A Framework for Behavior Modification and Training Plans to Help Build and Maintain Resilience: The Resilience Rainbow
Summary: Resilience is an individual’s ability to recover from and resist the negative effects of stress. Understanding the physiological and behavioral bases for higher levels of resilience can help animal trainers and behavior consultants develop interventions that build and maintain resilience. This article introduces a framework for resilience-building interventions, called The Resilience Rainbow.
What is resilience and why does it matter?
Resilience is an individual’s ability to recover from and resist the negative effects of stress. In other words, it is a positive adaptation or “bounce back ability” (Herrman et al., 2011).1 Since the early 2000s, there has been significant research interest in the phenomenon of resilience and its interaction with health and wellbeing (for a review of definitions of resilience and implications for human health see Herrman et al., 2011).1 Both preclinical and clinical research findings are forming a picture of the physiological and behavioral basis for resilience (for reviews of the neurobiology of resilience see Osorio et al., 20172 and Russo et al., 20123). Such findings help inform potential interventions to facilitate increasing and maintaining resilience throughout life. As well as interest in human health and well-being, research has focused on resilience in non-human animals and the potential benefits for farm, laboratory, and companion animals. For an excellent review of multispecies literature as it pertains to resilience in dogs, see Triina, 2019.4
The Stress Response Cycle
Humans and other animals respond and adapt to stress by activating a cascade of stress hormones and other naturally produced chemical mediators, which lead to a range of physiological and behavioral responses. This range of responses to stress is known colloquially as the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze-or-fawn-or-fidget” response (what we are calling an “F response”), because that’s how it can manifest as observable behavioral responses (for a review of this range of behavioral responses to stress see Marks, 1987).5The responses are triggered by activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, or HPA, axis — a physiological pathway leading to the release of cortisol (for a review of the role of the HPA axis in stress responses, see Smith & Vale, 2022).6
The cascade preceding the physiological and behavioral responses is initiated by increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system and brought to an end once the stressor is successfully dealt with or passes, and the parasympathetic nervous system activity (which is responsible for “relax, rest, and digest” functions within the body) dampens down HPA axis activity, returning it to baseline (see Figure 1). This cycle of increased HPA axis activity and return to baseline, along with the cycle of physiological and behavioral responses, is termed the “stress response cycle.”
The stress response cycle system evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations. Unfortunately, it is not without its problems. The body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as traffic jams, work pressure, and family difficulties in the case of humans; remain activated long after the stressor has passed; or be reactivated before recovery, leading to cumulative effects. Chronic activation of this survival mechanism impairs health and well-being (as reviewed in Herrman et al., 2011),1 leading to alterations in mood, emotionality, and behavioral abnormalities.
Simply being alive comes with varying degrees of stress. However, individuals who struggle to recover from stressful events and circumstances, or suffer longer-term behavioral, emotional, and/or physical health consequences, are said to have low resilience (although we believe a better description would be that they have insufficient resilience). An animal with insufficient resilience does not return rapidly and completely to their baseline (usual/resting) neurophysiological state following exposure to a stressor. For a review of the neurobiological difference between a resilient and non-resilient individual see, for example, Osorio 2016.2Observationally, however, an insufficiently resilient individual may be recognised as exhibiting a prolonged period (relative to an individual with sufficient resilience) of increased heart rate and/or respiratory rate, a change in pupil size, and/or they may be recognized by behaviors such as those associated with an “F response” (reviewed in Marks 19875 among others). In dogs, such behaviors may be highly individual but include hypervigilance, avoidance, and/or distance-creating behaviors such as barking and lunging, among others.
An individual’s resilience has historically been viewed as a personality “trait” of that individual. However, mounting evidence is leading to an understanding of resilience as a complex, dynamic process of adaptation to stress, dependent on multiple protective factors (learned, environmental, genetic, and neurophysiological).6 With this more modern understanding, it seems highly likely that an individual’s level of resilience can be different for different stressors — something the field has been surprisingly lacking in discussion of, thus far. However, one thing we do know from simple observation is that an individual’s physiological and behavioral responses to different stressors can differ. Therefore, the parameters used for monitoring the resilience of that individual must be determined by observing their physiological and behavioral change in response to the stressor of interest. The time taken for those changes to return to baseline (or pre-stressor states) is then one way in which we can operationalize resilience within a companion-animal care situation.
It is impossible and impractical to remove all stressors from individuals with insufficient resilience in order to improve their quality of life, but it is possible to support them in becoming more resilient to stressors in general, whilst also working to reduce stressors (both internal and external) and their impact. That’s where the parallel practice of building resilience — what we are calling “resilience conditioning” — can potentially make a difference for the individual.
Just as the term “conditioning” in the context of physical exertion refers to exercises and activities to increase performance of a muscle group, when using the term “resilience conditioning,” in the context of positive adaptation, we refer to exercises and activities with the goal of building and/or maintaining an individual’s physiological ability to adapt to stress. It is important, therefore, for us to highlight that use of the term “conditioning” here, is different from its use when discussing associative learning paradigms such as classical conditioning or operant conditioning. Resilience conditioning does not need to involve the creation of associations between stimuli and responses, nor does it need to involve learning or memory at all.
Although behavioral change may be used to assess effectiveness, the goal of resilience conditioning is not behavioral change, but rather to enhance an individual’s physiological ability to recover from stress. Just as you work a muscle group in the gym using different exercises to improve performance, through changes to the structure and function of the muscle, you can engage in activities (e.g., meditation, yoga, nature walks) that over time improve your resilience through changes to the structure and function of your brain, gut microbiome, and other physiological processes (for a review of the connection between the responses to stress, the brain, and the gut microbiome see Flux & Lowry, 2020).8 In addition, because resilience is not fixed but dynamic, resilience conditioning for individuals who already have sufficient levels of resilience can help to provide a buffer against the effects of future stress — again, in the same way as conditioning the performance of a muscle group protects against injury through strength and flexibility.
The Resilience Rainbow
The Resilience Rainbow is a framework founded on cross-disciplinary scientific principles. Developed through working with our clients at a large specialized veterinary behavior practice, it represents seven domains around which an individualized resilience conditioning plan or schedule can be created to support the dog’s development to promote resilience. Many professionals are already working with their clients in this way and have been doing so for some time. What is new here is the framework we present for canine guardians, to keep these concepts front and center while facilitating the identification of (and regular use of) suitable activities and exercises. The framework is intended to be used alongside, not instead of, other methods of training and/or behavior modification techniques, and contains no new techniques but rather represents potential intervention points (domains) for increasing and maintaining resilience. These domains are not species-specific; however, here we illustrate their use with example activities suitable for dogs. The seven domains were chosen based on what the authors have found to be most helpful when working with clients. If you’re wondering, why a rainbow? We utilized a rainbow as a memory aid for users of the framework, as there are seven colors to match the seven domains within our framework — and who doesn’t smile when they see a rainbow, right?!
The seven domains of the Resilience Rainbow
The seven domains of the Resilience Rainbow are Decompression, Safety & Security, Completing the Stress Cycle, Mental & Physical Well-Being, Predictability, Social Support, and Agency (see Figure 2 below). In this next section, we examine each domain, explaining some of the science behind it and some of the strategies you can apply when working in that particular domain. Unfortunately, a detailed critical analysis is outside of the scope of this article. However, we hope that the information presented here will motivate ongoing discussion of the role of resilience conditioning within modern canine behavior modification and training.
When incorporating this framework into your training programs, we have found it important to schedule activities to build as well as support resilience throughout the week or month. Resilience conditioning can be carried out in parallel with other methods of training and is something you can monitor over time, to see if the activities and exercise you choose to use are making a difference. When monitoring resilience, we are looking at the following: the intensity of the observable stress response, the time it takes to recover from a stressor (and whether the dog makes a full recovery before encountering the next stressor), and the frequency and context of the observable stress response. Record-keeping and taking videos to observe body language and behavior are valuable tools, allowing you to make adjustments per the domains as umbrella concepts for the exercises you choose.
The term “decompression” generally means the process of releasing or reducing pressure. In the dog training world, we use the term in a behavioral context to describe the process of reducing a dog’s stress – or mental pressure – which can increase acutely, for example, as a result of a fight with another dog, or chronically, for example, as a result of living in a highly urbanized area.
A link between relaxation and well-being has long been recognized.9 And more recently, it has been found that activities utilized for relaxation in humans (such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness), when practiced regularly, elicit changes in natural (endogenous) chemicals within the brain, enhance attention and emotional regulation, and create changes in brain structure10 –12These changes are associated with a reduction of activity of the sympathetic nervous system — responsible for “F responses,” a reduction in anxiety, and an increase in activity of the parasympathetic nervous system — responsible for “relax, rest, and digest” functions. Interestingly, it has been found in both human and animal research that an important building block of resilience is the experience of positive emotions, and this is suggested to be an important commonality across relaxation activities.13
Different decompression activities will be more or less effective depending on an individual’s preferences, circumstances, and the social context and environment at the time. When working with pet dogs as opposed to dogs in a laboratory, we don’t have information about their HPA axis activity. We therefore don’t necessarily know for sure whether a particular activity is decompressing, and we need to use indirect measures such as a decrease in respiratory and heart rate, a decrease in muscle tone with a softening of the facial expression, or a reduction in vigilance to infer information about their internal state. However, in the authors’ experience, even though individuals sometimes require (or have a preference for) active methods of decompression (such as tugging a toy to release stress) the vast majority of dogs benefit greatly from some form of relaxation activity within their schedule. We therefore focus on passive (relaxation) methods of decompression here. Examples of such activities include (but are not limited to) relaxation exercises, duration sniffing, and cuddling on the couch.
Two common relaxation exercises utilized in behavioral work are Relaxation Conditioning, created by Nan Arthur, and the Relaxation Protocol, created by Dr. Karen Overall. These protocols, when carried out as intended, are very different from a trained down position, despite seeming to the casual onlooker to be very similar.
To help differentiate a trained down behavior and a relaxation behavior, we will share an example from yoga, a human relaxation practice that has been shown to result in a variety of neurobiological changes.14 At the end of every yoga class, the instructor asks the students to prepare for Savasana (a position where the student lies down on their mat). This pose in modern yoga is often used for relaxation at the end of class. The pose aims to quiet the mind by focusing attention only on the breath and muscle relaxation.
When first practicing this, externally, the student may be quietly lying down on the mat with their eyes closed like everyone else, but internally their mind is racing. It takes time before they start to experience a quiet mind during Savasana and are able to focus on their breathing and muscle relaxation. This type of meditation is a practice. And if they stop doing yoga for a few years, they become rusty at quieting their mind.
The goal of relaxation exercises for dogs is to help the dog practice relaxation. The type of relaxation is certainly very different to the practice of Savasana for humans, however what we ask the dog to do in these exercises is to remain unstimulated by the external environment, an outcome that we (usually) operationalize as a still body with a relaxed respiratory pattern and muscle relaxation. In this way, the physical outcome of canine relaxation protocols is similar to that of the physical outcome of Savasana. In these exercises, we are not telling our dog to perform an “obedience” down. Instead, we are facilitating relaxation, allowing them to lie down if they choose to and when they choose to, and to keep practicing until the outcomes are met with ease. The ability to relax is a core skill that every dog needs, facilitating the reduction of their HPA axis activity.
Scent is such an important component of how dogs experience the world. Allowing dogs to interact with their environment through sniffing taps into an often-overlooked opportunity to express natural behavior. Authors of a study, which found that a nosework activity induced a positive judgment bias in dogs, go on to highlight that olfaction-based activities positively contribute to dogs’ welfare.15 Examples of duration sniffing include walks in nature (ideally off leash or on a long line), offering the opportunity to engage with a snuffle mat, scatter feeding, and nosework/scentwork activities. As with all of the exercises we discuss in this article, the activities themselves are not guaranteed to have a particular effect; however, when set up appropriately they have the potential to. What is important is that, perhaps through a process of trial and error, appropriate exercises are selected according to the individual dog and the situation.
Decompression walks allow dogs to engage in natural behaviors and experience some degree of autonomy. The phrase was coined by dog trainer, Sarah Stremming, who defines it as “a walk where the dog is allowed freedom of movement in nature.” Freedom of movement allows for choice and exploration. Freedom to sniff and explore provides both physical and mental stimulation. During a decompression walk, the intention is to let the dog be a dog, i.e., not to constantly recall the dog or direct their movement or behavior. For this reason, nature walks also fall under the domain of “Agency” in the Resilience Rainbow. For dogs who experience fear, anxiety, stress, or reactivity during their daily walks, decompression time can serve as a stress relief, which helps to improve their mental and physical health. Again, as with previous examples, dogs will not always find walks in nature decompressing. For instance, dogs with a very high prey drive or fear of outside environments may need to have such an activity heavily managed to avoid an increase in stress levels. However, in the authors’ experience, it is usually possible to design a walk in such a way as to facilitate decompression.
Safety and security
Safety and security are building blocks for resilience. When an individual feels unsafe, their HPA axis activity increases to trigger a stress response. On the flip side, when an individual repeatedly experiences feeling safe and secure, it helps to build resilience to current and future stressors. Dog guardians can provide this feeling of safety and security within the home as well as out in the world. In the home, you can designate a space or a room to be your dog’s Safe Zone where they can decompress and/or avoid stressors, such as children or other pets running around the home. It may take some associative learning and time to help your dog feel comfortable in that space, but once they do it can help to provide an important building block for resilience conditioning.
You can also create Safe Zones out in the world. For example, if you attend a dog sporting event, you can crate your dog inside your car instead of in the building, where there may be a lot of noise and activity. When transporting your dog, you may choose to park your car farther away from the store, to reduce the chance of people disturbing your dog in the car and potentially triggering them.
You can create experiences of safety and security when walking your dog, even on busy urban streets. For example, if the guardian is vigilant about managing the environment during a walk with a sensitive dog, the dog doesn’t have to be hypervigilant (one of the behaviors associated with sympathetic nervous system activity). By using management techniques like this to prevent the dog from encountering triggers in an uncontrolled way, over time the dog feels more secure when out on a walk with their guardian. This repeated experience builds trust and creates an opportunity for positive emotional experiences on the walk.
Completing the stress cycle
Earlier in this article, we talked about the stress response cycle and how chronic stress can impact health and well-being. In this section, we are going to discuss ways of ensuring that the stress cycle is completed, i.e., ways to ensure that HPA axis activity returns to baseline. In their book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, coauthors Emily and Amelia Nagoski reveal that when we do not deal with our stress, we do not complete the stress cycle and our bodies are in constant activation with increased blood pressure, increased chance of heart disease, and issues with digestion.16 Completing the stress cycle occurs at the point at which we realize we are now safe: The HPA axis cycle is completed as the HPA axis is activated and then comes back down to baseline activity levels.
For a dog, completing the stress cycle can be active or passive. We shared examples of passive methods to decompress above, andthe same methods can also complete the stress cycle (provided that the decompression is sufficient and for long enough to enable a return to baseline activity of the HPA axis). Examples of active methods of completing the stress cycle can include tugging on a toy, shaking a toy, playing with a social partner, racing around (zoomies), or vocalization. It depends on the individual and what they need at that time. Completing the stress cycle can occur the moment after a stressful event occurs, such as giving a sensitive dog a Snuffle Mat to work through after a walk through city streets. It can also be scheduled at some point during the week, such as an early week walk in nature after attending a weekend dog sports competition.
How do you know you’ve completed the cycle?
Your body tells you. You will feel more relaxed, more at ease. For a dog, we use observation to monitor physiological and behavioral changes, such as those examples given in the section on decompression — a decrease in respiratory and heart rate, a decrease in muscle tone with a softening of the facial expression, or a reduction in vigilance.
Mental and physical well-being
This domain might seem obvious, but it can be quite involved depending on the circumstances, and a full review is outside of the scope of this article. As with Safety and Security, Mental and Physical Well-being is an essential building block for resilience and should be assessed continuously throughout an individual’s life. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are advised, as well as specialized assessments for pain, disability, or injury as needed. Sleep and resilience are positively correlated, and in general the quality of sleep is more important than the quantity. 17 Other aspects to consider include diet and nutrition, as well as the provision of species-appropriate environmental and social enrichment.
The relationship between predictability and resilience is both fascinating and complex. Predictable chronic, mild stress can induce resilience to stress at a later life stage.18 Predictability enables an individual to make an overt response that alters the impact of an event and/or provides an opportunity for informed choice. Too little predictability in a routine can induce anxiety and uncertainty; however, too much can lead to boredom, and so the aim for a guardian is to recognize when increased predictability is needed, as well as when enrichment activities or novel experiences can provide opportunities for rewarding and positive emotional experiences.
The domain of predictability encompasses patterns, rituals, and reinforcement strategies when it comes to building resilience in dogs. At Behavior Vets, we are big fans of Leslie McDevitt’s Pattern Games19 as one way to provide predictability in seemingly unpredictable environments. Pattern Games also create a strong reinforcement history for a particular behavior or series of behaviors, and reward experience is known to be an important factor in the resilience of individuals.13 With the foundation of a pattern game and control of the environment by the guardian, the dog can practice the ability to emotionally regulate themselves in triggering situations.
Animal and human research have shown that positive social experiences and secure social attachment are important factors for developing resilience.13 And so, for social species, providing social support is one way we can help to support resilience.
Social support involves being present and available without the need to force or control. This might look like sitting on the floor with your puppy so that they can climb into your lap while watching kids playing at a park. It could look like having a calm, confident dog accompany a fearful dog on a walk. Social support could also look like a volunteer sitting unobtrusively in a kennel with a dog while they adjust to the activity and noise of their new shelter environment.
The amount of social support an individual needs in any given situation will vary and ideally should strike the balance between providing enough to support coping and ultimately resilience, but not so much as to impede opportunities for an individual to develop adaptive problem-solving and/or social interaction skills.
We use the word agency here to refer to the feeling of having control over actions and their consequences (for a review of agency as it pertains to human health and wellbeing, see Moore, 2016).20 Within animal research, various paradigms of control over actions, choice, autonomy, or agency and their relationship to resilience have been investigated. In one study, rats given the opportunity to master the skill of driving within a complex environment were found to have enhanced emotional resilience.21Having control over our environment or our interaction with that environment allows us to make choices that will result in a desirable outcome. This control is crucial to our ability to rebound from stress. Over time, these experiences build upon one another, which is how we — and other animals — condition resilience.
A straightforward example of agency is taking an off-leash nature walk with your dog, allowing your dog to walk the trail as they please, and making choices about the speed and direction of exploration. In situations where you cannot offer these kinds of opportunities for agency, such as a dog living in an urban environment, walking on a long line in the park or allowing your dog to direct the walk on a leash on the sidewalk, sniffing for as long as they want at each post, can be acceptable alternatives.
Agency is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon, and we can usually find safe opportunities to increase agency for our dogs, even in highly restrictive environments or circumstances.
Having strong resilience is like a rubber band – it can stretch but it always comes back to its original form (its baseline). Whether a professional in the behavior field, a competitor of dog sports, or a handler of working dogs, we must consider resilience when creating training programs or addressing behavior issues. Most dogs around the world no longer live quietly by the fireside, roaming open spaces, without restrictions. As society continues to change, our cities get busier, and our lives grow more hectic, it’s not only humans that benefit greatly from an ability to adjust and adapt to the stressors around them.
We developed the Resilience Rainbow to help guardians and professionals condition and support resilience as part of a training or behavior modification program. Many of the concepts and techniques created by brilliant behavior and training professionals in our field can be utilized in the Resilience Rainbow. Whether raising a puppy, adopting a dog from the shelter, or working through challenging behavior issues with a dog and family who are struggling, building resilience can make all the difference. The beauty of this framework is that it is not linear, nor is it restrictive, and the domains are not discreet, all of which provides a great deal of flexibility and the ability to individualize its use. Often, you could be working across more than one domain when building resilience with a single exercise, and that’s okay!
The authors would like to thank the Behavior Vets team, for all that they have done knowingly and unknowingly to contribute to this work. Specifically to Ferdie Yau and Dr. Elise Christensen for manuscript preparation and conceptualization respectively, as well as all of the wonderful professionals out there doing the work that inspired us to create this framework.
- Herrman, H. et al., (2011) What is Resilience? The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 56:5, 258-265.
- Osorio, C. et al., (2017) Adapting to stress: Understanding the neurobiology of resilience. Behavioral Medicine 43:4, 307-322
- Russo, S. et al., (2012) Neurobiology of resilience. Nature Neuroscience 15, 1475-1484
- Tiira, K. (2019) Resilience in Dogs? Lessons from other species. Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports 10: 159-168
- Marks, I. (1987) Fear, defense and evolution. In: Fears, Phobias & Rituals: Panic, Anxiety & their Disorders, Oxford University Press, UK. 3-24
- Smith, S. & Vale, W. (2022) The role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in neuroendocrine responses to stress. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience 8:4, 383-395
- Kalisch, R. et al., (2019) Deconstructing and reconstructing resilience: A dynamic network approach. Perspectives on Psychological Science 14:5, 765-777
- Flux, M. & Lowry, C. (2020) Finding intestinal fortitude: Integrating the microbiome into a holistic view of depression mechanisms, treatment, and resilience. Neurobiology of Disease 135: 104578
- Benson, H. et al., (1975) The relaxation response: psychophysiologic aspects and clinical applications. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine 6:1-2, 87-98
- Esch, T. (2014) The neurobiology of meditation and mindfulness. In: Schmidt, S., Walach, H. (eds) Meditation – Neuroscientific Approaches and Philosophical Implications. Studies in Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality, vol 2. Springer, Chambers. 1
- Basso, J. et al., (2019) Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators. Behavioral Brain Research 356: 208-220
- Tang, Y. et al., (2015) The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 16, 213-225
- Rutten, B. et al., (2013) Resilience in mental health: linking psychological and neurobiological perspectives. Acta Psychiatrica. Scandinavica 128:1, 3-20
- Van Aalst, J. et al., (2020) What has neuroimaging taught us on the neurobiology of yoga? A review. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 14: art 34
- Duranton, C. & Horowitz, A. (2019) Let me sniff! Nosework induces positive judgment bias in pet dogs. Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science. 211, 61-66
- Nagoski, E. & Nagoski A. (2020) Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. Ballantine Books USA
- Arora, T. et al., (2022) A systemic review and meta-analysis to assess the relationship between sleep duration/quality, mental toughness and resilience amongst healthy individuals. Sleep Medicine Reviews 62, 101593
- Suo, L. et al., (2013) Predictable mild chronic stress in adolescence increases resilience in adulthood. Neuropsychopharmacology 38, 1387-1400
- McDevitt, L. (2019) Control Unleashed Book 3: Reactive to Relaxed. Clean Run Productions LLC, USA
- Moore, J. (2016) What is the sense of agency and why does it matter? Frontiers in Psychology. 7, 1272
- Crawford, L. et al., (2020) Enriched environment exposure accelerates rodent driving skills. Behavioral Brain Research 378, 112309
Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol
Nan Arthur’s Chill Out Fido: protocol
Podcast with Sarah Stremming on decompression walks
Podcast with Brene Brown on completing the stress cycle in humans:
Podcast with Marissa Martino on the Resilience Rainbow
Kathy Murphy (BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS) is a veterinary surgeon, neuroscientist and Chief Scientific Officer at Behavior Vets.She graduated from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons UK in 1999, initially working in mixed clinical practice before studying for two postgraduate clinical qualifications. In 2009 she was awarded a highly prestigious Wellcome Research Training Fellowship to study for her Ph.D., in Behavioral Neuroscience, at The Queens College, University of Oxford, UK. She subsequently worked in the USA as an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Anesthesiology at the Icahn School of Medicine NYC; and is now back in the UK and Director of Barking Brains Ltd (a neuroscience outreach platform for the animal behavior and training community).
Dr. Murphy’s clinical interest has always been anesthesia, and analgesia with her residency at the European College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia completed in 2021. In addition to her primary career roles she was Trustee and Veterinary Advisor to the Rottweiler Welfare Association for 14 years, is a founder of Ethics First (a collective that lobbies for ethical decision-making in clinical practice), is an Oversight Committee Member for the UK Dog Behavior and Training Charter, is a guest lecturer in Clinical Animal Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh, sits on numerous National and International boards, working groups and ethical review panels, and most of all love spending time with her own 4 dogs and her husband.
Bobbie Bhambree (CDBC, CPDT-KA) is the Director of Education and a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant at Behavior Vets. She is also a faculty member of CATCH Canine Trainers Academy and Agility University. Bobbie started her career in 2003 as a pet behavior counselor with the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center. While there, she implemented behavior modification programs for dogs who had been surrendered by the public or seized by Humane Law Enforcement. In 2007, Bobbie joined the Humane Society of Westchester, spending the next nine years as their shelter trainer. She created and implemented dog training and enrichment programs, counseled adopters, trained volunteers, participated in community outreach programs, and performed evaluations.
In 2016, Bobbie joined the North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, NY as the Director of Pet Behavior. During her tenure there, she managed a team of canine and feline trainers who focused on developing behavior modification and enrichment programs for the animals in the shelter. She also deployed for the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team to work in the field, supporting the team with dog fighting busts, puppy mill cases, and hoarding cases. In addition to this work, she founded and directed her own company, DogCentric Dog Training, helping people whose pet dogs experienced a wide spectrum of canine behavior issues. Bobbie presented at the Lemonade Conference, hosted by IAABC and Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, and at the HeartDog International Wellbeing Summit in 2022.
Over the years, Bobbie has very successfully competed in agility in various venues with several of her dogs including, Marvel who came in third for Performance Speed Jumping and Performance Grand Prix at Mid-Atlantic Regionals in 2019. Bobbie has authored several articles for the agility-focused publication, Clean Run. She is passionate about working with dog sports teams struggling with behavior issues. Bobbie regularly teaches behavior workshops for the dog sports community, including a recent project called Brain Camp.
Bobbie currently shares her life with four terriers, one Pitbull, and a border collie/whippet mix (Tricky, Ziggy, Marvel, Heady Topper, Eleanor Rigby, and Phuncky) and a very supportive husband in southern New Jersey.