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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.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Paw Prints in the Snow
Dogs bring joy to winter weather

With almost two feet of snow last weekend, many of us in Flagstaff, Ariz. spent oodles of time shoveling our walks and driveways. Being outside in cold, wintery weather guarantees that you will be visited by a number of dogs who are blessed to have guardians willing to take them out for walks in any condition. The ones who stopped by our house were all incredibly jubilant about the snow.

Their enthusiasm was infectious. Before all these dogs graced us with their presence, I was concentrating on all the shoveling that needed to be done and was very aware of the stiffness that would soon affect my back. Our ski area is not yet open, and I kept thinking that if only I could ski, I would be so happy about the snow.

Enter a parade of dogs, and I was back in the moment, as gloriously thrilled about the snow as they were. I am incapable of remaining grumpy while watching dogs gleefully jump around in snow, tossing it in the air, and shoving their noses into it as they act like small four-legged snow plows.

After one German Shepherd and her guardian visited us for awhile, my older son commented that this dog has left the most perfect footprints in the snow. He walked all around photographing different dog prints and was just delighted by them, especially the ones from the shepherd. It was a new way for dogs to help us be happy in winter weather.

Do dogs help you enjoy the snow?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Some People Have a Lot to Say
Naturally they mention dogs

The sayings of the world’s most often quoted people contain many references to dogs. If people have clever things to say on any manner of subjects, they are likely to share observations and opinions on our canine companions.

Mark Twain (writer, humorist and satirist) penned some of the nation’s best-known phrases, with my favorite being, “It is better to remain silent and thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” Among his many comments on society are these two about dogs:

“Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”

Benjamin Franklin (politician, inventor, scientist, author, diplomat) wrote so many popular sayings that it’s a wonder he found time for all his other activities. Perhaps he followed his own advice that, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” His observations about dogs remind us that he lived in very different times than those of us alive today:

“There are three faithful friends—an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.”

“He that lieth down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas.”

Franklin P. Jones (reporter, public relations executive, humorist) is well known for saying, “Love doesn’t make the world go ‘round. It makes the ride worthwhile.” He also said:

“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.”

“Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog&rdquo

Samuel Butler (novelist) recorded many great truths about the world, such as, “A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.” His comments about dogs are just as insightful:

“The great pleasure of a dog is that you make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, he will make a fool of himself too.”

“A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide."

Harry S Truman (33rd US President) spoke with great wisdom, saying, “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know,” as well as:

“You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.”

“Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the railroads.”

Will Rogers (cowboy, humorist, actor) offered excellent advice with his suggestion to “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” He shows a sense of humor with his thoughts on dogs:

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

“Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

Charles M. Schulz (cartoonist) has charmed generations with such remarks as, “No problem is so formidable that you can’t walk away from it.” Perhaps nobody has stated universal truths so brilliantly as he has, with these two gems.

“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn't a dog.”

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Treats For People and Dogs
YaffBars serve both species

Dogs have eaten people’s leftover food for thousands of years, so it should really not be that revolutionary to create food suited to us both. Yet, though many people prepare food for their dogs with ingredients they also plan to eat, commercial products that aim to serve both species are far from common.

There are exceptions, though. Mark Brooks developed YaffBars—energy bars for people and dogs—by combining his two main loves of French cooking and dogs. He wanted to make a bar that tasted good for people and was safe and delicious for dogs, too. His first approach involved making a dog biscuit that people could also eat, but his daughter’s refusal to partake convinced him to change his tactic. He worked on making a good product for humans that they could also share with their dogs.

The goal was to create a product that outdoorsy dog guardians could share with their dogs when out on excursions. He wanted them to be healthy as well as to provide energy for active individuals.

YaffBars are made from ingredients that are not bad for dogs like many ingredients in human treats such as flour, butter, sugar and chocolate. Instead, Brooks used puffed rice, cranberries, brown rice syrup, honey, carob and almonds. There are three flavors of YaffBars: blueberry carob, honey almond cranberry and banana peanut butter.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Reactions to Pregnant Women
Dogs’ behavior may change
Pregnant Karen & Tulip

Sniffing your belly. Backing away from you when you walk. Being more responsive to your cues. Being less responsive to your cues. Staying right near you all the time. Growling at you. All of these are possible reactions by dogs to a pregnant guardian.

I’m often asked if dogs are able to sense when a woman is pregnant. I spoke to Rachel Rounds, a journalist in the UK who was expecting, and she incorporated my answers to her questions into her article “Clingy, need and moody. It’s Rachel who’s expecting – but it’s her dog who’s gone all hormonal.”

I’m not aware of any research that directly addresses the question of whether dogs know that their guardian is expecting, but it would be very surprising if dogs didn’t at least pick up on some of the accompanying changes and react to them. Dogs can obtain an amazing amount of information about other dogs just from smelling each other or even each other’s urine (e.g. Male or female? Intact or spayed/neutered? In heat? Young or old? Familiar or a stranger?) Given what we know they are able to perceive with their nose, it’s a bit hard to imagine that they can’t detect at least some of the many hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy in a person living in their house.

At the risk of giving too much information, I can detect pregnant urine. I knew of a few friends’ pregnancies before they announced them just because I happened to use a bathroom at a social gathering immediately after them. Since I, a mere human, have a nose for it, it’s more than likely that dogs do, too. Of course, it’s hard to say whether dog know what the change in odor means, but it seems unimaginable that they don’t detect it.

Once a pregnancy is far along, women change their movements a bit, partly because of the normal loosening of the joints, and partly because carrying another person in your abdomen is cumbersome, to say the least. Dogs are very sensitive to movement and posture of the most subtle form in other individuals. That pregnant kangaroo stance and that waddling gait are far from subtle, and cannot be hidden from people or from dogs.

Pregnancy is often accompanied by behavioral changes, and these can extend beyond the woman expecting to other members of the household. Those changes may have to do with the schedule—more sleep, fewer walks and runs, more time spent redecorating—or may be emotional with shorter tempers, conflict, stress, or other issues in dealing with one another.

Most dogs are going to pick up on at least some of the changes associated with pregnancy, and these can certainly have an influence on their behavior. Did you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior when you or someone else in your family was pregnant?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Peeing on the Christmas tree
Another holiday hazard

The first year I took my dog to my in-laws for the holidays, I was concerned that he might pee on the tree, so I took steps to make sure that he didn’t do so. I went back to Housetraining 101 for the first 24 hours of our visit. By that I mean that 1) I took him out to the yard and for walks often so he had plenty of opportunities to eliminate. 2) I reinforced him with top quality treats for peeing outside, and I did it every time to make sure that he knew where he was supposed to go in this unfamiliar place, and 3) I never let him out of my sight while we were inside. In addition, I practiced using “leave it” for a variety of objects in the house that were off limits, including the tree, and I reinforced his correct response to this cue with treats, play, and chew items. He never goofed, and I felt good about helping him avoid a mistake that might have lowered his popularity with the family.

Every year I am inundated by requests for advice about how to prevent dogs from peeing on the Christmas tree. It’s a legitimate concern and I’m always pleased at how many people are thinking ahead and being proactive about dealing with a potential behavioral issue.

It does happen sometimes that dogs use the Christmas tree as the bathroom, and regrettably, it so often involves a handmade tree skirt or other priceless family heirloom. On the bright side, many people find that their fears are never realized—the majority of dogs who are thoroughly house trained do not eliminate indoors just because a tree is suddenly under their roof.

To make sure that your tree stays dog pee free this year, there are several strategies, and your success is more likely if you take advantage of all of them. Largely, this is a management issue, so focus on preventing your dog from having an opportunity to eliminate on the tree. Consider blocking your dog’s access to the tree with gates or other barriers. Supervise your dog so that there is no chance for your dog to sneak towards the tree. Watching the dog constantly is the best way to guarantee that your dog will not decorate the tree in a way you don’t like. With smaller dogs, tethering your dog to you with a leash is another way to be sure you know where your dog is and what he or she is doing. Be alert to the signs that your dog may be about to eliminate such as sniffing or circling. Take your dog out often and reinforce elimination in acceptable locations.

By the time a dog has started to lift a leg or squat, it is often too late to stop your dog from urinating. If you do see your dog doing this by the tree, make a sound that’s loud enough to cause a startled reaction, but not so loud that it’s scary. Take your dog outside immediately and reinforce your dog for urinating outside with treats and praise. If the tree has pee on it, clean it thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner so the area will not smell like the bathroom to your dog.

I hope that those of you who have a tree inside are able to help your dog understand that this is a special, indoor tree and that it doesn’t mean that there is now a bathroom inside. Has your dog every peed on your Christmas tree, or have you been able to prevent this behavior?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Free Webinar by Patricia McConnell
Helping Adopted Dogs Adjust to New Homes
Trisha McConnell and Willie

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. is giving a free webinar this Thursday, December 6, 2012. Did you catch that? It’s a FREE webinar given by Trisha McConnell, who is a scientist, canine behaviorist, dog trainer, and one of the dog world’s most sought-after speakers. The webinar is called entitled Helping Adopted Dogs Adjust to New Homes.

It’s well known that the first few days, weeks, and months are critical for the success of the new relationships between adopted dogs and their adopters. Anyone who has ever adopted a new dog knows that the beginning can be both wonderful and challenging beyond imagination. Yet, most of the information available is aimed at people who are bringing a puppy into their life, which can be quite a different experience than adopting an adolescent or adult dog.

McConnell will offer practical advice about what to do on the first day, the best way to introduce the new dog to other dogs and people, and how to handle common behavioral problems. These are among the most common issues with new adoptions, and receiving support that includes answers to their questions can make a huge difference for people and dogs whose goal is a forever home. She will also discuss resources that are available for people who have just adopted an adult or adolescent dog.

Helping Adopted Dogs Adjust to New Homes is open to those involved in rescue or shelter work in some way whether as an animal welfare professional, a volunteer, or as a foster parent. Anyone can listen to the recorded version a few days later. For more information and to register, go the ASPCA website.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Festive Canine Decorations
Bo Obama at Christmas

When First Lady Michelle Obama guided visitors through the White House to see the Christmas decorations, it was easy to see that First Dog Bo Obama had a starring role. He accompanied the first group to see a preview of the holiday décor wearing jingle bells, but his presence extends far beyond that.

There is a large statue of Bo next to the 300-pound gingerbread White House in the State Dining Room. In the East Garden Room, there’s life-size model of him holding a string of lights in his mouth. Dozens of cut out pictures of Bo are on display throughout the house in what are referred to as Bo-flakes. Visitors can go on a scavenger hunt to search for the Bo ornaments that are in eight rooms. The guide to the scavenger hunt is on a Bo bookmark.

If you decorate for the holidays, do you use images of your dog in any way?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
The American Gut Project
Seeking samples from you and your pets

The gut microbiome is a factor in a range of diseases such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer, all of which are more common in Westernized populations of both pets and people. A new study called the American Gut Project is seeking to investigate how diet affects the gastrointestinal microbiome.

Previous work studying microbiomes of typical healthy adult humans raised questions about how their results apply to the entire population and to other species. Scientists with this project hope to collect samples from individuals with a full range of diets and lifestyles.

So far, research projects on this subject in dogs and cats include just a few small studies of lab animals or those that were ill. The fact that the American Gut Project will address the microbiomes in the intestinal tracts of large numbers of dogs (and cats) living in a variety of settings means that the results could yield useful information about the effects of diet, genetics, and lifestyle on the gut microbiomes of our pets. Such information may help us make informed decisions about how to feed and care for our dogs (and cats) in the future.

It is a goal of the project to collect samples from multiple individuals in the same household. If you want to participate in the study, along with your family members of the canine and feline variety, or if you want to learn more about the American Gut Project, click here.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
The Value of Crates
Great benefits if used judiciously

There are so many ways in which crates can make life better for people and for dogs. They keep dogs safer in cars, offer many dogs a quiet refuge, are a great help during house training, and play a role in preventing bad habits such as destructive chewing and counter surfing. Dogs who are comfortable in crates are more easily able to handle travel in hotels and staying overnight at the vet. The policy statement by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)  about crates makes these points and also asserts that it is imperative to use crates thoughtfully and to introduce them to dogs correctly. I agree.

I love crates and use them, though I do have a few concerns about them. They must not be overused. I prefer that dogs not be confined in them for more than a few hours at a time on a regular basis over the long term. Many dogs choose to go into their crates and to stay there, especially at night, and I have no problem with that, even though the dog is in the crate for more than a few hours.

Dogs who find them upsetting should not be in them. A dog should enter the crate willingly, even happily. Dogs who panic in and around them should not be crated, and no dog should ever be forced into a crate. Many dogs can be taught to enjoy a crate even if they are currently hesitant around them. However, attempts to teach dogs to like them if they have a really strong negative reaction to crates is not always successful.

There are ways to introduce a dog of any age to a crate that make success more likely. Introductions should be gradual and involve a lot of good stuff such as treats and toys that the dog can associate with the crate. The APDT Guide to Crate Training is a useful reference about many aspects of crates and crate training.

What do you think about crates?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
New Treatment for Paralysis
Dogs walk again after spinal injury

In an exciting development in the treatment of spinal cord injuries, researchers at Cambridge University were able to restore some movement to the legs of dogs who had been paralyzed. (All 34 dogs in the study had become paralyzed by injuries or accidents. No dog was purposely injured for the research.)

The breaks in the spinal cord were at least partially fixed with the use of cells from the dogs’ own noses. The specific type of cells that they used, olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), are involved in the growth of nerve fibers that are necessary for communication between the brain and the nose.

Dogs who were treated with OECs showed significant improvement in the movement of their back legs compared with the control group, which did not receive OECs. Being able to walk again obviously has considerable quality-of-life benefits. Researchers point out that this procedure will probably be most effective if combined with other therapies, such as drugs and physical therapy.

Though it is likely a long way off, similar therapies may eventually be effective in treating people with paralysis because of spinal cord injuries.

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