Mara Velez is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in training fearful dogs; helping families with dogs recently adopted from a shelter; managing and training leash reactive dogs; and modifying fear-based aggression behaviors. Mara has spent more than a decade in sheltering at both open-admission and limited-admission facilities. Most recently, she was a behavior and training consultant at Contra Costa Animal Services in Martinez, CA. At CCASD, Mara trained new volunteers and collaboratively developed behavior program structures for the shelter, including the behavior evaluation and playgroup guidelines. She is now the Executive Director for the Shelter Playgroup Alliance (SPA), a shelter enrichment organization that helps shelters implement enrichment programs, including playgroups. Mara is also the Executive Director of Humane Dog Training Advocates (HDTA), an owner-education focused non-profit. At both SPA and HDTA, Mara’s key functions are strategic planning, fundraising, and tactical planning as well as co-leading the boards of directors. She previously served on the board of Give a Dog a Bone, a shelter enrichment program in San Francisco.
In addition to training dogs, Mara also enjoys training other species because it expands her training and observation skills. To date, she has worked with cats, bunnies, wolves, foxes, guinea pigs, coyotes, buffalo, donkeys, goats, alpacas, chickens, birds, and a fish. In addition to completing KPA, LLA, IAABC Principles and Practice, 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.
Mara holds both a bachelors and masters degree in psychology and completed all of the course work for a doctorate in education. Mara is also a learning and development consultant to corporations across a variety of industries, where she advises and works on projects related to leadership development, process improvement, and learning program management.