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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
Robot Dog Expands on Virtual Pets
Wappy Dog is here

Having a dog is so enjoyable that gamers are seeking out the experience in the virtual world. Wappy Dog is a robot dog that interacts with a person by way of a Nintendo game.

Virtual pets are not new, but this system expands on virtual pets by including an actual toy. The toy robot dog develops—changing its behavior, skills, mood, personality and responsiveness based on the virtual interactions the person has while gaming with this system. The addition of a physical toy is supposed to lead to a stronger bond than a game alone can create.

A toy dog is no substitute for a real dog, but I think the educational opportunities are intriguing. Just as people can learn about parenting through virtual experiences, there is the potential for people to learn skills from Wappy Dog that could enhance their ability to raise, care for and train a real dog.

Has anyone tried out Wappy Dog?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Retirement Funds for Pet Care
IRS denies request

Tank was diagnosed with cancer. When his guardian, Victor Mills, attempted to withdraw money from his retirement plan to pay for treatment, the request was denied. Withdrawals for certain types of emergencies are allowed, but the American Bulldog’s cancer was not considered a qualified “unforeseeable emergency.”

Mills says he told his plan administrator that it made no sense that he could have used the money to play for a roof, a furnace or a sidewalk but not a living creature.

He is appealing the ruling with the Internal Revenue Service, though it’s already too late for Tank. He passed away at the end of May.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Trick Video Reveals Happy Dog
Mental exercise improves quality of life

I love this video of a dog going performing a series of tricks and tasks. (It helps that this dog is so cute it hurts!)

The first thing I notice when I look at this video is an adorable dog performing tricks. But I also see the benefits of a dog who has had ample mental exercise. This dog looks incredibly happy as she goes through her repertoire.

Everybody knows that dogs need physical exercise but the fact that mental exercise improves dogs’ quality of life is sometimes overlooked. The joy that is so evident in the dog in this video makes her the poster child for the importance of providing dogs with lots of activities. It’s so wise to supply dogs with ample stimulation so that they are not bored, and many of us have lifestyles that make that a significant challenge. Training dogs to perform tricks is one way to accomplish this, and there are many advantages.

1. Dogs can be trained at home so there is no need to drive anywhere.

2. Tricks can be taught and practiced by working a few minutes here and a few minutes there each day, so it is easier to work into daily life than many other activities.

3. Training dogs to do tricks is often a light-hearted activity. That makes it easy to be happy and have fun while doing so, which is good for the relationship between people and dogs.

4. Dogs often receive a great deal of positive attention when practicing or performing their tricks, which makes them feel good.

5. You can post videos of your dog doing tricks on YouTube and spread the happiness around.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs In Motion
A new study of canine locomotion

Many studies of locomotion in dogs focus on sick dogs while others focus on particular aspects of locomotion. The recently published book Dogs In Motion includes the comprehensive findings of a study of more than 300 dogs and how they move. More than 30 breeds were studied with several techniques helping reveal how dogs move.

Researchers Dr. Martin Fischer and Dr. Karin Lilje used high-speed x-rays as well as infrared imaging based on reflective dots positioned on the dogs to record details of their movements from both the side and from the front. Interestingly, researchers found that no matter what breed of dog was looked at, the patterns of movements match. Though the gaits of many breeds may appear quite different, the underlying motions of bones, muscles and connective tissue are not so different after all.

The study shows that displays and textbooks sometimes have errors, particularly related to the heights of corresponding parts of the front and hind limbs. The shoulder blade and hip are often depicted at the same level, when the true placement of these joints is actually different. The thigh and the shoulder blade correspond, as do the upper arm and the lower leg. According to Fischer, the shoulder blade and forearm are moving in matched motion with the thigh and middle foot, even though that is different than what was previously thought.

Previous investigations into the ways dogs move, such as Rachel Page Elliot’s Dogsteps, have changed what people thought they knew about canine locomotion, and this most recent study is one more scientific study that does so.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Recycled Canine Couture
High fashion for dogs

Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Chanel and Burberry are all sources of material for Anastasia Torres-Gil’s creations. She designs high fashion for dogs using items from her own closet or from thrift stores, sticking to the motto, “If I wouldn’t wear it myself, I wouldn’t put it on a dog.” Her company is called My Favorite Couture.

Torres-Gil is amused by seeing dogs wearing fancy items, such as a Louis Vuitton handbag that has been redesigned into a pillbox hat. Her creativity involves designing, painting, and accessorizing clothing for dogs. Twenty-five percent of her sales are donated to a local SPCA.

What’s your reaction to dogs dressed in this way?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Winning Dog Art for Wine Label Contest
Artist Nancy Schutt takes it with “Out of Reach”

Over the years, Mutt Lynch Winery has created wines with names such as “Unleashed Chardonnay” and “Merlot Over and Play Dead.” They consistently combine a love of dogs with a love of wines, and the results are often as charming as they are delicious.

They just announced the winner of their third annual wine label contest, which is “Out of Reach” by artist Nancy Schutt. There were many wonderful entries in this contest, which was co-sponsored by Mutt Lynch Winery and Dog Art Today. The theme of the contest was “Naughty.” The wine “Out of Reach” will be available in August 2011, and 10 percent of the profits from its sale will be donated to an animal shelter.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Causes of Death Vary by Breed
What’s your dog’s risk?

Most dog guardians have some idea what to look for in terms of health issues based on the breed of their dog. Those who have Pugs and Bulldogs know that respiratory problems may crop up, while those with Dachshunds and Bassett Hounds are aware that their dogs are more likely than many other breeds to have back issues.

A recent study of almost 75,000 dogs over a period of 20 years delved deeper into serious health concerns that are breed related. Dr. Daniel Promislow and Dr. Kate Creevy investigated the causes of death in 80 breeds from 1984 to 2004 and published their study in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Their findings include many expected results as well as some surprises.

As predicted, they found that small breeds such as the Chihuahua and Maltese have high rates of cardiovascular disease, but they learned that the Fox Terrier does, too. It was no surprise that Golden Retrievers and Boxers are at high risk for cancer, but the finding that Bouvier de Flandres die from cancer at an even higher rate was unexpected.

Understanding what the causes of death are across breeds is important for two different reasons. One, it may help explain a paradox within domestic dogs: Typically, larger mammals live longer than smaller ones, but in dogs, little dogs have longer life spans than bigger ones. Knowing the causes of death may help explain why this is so.

Two, knowing what diseases and health problems a dog is at risk for based on breed can help veterinarians screen for, diagnose and treat health problems earlier. This may result in better management and treatment of these issues, which can prolong life and improve the quality of life for dogs. For rare breeds especially, veterinarians may not see enough individuals in their practice to elucidate the patterns for risk that they notice in more common breeds, which makes studies with large numbers of dogs, such as this one, so valuable.

What health risks are you aware of based on the breed of your dog?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Why Do Dogs Bite Mail Carriers?
There are so many reasons

A press release from the Postal Service titled “Postal Service Announces Top Dog Attack Cities” shares the statistic that 5,669 postal employees were attacked by dogs last year in 1,400 cities across the United States. Houston was the city in which the most such bites occurred with 62 and Columbus and San Diego tied for second with 45 each.

Of course, many more people nationwide are bitten, but it’s common knowledge that mail carriers regularly face the threat of dog bites. There are many reasons for this. Mail carriers walk onto dogs’ territories every day, returning no matter what the dogs do to warn them—bark, growl, lunge or stare. From a canine perspective, these people just keep invading the dogs’ space each day without responding to their warnings. So for dogs who are territorial, postal workers are unwelcome, and their behavior sometimes escalates from warnings to actual bites.

The majority of dogs who bite do so because they are afraid. Fearful dogs are often especially scared of people who are carrying things, which puts people who deliver the mail at risk. Furthermore, these mail carriers turn their backs and walk away, an action that can give frightened dogs just enough confidence to act on their fears by biting.

To both fearful and territorial dogs (as well as dogs with both issues), uniforms are often associated with unfamiliar people arriving on their property, so the uniform itself can be a trigger that elicits aggressive behavior.

How does your dog react to the person who delivers your mail?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Walking Dogs in the Rain
Does your dog mind?

The dogs out for walks in the rain seemed to be paying no attention to the constant drizzle. Even the people seemed unconcerned by the wetness. Most were a little damp. A few had on rain jackets. Absolutely nobody had an umbrella.

I just returned from a visit with my parents in beautiful, flower-filled Portland, Ore., during which it rained almost every day. While I was there, I saw dogs being walked in light rain, medium rain, heavy rain and (occasionally) an absence of rain. There was no detectable difference in their behavior. Rain is so common in that part of the country that people generally ignore it and go about their business, whether it’s yard work, exercising, or taking care of their dogs. I actually found it sort of refreshing. (What I found refreshing was that everybody was going about their business, NOT the rain, which I’m not used to since leaving town to head to college.)

I love that people were outside with their dogs, not caring to try to stay dry, and apparently making little attempt to coordinate their outings with times of day when the rain let up. Living in Flagstaff, Ariz., which has 262 days a year with at least some sun, I have clearly gone soft.

Some dogs are like me—unused to the rain. I remember one client from training classes whose Bichon/Poodle mix was perfectly housetrained . . . except when it rained. She seemed to object to getting her paws wet, but if they could get her outside under the upstairs balcony, she would eliminate quickly and then dash back inside, looking offended. Though usually a lover of walks, she was not interested in them when it was raining.

Do you walk your dog in the rain? Does your dog object?

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? 

 

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