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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
If I’d Known Then What I Know Now
What would YOU do differently?

It’s common to hear people who train dogs say things along the lines of, “You have to ruin one dog before you know enough to get it right with other dogs.” I don’t think first dogs are “ruined” by a lack of experience, but I do believe that subsequent dogs often benefit from what we learn along the way that helps us do better by our dogs.

  Who among us doesn’t think back to former dogs and wish we’d known then what we know now? For my part, when I look back on my experiences with my first dog I wish had known more about nutrition. I did my best to feed him high quality food, but I could do far better now with what I’ve learned since then.   I also wish I had been more skilled at canine massage and other bodywork. I regularly massage dogs, but like any other skill, it takes practice. I practiced on my first dog, learning a lot in the process, but I’m better at it now than I was then. In his older years, he had some pain and discomfort in his legs and hips. Though I did everything I could to ease his suffering with medical help and what I could do for him at home, I can’t help but think that I could have made him feel better now than I was able to then.   What do you know now that you wish you had known with a previous dog? 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Did Your Dog Eat Your Tax Check?
What about your homework?

Teaching at a university, I hear a veritable potpourri of excuses about unfinished and late homework. It’s hard to know what’s true and what’s pure fiction. Honestly, I suspect that even some of the most outlandish stories are not made up because I accept that life is full of the strange and the unexpected.

  One student told me that the dog ate her homework. She even presented me with three printed pages of her work with a ragged-edged piece missing. I smelled the paper, detecting dog breath. I told her that she was very lucky that I was her instructor for the class, because I was probably the only one who would bother to observe the evidence. I kept the damaged copy, and when she brought me a new copy at the next class, I was able to compare the documents enough to tell that they were the same. So, I really do believe that the dog can eat your homework.   I’m not the only one who considers “ingestion by dog” to be enough of an explanation. The state of Michigan will accept the excuse “The dog ate my tax check” along with all other excuses during their amnesty program. From May 15 through June 30, people can pay taxes they owe without penalties, though they will still have to pay interest on late taxes. The goal is to collect $88 million in unpaid taxes. The amnesty program will be advertised with the theme “All excuses accepted,” and includes such possibilities as not being able to find a black or blue pen, developing a paper allergy and all the forms being eaten by a big caterpillar. Besides these fantastic ideas, the simple, “My dog ate my check,” seems pretty plausible.   Has anyone’s dog actually eaten the tax forms or the check?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mothering Kids and Dogs
There are so many similarities

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am thinking back to when I first became a mom. It’s hard to remember much because massive sleep deprivation made me so tired that my brain failed at recording all but the occasional bit of information. Some of what I do remember is how awkward I felt with a baby compared to how comfortable I was with dogs, including puppies.

  This should not be surprising. I was a novice with a baby, but I had lots of experience as a dog trainer and canine behaviorist. I occasionally slipped into dog mode when dealing with my new baby. For example, if I wanted to get my son’s attention in order to take a photo of him looking at the camera, I fell back on my dog training habits and either clapped, smooched, or made a clicking sound in my cheek as I would with any dog. I have no recollection of ever saying, “pup, pup, pup,” for this purpose, but it’s possible I did so and have just repressed the memory.   This tendency to have my mind in the dog world did not go away as the fog of those early weeks with no sleep lifted. When my son was about 9 months old, someone asked me, “Is he walking yet?” and I answered, “No, but he’s often up on his back legs.” Most moms would have said, “He’s cruising,” to refer to children’s early pre-walking behavior of toddling along while hanging onto couches or other furniture. I quickly corrected myself and said something more appropriate to a description of human behavior, but the funny look I was given is burned into my brain forever.   Not only did I treat my kids in ways similar to how I would behave with dogs, I reacted to dogs as I did to my son. When he was only two months old, I returned to teaching dog training classes one evening a week. As a nursing mom, I already knew that any crying baby, not just my own, would result in my milk letting down. While teaching classes, I learned that certain dog vocalizations (a yelp from a dog whose paw had been stepped on for example, or the sound of a whining puppy) had the same effect, which was biologically fascinating as well as monumentally inconvenient. The sound of any creature in distress, whether human or dog, apparently spoke to my motherly desire to give.   Hopefully, my dog expertise is enhancing my parenting skills. I do apply many behavioral techniques from my years in clinical practice with dogs to the task. Only my sons, and in later years, probably their therapists, will be able to comment intelligently on whether or not this was wise.   Happy Mother’s Day to all. No matter what species your children are, here’s hoping you have a wonderful day!

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Research on Canine Marking
Who is peeing and where?

Urine marking in dogs is a well-known behavior in the sense that everyone is aware that it happens, but it is poorly known in the scientific sense because so few studies have examined it with a rigorous approach.

  Scientists Anneke Lisberg and Charles Snowdon applied such needed rigor to the subject and report the results in “Effects of sex, social status and gonadectomy on countermarking by domestic dogs, Canis familiaris,” which was recently published in the journal Animal Behavior.   Countermarking behavior in dogs consists of either marking on (overmarking) or near (adjacent marking) previous scent marks. Part of what’s so great about this study is that it shows that what we think we know about behavior from observing it casually, even over years and years, may not be as spot on (so to speak) as we think.   As is so often the case, a controlled study of the relevant variables revealed that what is going on is significantly more complex than previously believed. Lisberg and Snowdon’s study is one of a few to examine canine urine marking and as such makes a big contribution to our understanding of this behavior. Here’s what their study found:   In an experiment with urine from groupmates and from unfamiliar dogs presented to dogs in a controlled way on sticks, they found that:   Intact males (but not neutered males) were more likely to overmark urine from intact females.   Males who overmarked had a higher tail base position (which the authors used as a measure of social status) than males who did not overmark.   Familiarity with a dog did not affect overmarking of its urine, but dogs adjacent-marked only urine samples from unfamiliar dogs.   Neither sex nor tail base position affected adjacent marking.   Being spayed or neutered had no relationship with the likelihood of countermarking.   In observations of countermarking at a dog park, they found that:   Males and females both countermarked and investigated urine.   Males and females with higher tail base positions did more urinating, countermarking, and investigating of urine than members of their same sex with lower tail base positions.   Lisberg and Snowdon conclude that although intact males may be overmarking intact female urine as a form of mate guarding as has long been suspected, that is only a piece of the story. Both sexes, whether intact or not, appear to countermark in a competitive manner. Additionally, this study suggests that overmarking and adjacent marking may have different functions.   What have you observed about your dog’s marking behavior?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Turning A Dog’s Behavior Into a Trick
“Capturing” behavior is part of training

One of the secrets to teaching dogs tricks is starting with what they naturally do. If the dog has a tendency to perform a particular behavior, then it will be easier to make that a cute trick that is performed on cue than trying to get her to do some behavior that is not part of her natural repertoire.

  The term “capturing behavior” refers to reinforcing your dog for performing a behavior that she does on her own so that she will be more likely to do it again in the future. Once your dog has figured out which behavior is the one that causes you to give her a treat, it is time to start introducing the cue that you will use to tell her to perform that specific behavior.   For best success, try capturing behavior that comes so naturally to your dog that she does it often. You can then reinforce it often, which makes the process of turning it into a cute trick that she does on cue both faster and easier. You may have to fine tune the behavior to get the trick to be perfect, but you still start by capturing a behavior that your dog already does on her own.   A dog who tends to use her paws a lot naturally is a great candidate for high-five, wave, or shake. Dogs who tend to creep when lying down or even when they are supposed to be in a stay are easy to teach to crawl. Dogs who rest on their backs with their legs in the air are already doing a behavior that many trainers call “belly up.”   Spinning on cue is easiest to teach to dogs who naturally go in circles when they are excited. (However, I don’t like to teach this to dogs who spin and spin when they get revved up because I’m worried it will develop into a habit that they will have trouble stopping.)   Part of training is teaching a dog to perform a certain behavior and another part is teaching them to do it on cue. If your dog already exhibits the behavior, then all you have to do is capture that behavior and put it on cue, which means that your work is already partly done before you officially start the training.   Have you taught a trick based on a behavior your dog already does?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs Can Be Gross
What they do is not necessarily appealing to us

As a member of a species that generally doesn’t swallow the afterbirth or eat feces, I feel qualified to discuss the fact that some dog behavior grosses humans out. I was thinking about this recently as I raced to my refrigerator for a piece of cheese to use to encourage a dog to drop the tissue that had fallen from my pocket as I reached for my lip balm. He was attempting to chew the tissue (used, of course) and while many a dog has eaten tissues with no ill effects, it’s not generally considered health food. Luckily, the cheese was more appealing, so I was able to convince him to drop the tissue so I could put it into the trash bin where it belonged.

  Dogs do other disgusting things besides the rather mild eating of used tissues. If people had any idea how often clients had confided in me that their dog had taken a discarded tampon from the garbage and ran through the house with it (invariably in front of company), you’d be amazed. This is common behavior in dogs, and the fact that we humans find it revolting does not make dogs any less likely to do it.   The same goes for rolling in the poop of other animals. Fox poop is a common cause of rolling, perhaps even more popular than horse poop. I’ve seen countless dogs roll in these substances, but I’ve yet to meet a person whose response was, “Right on. That’s always fun.”   What has your dog done that you consider revolting?  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
CPR Saves Lives
It’s true for dogs and people

Firefighters saving lives—it’s a story that never gets old, especially when the story has a twist. In this case, the individual who was brought back from the brink of death was not human. Tammy Rodriguez performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a Pit Bull who was in a fire that destroyed several floors in two buildings. That CPR, along with the oxygen she administered, saved the dog’s life.

  Hours later, the once apparently lifeless dog was happily wagging his tail and licking Rodriguez’ face at the fire station. Rodriguez has three dogs herself and would want someone to do the same for them if the need arose. The understanding that dogs are part of our families fueled her deep desire to make sure that this dog survived.   Has your dog’s life been saved, either dramatically or not, by the efforts of someone in your community?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Wedding To Raise Funds
Plus, it will be “off the charts” cute

In Cork, Ireland, a wedding between six-year-old Bull Mastiff Sophie and two-year-old French Mastiff George will serve as a fundraiser for the Cork Dog Action Welfare Group (DAWG). The charity is raising money in preparation for its move to a new location. The rescue dogs will exchange vows on Tuesday, April 19.

  The bride’s outfit will include lace frills, while the groom will wear a fitted vest. Both dogs will don bows. The ceremony will be a simple affair so as not to cause any stress to either dog. Witnesses will have to watch the ceremony to learn if it concludes with kisses or with licks.   The dogs know each other very well and are great friends, which bodes well for their future harmony. I know of no canine divorces, so I think their odds of a happy life together are far greater than for humans tying the knot. Best of luck to George, Sophie, and DAWG.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Would You Choose a Dog to a Human Partner?
Shirley MacLaine would take the dog

The Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine writes, “I’d rather have a good, funny, loyal dog than a man” in her new book, I'm Over All That: And Other Confessions. Her life is very different now than in years past, when she was followed by the paparazzi constantly as they sought to photograph her with a new man.

  Now, living in Santa Fe, she takes her Rat Terrier, Terry, with her to lunch in town and on daily long hikes up and down the canyons near her home. She is enthusiastic about her life now and sharing it with Terry.   I’m curious to hear from single people. Do you prefer your dog to a human partner at this time in your life? If so, has it always been that way or is this new? And is loving your dog essential in a potential partner, or just preferable?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Finds Fossils Of Giant Animals
Tortoise and woolly mammoth among discoveries

Webster the Chihuahua-Dachshund mix didn’t listen when Frank Garcia kept calling him to come, and Garcia is now grateful for that. They were fossil hunting together when Webster became interested in a particular area and refused to come away from it. When Garcia investigated it, he found the fossilized remains of giant tortoise shells, elephant teeth, and the skull of a woolly mammoth.

  The site is one of the most important giant tortoise fossil sites in the world, with the shells found in much larger quantities than in most places. Garcia has named the area “Webster’s Site” in recognition of the fact that Webster made the find. The tortoise shells there are relatives of the Galapagos Tortoise, only bigger. Once the fossils were reassembled, one tortoise was 51 inches long, 42 inches wide and 21 inches long. It probably weighed 700 to 800 pounds when alive.   Webster and Garcia often go on outings together. Though he is disabled and must drag himself around, Webster enjoys the fossil hunting. It turns out, he’s pretty good at it, too.

 

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