration is okay, and every time I see that argument come up, I go, ” You’re kind of right.”

But like, I don’t, you know how, the only way I really could think to, to say it is the difference is I’m choosing that for myself and we can’t choose that for our animals, but on the other hand, I agree with you, life is full of frustration, and It’s better for us to teach animals how to navigate that then to just try to wrap them in bubble wrap and prevent it from ever happening. Cuz that’s unrealistic. So, I think that’s a super helpful approach to how to handle, handle those moments of frustration with our, our non-human family.

All right, so I’m gonna completely switch gears and, and go a little bit off of our topic of stress and behavior and enrichment. Um, because one of my primary interests is in critical thinking skills, and how they can help to improve and evolve the animal behavior professions.

In particular, being able to assess the validity of the information we receive is, to me at least super important. And one of the things that we look for when we’re assessing the reliability of the information, we’re consuming is how sources speak about research. One of the things that we are taught when we’re trying to differentiate between pseudoscience and science is that broad claims tend to be less accurate, whereas careful measured claims tend to be more accurate. And one of the things that I absolutely, hardcore fan girled about your book is how you model that beautifully. You make careful and measured claims. When you talk about research, you say things like, look, this is complicated and highly specific and you know, it’s, it’s too dense to kind of talk about in the book, but it appears that there does seem to be some impact to some degree from this component, whatever it is that you’re talking about, right? And then also when I got to the end and you had that entire appendix called Science and you’re, I mean, just you did such a beautiful job. of like, brief primer on how to approach science, what the, you know, what are the fundamental tenants? What does it mean, what does it look like? How do you as a layperson interact with it?

The whole time I was reading that, I was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing!” I was just freaking out. It is so good. If for no other reason, I think people should buy the book for the appendix, because if everybody in our profession just learned what you teach in that appendix, the profession would overnight be like a totally different beast.

That’s not hyperbole. I, I really believe that. So, I would love to hear from you and, and feel free to plug Research Bites, I would love to hear from you because we clearly have shared, passion and goal for helping people to learn these critical thinking skills and, and how to think about science.

Talk to me about how you c you see us doing, uh, teaching these skills in a way that, helps a lot of people who are afraid of it, or think that their brain doesn’t work that way, or think that it’s too esoteric for them cuz they’re down in the ground actually working with dogs, all of the things that I see for those reactions against critical thinking skills and science is not being relevant.

I would love to hear your thoughts about how we can, um, teach these skills in a way that feels accessible to everybody. Cuz already you’re crushing it. So, how do we expand on what you’ve already done?

[00:49:20] Kristina: Well, thank you. I’m so happy to hear this because, I mean, again, I’m the nerd that found out what a PhD was when I was eight and decided that I wanted to get a PhD, and I fully realized that that is not normal. So it’s, so I’ve always geeked out about this stuff, and it’s, it’s so awesome to see that it’s not totally boring to other people.

And there was discussion about that appendix. It was really gonna be a chapter in the book, and it was moved to the appendix because there was concern that people wouldn’t care about it, and that it would turn off readers. So, I, and you’re not the first person that has talked about the appendix and how much they love it, so, I’m just, I’m so happy that people appreciate that.

So, thank you for that. Yeah, there’s so much that I could say about this. So, two of the things that you asked is why is it important? So why is critical thinking important and why is science important? And then you mentioned something else that’s also very near and dear to my heart, and that was, what do I say to people who think that this isn’t for them, that they’re not smart enough, or that their brain doesn’t work that way? And so, I wanna address both of those things separately.

So, the first thing I would say is I just, I think the critical thinking and the science component is so important, because behavior is complex and it’s really difficult, I mean, I really think we’re doing ourselves, and the people, and the animals that we work with a disservice if we can’t recognize that complexity.

Because if you are trying, so let’s take aggression for an example. If you’re trying to go into aggression cases, and you’re trying to treat them all the same, they’re not all the same. And the standard methods like counterconditioning and desensitization are gonna work really well for some cases, and they’re not gonna work well at all for other cases.

And if we can’t gain a better understanding of the complexity that’s going on in those cases, we’re never gonna be able to address cases like that. And if we can’t understand the overlap between things like stress, and aggression, and anxiety, and emotional regulation, we’re, you’re only targeting one small part of the problem.

It’s like you have this whole tree that’s sick, and we’re like working on one branch of that tree, and there’s like the rest of the tree that’s still sick. And so, that’s why I think this science is so important. And I, I give the animal training field huge credit because we didn’t have science for a long time. I mean, we had learning theory and that was basically it. And again, learning theory is super important, but it’s not the whole story. And yet, we’ve done an incredible job in this field of figuring things out by ourselves. But, it’s not as fast, it’s really slow. And so, if you can bring science in, and you can merge that with your direct on the ground personal experience, I really believe that that can cause your knowledge to grow by leaps and bounds.

I mean, this was my experience, you know, when I went to graduate school, I felt like I was a pretty accomplished, and well-educated behavior consultant, and I was, and I went to graduate school and I was completely blown away by how much more there was to know. And I’m not, I’m not making an argument that you have to go to graduate school to be a good trainer or behavior consultant.

And I really don’t believe, I mean, I’ll go on, and on, and on about how awesome it is because I’m such a nerd, but I don’t think it’s the only path. But I think that understanding the science is key. And of course, that goes hand in hand with critical thinking, and being able to understand how to evaluate these studies, and how to interpret the results, and how to take what the science is saying or take information that you’re getting from different sources and learn how to integrate them and apply them to what you do.

And it totally, totally makes a difference. I mean, some of these things, you know, I, I talk a lot about my dog Finn because he’s taught me a lot, but I never would be in the place where I am with him now, and with dogs like he is, you know, the emotional regulation, impulsivity dogs, big feelings dogs, if I hadn’t also brought in the research. It’s, is how those two things work together that gives us the greatest power to make a difference.

So, so I clearly, I think it’s really, really important. and what I also wanna say about anyone who feels like they’re not good enough in some way, or they’re not capable. And I come at this from kind of a strange angle cuz I, I didn’t struggle in school. I mean, I just loved it, and I really, with a few exceptions, you know, like math, and computer science, and genetics, like, I just, I, I really didn’t struggle in school though, those things. I mean, math, I could get, not genetics, and not computer science. but I, I taught at a University for several years when I was in graduate school. My husband is dyslexic and has ADHD and was intensely learning disabled enough that he had to go to a private school.

And I have a kid that’s autistic, and has ADHD and they’re both incredibly intelligent, and I think that, and there’s people who don’t have experience with college or who had negative experience with college, and I just, I really believe that it’s important that everybody has the ability to learn and everybody has access to learning.

And I guess what I have to say, if you think you can’t do it, you know, do what you can, and then reach out and ask questions, and network with other people, and email me. And I just, I never want anyone to feel like they can’t, especially if you’re already a trainer or a behavior consultant and you’re doing a good job.

Like clearly you have skills, and clearly you have understanding. And even though learning the science part of it may seem daunting, I don’t think it has to be. I hope that it doesn’t have to be, I, I want it to not to be daunting because I just, I just think it’s so important. I’m such a geek about science that I just can’t contain myself.

So, and yes, you, you mentioned Research Bites and I do have, uh, monthly webinar membership. Where I talk about a different research article each month, and I basically, I read it, I do all the work, um, cuz even if you feel confident with this stuff, like who has the time? I mean, I literally closed my consulting business and relaunched a new business exclusively to focus on this cuz I didn’t have time. So, so I find the papers, I read them, and then I basically translate them for the members, and we have discussions about them, so I’ll give a little presentation, and then we have some discussion. And so, that’s a nice way to sort of, I think, ease into that. Cuz it, I mean it is intimidating and it is really hard, and if you just jump in and start reading scientific articles, you may be confused, and I promise you, you’re not alone. So, I don’t, I know that was a very impassioned answer, but I feel very strongly about these things.

[00:57:13] Emily: I wanted the impassioned answer because I feel equally impassioned about this topic, and how you approach it, and uh, I appreciate everything that you’re doing, all of your efforts in that regard. And I think there are a couple things that you said that I kind of, I love so much I wanna reemphasize. And one of them is that you don’t have to be a researcher to learn the sciences because there are people who are, there are more of us now.

There weren’t, there didn’t used to be, there are, there are people who like you, and to a lesser extent me cuz I don’t have a PhD, who are committed to doing that labor, and translating for people. And so, you don’t have to learn how to read research in order to learn how the practical application of that research.

And, um, I think that’s such an important thing that you brought up, and then the other thing is like, you know, there’s so much, uh, guilt and shame that happens in the learning process. And people are like, “Oh, I’m bad at math.” Or “My brain doesn’t work that way.” And there’s an element of truth to that cuz we all have things that we’re better at, or more drawn to, and things that are less so, like your experience with genetics and, and computer science, right? But a lot of times when people think they’re, they aren’t smart enough or their brain doesn’t work enough to, in this way to like absorb or learn science, it’s because they’ve had an aversive learning history, or they had a teacher who was indifferent or like they didn’t have a teacher who was able to meet their needs.

And so, one of the things that I feel very strongly about is helping people to stop internalizing and blaming themselves for their learning histories, right? That it’s, that’s not a character flaw, that’s an experience that happened to you. And I think that’s just a, such an important component of being able to let go of that identity is like, I’m bad at science, or my brain isn’t good enough for that, if you can, if you can let go of that and then let people teach you who are willing to do that, like you, Kristina, you can learn so much that has practical applications to your profession without having to dive into the stuff that makes you uncomfortable, or you’re not interested in, or whatever. So, yeah, thank you so much for, for that whole conversation cuz to me it, it’s super important and we need to talk about it more.

[00:59:21] Kristina: No, I agree. And I really appreciate you bringing up, cuz I think it’s, it’s just so important, and I could continue to talk about it, but we will, we can move on, but yeah, I could spend, I could do a whole podcast on education.

[00:59:35] Emily: Maybe I’ll bring you back just so we can talk about that part, and critical thinking skills and everything. All right, so we allow our Pro Campus and Mentorship Program members to submit questions for our guests, and the most popular question. for you was what kind of research regarding stress and dogs would you like to see happen or are you most excited about happening?

[00:59:57] Kristina: Oh, wow, that’s a great question. So, there is more happening. There’s, there’s quite a bit that is currently going on, so that’s exciting. It’s not anything that is, that I can share at this point is in the very, very early stages. So, there’s two things, and one of them is looking at stress resilience and how the different experiences that animals have throughout their lives can influence stress resilience. And if you’ve read the book, you know, there is some work on this, but I would like to see really specific work on dogs. And again, there’s been some, you know, there’s, we have some evidence that like puppy classes help, but it’s not as good as I would like it to be. So, anything on that.

And then the, and then on the other side would be looking at the impacts of stress on behavior in a very applied way. So, if you’ve read the book, you know that, I don’t know, 80, 85% of the research in the book is not on dogs. So, and I do think, in case you haven’t read the book yet, I do think it probably applies very closely to dogs because everything that we know about stress and mammals is that it’s, it’s basically, it’s the same from mammal to mammal. I mean, obviously there’s gonna be some differences, but it’s largely the same.

But I want research that’s very specific and very applied as in, you know, how does this puppy curriculum influence the behavior of the puppies five years later? Or how does this behavior modification protocol influence the behavior of the dogs compared to this behavior mo, modification protocol? And we don’t have that yet. I, I think we’re gonna start to see more and more of that, though.

[01:01:52] Emily: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yes. Awesome. Exciting. I’m, I’m looking forward to that feature research as well. What is one thing you wish people knew about either this topic, your profession, or enrichment in general?

[01:02:05] Kristina: I mean, I think just sort of reiterate the things that we’ve already talked about is that stress impacts everything. I, I, I sort of half-jokingly say stress is everything, and, and that understanding stress is just so important for understanding behavior. And we didn’t talk about this a whole lot, but enrichment is a really key part of helping animals to successfully cope with stress.

And I think the other thing is, we already said this, but it, I’m just gonna reiterate it, is that I think everyone can learn science, and everyone can benefit from science. Even if you don’t have a history of science, or you’ve struggled in the past, like Emily was saying, that’s, that’s about your learning history, not necessarily what your abilities are.

And I think you, you know, it’s more about having a teacher that is willing to work with you and figure out how to best work with your learning style, whatever it is. Cuz there’s a lot of, you know, different ways that, that people learn. And I think that everyone has the ability to benefit from this kind of knowledge. So those are the, I think those are the two things that I would say are most important to me.

[01:03:14] Emily: Perfect. What is one thing you’d love to see improved in your field?

[01:03:18] Kristina: I feel like I’ve started to repeat myself here, but just the, you know, the, the incorporation of science into the work we do. I think that it’s been separate for too long, and again, I know like we’ve had learning theory, but even that is, I, I think, been very superficial for the most part in terms of the understanding of learning theory in the field.

And obviously it, you know, varies from person to person, but I, I just think we not only need more trainers and behavior consultants understanding more science, but I also think we need more researchers understanding what’s going on with behavior consultants and trainers be, and, and some of them do. I mean, I, I, interview researchers for my podcast and talking to those people, so you mentioned earlier that there’s kind of this perception that the researchers may be out of touch, and I have to say that in my experience, that’s not the case at all.

I mean, they’re really the, at least the people who are directly looking at dogs, if you take that one level removed, and you have people that may be looking at aspects of behavior that relate to dogs, but aren’t directly studying dogs, I think those people not have a good concept, but they’re not researching dogs, they’re researching people.

But I think that increasing and improving the conversation between researchers and practitioners is really, really important. And this is what you see in other fields, right? I mean, I just can’t imagine a world where like human therapists are not paying attention to the research, and you don’t have people that have experience directly working with people also doing the research.

I mean, we’re a little bit weird, I think, in that way, that there isn’t more communication. And again, I think it’s a result of the fact that there just hasn’t been research on dogs going on for very long, but now I think is the time for that to start to change and to start to have a lot more interaction and communication between those two groups because they both have a lot to learn from each other. And I think it would really benefit the field.

[01:05:26] Emily: Yeah, for sure. There’s definitely room for growth and more collaboration for sure. And like, like you said, there are also, you’re by no means the only researcher I’ve ever met who, or the only behaviorist I’ve ever met, who was a trainer first. And I think to me, those are the best behaviorists or the ones who like got in and, did the work and then also learned all the, all the stuff. What are you currently working on? If people wanna work more with or learn from you, where can they find you?

[01:05:56] Kristina: Yeah, there’s a few different options. So, I have two courses available. I have the Unlocking Resiliency course, which starts typically in the late winter or early spring, and again in the fall. And that is a 16 week in depth certificate course that goes into really a lot of the things that we’ve been talking about today.

So, we talk about stress, resilience, mental health, emotion, and cognition, and how all of those things impact behavior. And how we can use them to build more resilient dogs. And uh, that’s once a week for 16 weeks, and then I also have an Advanced Consulting Practicum, and that is meant for intermediate to advanced level behavior consultants that really feel like they have a lot of the sort of basics, more than the basics. I mean, they have a really strong foundation, and a lot of the, the, the knowledge about the behavior, and the methods and they’ve, they’ve taken a lot of, you know, courses and seminars and they’re really looking more for individual guidance on specific cases.

And so, that’s gonna be a max of four or five people, and we’re gonna meet once a week to discuss cases. And I open enrollment and that as spaces become available, but that is six months, so roughly every six months, and unless someone has to, you know, drop out early.

And then Research Bites is happening every month. So, that’s the membership program where I cover a recent research paper once a month. Translated for you guys, basically. And then we have a discussion about it, and then there’s other things that go along with that, so there’s, uh, we have coffee breaks several times a week where we just sit, and sort of talk about behavior and, and geek out. And, um, there’s some bonus webinars. And Research Bites members also get full access to my podcast, which is the other thing that I’m doing.

And that is a podcast where I interview researchers. So, I take people who are doing research on typically dog behavior, but not always, sometimes other aspects of animal behavior. And I talk to them about their research and how it applies to working with dogs, and that’s the Research Bites podcast. And you can find that on my website as well.

[01:08:35] Emily: Awesome. Thank you. so much. All right. Well, that is it, thank you again for coming today and having this amazing conversation. It, of course, now I just wanna like, expand on everything we talked about and have more conversations with you, but, um, for now, I appreciate your time and your expertise and, and your passion so much. So, thank you for spending this time with me today.

[01:09:00] Kristina: Thank you so much for having me, I really enjoyed it and I love the work that you guys have done on enrichment cuz it is very, very important as well.

[01:09:08] Allie: I absolutely loved this interview, and I don’t know about you, but I bumped Kristina’s book up in my to be read list after listening to this one. We talk all the time that enrichment is about looking at the whole of the animal, and for those of us who live with or work with animals with maladaptive behaviors, stress is a huge part of that puzzle.

So, I’m so excited that there’s now a resource like Kristina’s book. Next week we’ll be talking about why your dog training isn’t working.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at petharmonytraining.com and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.

Thank you for listening and happy training.

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