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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
Can Dogs Pretend?
Perhaps they engage in “make-believe”

Snoopy loved to pretend. He pictured himself most commonly as a great hockey player, Joe Cool or as the World War I Flying Ace. It’s easy for readers of the Peanuts comic strip to accept the fantasy world of its canine star.

It’s much more challenging to know whether dogs in the real world can pretend. In Jason G. Goldman’s blog Animal Imagination: The Dog That Pretended to Feed a Frog (And Other Tales), he discusses some evidence that animals, including dogs, are able to pretend. He tells the story of a dog who placed a stuffed frog at his water bowl as though it was taking a drink. The dog arranged other toys nearby. This reminded the guardian of the way children play games of make-believe with their stuffed animals. It’s possible the dog was pretending, and also possible that she wasn’t. Without knowing what was going on in the dog’s mind, it’s tough to know whether the dog was pretending or not.

Goldman also discusses the possibility that dogs may be pretending when they play using behavior patterns borrowed from courtship, fighting or predation, though the evidence is not overly compelling. Observations of gorillas and chimpanzees using objects for other purposes, such as a log being treating as a baby, or miming the use of imaginary objects are more convincing demonstrations of pretending.

I remain undecided and eager for more evidence on the question of whether dogs other than Snoopy can pretend. Have you seen your dog behave in a way that seemed like pretending?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Can Your Rescue Top $36,000 in One Night?
G.R.I.N.’s Golden Gala: a fundraising inspiration

The 7th annual G.R.I.N. Golden Gala raised $36,000 on a Saturday night in late October. G.R.I.N. stands for Golden Retrievers In Need, and is a rescue group.

Each year, they rescue and foster around 200 Goldens and place them in loving homes. They also provide for G.R.I.N. Goldens in need of medicine, surgery, training or help with their behavioral issues. When they are short of foster homes, they pay for boarding services, too. Helping so many dogs by giving them what they need as well as finding their forever homes requires a committed membership and a lot of resources, including money. And G.R.I.N. is a fundraising machine.

The Golden Gala is their biggest fundraiser of the year, and it’s extremely successful, even in these challenging economic times. There’s not a politician or a nonprofit in the country that wouldn’t be thrilled to have the skill set and devotion of G.R.I.N. members.

Any group seeking to learn how to raise money is sure to find inspiration in G.R.I.N.’s success. Their Golden Gala has many aspects to it, and though it’s a one-night event, Gala committee members spend all year preparing for it. I first heard about it six months before the event when I was contacted by a member of the committee for the Golden Gala asking for a charitable donation of an autographed book for the event.

This year’s record-breaking event sold out at 325 tickets, which are $45-$50 depending on when they are purchased. Attendees are treated to a multi-course dinner, a DJ, celebrity hosts and a Golden ice sculpture.

The money the group brings in at the Golden Gala goes way beyond the price of admission. In the Fur Raffle, there are 200 chances, each sold for $25. Each chance comes with a dog puppet to keep and a chance to win two tickets on Southwest Airlines or a 55-inch LCD TV. After the winner for each of those is pulled, the tickets are combined and winners were pulled to win a “Lottery Tree” with 50 lottery tickets or a wreath with a variety of gift cards.

In the popular Tennis Ball raffle, a member’s Golden Retriever chooses tennis balls from a kiddie pool and whoever has the matching number, wins the prize. Each chance costs $10 and 150 chances are sold. Multiple balls are chosen, and this year’s prizes were dinner for a year (12 restaurant gift certificates), a DVD Blu-ray player, jewelry and a camera. This year, a dog named Sugar did the honors, and the moment was extra special because right before she drew the winners, Sugar saw her foster mom for the first time in 18 months and lavished her with kisses.

Other prizes in additional raffles included another TV, a Wii, mall gift certificates and more jewelry. A live auction this year featured, among other items, a Golden quilt, which sold for $1,000 and a pair of Ohio State football tickets. There were nearly 100 items, all of which were donated, in the silent auction, which included things for kids, sports gear, car items and art. The pot of the 50/50 raffle reached $3,800.

Among the fundraising tips we can take away from this event are that you need to start early seeking donated items, make it a quality event with a variety of ways to raise money and accept all forms of payment—cash, check and charge. Oh, and have a committed group of people who work hard, set goals, attend the event and enjoy it. The result could be $36,000 that goes towards rescuing, fostering, caring for and placing dogs.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Singer Mýa on Team Animal League
They’ll run NYC Marathon to raise money

Grammy-award winning singer Mýa takes on new challenges every year. In the past she has tried hang gliding and starting off the new year by jumping off a Brazilian cliff. This year, running the ING New York City Marathon will be among her adventures.

She is undertaking this challenge to raise money for North Shore Animal League America in New York, for which she is a spokesperson. Fifty runners are on Team Animal League, whose collective goal is to run the 26.2-mile race and collect $200,000 from people sponsoring the effort. The money will be used to support the Animal League’s mission, which includes saving the lives of as many companions animals as possible and promoting education to encourage adoption of animals and reduce cruelty to them.

Kudos to Mýa for her commitment to companion animals and may she have a great experience on race day, November 6, 2011!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Apology to Girl, Service Dog Kicked Out of Store
Company also to give charitable donation

When 9-year-old Alison Ainsworth, who is autistic, and her service dog Levi were kicked out of an Edmonton Winners store the first time, the store responded with a $25 gift card. Asking her to leave because of her dog was against company policy. When the girl and her dog returned to the store months later to use that gift card, they were again told to get out.

This time, the store’s response was much bigger. Executives of the retail chain apologized and promised to educate each employee about the company policy, which is to allow service dogs into all of their stores. They also offered to donate $10,000 to a charity of Ainsworth’s choosing. Appropriately enough, the money will go towards training a service dog for another autistic child in Alberta.

The Ainsworths will not pursue a human rights complaint against the company as originally planned and hope that the incident and associated publicity will be beneficial in affecting attitudes about service dogs in the community.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Beagle Is a Nose With Paws
How would you describe your favorite breed?

Capturing the essence of a breed in a short phrase is a challenge, and there are downsides even if you manage it. When an entire breed is described briefly, there’s the risk of missing the mark for many individuals. There’s the chance of explaining only a part of who these dogs are, and that doesn’t do them any favors. And, just as important, it’s easy to offend people who love a particular breed and don’t see them quite the same way.

That said, attempting to distill a breed’s fundamental nature down to a short phrase is just so fun that I can’t resist it. Here are some phrases that make me smile and refer to a few breeds I adore.

A Beagle is a nose with paws.

The Bichon Frise is mindlessly happy.

My Border Collie is smarter than your honors student.

The Labrador Retriever is the most willing play partner the world has ever known.

The Greyhound has two speeds: fast as a speeding bullet and fast asleep.

There are hundreds more breeds and so many ways to describe them as well as the few I’ve mentioned above. I find dogs’ personalities charming and I love hearing what other people have to say about the dogs they know best. How would you describe your favorite breed?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Walking Dogs for Friends in Need
This small act can be a big help

Normally, they take their dog out for long walks and runs daily, so she’s used to hours of vigorous exercise. Today, that wasn’t going to happen. The husband was in great pain recovering from surgery following an accident. The wife had been up all night attending to him and had worked all day at a stressful job trying to catch up after taking two days off following the accident.

They are very together people and capable of handling life’s speed bumps. Yet when I offered to swing by later that day and take their dog for a walk, they were most appreciative.

In tough times, something has to give, and it’s common for the dog to suffer a bit in the short term. That’s not a criticism—it’s just how it is. No matter how much we love our dogs and how responsibly we care for them, sometimes life sneaks up on us. Whenever anyone has a disruption in life, attention paid to the dog can decline. It happens when people move, when they are ill or have any serious medical complication, or even when they start a new job. It certainly isn’t the best week ever for most dogs when a new baby joins the household.

Offering to walk a dog can often relieve people’s guilt that they can’t do it. It may also prevent the dog from acting crazy, barking, chewing or performing any other behavior that is no help to a household that is already under stress.

It’s hard to know how to make life easier for people who are going through a rough time. My first thought is that perhaps I can assist with some dog care because I know how to do that. I also remember how grateful I was when a neighbor walked our dog and spent some time being with him when I went to the hospital to give birth to my son and our official dog sitter couldn’t make it until much later that day.

Many people have a hard time accepting help for themselves but will accept it on behalf of their dog. That means it can be more helpful to offer dog walking services than to bring food over, to help with the house work or to run errands.

Has anyone every helped you out by caring for your dog when you were struggling?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Jokes
The best bone is the funny bone

“Why do dogs run in circles? Because it’s hard to run in squares!” I overheard a child at the park tell this joke and I laughed out loud. I shared it with several other people over the next few days and a clear pattern emerged. Dog lovers found it at least a little amusing, but other people offered a courtesy laugh at best and an eye roll at worst. It seems dog humor is another bond that those of us who love dogs can share. Dog jokes typically strike me as funny even if they are just silly little plays on words.

Here are a few of my favorites:

“What do you get if you cross a cocker spaniel, a poodle, and a rooster? A cockerpoodledoo!”

“Why are dogs like phones? They both have collar IDs.”

“Why did the dog chase the red cape? Because he was a bull dog.”

“Why are there Dalmatians on fire engines? To help the firefighters find the nearest fire hydrant.”

What dog jokes make you laugh?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Cool Weather Crazies
Is your dog peppier now?

There’s a wondrous time between the sweltering heat of summer and the deep cold of winter. It’s the season of vibrantly colored leaves, cool mornings, favorite sweaters and apple cider.

If you have a dog, it might also be the season of insane amounts of energy expressed in the form of running in circles, racing back and forth or with a bit of a lapse in attention and responsiveness. These bouts of boundless energy have been called by many names. My favorite is “puppy zoomies” though the condition can affect a dog of any age.

So many dogs seem to come alive when the weather cools off. If you live with one of them, each autumn is a reminder that in summertime, your dog’s calmness is the canine equivalent of sitting on a porch with a glass of lemonade wishing for a cool breeze.

Is your dog enthusiastic about the fall weather?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Don’t Like Your New Dog’s Name?
It’s okay to change it

It’s common to adopt an adult dog with a name that doesn’t really thrill you, and many people have soldiered on for the rest of the dog’s life, stuck with a name that they just don’t feel right about. But if you don’t like your dog’s name, you can change it.

Names like Baby, Poopsie and Pudding are often not popular with new adopters. On other extreme, many people feel a mismatch when they adopt a dog who has been going by Killer, Spike or Vengeance.

Changing a dog’s name is one of the easiest parts of adopting and training a new dog. Here’s how you do it. Start by saying the new name and giving him something great like a piece of chicken, a belly rub or a play session if he looks at you. This teaches him to love hearing his new name and responding to it. Most dogs learn a new name within a few weeks if you do this multiple times each day, and some learn it in just a couple of sessions. Progress will be faster if you avoid using the name for no reason and also refrain from associating it with anything bad.

Have you changed a new dog’s name? What was the old name and what’s the new one?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Behavior and Enlightened Training
Exciting upcoming seminars

Dog books and seminars excite me more than makes sense to most people, but you’re with me, right? It’s just so FUN to learn more about dogs. No matter how much we know, there’s still so much out there. Every opportunity to drink from the fountain of knowledge is worth pursuing. And one of the best of these opportunities is coming up at the end of this month in the form of a weekend seminar in Madison, Wisc.

On Saturday, October 29, Patricia McConnell will present her “Advanced Canine Behavior Seminar,” with the latest information about development, genetics, learning, cognition and play behavior. She’s an engaging speaker with so much knowledge to share.

Sunday, October 30 features Ken Ramirez discussing “From Purgatory to Nirvana: The Path to Enlightened Training.” If you want to improve your training skills and go from being a good trainer to a great one, this seminar will offer the information and inspiration to do so. He’s a riveting speaker with tons of incredible videos. You will leave this seminar so excited about training and so full of ideas to try that you’ll be tempted to wake your dog up from a sound sleep just to get started.

I hope many of you can go, and that you’ll share your experiences if you are able to attend.

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