#6: Mara Velez: Shelter
Enrichment & Playgroups

[00:00:00] Mara: The definition of enrichment, it doesn’t have enjoyment as part of the technical definition, but we’re adding that in. I am very strongly and emphatically adding that there needs to be enjoyment on the part of the animal.

[00:00:25] 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…

[00:00:35] Emily: And I’m Emily Strong…

[00:00:36] 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 podcast. The voice you heard at the beginning of today’s episode was Mara Velez. Mara Velez is the Executive Director of the Shelter Playgroup Alliance and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer prior to co-founding the Shelter Playgroup Alliance, Mara was a Behavior and Training Consultant for several years at Contra Costa Animal Services, CCASD, an open admission county shelter. At CCASD, she collaboratively designed, developed, and implemented behavior program structures, including a robust volunteer training program, the behavior evaluation and the canine enrichment and playgroup guidelines.

In addition to working with canines, Mara enjoys training other species because it expands her training and observation skills. She has worked with cats, rabbits wolves, foxes, guinea pigs, coyotes, buffalo, donkeys, goats, alpacas, chickens, parrots, corvids, and other birds, and a fish. Whew. That’s a lot.

Mara holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology and completed all of the coursework for a Doctorate in Education. She is also completed University of the Pacific Animal Shelter Management Program, and the Summer Shelter Institute. Mara has also completed KPA, LLA, and several other animal behavior and training related programs. Mara continually develops her skills and knowledge of canines by attending seminars and reading science-based canine literature. To date she has completed over 1400 hours of continuing education.

Y’all, I want to be Mara when I grow up. She is just so impressive and a force to be reckoned with, and I learned so much from her, not only about behavior, but also just about how to conduct myself in the world. In this episode, you’re going to hear Emily and Mara talk about Mara’s added layer of what should be involved in enrichment in addition to “healthy, safe, and appropriate”, not asking our dogs to have a coffee before going out to dinner, and if play is the only purpose of playgroups. All right, here it is. Today’s episode, shelter and enrichment and playgroups.

[00:02:55] Emily: Okay. please start us off by saying your name, your pronouns, and your pets.

[00:03:02] Mara: My name is Mara Velez. My pronouns are she and her. And I have four pets at the moment. All of them are dogs, so I have Nala, who is now my oldest. She’s a three legged pit bull, shelter special. I have Ivy. Who is just younger than Nala. The two of them are actually a bonded pair. They spend all of their time together, they groom each other, and she is a shelter special chihuahua. And then, my next two dogs are also kind of close in age, but about 10 years younger than Nala and Ivy and that’s Pluto and Bruce Lee. So, Pluto he’s about an Ivy size, so it’s about, 10 pounds or so. As far as I can tell. A poodle, dachshund mix, but have not done DNA, I did do DNA on Nala, and I found out that I do in fact, have a show dog. It’s a very cool she’s pure bred, American pit bull terrier, which those two things together actually make me giggle because pure bred American pit bull terrier, it’s kind of like not a thing, but so I have a three-legged show dog, apparently. The other dog that I do have DNA on is Bruce Lee, who was, and you know, Kiem, it was Kiem’s mom’s dog.

She’s elderly, she got sick, went to the hospital, and so I took him in and that was years ago, so he’s mine now. So. He’s a Havanese Pekinese as far as the, as far as what the DNA results came back as.

[00:04:39] Emily: Super cute. I love that. So, tell us your story and how you got to where you are.

[00:04:46] Mara: Oh, gosh, Emily, where do you want me to begin?

[00:04:49] Emily: Where you born on…

[00:04:50] Allie: The beginning!

[00:04:53] Mara: I think I was born on a Tuesday. So, I grew up in Santa Cruz and left Santa Cruz when I was 18. Moved to San Francisco. I got my bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State, and then I decided I really liked going to college. A couple of years later, I was in, I was working in IT, actually at a bank. I was managing the, the infrastructure, so all of the routers and servers at the bank, and I decided that that was not the, that was not really the best job for me. So, we went to graduate school, the first time. So, I got my master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and then started in a path of doing training. So, human training primarily, and then, started working at a local college and then, continue to do training.

I still do. So, I’m actually, I’m a consultant for, training designs and interventions. But at that same time, when I went out as a consultant, I started volunteering at a local shelter, because like a lot of people I adopted a dog that had special behavioral needs. So, she was, she was my second dog as an adult.

I’d always grown up with dogs, but she was my second dog as an adult, and she was a puppy mill breeder for about four years, as best as we can tell. I mean, we all know that aging a dog is really challenging, but that was the best that we could figure out from the teeth that she had remaining. So, she was, boy resilient, but it, she really did teach me a lot.

I made a lot of mistakes with her, in terms of flooding, like things that I desperately try to avoid now. Didn’t use punishment with her because I, at that point in time, I don’t know how I knew better, but I knew better. But I was instructed by the rescue essentially to flood her. And I was like, “Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to do that.”

From my master’s degree, I certainly knew about, doing interventions for humans. So, using counterconditioning for people with panic disorders, for people with obsessive compulsive disorder. So, I knew about those strategies and then started buying all of the books and figured out how to do that with her.

So, she progressed quite a bit for her. I was able to have her off leash safely. It took many, many years and lots of long lines, but that is what got me into sheltering. I was like, “Well, I know there’s probably a lot of dogs like her. So, then I started at the, started volunteering at East Bay SPCA.

Then I did KPA. Then I started doing all of the things, lots of conferences, lots of education opportunities. And then, took a role as staff, part-time staff, cause I was still doing, and am still doing consulting, at Contra Costa Animal Services. So, that’s what kind of brought me to Shelter Playgroup Alliance, to founding it.

Because I was in the place of developing, an enrichment program. We, myself, and Shane Stannis, who was at Contra Costa Animal Services at the time, he hired me to help him redo volunteer training, rethink the behavior evaluation process, implement low stress handling techniques in shelter.

And so, we did all of that stuff. It took us several years. And then it was like, “Okay, well now that we have volunteers who were trained to do basic enrichment, now it’s pretty much the time that we can maybe think about doing playgroups because playgroups are an advanced behavioral skill to do them well.

We finally had volunteers who would gone through, probably about 20 hours or so of training with both Shane and myself. So, you know, behavior stuff, like how to do basic, basic behavior modification for non-dangerous, working with shy and fearful dogs, working through low-level resource guarding, working through some pretty safe dogs, but who were uncomfortable with handling. So, some desensitization and counter conditioning for handling. So, they had some basic stuff under their belt, so it was time to do something a little bit differently. And so, that brings me to the time that I met you both.

[00:09:29] Emily: Excellent. Thank you for that. It’s always interesting to hear how people got to where they were or where they are. So, I love hearing everybody’s story and I appreciate you sharing yours. So, today we’re going to be talking about shelter behavior, specifically playgroups and enrichment in the context of sheltering.

Talk to us a little bit about why people should care about our topic today and how it’s relevant to them.

[00:09:59] Mara: I can imagine that it, regardless of where you sit. So, if you’re a dog owner, you’re a trainer, if you work in a shelter, if you volunteer in a shelter, you work at a daycare, dogs will probably come into contact with other dogs. So, what our guidelines really are about is, I think of play as maybe kind of the sexy lure to get people, to read what we have, but we’re really talking about inter dog interactions and whether to proceed or not with an interaction between two or more dogs, and what are the dogs telling us about how they’re feeling about that interlocutor. Are they excited to go and talk to them and have, oh, a little have coffee? I use this analogy of coffee, lunch, dinner, and then going for a weekend in an Airbnb together. So, sometimes you have a love connection, and you could potentially co-house, right?

So, that’s that Airbnb, right? A lot of shelters to co-housing, but if you don’t have that love connection, you probably don’t want to have dinner right away, which would be a little bit more like, a longer term play session, but you may want to just like shake hands, walk away, or you may want to, you know, have a brief interaction and then walk away and you’re not interested in anything further, and that’s what I call lunch. When we’re working with dogs, knowing what good looks like in terms of multi dog interactions, I think it’s really important.

[00:11:28] Emily: Yes. I definitely agree with you. So, we kind of touched on the fact that we met through a Shelter Playgroup Alliance, but I want to give a little bit of backstory for our listeners.

 The way that we met is that I had written an article about shelter playgroups for the IAABC journal, and you and Lisa Mullinax reached out and were like, “Hey, we’re doing the Shelter Playgroup Summit, and we liked your article.” And I was like, “Cool. I know Lisa, I’ve heard about Mara through the grapevine. Let me look into this a little more.” And I just fell in love with what I heard and I was like, “Allie, oh my, God, we have to, we have to do this. We have to do this collaboration.” So, that’s how we met, and then we were there at the first summit when you were just starting to form the Shelter Playgroup Alliance.

But I would love to hear you talk more about how the Shelter Playgroup Alliance, which by the way, and moving forward in the interview, we’ll probably just call it SPA because that’s shorter. So, talk to us a little more about how spa came into existence and the process of creating and establishing it.

[00:12:39] Mara: Yeah, it’s really started with a conversation between myself, Kiem Sie who is our ops director and Lisa Mullinex when she was at the Sacramento SPCA. And I was at the time thinking about, “Okay, well, how am I going to write this playgroup protocol for Contra Costa?” And was just asking a bunch of people.

I read your article, I knew a lot of people who are positive reinforcement trainers who work in shelter, run playgroup, and they probably do it slightly differently, but still in alignment with LIMA, that Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive ethical standard that we all adhere to. That’s what had us go reaching out, and we had about 40, 45 people somewhere around there.

[00:13:26] Emily: A decent group.

[00:13:26] Mara: We were cramped in; it was a decent group. It was really a best practice sharing activity. And so that we could all just, you know, talk to each other about how we do things and inform each other’s work and collaborate. Then at the end of that, because I mean, as we know that there is an alternative that is nationwide, that does not adhere to the Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive, in fact, it’s quite intrusive and quite aversive. And I had had experiences with dogs who came out of playgroups from there, even if we didn’t use aversives the lack of choice, the lack of management of the dogs, allowing them to work it out. Cause I was also taking on private clients. I would see a lot of those dogs on the other side.

So, after they got adopted, if they didn’t get returned or even before they got returned, their behavior was awful after they left. And that can be largely attributed to the way the playgroups were run. So, I wanted to avoid that and I was like, “Okay, so what can we do to avoid this, like crazy approach, even if you’re not using spray bottles and shake cans and such in order to manage playgroups.”

So, that’s really what we were looking to document. And so, we had, about half of those people, about 20 people, including yourself and Allie who contributed to the guidelines. So, it was quite an undertaking. And then once we had the guidelines written, that took about nine months to have everybody in groups and do read rounds, and just to make sure that it was all edited and had more or less single voice so that it wasn’t like reading different chapters from a book. You guys have gone through the editing process of your book, so, you know, how that, how that goes.

So, once that happened, then I was just like, “Well, then I guess we need to form a nonprofit.” the rest of it, wasn’t like, “I am going to start a nonprofit and this is what we’re going to do.” It was sort of like, okay, “Well the logical next step to to getting these guidelines out there, so how can we make sure that folks understand how to use them, get their questions answered?” You know, have appropriate training in behavior. What about those small, rural shelters who do not have a behavior team? I mean, for folks who have a behavior team, they can pick them up and do them on their own. They don’t need any help from any one of us, except for maybe like, ” There’s this weird video, can you look at it? And help me assess it. I just want another set of eyes.” Like, that level, but they’re not having a hard time implementing the guidelines, but your smaller shelters who don’t have it they do need help and support. The formation of SPA as a nonprofit entity was really born out of, “Well, how do we support shelters in doing this particular thing?”

And I’ve gotten a lot of shelters who, they wanted an alternative to the aversives, they wanted it alternative to the large play groups, it wasn’t working for them, there were too many fights, they were using fear-free shelter for the rest of their shelter, but then they were doing this thing that was like totally out of alignment with the values of fear-free. That’s where we’ve gotten a lot of folks reaching out to us and saying, “Hey, we want to do it a different way, and we’d like to adopt that guidelines. So, in a lot of ways, there was, I think a lot of pent-up demand for this type of enrichment, as a single prong in a multi-pronged enrichment program, which is…

[00:17:07] Emily: Exactly…

[00:17:08] Mara: The play part.

[00:17:10] Emily: Right, and we’ll definitely talk about that a little bit more, but I wanted to kind of, address something that you said that really resonates with me, and one of the things that we bond over, and one of the reasons we get along so well, is that all of us, Allie, you and me our response to seeing things that aren’t working, that cause problems that cause pain points is to do something about it.

And we jump in, we’re like, “Let’s do something about it.” And then we’re like, “Oh, okay. So, like I made a snowball, but like now I have to roll it down a hill and it’s like this, now it’s this huge thing.” Right? So like these projects that we start they’re just like, “Let’s respond to this pain point.” And then they end up snowballing into these really huge projects that we didn’t really envision or anticipate when we started out. Right?

What I’ve come to learn from our shared experience with this process is that it has led us in really empowering directions and helped us to actually like deepen our understanding for these processes that we’re going through, and that, I mean, we definitely have a shared pain point there because Allie and I, and our work with shelters experienced the same thing. That we love that shelters want to get dogs out of the kennels and want to give them opportunities to play.

And we honor the intentions behind that practice and it’s kind of heartbreaking to see people do things because they’re wanting to help dogs and it invertedly causing more harm to the dogs and their staff by how they’re doing what they’re doing. That was what really appealed to me.

It was a compassionate approach to addressing a pain point, which is, ” Let us empower you with knowledge and skills, so that you can do the thing that you want to do but do it in a way that protects both the dogs and the people involved in this scenario.” So, I really loved that, and I appreciate you taking on the brunt this, what has become a massive project.

 Who knew we were building seven foot snow men when we…

[00:19:15] Mara: Picked up that snowball?

[00:19:18] Emily: Right, exactly. I wanted to talk about another thing that you mentioned, which is that playgroups are just a single prong in a multi-pronged approach to an enrichment program. So, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about play as a part of enrichment or an aspect of enrichment. Since we know that the purpose of enrichment is to empower animals, to perform species-typical behaviors in safe, healthy, inappropriate ways. Can you talk a little bit about what that looks like with regard to play groups and shelters and dog daycares? In other words, what are behavioral goals in playgroups? What are we looking for in healthy play and what are metrics for successful playgroups? And then later on after we broached that topic, I want to talk about playgroups in the bigger context of an enrichment program in shelters, right?

[00:20:06] Mara: Yep. And I just want to touch on something that you said just a second, and then I’ll transition to answering that question, which was the pain point.

And it really, really is, and was for many shelters. I can’t tell you how many people have said, “I’m so relieved not to have to do X, Y, and Z.” That relief, we know that relief, that negative reinforcement contingency, right, is very powerful and driving behavior and that these folks thought that they had to do it that way.

 Knowing that they no longer have to do it that way and feel a tremendous amount of relief, I think just speaks volumes as to doing things the right way and the right way by dogs. So, that does bring us to that play as part of enrichment question. What good looks like in terms of playgroups and shelters and daycares is that there is enjoyment.

When we think about the definition of enrichment, it doesn’t have enjoyment as part of the technical definition, but we’re adding that in. I am very strongly and emphatically adding that there needs to be enjoyment on the part of the animal. That they don’t get frustrated, they don’t feel fear, they don’t feel stress, they don’t feel anxiety. So, that FAS plus F measure that we look at in all the Fear Free stuff that I think has become a lot of our own nomenclature, avoiding FAS plus F that when dogs are interacting with each other, they don’t feel that.

[00:21:37] Emily: Can you quickly define SAF plus F for listeners who aren’t familiar with that nomenclature?

[00:21:44] Mara: Yeah. The first F is fear. The whole constellation of behaviors that might indicate that a dog is feeling fearful. So wide eyes, tuck tail, rounded back, muscular tension, ears back and tense. Maybe wrinkling of the forehead, commissure tense, and maybe a higher respiration rate, probably high cardiovascular rate.

So, that’s fear. And then anxiety. So, quite often when we see our dogs feeling anxiety, we can see it in a couple of different ways. But I think the one that we see the most is what we call jumpy-mouthy. I think usually anxiety is at play. So, you sometimes get a lot of pacing, the mouth is open, the commercial has pulled back into a V, the ears might be to the side, you might see some forehead wrinkling, still a lot of tension in the body though. So, that anxiety is, I think really hard for folks to really recognize as anxiety. They probably see…

[00:22:40] Emily: Absolutely…

[00:22:40] Mara: It as just like, “Oh, your, you know, super energetic.”

 And then stress. So, we see a lot of stress signals, displacement. So, low, lower level stress signals are things like displacement, like sniffing the ground, any sort of avoidance of another dog, mild like sniffing around, or really active avoidance where they’re like going and hiding under tables or, or running away.

So, I don’t want to see any of that. And I definitely don’t want to see dogs getting frustrated. That they’re trying, they’re kind of saying, “Hey, play with me, play with me, play with me.” So, even if they’re like super social, they have good play skills, but the other dog who was in the yard with them, doesn’t want to, that’s going to build frustration.

So, if we have a dog who was actively avoiding, and a dog, who’s like, “I’m so excited to play here. I’ve been in care for three weeks and I do this every day.” We don’t want to see any of that frustration building because none of that is what we really want to see, which is healthy play. What is healthy play?

So, that means that both of the dog’s bodies are loose, their musculature is loose, their tails are wagging at neutral, their eyes are soft, their forehead is smooth, their ears are nice and relaxed, and they’re taking breaks. So, they’re not so highly aroused that they just keep on playing over, and over, and over again, and starting to engage in repetitive activities. That they’re taking breaks, they’re shifting the types of behaviors that they’re engaging in. It’s really important for dogs regardless of the setting. So, whether in the home in, you know, whatever location, daycare, shelter that they are engaging in play as an enjoyable activity.

And a lot of the things that I see labeled as play is actually, and this is not a technical term, but what I label as negotiation. So, it’s two dogs who were communicating with each other and they may be using a lot of conflict reduction signals, but they’re not actually really liking the conversation with that other dog.

[00:24:49] Emily: Yeah, like there, it’s almost like more like waving a white flag, than it is actually seeking play, which I think is a super important distinction to make. In the mentorship program, we spend a lot of time in the first unit talking about Burghardt’s Five Criteria for Play, for me, arguably, the most important criteria on is that in order for play to even occur, that the individual has to be free from stressors either acute or chronic.

Those two things are mutually incompatible, right? Being stressed about an interaction and using play as you call it, a negotiation, is not the same thing as actual play, because by definition it can’t be play if the interaction is stressful. I totally agree with you, that is a critical point to make that often gets missed.

When I mentioned the five criteria of play here, I was referring to Burghardt’s Five Criteria for Play. They are as follows. Number one, play is not fully functional in the form or context in which it is expressed. For example, when dogs growl, chase and tackle each other in play, they’re not actually trying to complete a predatory sequence like they would, if they were hunting. Number two play is spontaneous, voluntary and or pleasurable and is likely done for its own sake. Number three, play is incomplete, exaggerated, or precocious. Number four, play is repeated, but not in exactly the same way every time as our more serious behaviors. Another way to think of this is that play movements are inefficient. Number five, play is initiated when animals are well fed, healthy, and free from acute or chronic stressors.

[00:26:40] Mara: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that it gets missed, because as I mentioned earlier, I see play as an advanced skill on the part of the handler, like managing play and recognizing when play is occurring is an advanced skill on the part of the humans who were involved. And so, that means that you need to read body language really fluently.

So, with speed and accuracy, and if you don’t know body language very, very well, you’re not going to see the difference between a stressed dog or an anxious dog and a dog who is actually super happy, you know, high arousal, positive valance, as opposed to high arousal negative valance, which is anxiety.

Right? You know, it takes a lot, I’m sure that you and Allie have looked at thousands of hours of video of dogs behaving in lots of different ways. And you do the, probably the same thing that I do, is you look at it frame, by frame, by frame because things move so quickly and have spent a lot of time, you know, looking at all of the different books, and where you see like, you know, a weird behavior, “Okay. Well, where is this in the ethogram, and in which book is that? Because that’s sort of weird.” So, like you guys have worked in shelters for a long time and one of the benefit of working in shelters, is that you see a lot of behavior. A lot that maybe is not okay, it’s maladaptive. But you get to see a lot of it.

And so, you gain that fluency over time, but you also have to be really open to saying, “Huh? Is that really what I thought I saw?” And going back and questioning and looking at it with other people and not believing your own stuff.

[00:28:33] Emily: Yeah. I mean, both Allie and I got into a habit at the sanctuary where we worked together, how we, how we met from that experience, we got into a habit of filming all of our playgroups, because as you know, what happens when you have fluency in reading body language is that you’ll see something, and you may have kind of a gut feeling about it, but you can’t articulate in the moment why you have that feeling.

So, it’s really important to be able to go back to that video and watch it more slowly and multiple times, and” then you can articulate, “Oh, here’s why I had that gut feeling.” Or you get to say, “Oh, my gut feeling was wrong. I can see now why I thought that, but here’s what was actually going on when I have the chance to look at the greater context of this interaction.”

So yeah, absolutely filming those playgroups or play dates and dog interactions is really important because we need to have that opportunity to go back and reassess what we saw and that actually does build fluency in the future or improve fluency in the future. I want to quickly, before we continue correct something that I said earlier, when I said that stress isn’t compatible with play.

You talked about the difference between a positive valence and a negative valence. There is stress involved in play, but it’s eustress, a good stress, and what I should have said is there’s no distress isn’t compatible with play. So, I just wanted to clarify that for listeners, because I want to make sure that I speak clearly when we’re talking about stress and in these playgroup interactions.

[00:30:06] Mara: Yeah. I will say that when we usually use the term stress from a colloquial point of view that we usually are talking about distress as opposed to eustress. But on, in a technical way. But yes, thank you for correcting that on the technical level, because we do try to be precise in our language.

[00:30:25] Emily: Yes. Especially when we’re talking about technical things like interpreting body language. Back to your original topic, which we kind of got a little bit sidetracked there. I’m hearing from you that we need to build fluency in the learners in reading body language and knowing how to respond to the body language.

And we want to make sure that the dogs are actually choosing play and that their arousal is eustress or positive emotions. And that, that is different from the kind of negotiation tactics that you described. So, what are we looking for, what do we consider our metrics for determining whether or not an interaction has been successful?

[00:31:08] Mara: So, a couple of things that I would love for folks to measure is the number of breaks that the dogs take. If there’s…

[00:31:16] Emily: Oh, yeah.

[00:31:16] Mara: Lots of break taking, then that’s a good interaction, and that the interaction doesn’t go on for too long, without a long break. Most of the time, in good play, so referring back to our definition of good, is that previous definition of healthy, so good and healthy, I’m going to use interchangeably, that the dogs play for maybe a couple of minutes with lots of breaks in between, and then go take a longer break, and maybe they’ll so maybe three or four minutes, go sniff around and do other things, and then maybe they will come back to it. I find that most of the sustained interactions are not healthy play. Those are not two dogs that are enjoying each other. It’s often one who does not have very good play skills. It does not have very good inter dog skills, but is maybe highly affiliative with other dogs, really interested, but doesn’t know how to take no for an answer.

And I’ve met these people in my life and those stress, those interactions are super stressful. They’re like asking you question, then ask you another question, they ask you another question, ask you another question, you’re like answer, answer, answer, but you turn your head to the side, you give them a little bit of a shoulder. Maybe you’re sitting at a dinner table, and you can’t actually leave. it’s something like that. So, when I think about the, the metrics and I want to see that when they leave for a bit of a break, that they’re coming back and quote, unquote, consenting to another round. That they’re seeking out to that other dog for further interaction, as opposed to like, “Hey, no stop, please stop, please. Please. Can you stop now? No, I really don’t like that at all. Can we do this instead? Because if we do this, then maybe all want to continue to interact with you.” So, I see those conversations happening a lot with stuff that people are looking at as play, but I’m like, “yeah… there’s Not going to be blood, but that’s not our criteria.”

[00:33:24] Emily: That’s a detail that often times gets missed, right? If the point of playgroups is play, then why isn’t that our focus, why isn’t that our goal, as opposed to just like, they’re interacting, like, okay, they’re interacting, but that’s not. How, how is that adding value? How is that empowering them to perform species, typical behaviors and safe, healthy, inappropriate ways? And the answer is it isn’t right. Interaction for its own sake is not enrichment. Play is enrichment. Now that said, I know that we all love Dr. Lindsay Mehrkam, and one of the things that I loved about the research, her own research that she talked about at the 2019 SPA conference was that dogs can benefit from play groups in other ways that doesn’t necessarily include play.

In other words, just because dogs aren’t playing doesn’t mean that they aren’t being enriched in other ways, and that is definitely true, and something, I think we all take into consideration. Can you tell us what some of those other benefits are and what we should look for to determine whether a dog who isn’t playing in a playgroup is still getting some of those other benefits?

[00:34:35] Mara: So, what she found in her research was really that dogs who engaged in small playgroups that use positive reinforcement had better welfare outcomes. So, she had a number of different measures for welfare and a couple of the ones that she has not yet published her, her paper, I think it’s still in peer review.

So, hopefully it’ll be coming out soon to a theater near you. But, until then, I’m going to have to rely a bit on my fuzzy memory, um, so I’m not going to get all of them, but the few that really made a difference to me, that were salient enough for me to remember was that the dogs were front of kennel, so they were not usually going to the back of the kennel, and they were engaging in what we would consider a maybe affiliative or approach, approach behaviors toward people. Isn’t that what we want all of our dogs to do? So, the dogs that were not in the small, positive reinforcement playgroups who were in the large play groups, where there was the use of punishment, there was a diminishment of their welfare. So, they were often back of kennel, and not surprisingly, if somebody is using a squirt bottle on you, you’re probably not going to engage in a lot of pro-social behaviors. I mean, if every time I walk up to you, Emily, and you’re like squirt, squirt in my face, I’m probably not going to approach you.

[00:36:04] Emily: That’s weird.

[00:36:06] Mara: Isn’t it? We don’t know how that works. Do we? But wait, we do,

[00:36:09] Emily: Allie and I worked with the dog who’s favorite thing in the world was to get sprayed in the face and we trained him to wear a muzzle voluntarily. Like we actually got in trouble, and we had to like explain and show videos to prove that he actually loved it because we used spraying him in the face as the reinforcer for putting his face in the muzzle. But he’s an outlier for sure, like most, most animals, and I think there’s a difference between that, like the hose, the, the sensation of a hose, as opposed to like a little spray bottle squirt and little single things.

But I had to give a shout out to Filmore because he’s my favorite example of only the learner decides what is reinforcing and punishing or appetitive and aversive, right?

[00:36:49] Mara: Yeah, absolutely. No, we had one dog who thought that the Pet Corrector was awesome, so definitely a reinforcer. So, when we’re trying to apply punishment and we’re like, “Oh, that doesn’t work.” Not that you and I are trying to apply punishment, but yeah, absolutely. Yeah. There are the, so he’s really a parrot is what you’re saying.

[00:37:11] Emily: Yes. He likes, he likes his baths

[00:37:14] Mara: Yeah. So, we definitely have the “when I do fun things in your around, then I begin to trust people a little bit more if I hadn’t trusted them before.” And it certainly doesn’t diminish the trust with people, which is really part of, not just for playgroup, but the use of positive reinforcement with consequences that are truly reinforcing for the animal.

So, we do our preference tests as much as we can with what, with the resources that we have, but never assuming that whatever we’re holding is actually going to be reinforcing. Because sometimes it can be what we consider high value. which, may be just be high quality, but it doesn’t necessarily have a reinforcement aspect for the animal.

 The things that I really took away from, from Lindsay’s work, because she had a control group where the dogs also had good welfare outcomes, they just did, just in quotes, did other types of enrichment. So, unless a dog is really enjoying playgroup that they’re actually getting enriched from it, we really would be better served, just doing all sorts of other stuff, which is like doing an enrichment yard. Which is something that I learned from you guys, like how much, how you could actually create a really robust enrichment yard as an alternative, and that still can really improve welfare. That playgroup and welfare are not necessarily the things that are connected, but enrichment and welfare are.

[00:38:50] Emily: Right. the reason I brought up Dr. Mehrkam’s study and her talk at that conference, was because the videos that she showed were very like videos that we have ourselves filmed, where there are some dogs who aren’t showing a lot of distress, they’re also not showing a lot of interest in the other dogs, but they’re kind of trotting around sniffing and exploring, and so we’re seeing that they’re getting physical exercise, and mental exercise, sensory stimulation. And so, when we go back to our kennels, we’re feeling more relaxed and we’re able to offer the affiliative front of kennel behaviors that is so important for adoptability and just a sign of welfare.

And I think that that was a really important point to bring up because when shelters do have limited staff or volunteers and they have limited time or resources if they can get a group of dogs out who don’t need to play with each other, but can co-exist in a space and a parallel play kind of way, and the dogs are still doing those exploratory behaviors, they are still getting benefit from something like an enrichment yard, as opposed to enforced interaction, which we erroneously call play. And I think that that is why I really loved what she was saying, is that it doesn’t have to be play, and you don’t have to feel like you failed as a shelter staff member, if you take dogs out and they choose not to play with each other, but they’re still doing other things that are enriching for them. And that to me was such an important takeaway.

[00:40:20] Mara: Yeah. And as long as they are calm and relaxed in the environment that they are enjoying their time. So, you had asked about the behavioral goals for playgroup, and I’ll just put playgroup in quotes there, but what are my behavioral goals for inter dog interactions. And that is that you can ignore another dog. You walk by you can ignore them because what are the behavioral expectations that adopters will have? That they can take their dog for a walk, and they don’t have to meet every single other dog if they don’t have the time.

And when they do meet that other dog, that they’re nice and polite. That’s really it. So, when we think about using inter dog interactions for and increasing adoptability of our dogs, or maintaining good social skills, or creating good social skills, building a behavioral repertoire for the constellation of behaviors that we would call good social skills, which is like, a second at the butt a second at the nose, not jumping over the other dog. Right? And then saying, “Hey, would you like to engage in this play?” And if the other dog says, “No, thank you,” uses any cutoff cues, then your, the dog responds and says, “Oh, okay, next time.” I mean, that’s really what we’d want to see in terms of polite greetings. So, if dogs are able to do that and when the other dog says, “No, I’d really rather sniff this thing over here, there was, you know, a rat who peed over there overnight. And I’d like to sniff the urine. That’s my enrichment today.” You know, we want to give it to them and not have the other dog, you know, kind of punking on him in order to get them to play. So, that’s why we spend a lot of time in the SPA educational program, thinking about behavior modification, strategies for dogs.

I’m using all of the three letter acronyms that we have in our toolbox, the BAT, LAT, CAT, rat and under different conditions, we might pull some of those out or, mix and match get a, buy one, get one during a training session.

I really want to see low arousal, positive valance interactions between dogs. Those are the behavioral goals that I don’t want to see, regardless of context.

[00:42:31] Emily: I want to shift tracks just a little bit. In one of our first conversations, I had mentioned some of the differences between how Allie and I ran playgroups with the populations of dogs that we worked with at the time, which we were both just coming from a sanctuary with over 400 dogs, and it was an extremely high stress environment, and most of those dogs had significant maladaptive behaviors, which is why they were there. And so, we were working with a very different population, than the population that you worked with at the time, probably still work with. And so, I asked if you thought what we were doing was okay. It was different from what you were doing with your population, and when I asked you, you said something to me, like, “we both operate within the LIMA framework, we just have different levels of risk aversion.”

And that really struck me as first of all, a very diplomatic and inclusive way to talk about different styles. But secondly, a succinct way to kind of get the message across that it isn’t as simple as the right way in quotation marks versus the wrong way in quotation marks that there’s a whole spectrum of approaches with a wide range of them being ethical, compassionate, and prioritizing the dog’s experiences.

So, what are some of the main differences between a less risk averse approach that still lies within the LIMA Code of Ethics, like what Allie and I were doing at that sanctuary versus approaches that fall outside of LIMA?

[00:43:58] Mara: And that’s that really does get to the heart of why we did not put together a protocol.

So, a protocol, meaning something that has a, if A then B, if C then D, very stepwise approach, because that doesn’t really work very well in terms of behavior, which is fluid changes. And toward a guidelines approach, which means that depending on the dogs that are in your care, depending on your handlers ability, who you have as your handling partner or partners, you may make different decisions, and as long as you’re not doing certain things, which I’ll comment on in a moment, and you were doing other things, so you’re providing the dogs with choice, you’re not flooding them, you’re not forcing any interactions, you are managing arousal in a way where that dog is engaging or can engage in some sort of healthy behaviors.

So there, it’s not tipping over to eustress, I’m, I’m sorry, it’s not tipping over to distress, it’s staying in eustress. So, there can be lots of different ways to do that. Is it, you know, leash on or off? Is it using a recall cue? Is it using a squeaker? Is it using a pig board? Is it using more gentle guidance with a with a leash?

You know, there’s lots of different ways that you can accomplish that goal, and I often use the metaphor of a mountain. You know, there’s not one path up the mountain. You have lots of different paths up the mountain, but there are certain things that you’re not going to do.

So, you’re not going to use any aversives. You’re not going to yell, scream, hit, kick, throw things at any of the dogs. If a dog is, has shifted from feeling okay to not okay, you’re removing them from the environment and providing them with something else. If we have a moment that does not go well but it’s not the preponderance of the time, but you’re you intervene.

You, they, you see that the dog’s arousal goes down. If we’re taking a hugely risk adverse approach, we might not introduce them again. But if you have a reason to believe that that those, those two dogs can be okay in the next 10 minutes of that interaction or the next day then that’s a little bit more risk tolerant, but it’s still LIMA, right?

So, you’re not forcing any interaction. So those are the two things that that I really kind of hold the line on is that the dog needs to opt into the activity, we’re managing arousal. And those, that’s really it.

[00:46:37] Emily: Yeah, I think that’s a really good distinction to make, and the reason I’m kind of giggling is because. I was thinking about the criticism that we have both received, that we are positive reinforcement extremists. And the reason I giggle about that is because we’re, we’re, I mean, first of all, the whole concept of the quadrants is a very dog trainer-ized understanding of a behavior analysis, right?

But I mean, the thing is we are aware of and do observe that outcomes are either positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement or positive or negative punishment. And we even talked earlier about how what we’re doing, providing relief for both the humans in the situation, and the dogs in the situation is negative reinforcement.

And that’s not a bad thing. It’s not a dirty little secret at all. Well, we say we’re positive reinforcement trainers, but we actually use negative reinforcement, right? There’s a huge ethical and emotional difference between intentionally applying aversives and then only offering relief when the learner does what we want them to do, versus acknowledging that the aversive exists in the environment and empowering the learner with the means to obtain their own relief.

Right? And I think Eileen. Anderson wrote a really beautiful article on the difference between social mediation and naturally occurring consequences with relation to negative reinforcement that I highly recommend anybody read. If you’re interested in this topic, because that to me is such a huge component.

The reason that we don’t want to add aversives isn’t because we think aversives are bad and all our animals should just live in a like bubble wrapped and never experienced the world, it’s because if we want them to have skills, we’re not focused on correcting mistakes, we’re focused on teaching them skills, which includes teaching them how to obtain their own relief. Teaching them how to use negative reinforcement to their advantage. So, I just had to put that out there because the whole idea that we’re avoiding aversives in playgroups is some kind of extremist stance is completely missing the point and the bigger picture, we’re not just looking at behavior from this very limited scope of the quadrants.

We’re looking at it from an enrichment standpoint, which is, are we empowering these learners to perform species-typical behaviors in safe, healthy, and appropriate ways, and nowhere in that process, does that include correcting them for mistakes when we’re the ones who set them up to make mistakes, and we haven’t given them information about what to do instead. So, just had to put that out there.

[00:49:26] Mara: Yeah. And I do want to pull that thread a little bit, Emily, because I think that this is really important. We often see, and I do this little activity in the in the educational program and I call it “Play, Not Play.” And putting anything in a, in a strict binary is just like, that’s not how the world, world works, but I use it just as a teaching tool of like, “Okay, so this interaction was not entirely perfect. There were moments that that dog felt uncomfortable, and they took themselves away. And then they decided to re-engage and that is, totally leave fine, the rest of their engagement.”

So, if we’re in like 30% of those behaviors where like, “I’m not quite so comfortable,” or “Hey, can we do this instead?” That’s totally fine. As long as 70 or the preponderance of the interaction is really positive, and that we see as the interaction continues, that it becomes more and more positive over time.

That they have communicated and negotiated well enough to come to a place where both of the animals are comfortable. And they say, “Yes, I don’t like that particular thing, but I do like that.” “Oh, great.” Then, you know, that’s where they’re using positive reinforcement plays that contingency with each other and they’re responding to that contingency. “Oh, I do that. And then I get to continue the interaction. Awesome. I will do that thing.”

So, there’s negative reinforcement in that all the time. And one of the things that we really should be teaching our animals is when they get a little bit, and this is part of that process of managing arousal and where I want folks to call those dogs out of play when they start to get a little bit over aroused is because I want that to be an internal contingency that they’re like, “Hey, I feel a little bit aroused. This is a time that I go take a break,” and we can absolutely train that. You have a beautiful way of communicating that, “Oh, I’m a little uncomfortable. I can remove myself from this.” And that is the use of negative reinforcement that is built through lots of positive reinforcement as well.

Right? So, you’re building that behavioral repertoire of, “I feel uncomfortable. I can bail on this.” And when that dog removes themselves from uncomfortable interaction, then it’s incumbent on us to say, “Oh, you removed yourself. Hey, let me gain control of that other dog. So, they don’t pursue you, so you can continue that relief. Maybe you’re communicating that you’re done for the day.” And recognizing that that is, that is skill building. That’s life skill building. But it doesn’t have to be all it’s nothing, no part of life has all rainbows and butterflies,

[00:52:08] Emily: Right? I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s both impossible and unhealthy to expect that nothing bad will ever happen. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be the Harbinger’s of the bad things that happen. Instead, we need to be the people who teach them how to navigate the bad things and have successfully gone through or overcome those bad things. We need to be their advocates, not the, the aversives in their life. There’s enough of that in real life. Especially for animals in shelters, that’s just the reality of their environment. No matter how good the shelter is. Right? So, what are our observable goals and actionable items people can take away from this discussion?

[00:52:53] Mara: Well, they could both sign up for your guys’s program and sign up for the SPA educational program by going to either one of our websites.

For folks to, to want to run playgroups, I’d say first, make sure that your enrichment house is in order. That all of the other forms of enrichment are really well deployed, that you’re documenting how well they’re working, and then you’re training your volunteers or staff in body language so that they can also add playgroups.

And the reason why I say that the rest of the enrichment house needs to be in order is that you know, a lot of the shelters that I go to only a small percentage of the population is actually like good for play. that the dogs want to play, that they have the skills to do it well, and that you don’t need to do too much behavior modification.

And I think that those populations over time are getting smaller and smaller as the population of dogs who were in shelter is shifting toward more of a behavior modification type population where we really need good behavior folks in shelter in order to attempt behavior modification within the shelter environment, which we know doesn’t really work all that well.

But there are some things that we can, some things that we can modify in the shelter environment and some things we can start and test whether that dog will be respond, will respond to intervention, or if we need to take another route, and then providing a lot of support posted option for, for adopters, which I know is something that’s really important to both of you.

[00:54:37] Emily: Yes. Yes, it is very much so. Okay. Thank you so much. So, we give out the members of our Pro Campus Community and our Mentorship Program Community, the opportunity to submit questions for our podcast guests, and so I was hoping that we could ask you some of those questions now.

[00:55:00] Mara: Of course, of course.

[00:55:02] Emily: Excellent. So, I’m going to ask the most popular question that was submitted by our Pro Campus and Mentorship Program members now. And, then the rest of them will be just for the members they’ll have access separately. So, the most popular question was actually it’s a multi-part question because it was asked in a few different ways, but I picked this one because it seemed to be the most popular theme among the questions that were submitted.

And the theme is assessing dog’s sociability in playgroups. So, part one of this is have you found a concise, nonjudgmental way to teach people that there’s a wide range of healthy or typical sociability in dogs that not all dogs are dogs, social or dog tolerant, and therefore aren’t suitable for playgroups, so forcing those dogs into playgroups is just flooding them.

[00:55:57] Mara: I don’t know if it’s concise, but I start with not all of us are social enough to be put into an apartment without escape from another person, and so finding a really good match because you’re essentially getting you essentially marrying off these two dogs. So, you want to know that there’s going to be a love connection.

 It’s not necessarily that that dog is sociable or not sociable with other dogs in general, because we haven’t tested them with the entire population of all other dogs in the United States, or in the Metro area, or in a city, or in a town. So, could we give them a sociability score? We could say that there are certainly dogs who, will stalk and kill another dog.

We’d probably say that they’re not social, but in the absence of real overt aggression toward another dog, are they interested enough to be placed into a multi dog home? I’d want to just test it with those particular dogs that they’ll go home with, because just because you’re in a relationship with somebody doesn’t mean that you want to be in a relationship with everybody. So, that’s the best that I can come up with, and I don’t use play groups to do that actually.

[00:57:13] Emily: Okay, so that was actually part three of the question. So, I’ll skip to part three, which was, how do you use playgroups to assess dog’s sociability? And the answer is you don’t, right?

[00:57:26] Mara: Yeah.

[00:57:26] Emily: Then we’ll turn part two into part three, which is some dogs do seem to need a few minutes to assess and adjust and by letting them do so they eventually enjoy being in playgroups. When you’re first meeting a dog at a shelter, how do you differentiate between dogs who just need a few minutes to adjust versus dogs who really aren’t suitable for play groups?

[00:57:48] Mara: So, we start off hopefully eh, the setup permitting in protect a contact. So, I want to see at least some amount of social signaling between that other dog and not a ton of active avoidance.

I mean, if they are just like turning their back or walking away and just saying, “Really, I want nothing of it.” Then I’m probably not going to put them into that into that context, and I’m going to assume that it’s just that other dog and that it’s not all other dogs. So, you’re singing this theme of individual differences and a preference test of there’s lots of different dogs in the environment, and then I would probably send that dog off to enrichment yard. But if they’re doing some amount of social signaling and they’re like blinking, there’s a little bit of a wag, but they’re a little uncertain, so they’re engaging in some displacement behaviors, I would probably keep those dogs on or I would, keep the dogs on leash, and then give them lots of opportunities to train with somebody.

And maybe that session is, with the two dogs, is two people just doing some training with those dogs side-by-side, as a little bit of a warmup. Great things happen when you’re around another dog and no bad things will happen to you, you’re not going to be forced to interact with other, with that other dog. So, that’s a really important thing for me. Not the protective bubble wrap, but a reasonable amount of bubble wrap around that dog.

With the population of dogs that we have that come into the shelter, we have some features that we can probably, you know, use a a broad paintbrush to say that they probably don’t have a lot of experiences with lots of other people and lots of other dogs.

They probably don’t have a lot of training that are positive reinforcement training that they’ve engaged in, in the past. So, they don’t have a whole lot of behavioral, a large suite of a behavioral repertoire. Certainly not like the dogs that are in our care right at home. Those dogs have wide and varied behavioral repertoires because we’ve done a lot of training with them. We’ve done a lot of enrichment. We’ve taught them lots of things, and we’ve protected them from getting into sticky situations. Or if they do, we help them get out of it pretty quickly. So, if a dog is a little worried or slow to warm for an interaction, I’m just going to assume you haven’t seen much of this.

Yeah. It’s going to take you a little while. Well, here’s what I can do for. We can do a little bit, you look at that other dog, you get a treat, you look at that other dog, you get a treat, you sit over here, you look at me, you get a treat. I’m going to try to keep my rate of reinforcement high. But then also if they, you know, keep on looking over and they’re like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, maybe I’d like to go and greet that other dog.” So, they’re looking at them with soft eyes. They’re sort of, you know, look over and a little bit of soft body, then I would, you know, communicate with that other handler, “Hey, do you want to try a greet?” An on leash greet, we’re not going to drop leashes for this particular interaction. Unless we see something really good.

[01:00:50] Emily: Excellent. Thank you. All right. So, a few closing questions. First, what is one thing you wish people knew about either this topic, your profession, or enrichment in general? Your choice.

[01:01:03] Mara: I have to choose one?

[01:01:05] Emily: I mean, I guess you don’t have to.

[01:01:07] Mara: What I wish that people knew about enrichment in general is that there is no such thing as breed specific enrichment.

We have species-typical enrichment, and a whole lot of even species-typical enrichment are enrichment strategies that we can use across lots of different species as long, like across lots of different types of mammals, across lots of different types of birds. You just adjust it for stuff. So, there’s lots of things that you can apply, once you have identified what those species-typical behaviors are across lots of different types of animals. So, you don’t have to totally reinvent the wheel. If I know about how to do enrichment with a dog, I could probably figure out a lot of stuff about how to do enrichment with parrots, if I just learn a little bit about parrots. There’s probably some crossover there.

[01:01:59] Emily: Absolutely. I think that’s a whole can of worms that maybe we should invite you back later to just talk about misconceptions and enrichments, because that, that is a gold mine of things that we could discuss. Okay. The next thing is, what is the one thing you’d love to see improved in your field?

[01:02:17] Mara: I would really love to see, and this is my current thing, and I think that this might be your current thing to, much more critical analysis. And this is just, I would really like to see us be able to engage in conversations where we pick stuff apart and really try to get under the hood and understand what is true and what is not true about any particular thing and where there’s overlap and where the science connects. So, I’ll just give one, a one quick example.

So, if we look at the difference between LAT and BAT. How much difference is there really, once we start looking under the hood, and thinking about, “Well, what are the principles that are at play? Well, we’re using counter conditioning and then we’re using an operant behavior.” So, we’re teaching an operant behavior and then we’re using it in the context of counterconditioning. Great.

Same, same one of them, you walk away the other, you kind of, you know, continue to look or walk through it or something like that, but the type of operant behaviors are a little bit different, but really are they that different? Come on now.

[01:03:29] Emily: Right. I think the beautiful thing about having a variety of protocols that are all doing the same thing, is that you get to apply the approach that feels the most comfortable or the most natural to the individual client.

And that’s definitely why I advocate people learning all the protocols instead of getting campy with just one, because the more ways, the more paths up the mountain, you’re familiar with the better of a guide you’re going to be for your client. Which is the best path up the mountain for that specific client?

[01:03:57] Mara: Yeah. And the condition. So, there are certain times when you’re going to be able, only gonna be able to do that because you don’t have an exit, or you don’t have this, or you don’t have that. So, there are lots of times, where the more that you understand what’s under the hood, then you can say, “Oh, for this particular client, who’s in a wheelchair not going to work.”

We’re not going to be able to do that thing, but could we do CAT, and could we do LAT? Absolutely. For somebody who is not as mobile. Right? There’s lots of different reasons to get under the hood, but also have those conversations, and not necessarily, not take it personally.

[01:04:33] Emily: Right. Exactly. What are you currently working on? If people want to work more with you or learn from you, how can they do that?

[01:04:40] Mara: Currently, we’re in the last stages of birthing our risk assessment tool for shelters. So, there will be an educational component with that, which will be deployed through the through the SPA educational platform.

What’s currently in the SPA educational platform are behaviors that are related to running playgroups. So, we don’t have the whole, the full ethogram covered for dogs. But when we start to look at risk assessment, then we need to do a lot more training on other types of behaviors that may not be quite as common.

At least we hope not, because we’re going to be assessing our aggression. You know, what does, what does it look like for a dog who is going to stalk and kill another dog? What are we looking at when there is zero sociability towards humans, and how not okay that is, and how do you assess that? And how is that different than a dog who was just fearful of people? So, they’re not approaching, but they’re giving off social signals from a distance. Whereas a dog who is like has zero affiliation and may actually be risky to place. Their behavior looks a lot different. So, that’s going to be something that I’m working with Dot Baisly, Fernando Diaz, Amanda Kowalski, and Marissa Martino on. We’ve been working on that for about a year now,

[01:06:02] Emily: What a stellar group of human beings.

[01:06:05] Mara: It’s getting close. They are good. Good people.

[01:06:08] Emily: So excited about that. Well, thank you so much for your time and taking the time to chat with us about this. We’ll definitely have you back on to talk about some other stuff, but I appreciate you being here, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

[01:06:22] Mara: Okay. Thanks, Emily. Thanks, Allie.

[01:06:24] Allie: Okay, how good was that episode? If you have not checked out the Shelter Playgroup Alliance guidelines, I absolutely recommend it. It’s free to download and is full of so much information that can be applicable to everyone with a dog. I recommend it to my clients all the time, who aren’t working in shelters, check out the link to their website in the show notes. I can’t say enough. Good things about the work SPA is doing.

If you liked today’s episode, check out the Shelter Playgroup Alliance 2022 Conference held virtually and in person at the Waterfront Hotel in Oakland, California, June 10th through the 12th, the link to the conference is shelterdogplay dot org forward slash 2022 hyphen conference, and of course will be listed in our show notes. We hope to see you there.

Next week. We’ll be talking about introducing agency and social interactions.

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 behavior 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 Pixebay.


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