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Karen B. London

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Social Gaffes
A consequence of adoring dogs

I’m pretty sure that as a child, I offended some friends when I went to their houses to play and paid more attention to the dog than to anyone else. Though I’ve always been social with people, this is a gaffe I made repeatedly. I never meant to be rude. It’s just that the dogs were so captivating that I couldn’t help myself.

It wasn’t only in childhood that I attended to dogs first and foremost. While in grad school, my friends and I played cards regularly. One night, three of us drove together to the house of a couple with a new baby for a game. We made ourselves right at home, all heading to what interested us most. That meant Ethan headed to the refrigerator, Amy rushed to hold the baby, and I went over to their Lab cross for my doggy fix. That was typical, and we were all teased for our predictable behavior.

Now in my 40s, I’m far better at minding my manners, which is why I’m so embarrassed by a setback I had earlier this week. I noticed the dog first and then came to realize that there was a person with the dog, and what’s more, it was a person I knew. I should have greeted her right away and chatted a little bit before turning my attention to the dog. (In my defense, this dog was a Great Dane, which is my childhood breed, and I had no idea that my friend was fostering one. It’s a weak defense, but it’s all I’ve got!) It’s as if my heart said, “Ooh, what a marvelous dog!” and then there was a huge lag before my brain piped in, “Hey, there’s a person at the other end of that leash.”

Please tell me I am not alone! Have you ever been guilty of these sorts of social gaffes because of your adoration for dogs?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Dances the Merengue
Pure joy with rhythm!

When people spend time with their dogs, doing fun activities together, it’s good for both of them, and good for the relationship. As long as they both enjoy what they are doing, just about any activity will serve. In the video below, Jose Fuentes and his dog Carrie, both from Chile, perform a Latin dance called the merengue. They are both having a ball as they dance to Wilfredo Vargas’ “El baile del perrito” (“The dance of the little dog”).

Yes, I know that many will have orthopedic concerns when watching a dog up on her hind legs for so long, but all I could focus on was how happy Carrie looked throughout the dance. She is having a great time, and has clearly been the beneficiary of a lot of training and quality time with the man in her life.

They’ve spread joy to a lot of people, as evidenced by the fact that this video has over 12 million hits on YouTube. What do you think of it?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Singing Around Our Dogs
How do they react?

You know how everybody says that they can’t sing and then you hear them and they’re really not that bad? Well, that’s not how it is with me. I’m truly dreadful, and when people hear me sing anything, even Happy Birthday, they probably think I’m kidding. Even dogs don’t enjoy my musical moments.

I was in the car last week with Marley, singing along to the radio, and he began to whimper. I was concerned that his harness was bothering him, so I pulled over to check the straps, and he seemed just fine. Then I kept driving (and singing) and he whimpered again. I checked on him again, and then all was well. Puzzled, but pleased that he seemed okay, I kept driving. Though I had stopped singing by that point, I didn’t make the connection between my silence and his silence until later.

I was at home, singing again, and my son said, “Mom, don’t sing! Look what you’re doing to Marley!” He had his ears back, his brow was furrowed so that he looked worried, his whole body was tense, and he was looking away. You could practically see the cartoon bubble over his head with the words, “Help! How can I make it stop?” In this picture with me singing, you can see that he looks less than thrilled.

Many dogs join in with a howl when people are singing. Others ignore it or walk away or whine. Still others pay extra attention, perhaps either enjoying it or trying to figure out if any relevant information is in the vocalization. How does your dog react when you sing?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Whose Dog Is It?
A conflict that’s hard to resolve

If you’ve taken in a lost dog, you’re not alone. Many of us have done so, and then made all attempts to contact the guardian so that the dog could be returned. Sometimes the reunion takes place within hours or days, but other times it can take weeks or months. At some point, many people have abandoned hope of finding the original family and simply accept the dog into their own.

That’s what Jordan Biggs did after months of searching for the guardians of a husky mix who came to her door in April 2011. Attempts to contact the people who had lost the dog she calls Bear through humane societies, animal shelters, craigslist, veterinary offices, posters, and going door to door failed. Once he had been with her for two months, she considered him to be her dog.

Since that time, Bear has become her service dog, having been trained to seek help if her asthma results in a loss of consciousness. They do agility together, which is one way she has invested in him in addition to providing him with veterinary care and having him microchipped and neutered.

Then, earlier this month, Sam Hanson-Fleming saw Bear, who he calls Chase, in the car in front of him, and was ecstatic that he had found the dog who had jumped his fence over a year ago, leaving him and his two young sons deeply saddened by the loss. When his dog was first lost, he posted craigslist ads and filed lost dog reports with several organizations. He wants his dog back, but Biggs refuses to give up her dog.

This is a tricky situation. Of course, there’s the possibility that the dog Biggs has is not the same one that Hansom-Fleming lost, and perhaps additional medical records can clear up the issue. But if it is the same dog, whose dog is it now? Do they both have a claim to this husky mix, or does he clearly belong to one or the other of these people? Obviously, they both love the dog. However, the question, from a legal standpoint, is not who loves the dog, but who OWNS the dog. What do you think?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Love for Visiting Dogs
Good-byes are hard

Whether a dog who stays with you for just a short while is a foster, a stray or a friend’s dog, it’s easy to become attached to a temporary visitor. We are about to say good-bye to Schultzie, who is spending about 2.5 weeks with us while her family is in Italy, and I’m beginning to feel upset about her impending departure.

I know her family will be ecstatic to see her, and that Schultzie will be just as thrilled, and I’m happy for all of them. It’s just that I am sad to see her go. It has been such a pleasure to share a few weeks of our lives together. She is delightful company and easy to be with.

She is the sort of family dog that I wish were more common. She’s friendly and peppy, but is easily satisfied by a couple of 20-30 minute walks a day. She likes to work and is food-motivated, but not at all pushy for food. She hasn’t chewed on anything in our house that she’s not supposed to. On the one occasion that she took a tissue in her mouth, I simply walked toward her with the idea of trading it for a treat and she backed away at my approach and went over to one of her own toys. She doesn’t pull on the leash or bark to excess, and she sleeps in a bit in the morning—bonus! Although she’s not crazy about the car, she rides in it quite amiably.

Of course, all of these good qualities don’t really explain in full why we’re going to miss her so much. Beyond this list explaining her best traits, there’s that indefinable magic that happens when you grow to love a dog, and that’s what happened with Schultzie. I’ve grown very fond of many dogs who have spent time with us for a short time, but it will be especially hard to say good-bye to this one.

I’m grateful that she lives nearby and that we will still see her from time to time, and we’d definitely be open to dogsitting for her in the future.

As my 7-year son said last night, “When you dogsit a dog, it feels like the dog is yours.” Obviously we fall in love with our own dogs, but sometimes we feel that way about other dogs, too. I’d love to hear your stories of dogs who have just been passing through but took a little piece of your heart anyway.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Tim Tebow’s Dog has a New Name
Bronco has become Bronx

Football player Tim Tebow ‘s every action seems to attract attention, so it’s no surprise that when he changed his Rhodesian Ridgeback’s name recently, it made the news. The name Bronco, which was such a great name when he played for the Denver Broncos, became awkward once they traded him to the New York Jets.

Many sportswriters are discussing how cruel it was to make this name change and claiming that the dog will suffer terribly as a result. Most dog professionals, myself included, think that changing a dog’s name is fine, even if the new name is nothing like the old one.

Bronco to Bronx is a minor change, which makes me suspect that Tebow made a real effort to change his dog’s name to something similar. Most people do think that it’s a big deal for a dog, so this gesture may have been prompted by a thoughtful attempt to minimize any issues for his dog.

Love him or hate him, Tebow’s big news is a sign of many things: his status as a cultural icon, the pattern of naming our dogs after what’s important to us, and the ever-increasing importance of dogs in our culture.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Pet Poison App
Lifesaving information available 24/7

Imagine coming home and finding a chewed up bottle of your medication with no pills left in it or a houseplant that has clearly been used as a chew toy, or a bottle of cleaning solution that spilled when it was knocked off the counter. How do you determine if this is just a small inconvenience for you, a life-threatening emergency for your dog, or something in between? The new Pet Poison Help app by Pet Poison Helpline can be a great first step. You can use it to reference the specific substance and find out how toxic it is, the symptoms your dog is likely to experience, and what to do. It may suggest that you induce vomiting, encourage eating or drinking, or that you take your dog to an emergency clinic immediately.

Though there are other apps that provide information about pets and poisons, this one is the most comprehensive. It covers over 250 toxins and spans a wide variety of potentially poisonous substances including pesticides, plants, foods and cleaners. You can search by toxin, within categories, or check substances based on whether they are toxic to dogs, cats or both.

Pet Poison Help is a reliable resource from which people can get accurate information and it has a direct dial feature to the Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control center that is available 24/7. According to Ahna Brutlag, a veterinarian with an M.S. in toxicology, and the co-creator of the Pet Poison Help app, the consumption of human medications accounts for the largest number of calls to their helpline, but many other toxic substances are consumed by dogs and other pets each year. If you place a call to the Pet Poison Helpline, you can share vital information with a veterinarian about your dog’s age, breed, size and what was eaten, and find out what your next step needs to be to provide the best care for your dog.

The new app is easy to use, full of pictures, and loaded with live-saving information. Pet Poison Help has been available for just a few weeks, and already nearly 2000 people have downloaded it. Have you had a chance to check it out yet?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Underwater Dogs
Photos that amaze and amuse

Dogs provide a pick-me-up, and they are able to do it in so many different ways. Yesterday, I found myself immensely cheery after watching this video of incredible dog photographs three times in a row.

We know that many dogs plunge into the water to chase toys with enthusiasm, but to see what they actually look like—lips pulled back, teeth showing, eyes wide open, hair all over the place—is extraordinary.

Photographer Seth Casteel creates images of dogs underwater (and above water, too!) that are charming in the extreme, and he has a book coming out later this year called Underwater Dogs. As a great lover of all things marine, two of my favorite images in this video are the one at 10 seconds, in which the dogs’ legs look like sea cucumbers, and the one at 37 seconds, which I adore because the dog displays the essence of its close relative, the sea lion.

I can’t imagine anyone not being charmed by the photo of the dog with what looks like a crooked smile (2:36) and the one in which a dog is licking another dog who looks thoroughly disgusted by the action (2:55). I can literally feel my heart connecting with these dogs.

Please let me know that you’ve watched this video and whether it made you as happy as it made me!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dandelion Dog
She helps me find weeds

Yesterday I was searching for dandelions to yank from my lawn and garden with Schultize, a dog who is staying with us for a couple of weeks. After about 10 minutes of pulling these weeds, Schultize was consistently in my way. Several times, I found myself having to wait for her to move so I could use my weeding tool without risk of hurting her. She just kept sitting right near a dandelion. At first I thought this was a bit of an annoyance, and it reminded me of the futility of trying to read the newspaper on the floor when a cat is present.

Then I started to think that Schultize was finding the dandelions before me. As I searched the lawn methodically and found one, she was already sitting by it. Is this possible? Had she figured out what I was searching for and begun to lend her services? I pulled the one right near her and then waited. Sure enough, she went and sat by a nearby dandelion and looked at me. How cool is this? The worst part of weeding is finding the unwanted plants. Pulling them up just takes a moment.

Schultzie has not been trained to find dandelions. She just seemed to notice that I was looking for them, and did her part to show them to me. Today, when I went into the yard with my weeding tool and began to look down at the ground, Schultzie immediately sat by a dandelion in the grass, and when I pulled it up, she trotted over to another one. Today, there were only a handful of weeds (progress!), but after Schultzie showed them to me, I only found one additional one on my own, which suggests that she wasn’t just randomly sitting by a plant that is common.

In my past experiences, the only part of gardening that dogs in my home have joined in on is the digging. Has your dog ever figured out what you were doing in the garden and actually helped?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Robber Chased by Dog and Dad
The bad guy was caught

I hope I never outgrow feeling greatly satisfied when bad guys’ evil deeds are thwarted. That feeling showed up this morning when I read about 8-year old Cade and his dog Roscoe, who together alerted the parents to an intruder in the home who was attempting to make off with the purse belonging to Cade’s mother. Cade saw a stranger in his house and called out in a way that told his parents something was really wrong. When they opened the door to the house, Roscoe gave chase to the robber, followed by Cade’s dad.

The robber was chased until he was hit by a car. (He is expected to recover.) While I take no pleasure from his injuries, I am glad that he did not get away with his crime. Though it is obviously risky to chase down an intruder (law enforcement recommends calling the police instead), it’s still invigorating when good guys stop the bad guy.

What interested me most about this story is that the dog gave chase at all. Was he chasing for fun because the guy ran and that was enough of a stimulus to trigger the dog’s chasing behavior? Or did Roscoe give chase because he understood, at least to some degree, what was going on?

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