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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
It’s National Safety Month
What’s the best pet safety advice you ever needed?

In honor of National Safety Month, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) has compiled some ideas for keeping dogs safe. Their tips include basic first aid information, as well as tips for keeping your dog safe at the pool, outdoors including around wildlife, when traveling, during holidays, such as Christmas and the Fourth of July, and in a variety of other situations. The association emphasizes that trained dogs are easier to keep safe than those without such skills.

Find more good advice in the May 2009 issue of The Bark. Senior editor, Susan Tasaki, tackles diverse strategies for canine safety emergencies with how-to’s from the canine Heimlich maneuver to tick removal.

Keeping our pets safe is always a matter of continuing to learn how to prevent, spot, and handle trouble. Do you have ideas about keeping your dog safe?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Losing Puppies to Disease
Canine distemper strikes close to home.

Some friends recently lost two puppies to canine distemper. During the time when first one puppy, and then the second was succumbing to the disease, they were caught up in a painful swirl of grief, loss, information-seeking, medication use, and continuous attempts to comfort the puppies, their children and each other.

Obviously, it is painful to lose a dog of any age, but there is a particular kind of unbearable heartbreak associated with the loss of a puppy.

Have you lost a dog prematurely to disease? What happened and what would you like other people to know to try to prevent it happening to them? Do you have any wise or comforting words if, despite all the best efforts, it happens anyway?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bedbug-Detecting Dogs
Sniffing out the source leads to less pesticide use

Trained dogs detect land mines, drugs, explosives, missing persons, cancer, and just about anything else that they are physically capable of smelling. Julia Kamysz Lane recently blogged about how dogs can even sniff out peanuts and cash-carrying criminals. JoAnna Lou clued us in to their use in locating illegal DVDs. Now, add bedbugs to the list. There are dogs trained specifically to detect the scent of bedbugs.

The advantages of using dogs for this purpose are many. Dogs can find the bedbugs faster than people can. With proper training, they can distinguish between dead bedbugs, which may not require chemical treatment, and live bedbugs, which do. Dogs can pinpoint the source of the problem so that smaller areas require fumigation. For example, perhaps not all rooms in a hotel are infested, so dogs can make it cheaper to solve the problem, and result in fewer nasty chemicals being released into the environment.

This is another example of how dogs literally make our world a better place!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Strut Your Mutt
What’s the best dog event around?

Recently I was a judge at “Strut Your Mutt” in Flagstaff, Ariz. The annual event is the work of Paw Placement of Northern Arizona, a local group that does great work finding forever homes for dogs and cats.

On this particular Saturday, we three judges had to observe dog-people pairs entered into the official “Strut” competition and determine three winners. The categories were 1) Best Strut, which was won by a Bulldog who successfully walked the entire loop multiple times (though was too tuckered out to come claim her prize); 2) Person-Dog Look-Alike, which was won by a willowy strawberry blond young lady and her fawn colored greyhound, both of whom looked lovely in their hula skirts, and 3) Judges’ Choice, which went to a three-legged dog named Lucky who had been adopted out by Paw Placement of Northern Arizona, and is indeed one of their great success stories.

Besides enjoying the event with its demos of canine sports and assorted vendors, and being thrilled about the fundraising success, “Strut Your Mutt” made me realize that we can never get too much of mixing and mingling with other people and their dogs en masse. It’s such fun to celebrate and enjoy the unique human-canine bond, and the fact that such events lead to happiness all around—in both species.

What events happen in your area to inspire interspecies fun, and perhaps raise money to spread that joy around still further?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Saving Coyotes’ Lives
Scientist Marc Bekoff advises people to keep coyotes away from their homes.

When coyotes lose their fear of people, their lives are in danger. The more these wild animals come into contact with people, the more likely they are to be shot by authorities who face enormous pressure to prevent people and pets from being hurt by coyotes.

With that in mind, behavioral ecologist Marc Bekoff, who has studied coyotes for decades, urges people to do what they can to keep coyotes away from their homes. This advice applies to people who live out in the country as well as urban and suburban dwellers. Coyotes can exist in all of these areas.

To keep coyotes from being attracted to your residence, Bekoff recommends keeping your pets on leash, covering your garbage and never feeding them. Coyotes can be frightened away with loud sounds such as a whistle, shouting or a can of pennies.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, coyotes are much safer when they are fearful of people. Simple steps such as preventing them from being attracted to areas where people live and by scaring them away if they do approach can be life-saving for coyotes.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
See African Wild Dogs on Safari
Let Patricia McConnell be your guide.

When I was first interning as an applied animal behaviorist, I spent months with Patricia McConnell sitting in on all of her cases, reviewing the details, riding to house calls and going to conferences together. During our morning “getting our paws in the ground” tradition, I learned a lot as we shared experiences about our own dogs, training classes and consultations, all while discussing life, the universe and everything.

It’s because I know how lucky I am to have worked with her and talked to her about all creatures great and small that I encourage anyone to try to get that same opportunity. No, she’s not taking on any interns at this time, but she is headed on what will probably be her last African safari, and a lucky few will be able to spend time with her as she guides them on their adventures observing wildlife in both Kenya and Botswana. In addition to providing sightings of wildebeest, elephants, lions and cheetahs in Kenya, this safari will include the opportunity to see African wild dogs in Botswana.

How unique is the opportunity to see these canines? “African wild dogs are the second most endangered carnivore (after Ethiopian wolves) on the African continent,” according to Anne Carlson, PhD, who studied this species when she was a Millenium Postdoctoral Fellow with the Behavioral Biology Division of the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species with the San Diego Zoo.

“Most national parks in Africa are not large enough to accommodate even one wild dog pack, since each family group typically needs between 80 and 800 square miles of land in which to range and hunt,” Carlson says.  “There are currently only a few populations of African wild dogs remaining in the wild.”

There is much to be learned from these simultaneously rare and familiar animals. “African wild dogs live in packs, in which the animals have close social bonds, like human families, and care cooperatively for each litter of pups born to the dominant pair,” Carlson explains. “The extended family groups babysit pups at the den when they are too young to travel with the group, bring food back to them once they have been weaned, protect them against dangerous predators like lions and spotted hyenas, and teach them to hunt as they grow older. African wild dogs are also known to take care of injured and sick family members that would otherwise die without this care.”

Spending time with Trisha McConnell and going on an African safari are both potentially life changing events. The opportunity to do both simultaneously should not be missed!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Do Dogs Feel Regret?
Are they truly sorry for mistakes?

In a recent article in The New York Times, John Tierney discusses recent research indicating that animals may experience feelings of regret. One scientist quoted in the article defines regret as the recognition of a missed opportunity.

Some of the most recent evidence that animals do feel regret includes the brain activity of monkeys who have made a choice that results in NOT receiving a highly prized class of juice and the fact that monkeys who fail to win the prize change their strategy. Does this also apply to canines? Do dogs, for example, feel sorry when they soil or chew on the rug? Do they regret playing so roughly that nobody wants to play with them anymore?

Most scientists now agree that animals are capable of much greater emotional complexity than was previously thought. A strong, longtime proponent of this idea is biologist Marc Bekoff, whose new book, co-authored with philosopher Jessica Pierce, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals discusses the evidence that animals are complex emotional beings with high moral intelligence. The authors argue that morality is something we share with animals and that it evolves.

It seems that discussions of emotion get repeated over time with the same result: Every time the emotions of animals, including dogs, are investigated with scientific rigor, they are found to be more complex than previously thought. Animal emotions as diverse as fear, jealousy, regret, anger, love and happiness come under discussion and always it seems that increasing evidence leads to greater acceptance that these emotions exists in species beyond just our own. In fact, a great many people now consider the existence of emotions in a variety of species to be quite obvious. It seems that the ongoing investigation of emotions in other animals provides proof of Arthur Schopenhauer’s famous quote: “All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; and Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
 
Another great read to check out if you’re interested specifically in canine emotions is Patricia McConnell’s For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sue Sternberg Creates A Dog Ethogram
Videos of dog behavior are interesting and informative.

Ethologists, those people who study animals’ behavior in their natural habitat, generally feel you need on the order of one thousand hours of observation before you know your study species. No matter how much you read and hear about behavior, there is no substitute for great quantities of time observing members of that species. Sue Sternberg has spent many times the requisite number of hours with dogs, and that is part of the reason that when I was learning how to be a canine behaviorist, she was one of the people from whom I learned the most. Now, the benefits of all those years of learning, observing and interacting with dogs are available to everybody in a whole new format: a video ethogram available from Roundout Valley Animals for Adoption.

An ethogram is a catalog of a species’ entire behavioral repertoire. So, the more a species has been observed, the more complete the list because even rare behavior has been observed. The video ethogram is a great source of information about dog behavior from someone who has spent thousands of hours with dogs and has been diligent about videotaping over the years. Examples of the type of behavior included in the ethogram are the flying shoulder rub, front paw jab and jump with clasp. In a proper ethogram, the names for each behavior are descriptive rather than functional. (That is, a term such as “head turn away” is proper because it’s descriptive, but a term such as “appeasement by avoiding eye contact” is functional and therefore not a proper term for a behavior in an ethogram.) As an ethologist myself, I’m happy to say that Sternberg gets this right: She does a great job describing and documenting the behavior without attributing functions to them.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kids Interacting With Dogs Safely (KIDS)
American Humane launches new program.

The American Humane Association has a new program called KIDS (Kids Interacting with Dogs Safely). The emphasis is on preventing dogs bites to young children, so the program targets kids ages four to seven years old. Many programs are aimed at kids older than eight, but it’s kids younger than that who so often receive serious bites to the face, head and neck.

The program focuses on getting young kids to think about dogs’ feelings in certain situations, and teaching them not to approach strange or injured dogs. In my experience, most dog bites to children happen when they try to hug dogs, even ones they know, or when they approach dogs who are tethered by a leash or rope. Teaching kids to avoid these behaviors, which many dogs object to, along with all the other educational aspects of the program should allow them to reach their goal of fewer physical and emotional injuries by dogs to young children.

Dogs and kids were also on the minds of readers who commented to our earlier post about Dog Bite Prevention Week.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
You Ought To Be In Pictures
Tips for American Humane Association photo contest.

The American Humane Association is sponsoring a photo contest with prize money up for grabs. There are four categories to choose from: Pets, People & Pets, Down on the Farm and Shelter Life. If you plan to submit a photo of your dog, consider these photographic tips.

A lot of dogs are terrified of cameras, which look like giant eyes pointed directly at them. In the dog world, staring is both rude and threatening. Dogs are usually less frightened by a larger lens far away than by a smaller lens close up, so a portrait lens is a good investment. Concerning the eyes of the dog, they are the most important feature. A photo can survive blurry parts, especially the fur and tail when in motion, but eyes must be sharp!

Many dogs are riveted by motion, so wiggling a finger, waving an arm or shaking a toy will keep many dogs occupied and looking in the right direction. If a dog has a tendency to consider stay optional, a slight lean forward by the photographer is often enough to keep a dog in place.

Most dogs look especially adorable when cocking their heads. The easiest way to get a dog to do so is to make an unfamiliar sound. Try a click, a smooch, a squeak, a woop woop, sing a few bars, imitate a bird or any other sound that’s new to the dog but unlikely to scare him.

Proper perspective can make or break a picture. Getting down to the dog’s level rather than shooting from above will help avoid unflattering photos which show off and enlarge his nose.

To convey the essence of a dog requires incorporating the dog’s personality into the photo. Does the dog love to fetch more than life itself? Put a tennis ball or two in the frame. Is there another toy that is a constant companion? Use it as part of the foreground. Does she often have one ear up and one ear down, her tongue hanging way out, or one paw raised? All photographic and behavioral techniques aside, it’s that sense of having captured what makes a dog unique, not just beautiful, that leads to a picture a photographer can be proud of taking and compelled to share.

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