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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
Dogs Ease Exam Stress
Students benefit from canine visits

 

Many colleges and universities are experimenting with new ways to ease the stress of exams for their students. The point of such activities as dance breaks in the library and yoga classes late at night is to help students cope with the extreme anxiety of finals. From oxygen bars to simultaneously dropping 10,000 rubber balls from a roof, it seems that no idea is too odd to consider. Things have sure changed a lot since I was in college and our only organized stress relief was the 9 o’clock scream.   I wish that I could have benefited from the technique I consider best of all—bringing in therapeutic dogs. It is well documented that dogs reduce stress and elevate moods, so I love that colleges are recognizing this and using that knowledge to help their students. Students who are away from their own pets as well as those who have never had a dog but always wanted one all benefit from visits by playful, affectionate dogs. Since the only way that university administrators could reduce stress more would be to cancel exams, I applaud their efforts to bring dogs in to help students.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
He’s A Penn State Dog
Does your dog wear your school colors?

I recently got to dog sit for a friend who is a big Penn State fan. Actually, I didn’t know that until she brought her dog over and I saw his shiny new navy blue color, which says “PENN STATE PENN STATE PENN STATE” all the way around in white writing.

  When I lived in Wisconsin, I saw lots of dogs with red and white collars or with ones adorned with badgers to show their allegiance to the University of Wisconsin. I’ve often wondered if schools with canine mascots, such as the Georgia State Bulldogs have even more dog fans, especially of the proper breed.   Our dogs reflect who we are in so many ways, including what we name them, and how we decorate them. Many people who do not actually dress their dogs up in clothes or costumes do like to personalize their dog’s attire with a collar that means something to them. Are you a proud alumnus whose dog wears your school colors? Does your dog’s collar reflect another of your interests?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Saves Frozen Feline
Cat’s best friend?

I am very interested in the interactions between different species. In fact, as a scientist, it is those interactions that I love to study and understand. For my first research project in graduate school, I investigated the nesting association of two species of tropical social wasps in order to understand why their nests are often found within a few centimeters of each other. No matter what the story is, if it involves more than one species, I’m interested.

  Besides just loving dogs, I’m fascinated by the fact that we are two species with a shared and very close relationship, which is nothing short of a biological wonder. We talk about dogs as our best friends, yet, we have other friends, too. Similarly, dogs may consider members of species besides humans to be social partners, especially if they have been exposed to those species early in life.   It’s my interest in interactions between different species that led me to be so fascinated by a recent story from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. During a blizzard earlier this year, a dog saved the life of a cat that had nearly frozen to death. The cat had apparently been living under the house of the man and dog who saved it. The dog brought the cat to his guardian, who brought it to the local human society because it was in bad shape and actually had a towel frozen to it with ice. The cat was severely hypothermic and its heart rate was very low. The staff at a local animal hospital worked saved the cat with treatment in lukewarm water to remove the towel and warm IV fluids.   The dog needed to interact with both the cat and humans to save the frozen feline, who was named Frosty by the staff at the Kootenai Humane Society. The dog needed to rescue Frosty from his hiding spot and then safely deliver it to the human in order for him to get proper care.   Do you know of situations in which a dog has truly acted as a cat’s best friend?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canardly Marley
What breeds are in this dog?

I love mutts, mixed breeds, crosses and every other sort of unidentifiable dog. Part of me doesn’t care what breeds they have in them. I’m charmed when I ask someone what kind of dog that is and they lovingly say, “He’s just a dog.” Another part of me is fascinated by what the mix of genetics means for a dog’s appearance and behavior. I often describe my dog Bugsy as “half Black Lab, half handsome stranger.” Most of the time that is enough knowledge for me, but sometimes I feel as though it’s my life’s quest to learn more about his ancestry.

  Yes, I know you can have your dog’s DNA analyzed to learn what breeds they have in them, but these results are so unreliable that as a scientist, I just can’t put much stock in them. For me, it’s much more fun, and just as informative, to ask a ton of people familiar with dogs what breeds they think are in a dog.   My friend’s dog Marley is an unknown mix. He’s the sort of dog who was long ago described as a Heinz 57. Nowadays, dogs like Marley are more likely to be referred to as a “Canardly” as in, “You canardly tell what he is.” So, I put it to you. Based on the pictures of his face, his side view, and his back end (I find rears informative—don’t ask me why!) what breeds do you think are in his ancestry? He is approximately 23 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 55 pounds.   I have my own ideas about what’s in him, but I don’t want to bias anyone. To keep me honest, I will tell my fellow bloggers what my guesses are, and in a few weeks, I’ll post them. I look forward to hearing what you think.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Nick News Premiers Good Dog
Spotlight on kids and service dogs

Nick News With Linda Ellerbee premiered a special that highlights the role of service dogs in the lives of children. The show Good Dog explores the relationship between children and their service dogs. Whether the dog reaches items that they cannot, allows them to handle socially stressful situations, prevents them from wandering off, alerts them to the presence of a life-threatening allergen in food, or serves as their ears, eyes, hands, or legs, service dogs make their lives better.

  The dogs help them be independent, unafraid, confident, safe and happy depending on the individual child’s needs. It’s beautiful when a child is able to do something because of a service dog that would otherwise be impossible. We all know that to touch the life of a child is to touch the future, and a service dog is capable of doing that in ways that people can’t. Good dog.   It will soon be possible to view the entire show Good Dog on Nick.com.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Greetings While Skiing
Dogs make our outing more fun

A few days ago, we received the first really good snowfall of the season in Flagstaff, Ariz., and for my family, that means skiing. Since the downhill slopes are not yet open, we headed out on cross-country skis to enjoy the morning. Before the plows come, it’s good skiing in our neighborhood, starting right at our front door.

  As we skied, we saw other hearty souls who love the snow and wanted to play in it. That means that fellow outdoorsy people smiled and shouted out greetings, and that many dogs came over to say hello. Our friends Denali, Ruby, Aspen, Annie, and many more ran up to us, pouncing in the snow and wagging their tails. There’s a certain sort of enthusiasm that only dogs can express about snow, especially early on in the season when there’s the excitement of its novelty.   I so enjoyed the friendliness of the neighborhood canines, perhaps because they convey, far better than any of the people, their feelings of joy about the snow that was making all of us so happy. In fact, it made me think that one of the best ways to explain dogs to an alien would be to say that they are “happiness multipliers.”   How do dogs add to your winter delight?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Gift of Pet Care
Dear Abby letter expresses gratitude

In this morning’s Dear Abby column, a woman expressed her gratitude to her daughter and son-in-law for what she described as “the gift of a lifetime.” Knowing that their mother lives alone and on a fixed income, this couple gave her a promise to pay for all the veterinary bills for her dog and cat for the rest of those pets’ lives. Rather than little knickknacks for holidays and birthdays, they chose to pay for medical care for her animals. Her pets, and therefore this gift, mean so much to this woman.

  As the season of giving descends upon us, many people struggle to figure out what to choose for their elderly parents. Any gift that relieves financial worry is always welcome, and the care of pets is one such thoughtful gesture. Naturally, not everybody has the means to pay for all of someone’s veterinary bills, especially if a pet were to require extensive or emergency care because of an illness or accident. But helping out with the cost of caring for pets can be done on any scale, and is sure to be appreciated by anyone who worries about being able to pay for what their pets require.   Is anyone on your list the perfect recipient for a gift such as this?  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Turkey Theft
My dog helped himself

Years ago when I had my first dog, we visited my aunt for Thanksgiving. The roasting pan containing grease and a truly alarming amount of turkey skin was sitting unguarded in the kitchen while we feasted in the dining room. Suddenly a crashing sound in the kitchen alerted us to the fact that the dog was no longer lying in the dining room with us. Whoops.

  Rushing into the kitchen, I immediately saw that my dog was not, as I had previously thought, a dog who would never take something off of the counter. He had not previously been a food thief, but clearly the temptation of the remains of a Thanksgiving turkey at precisely nose level was too much to resist.   To his credit, he had pulled the pan off the counter with such tremendous skill that he had managed to keep it upright so that only a little of the grease slopped out. In spite of myself, I took a moment to be impressed. And he had only eaten about half of the turkey skin by the time I got there and took the rest away, which made me less fearful of the health consequences of consuming large quantities of fat.   My aunt is very experienced with dogs and loves them very much, so she understands that dogs are natural scavengers and are likely to go for high quality food that’s so easy to reach. And we all acknowledged that we were lucky he took the leftovers and not the whole turkey when it was still in the pan. So, all in all, what could have been a dreadful situation was just a little blip. Have your dogs ever helped themselves to part of the Thanksgiving feast?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Paw Prints Say Welcome
Vacation rental has perfect decorations

Recently, my family spent a week in Puerto Rico, where we spent part of our time on the island of Vieques. Our lodging was a vacation rental called Casa de Kathy, and there was much to love about this cute two-bedroom house near the beach. But what I’ll remember most about it is the decorations in the bathroom.

  Kathy and her late dog Canelo (Spanish for cinnamon) had left their footprints on the wall of the loo along with the traditional symbol of welcome—the pineapple. It was so charming, and the first detail of the place that stuck in my mind. And it will remain in my memory along with thoughts of snorkeling in the paradise of the Caribbean.   What decorations do you have in your home of the canine variety?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
An Emu Who Acts Like A Dog
Who does she think she is?

An Emu named Emma sometimes acts like her best friend, a dog named Charlie. She fetches, plays with Charlie’s toys, sits when asked to do so, and chases things, just like Charlie does. Her human family says that she thinks she's a dog, and that nobody ever told her she wasn’t. (Emus are Australia’s largest native bird, reaching heights of well over 6 feet.)

  It makes a great story to say that Emma thinks she’s a dog, but it’s hard to justify. The fact that she is exhibiting some typically canine behaviors is fascinating, and surely fun to observe, but there are many reasons why she may act in ways that are similar to dogs other than an identity crisis. Animals are capable of learning a lot from those around them.   Imprinting is a specific type of learning. It is very rapid learning that occurs in a specific phase of life, such as when birds become attached to moving objects soon after hatching and follow them around. This sort of filial imprinting typically applies to ducks and geese, though it can happen in a wide variety of animals. It ensures that the animals follow their parents around, which is critical for survival. It is very likely that Emma the emu has imprinted on Charlie since the family got her when she was so young, and that has given her ample opportunity to observe his behavior.   Observational learning is the learning that occurs by watching others perform behavior that is novel to the observer. Role models are common in many species, and Emma may be exhibiting observational learning with Charlie as her role model for behaviors such as chasing, fetching, playing with toys, etc.   The fact that Emma is performing behaviors that may be more typically seen in dogs than in emus is evidence of the fact that the environment strongly influences behavior. So Emma’s potential behavioral repertoire is quite large, but the environment that she is in (a dog is present) results in a particular set of behaviors out of all those that are possible. Emma’s behavior suggests that emus have the capability to learn those dog-like behaviors, but that in their usual social environment, they don’t develop.   So, I’m not convinced that Emma “thinks she’s a dog.” I think that she is an emu whose behavior is perhaps a bit unusual for members of her species, but clearly can develop in the right situation. I also think this is one of the coolest stories I’ve read in a long time, and I wish that I could see Emma myself. She sounds like a very hip bird!

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