Anxiety: The Whole Story - Two-Part Series

Part 1 with Dr. Jessica Hekman
Saturday, December 2, 2023
11am to 12:30pm EST (USA and Canada)

Part 2 with Dr. Kathy Murphy
Tuesday, December 12, 2023
5pm to 6:30pm EST (USA and Canada)

Understanding the neurobiology of anxiety and its relationship with fear is paramount for developing effective interventions. By targeting these neurobiological processes through medication and behavioral interventions, it is possible to mitigate the generalized nature of anxiety in both humans and canines, improving the quality of life for those affected by anxiety disorders.
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The webinar is suitable for pet owners, veterinary professionals, animal trainers, animal behaviorists, pet guardians, shelter and rescue staff and volunteers, and anyone with an interest in evidence-based behavior and training.

In this Webinar: 

Part 1 with Dr. Jessica Hekman:
So you have a shy dog - one who's easily frightened of strange people or places, or maybe even one who sits at home IMAGINING what horrible thing might happen next. Is this because of genetics? Or did you mess up somehow? Jessica will talk about the biology behind anxiety: the roles of genetics, early environment (as early as in mom's uterus!), and socialization. Spoiler alert: you didn't mess up. But this talk will help you understand better where your dog is coming from and help you think through the many different puzzle pieces that made her who she is.

Part 2 with Dr. Kathy Murphy:

We will be talking about the neurobiology of anxiety and fear and their relationship to each other.
What are the similarities and differences? Are there different neurobiological processes associated with them and how do they impact behavior, and ultimately the interventions and treatments for anxiety and fear related behavioral disorders? What processes are in play when anxiety and fear become more generalized and go beyond the initial trigger; and how can we reduce the risk of this generalization?

is a complex emotional state with deep-rooted neurobiological foundations closely intertwined with the evolutionary response of fear. This review explores the neurobiology of anxiety and its intimate connection with fear, shedding light on the processes underlying anxiety disorders and their manifestation in canines when generalized beyond the initial trigger.

The neurobiology of anxiety and fear shares several commonalities, with the expression of both emotions heavily dependent on the amygdala, the brain's emotional processing center. The amygdala is instrumental in threat detection and the initiation of survival responses such as the "fight or flight" response. An individual with anxiety experiences alterations in the amygdala's activity which may result in heightened sensitivity to potential threats, even when they are not objectively menacing. The transition from fear to anxiety often involves hyperactivity of the amygdala, persistent threat appraisals, and an inability to differentiate between real danger and perceived threats.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by intricate neurobiological processes, including dysregulation of the prefrontal cortex, altered neurotransmitter systems (e.g., serotonin and GABA), and chronic activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The inability of the prefrontal cortex to regulate amygdala activity and the long-term activation of the HPA axis contribute to the generalized nature of anxiety. Genetic factors play a crucial role, influencing vulnerability to anxiety disorders.

In canines, the process of generalized anxiety beyond the initial trigger shares similarities with humans. Dogs, like humans, exhibit alterations in amygdala function and neurotransmitter imbalances when suffering from generalized anxiety. This often manifests as excessive fear and vigilance in various situations, including those that pose no real threat.

Understanding the neurobiology of anxiety and its relationship with fear is paramount for developing effective interventions. By targeting these neurobiological processes through medication and behavioral interventions, it is possible to mitigate the generalized nature of anxiety in both humans and canines, improving the quality of life for those affected by anxiety disorders.

Learning Objectives:
  • Awareness of the key brain structures and neural pathways involved in canine anxiety, with a focus on the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and the HPA axis.
  • Explore the role of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and GABA, in the regulation of anxiety-related behaviors in dogs.
  • Identify and describe the behavioral and physiological indicators of anxiety in dogs, such as excessive barking, aggression, trembling, and changes in body posture.
  • Understand how these signs relate to neurobiological processes and the dog's emotional state.
  • Examine the genetic factors that may predispose dogs to anxiety disorders, and how epigenetic modifications can influence their susceptibility.
  • Explore the environmental triggers and stressors that can contribute to the development of anxiety in canines, including early socialization experiences and traumatic events.
  • Investigate evidence-based interventions and treatment options for managing anxiety in dogs, including behavioral modification, pharmacological approaches, and lifestyle adjustments.
  • Understand how these interventions target neurobiological processes to alleviate anxiety symptoms and improve the overall well-being of canines.

3 CEUs pending:
  • KPA
  • PPAB
  • CPDT
  • RACE

  • General Admission Tickets – after November 18, 2023: $129
  • Early Bird Tickets – before November 18: $89
  • Shelter/Rescue/Vet Student/Vet Tech Tickets - no expiration date: 30% off general admission ticket (discount code is SDFWBV)

Discounts are available for groups of 5 or more - please contact [email protected] for more information.

Cancellation policy: No refunds

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Meet the instructor

Dr. Jessica Hekman

Jessica Hekman, DVM, PhD, is a behavioral geneticist. She is one of the founders of the Functional Dog Collaborative (, a non-profit which seeks to change the conversation around dog breeding in the dog loving community.

She also teaches behavioral biology at the Virginia Tech online Masters program for Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare, and offers webinars online and consults with breeders about genetic testing and breeding choices.

Jessica lives in Raymond, NH with her husband and three dogs.
Patrick Jones - Course author
Meet the instructor

Dr. Kathy Murphy

Dr Kathy Murphy (BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS) is a veterinary surgeon and neuroscientist. She graduated from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons UK in 1999, initially working in mixed clinical practice before studying for two post graduate clinical qualifications with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, and Laboratory Animal Science.

In 2009 she was awarded a highly prestigious Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellowship to study for her PhD, in Behavioral Neuroscience, at The Queens College, University of Oxford, UK. She subsequently worked in the USA as Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Anesthesiology at the Icahn School of Medicine NYC, where her research into the long term effects of anesthesia on learning and memory contributed to a change to the safety advice for the use of general anesthesia in children.

She moved back to the UK in 2013, to take up clinical-academic positions at the University of Oxford and subsequently Newcastle University, and concurrently completed a Residency in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia with the European College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, during which she became increasingly interested in how pain re-models the nervous system and this can manifest as behavioral problems in pets.

Alongside these positions Dr Murphy founded, and is now Director of, Barking Brains Ltd (a neuroscience outreach platform for the animal behavior and training community), which focuses on translating neuroscientific information into practical and useful information for people interested in animal behavior. In order to maximize the impact of her diverse interests and skill set, Dr Murphy teamed up with Behavior Vets in 2022 when she took up the position of Chief Scientific Officer.

She is now able to focus on her new found passion for science communication and providing evidence based, up to date, accessible, scientific information to clinicians, animal professionals and their clients, about subjects related to pain, behavior, neurobiology and the many interrelated factors.

In addition to Dr Murphy's primary career roles she was Trustee and Veterinary Advisor to the Rottweiler Welfare Association for 14 years; is co-founder of Ethics First (a collective which lobbies for ethical decision making in clinical practice); is an Oversight Committee Member for the UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter; a guest lecturer in Clinical Animal Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh, UK; lectures internationally; sits on numerous National and International boards, working groups and ethical review panels; is an ad-hoc reviewer for neuroscience, veterinary medicine and anesthesia and pain journals; and continues to collaborate on research projects.

Dr Murphy lives in the UK with her husband Elliot (ret. Search and Rescue handler and now scentwork and mantrailing trainer) and their 5 dogs: Nancy a Rottweiler mix, Zebedee and Nela the German Shorthaired Pointers and Albi and Haggis the Weimaraners.
Patrick Jones - Course author