June 24, 2024

#82 - Mara Velez: How BEAR Can Help Shelters

In this week’s interview episode, we’re so excited to have Mara Velez return to talk about the Shelter Playgroup Alliance’s programs, and the newest addition, BEAR, Behavior & Enrichment Academy and Resources.
In this episode, you’re going to hear Emily and Mara talk about:
  • SPA’s programs, and how they all fit together
  • Cultivating company culture to promote success
  • Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle
  • The difference between safety and comfort
  • The importance of mindfulness in teaching and learning

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Meet the Guest

Mara Velez, MA, CPDT-KA

Mara Velez, MA, CPDT-KA, is the Executive Director of the Shelter Playgroup Alliance and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Mara has been working in the shelter setting for about 15 years and was a behavior and training consultant at both open- and limited admission shelters where she designed, developed, and implemented behavior program structures, including volunteer training, behavior evaluations, canine enrichment, and playgroups. Mara holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology and completed all the course work for a doctorate in education. In addition to completing several 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 3,000 hours of continuing education. Mara shares her home with four dogs: Nala, Ivy, Pluto, and Bruce Lee. Her current favorite hobby is being back in graduate school at Virginia Tech in the on-line master’s degree in Agricultural and Life Sciences (OMALS) with an emphasis in Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare, and she’s learning how to dive so she can swim with the fishes.

Meet the Hosts

Allie pic with Oso

Allie Bender, CDBC, CPDT-KA, SBA

Allie Bender is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer- Knowledge Assessed, and a Shelter Behavior Affiliate. She has been in the animal welfare industry since 2006 and professionally training since 2012. She is the founder and co-owner of Pet Harmony, co-author of Canine Enrichment for the Real World, and a national speaker.

While in the animal sheltering industry, Allie realized that her passion lied in helping pets with maladaptive behaviors. Specifically, she wanted to help prevent animals with rehabilitatable problems from being euthanized. She loves working with dogs and cats displaying stranger danger, resource guarding, and leash reactivity. Her favorite thing about working with pets and their people is seeing relationships grow and seeing harmonious households develop.


Emily Strong, CDBC, SBA

Emily Strong is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Shelter Behavior Affiliate. She has been in the animal welfare industry since 1990 and has been a behavior consultant since 2008. She is the co-owner of Pet Harmony, co-author of Canine Enrichment for the Real World, and a national speaker. 

Emily started working with animals at a young age and struggled with the notion that you have to hurt, scare, or intimidate animals to help them. When she discovered the behavior sciences and learned that it wasn’t necessary to do so– that we can care for emotional, mental, and physical health simultaneously– she plunged headfirst into animal behavior. Emily loves helping current and prospective behavior professionals and working with pet parents through our in-depth services. She enjoys working with all species.

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