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Karen B. London

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

News: Guest Posts
Service Dog Kicked Off Flight For Being Too Big
Airline staff said the dog was too big
Bryant and his service dog Chug

During the recent Thanksgiving weekend, one family’s travel headaches were made even more unpleasant because of American Airline’s treatment of a service dog and the people with him. The family was forced to get off the plane when a manager came on board and told them the dog was too big.

Chug is a 110-pound Labradoodle and a service dog who goes everywhere with twelve-year old Bryant. The dog’s job is to detect an oncoming seizure and to assist the child during the seizure. The family had no issues on the other three flights with Chug during their travels and had completed all the paperwork required in order for him to fly with them. Before being forced to deplane, a flight attendant had told them that the dog had to be under the seat, and the family complied with that request.

Because they were kicked off the plane, they had to stay overnight in a hotel on Thanksgiving, and were booked for a flight the next day that went to St. Louis, Missouri, which is three hours from their home, instead of to Evansville, Illinois where they live. They rented a car, drove three hours, and had to return the car to the airport as well.

American Airlines is looking into the incident, which occurred on a flight operated by a regional carrier. They have apologized to the family, who has been contacted by customer relations. Even taking into account the low standards most people have of airline’s customer service, the way this family was treated fell far short of expectations.

News: Guest Posts
Greek Café Hosts Stray Dogs
It’s a full house each night

The Hott Spott in Mytilene, Lesbos in Greece does more than serve the people of the area. The café also gives stray dogs a warm place to sleep. Every night after the place closes, the owner lets dogs in so they can spend the night out of the cold.

When this photo was posted on Facebook, the photographer (Eustratios Papanis), included a request to join the page to help animal protection efforts. The laws in Greece are generally supportive of good care for animals, but the sinking economy has led to a much larger stray dog population than before. Many people are abandoning pets who they cannot care for properly, and there are still issues with neglect and indifference.

With refugees flooding the area, resources are stretched thin, yet according to Papanis, compassion towards people as well as animals has created a solidarity of kindness among many residents. One café that takes in a few dogs each night is just a sign of the love towards animals so prevalent in this country.

The comments to the original post are in many languages and from many countries, showing that this photo has truly touched hearts around the world.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Fur of Every Color
No outfit is safe anymore

The neighbors at the end of our block recently adopted a fourth dog, which no doubt has made for many changes in the household and a lot of adjustments for everyone. All the dogs get along, and the transition seems to have been smooth. I’ve only heard one comment about the new challenges, which is “Now no color is safe to wear!”

That’s because once the fourth dog joined their family, the household contained dogs of every color, meaning that no matter what anybody wears, at least one dog’s fur will show up on it. Enzo is a reddish Golden Retriever, Sake is a black Shiba Inu and Luna is a Pointer and Blue Tick Coonhound mix with black and white mottled fur. The best guess about Candy, who is white with reddish markings, is that her lineage includes Border Collie, Australian Shepherd and Jack Russell Terrier.

Not only is fur of every color always present, the guardians of this handsome crew swear that the dogs know what they are wearing and choose to give extra love each morning to whoever is wearing a contrasting color. It does seem as though fur is drawn to outfits that will show it to best advantage, and it’s not much of a stretch to think that the dogs are in on the strategy of making their fur visible.

Fur color is a big deal when it comes to planning one’s wardrobe. Naturally, I am never far from a lint brush, but my best defense against the look of unfashionable dog hair on my outfits is to wear colors that match the current dogs in my life. I have always worn black a lot, and my black dog Bugsy could shed on me without it ever showing. I once traded dogs for the afternoon with a co-worker who had an American Eskimo and within hours, I was streaked with white. My co-worker fared little better, and after a few hours with Bugsy, her crisp khakis and white shirt looked less professional than when she began the day.

Do you have an abundance of colors of dog fur in your life?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Asking For and Accepting Help
A skill worth developing by dog guardians

Dogs are a lot of work, and though many people take it all on themselves, asking for and accepting help is advantageous for all. That’s especially true for puppies who often require more attention and require it more frequently. The thought of raising a puppy on my own with no assistance practically makes me hyperventilate with anxiety, and though I could probably do a passable job, I would never do so on purpose. Whether you are single and live alone or are part of a large family of dog lovers, outside help can make a big difference. Everyone, especially the dog, stands to benefit from a team effort.

If you have other people in your life who you know you can count on to help you, it relieves a lot of stress. If a friend or neighbor can let your dog out or refill his water bowl when you are late coming home, that’s good for you and your dog. Your dog is cared for and you need not worry. Yes, many people have very regular schedules, but a flat tire, an emergency with a co-worker or icy roads—among many other speed bumps along the road of life—can cause unexpected delays.

There are advantages to asking for and receiving help beyond the immediate benefits. In addition to giving you time to go to work and to deal with the other things you must attend to in life, your dog has experiences with other people. That provides socialization opportunities for your puppy, and also has the side benefit that other people fall in love with your dog, too. (You can never have too many people who love your dog!)

When people help out with your dog, things may not go exactly as they usually do for your dog, and that’s generally okay. In fact, it can help many dogs be flexible rather than routinized. I think routines are wonderful, but so is the ability to cope with changes in that routine.

Despite the obvious advantages of a group effort with our dogs, especially puppies, it is very hard for most guardians to ask for help. Many even struggle to accept help when it is offered. Why is that? Our society often emphasizes a strong go-it-alone attitude and approach to life. There is often a perception of weakness if you can’t do everything by yourself, or if you choose not to. Many people do not want to impose on others, even if the others don’t feel imposed upon in the slightest, and in fact are very eager to help.

I would love for offers to help with a new dog to become more commonplace in the dog community and for every dog guardian to learn to accept graciously all reasonable offers of assistance.

Are you able to ask other people for help with your dog?

Good Dog: Studies & Research
Dogs Smell Passage of Time
Their noses take them to the past

Dogs tend to live in the moment, accepting each treat, snuggle, or toss of the tennis ball as the whole reason for their existence with a charming singlemindedness. Yet, their understanding of time can be complex. Many dogs are able to anticipate predictable events accurately, which is why they leap on the couch to look out the window when the kids are just about to come home from school or adults are nearly home from work. Even more dogs appear to know, from their own stomach’s rumblings, that the dinner hour fast approaches. And according to researcher and author Alexandra Horowitz, “Dogs smell time.”

What does it mean to smell time? Horowitz writes in her new book “Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell”, that their powerful noses allow them to perceive the passage of time. This is not mystical or other worldly. It’s just that dogs can understand much about the past because of the extreme sensitivity of their noses.

Odors change over time, sometimes predictably. When you leave the house to go to work each day, the smell of you in the house decreases with each hour of your absence, and your dog can detect the difference. Perhaps your dog has learned through repetition that when the smell of you has weakened to a specific degree, you come home. In other words, the strength of your odor predicts the time of your return.

This degree of scent discrimination is not hard for most dogs. Many dogs can, for example, tell which way to follow a scent trail by heading from where it is weakest (oldest) to where it is strongest (most recent) when the difference is miniscule. Stronger odors are often newer and weaker ones are older. That means that when dogs smell weak odors, they are perceiving events of the past. Because dogs can detect both new and old odors, they are perceiving events and substances across intervals of time.

Each day, even in the same place, smells help dogs understand the passage of time. As air heats up over the course of the day, air currents change and move around in space, taking the molecules responsible for odors with them. Dogs, with their sensitive noses and large olfactory lobes are able to sense the movement and presence of chemicals people barely sense if at all.

Though we humans may detect daily patterns in light or even sound, our ability to smell clues about the passage of time, is barely worth a mention. Yet, dogs detect odors that reveal past happenings to them in complex ways we are only beginning to understand.

News: Guest Posts
Co-Star of “Cooking With Dog” Dies
Francis the Poodle will be missed

Francis the Poodle and the woman known only as “Chef” entertained and informed over a million viewers on their YouTube show “Cooking With Dog”. The dog is an integral part of a show that has demonstrated how to make a variety of Japanese dishes as well as cuisine from other regions of the world since 2009.

The format of the show is that Chef cooks and Francis narrates. Chef speaks in Japanese, while Francis talks in English. The use of English by the dog was a conscious choice to enhance one goal of the show—introducing the cuisine of Japan to people elsewhere in the world. In addition to reaching many foreigners, the show has a large following in Japan.

Chef was chosen to be on the show due to her culinary skills, but there were two reasons that the creator/producer decided to include her Miniature Poodle as a co-star. 1) Chef had no background in television, and the creator/producer hoped that the presence of her dog would make her feel more relaxed, and 2) He hoped that Francis would increase the appeal of the show and make it stand out to viewers who have many options for cooking shows to watch.

Francis passed away last week at the age of 14 years and 9 months. He has many fans who, along with Chef, will miss him terribly.

Wellness: Health Care
Dogs’ Mouths Damaged by Ladybugs
Who knew this was something to worry about?

There are plenty of things to worry about when it comes to keeping our dogs safe. We must protect our dogs from traffic, overly exuberant children, toxic plants, choking hazards like rawhides or small toys, onions, chocolate, Xyitol and everything else under the sun that we know can cause them harm.

Now there’s another thing to fret over—a species of invasive Asian ladybugs that poses a danger to dogs. In Kansas, veterinarians report seeing cases of dogs with dozens of these insects inside the mouths of dogs, which is painful for them. Ladybugs can cause chemical burns to the dog’s mouth because of the insect’s toxins.

According to veterinarians who have treated dogs with this condition, if your dog is foaming at the mouth, drooling, lethargic or refusing to eat, these ladybugs could be something to check for. (Each of these symptoms can be caused by many other problems from minor to extremely serious. A mouthful of these insects is only one of many possibilities.)

Many guardians have been able to remove the insects themselves using their fingers, a spoon or even a wooden tongue depressor. Your own dexterity and your dog’s willingness to allow you to work on his mouth in this way will determine whether you can remove them yourself or whether a visit to the veterinarian is required.

Have you known of any dogs who have suffered due to a mouthful of ladybugs?

News: Guest Posts
Failed Fosters Dog Adoption
An odd way to describe a successful match

“She’s a failed foster,” is commonly said with a smile and a shrug in certain circles. That’s because a failed foster just means that a dog found a forever home one step ahead of schedule. Often, a foster family plans to help a dog get ready to be placed in a good home but falls in love with that dog. Unable to give up the dog, the foster family adopts him, and voilà, it’s a failed foster. (Though many people like the term and find it charmingly ironic, others object to the use of negativity or humor related to the serious issue of dogs in need of homes.)

On the one hand, the situation is obviously positive because a dog has found a home. Even better, that home is with people who really want him, are committed to him, and are okay with whatever issues, if any, he happens to have. On the other hand, many rescue organizations lament failed fosters because it limits the space they have available for future fosters.

A lot of families who adopt their foster dog take a break from fostering to devote time and energy to their new dog, which makes sense. In other cases, the former foster family may not be able to take in a foster dog because their home now has the maximum number of dogs allowed, according to local ordinances. In a year, a typical family may be able to foster two, three or even six dogs during their path to a forever home. A failed foster can mean that rescue organizations have to find two, three or six spots for other dogs in need of temporary care. It’s not easy to find really good foster situations with dog savvy families who can welcome dogs on short notice to a dog-proofed home.

Despite the drawback in terms of lost foster space, it’s hard for me to hear of a failed foster without great joy. When someone’s decision to adopt a dog is motivated by pure love and acceptance, that’s a great moment, even if we joke about the “failure” it represents.

Have you ever had a failed foster?

News: Guest Posts
New Toys and Chews
How often do you buy them for your dog?

If the pet store is the place where you are at the greatest risk of blowing your budget, I’m eager to hear from you, especially if your purchases involve toys or items to chew on. It is challenging to keep some dogs adequately supplied with these things.

Serious chewers, especially those young dogs in their peak chewing years, need a near endless amount of appropriate things to chew on to keep them from destroying things that are meant to be left alone. There are dogs who have a few favorite toys or only like tennis balls, and the expense of keeping such dogs in toys is on the low end. At the other extreme are dogs who tire quickly of toys and only become excited by new and different ones. Particularly playful dogs often benefit from new, entertaining toys. Though rotating toys every few days will keep some dogs interested in toys for many months, it doesn’t always have that effect. Some dogs make a distinction between toys that are truly new and toys that they just haven’t seen for a while. Regardless of how often they get new things, dogs sometimes destroy the things we buy for them extremely quickly, and are soon eager for more.

During the four years that my husband and I lived long distance, I kenneled our dog every time it was my turn to fly for a visit. I would bring a bag of toys and chews to the kennel with instructions to give my dog one new one each day. When I was home with him, he had a lot of activities such as running with me, going out on walks, training sessions and playing with various neighborhood dog buddies. He did get new toys and chews from time to time, but not even close to every day. When he was at the kennel, I knew he was getting some attention and exercise, but I used the extra toys and things to chew on to help make up some of the difference between the calm life there and the more eventful life at home. Most of my visits were just for a weekend, but twice a year I would go for two full weeks, so we ended up spending a lot of money on these extras for the dog. (We just considered it one more expense related to living 1300 miles away from each other.)

Buying lots of toys and chews is common for people who have young, playful, active dogs, especially if the jaws are among the most active parts of those dogs. Other people cannot resist picking something fun out each time they go to the pet store whether their dog is really into them or not. I certainly know of husbands and wives who have begged their partner to stop buying something on every trip, and I know of other couples whose members are both big fans of bringing something home for the dog at every opportunity.

How often do you buy your dog new toys or new things to chew on? How much do you think you spend providing for your dog in this way?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Adolescent Dogs Go Through Fear Periods
A natural developmental stage in dogs.
dog on computer

I was walking Rosie, a happy, well-socialized 9-month old Chocolate Lab through my neighborhood when she uncharacteristically barked and stiffened. I could tell that something had spooked her even before I looked up to see a man with a big hat and huge sunglasses working on his mountain bike in his front yard. Luckily, he was unfazed by her reaction, and even more luckily, he was dog savvy and kind. He immediately removed his hat and glasses, knelt down and said to Rosie, “Hey, there, I’m not really that scary am I?” in a calm, cheerful voice. She responded by wagging enthusiastically from the shoulders back and greeting him in her usual, friendly way.

It was the second time in two days that Rosie had been startled by someone who previously would not have bothered her, so I knew that she was entering a new developmental period that is common as puppies approach a year of age. Many young dogs become more fearful of new people and new things than they were as puppies. My mentor, Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. half-jokingly called it “Juvenile Onset Shyness” because so many sociable dogs become a little nervous as they emerge from puppyhood and enter adolescence.

If your adolescent dog suddenly seems a little skittish, but has previously been more confident, it is likely that your dog is just entering a normal developmental period during which new things (and even not-so-new things) seem scary even though they didn’t used to. It’s so useful for guardians to know that this stage is temporary and that it is completely normal. Within a few months, your dog is likely to be just as social and happy about whatever the world brings his way as he was when he was a puppy. (If your puppy always found the world to be a scary place, he will most likely continue to be cautious or fearful as an adult, but he may be even more so in adolescence.)

Most dogs move past this stage without any special care on the part of guardians. However, your behavior can make a difference in how this period affects them, and there are ways to help your dog as he is going through it. When your dog is spooked by something, follow these general guidelines.

  • Talk in a relaxed, cheerful way to him, perhaps saying, “Yes, that’s a really loud truck, isn’t it? Oh, look, there it goes down the road.” Obviously, your dog won’t know what you are saying, but your normal conversational tone of voice can help your dog calm down.
  • If your dog wants to be near you, feel free to pet him or play with him. You want him to come to you when he needs to feel more secure. There is no need to worry that you are reinforcing his fears. You are just providing comfort, as you should.
  • Don’t panic or react dramatically. If he is out of control, it is all the more critical that you stay relaxed. Try to control your own startle response to his barking or lunging if possible.
  • Don’t force him to approach something that he fears. That will just make him more scared, and that is counterproductive. If he wants to get away, that is fine. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is minimize his exposure to something overwhelming, even if that means turning and heading the other way. Don’t make a big deal of stopping suddenly, saying, “Oh, no!” and hightailing it out of there. Just calmly turn and move away from what scares him so that he doesn’t get any more worked up. If he can count on you to get him out of situations that scare him, that is good for his confidence and builds his trust in you.
  • Whenever you can, pair up what makes him nervous with what he loves. So, if he suddenly widens his eyes and looks nervous when he sees a new person, try to have as many new people as you can toss him a great treat when they are far enough away that he is okay with them. If the garbage truck sets him off, give him a treat or pull out a tug toy every time one goes by. The more you can teach him that things that spook him predict good things, the easier it will be for him to overcome his adolescent fears.

I immediately came home from the walk during which Rosie was unnerved by a man in sunglasses and hats and worked on associating both items with treats. Several times, I put on my sunglasses and gave her a treat, and did the same thing with hats. I want her to have good associations with those items, which make many dogs nervous. I also asked several men in my neighborhood to give her treats and to play fetch with her.

How have you handled dogs while they were experiencing “Juvenile Onset Shyness”?

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