Stressed Out: Stress and Its Role in Behavior

What makes this course different?

  • Go deep

    Go beyond a surface-level understanding of stress and behavior. Explore the science and gain insight and understanding to working with fear. Learn directly from a PhD and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.

  • Direct interaction

    You'll interact directly with Dr. Spaulding. All students have access to live lectures and the opportunity to ask the Dr. Spaulding questions during the lecture. Full students attend weekly discussions sessions led by Dr. Spaulding. (Lectures are also recorded for those who cannot attend live).

  • Apply what you learn

    Students are given the opportunity to apply what they learn during class. This is done with interactive activities during lecture and applied problem-solving challenges during discussion sessions. Learn how to make the connection between the science of behavior and working directly with animals.

Course details

  • Course consists of live lectures and discussion sections. Lectures are also recorded for those who cannot attend live.

  • Next course begins the week of May 2nd.

  • Lectures (all students) are Mondays at 12 pm ET. Discussion sessions (full students only) are on Thursdays at 12 pm ET.

  • The course runs for four weeks.

  • Auditors: 4 CEUs from IAABC and CCPDT

  • Full students: 8 CEUS from CCPDT, 10 CEUs from IAABC

Course Curriculum

Week 1

  • Course orientation
  • What is stress?
  • Good, tolerable, and toxic stress
  • The physiology of stress
  • What is the function of stress?
  • Chronic stress and it’s impacts on physical and emotional health
  • Assessing stress


Week 2

  • The impacts of early life stress
    • Prenatal stress
    • Stress in juveniles
    • Stress during adolescence
    • Stress in adults
    • Stress in seniors
  • Research on stress in dogs
  • How stress impacts the brain
  • Epigenetics and stress
  • What can we do to minimize toxic stress during development?

Week 3

  • How does stress impact fear learning and extinction?
  • The limitations of extinction and counter-conditioning
  • The impacts of stress on memory
  • The influence of stress on learning
  • Stress and the immune response

Week 4

  • What is resiliency?
  • Why are some animals more resilient than others?
  • Can you “inoculate” animals against stress?
  • Stress coping styles
  • Social support to improve stress resiliency
  • Exercise, enrichment, and agency to improve stress resiliency

Your Instructor

Kristina Spaulding, PhD, CAAB

Dr. Kristina Spaulding has been in the dog training and behavior profession for over 20 years. She owns Science Matters Academy of Animal Behavior LLC. She has a PhD in biopsychology—the study of the biological basis of behavior—and is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. She also has a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. As part of her graduate training, Dr. Spaulding instructed university courses on learning, neuroscience, and behavior and was formally trained in effective teaching techniqes. In graduate school, she received an award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student. She is particularly interested in stress, neurobiology, cognition, emotion, and well-being and how to apply these concepts to the prevention, early intervention, and treatment of behavior problems in dogs. She currently teaches a variety of online courses and webinars on the science of behavior through her website, www.smartdogtrainingandbehavior.com. She also regularly presents on canine behavior science at conferences and other events. In 2019, Dr. Spaulding received the Association of Professional Dog Trainer’s (APDT’s) Member of the Year Award. She currently serves on the IAABC Foundation Board and the Fear Free Advisory group.