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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
Rip the Dog Has His Day
War hero’s medal fetches big money.

The prestigious Dickin Medal awarded to a British dog in the 1940s has sold at auction for $35,700 (or to be more accurate 24,250 British pounds), which was £10,000 pounds more than expected. The medal had been awarded to Rip, a wiry-haired stray, for his search and rescue work during World War II. He found more than 100 survivors who were trapped in the wreckage resulting from the German bombs of The Blitz.

Prior to his heroics, Rip himself apparently survived a bombing. After losing his home, he was adopted by an air raid warden. He is usually described as “coming from a complex ancestry,” which seems a fancy way of saying that he was a mutt.

The Dickin Medal was established during World War II to recognize the work of animals in war. More pigeons have won the award than any other species, followed by dogs, though one cat and several horses have also received the honor. The medal itself reads “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve.” Rip wore the medal on his collar for the rest of his life, and the phrase “We Also Serve” appears on his tombstone.

The fact that Rip’s medal sold for an amount that exceeded expectations is yet more tangible evidence of the ever-increasing value people are placing on animals, especially dogs. Sixty years after he won the award, Rip’s accomplishment is still highly valued, and the proof of his recognition is treasured.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New American Humane Endowed Professorship
Bridging the chasm between academics and real world problems.

The American Humane Association has created an endowed chair at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work to focus on research into the human-animal bond and animal-assisted therapies. The professor who will occupy the position is Dr. Frank Ascione, an international leader in researching the bond between people and animals, and also in preventing cruelty to humans and other animals.

I’m thrilled about the creation of this chair because it has the potential to help bridge the absurd chasm between academics and applied work with animals. There is tremendous need for a greater understanding of the relationships between people and animals, including the way that those relationships can benefit members of the species, but there are few opportunities for research and training in these areas in our colleges and universities. The creation of this position signals the growing trend towards greater respect for the value of work that aims to prevent cruelty and violence to both people and animals and work that involves animals in helping people.

I am equally pleased about the choice of Ascione. His 2005 book Children & Animals: Exploring the Roots of Kindness and Cruelty was great, and it is regrettable that while read by many academics, it did not make as big a splash in the larger world as I would have liked. He has studied the links between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence, and has even written guidelines for creating safe havens for pets of battered women.

Ascione is committed to improving the world for both animals and humans, and has long campaigned for a greater societal effort to halt cruelty to people and members of other species, too. An advocate of increased humane education for kids, he has long expressed the view that we need to actively teach kids HOW to treat animals kindly and to feel compassion towards them, in addition to education that simply addresses the importance of not being cruel. His new position is likely to increase the prominence of his work, to the benefit of our whole society.
 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
FDA Investigates Nutro Dog Food
Illnesses may be linked to food. UPDATED.

[Editor's Note: ConsumerAffairs.com has reported that the FDA is denying reports of an investigation into Nutro, contradicting individuals who say they have been contacted about Nutro by FDA investigators, as well as others in the FDA. We'll keep following this story. Meanwhile, readers have posted some interesting comments including an inside perspective from someone who claims to be a former employee.]

 

There has long been talk that Nutro Dog Food may be responsible for illnesses in many dogs, but the company has denied these claims and maintained that their food is safe. It may be some time before the truth is sorted out, but we do now know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the company.

Food safety continues to be a huge issue for both people and our pets, and we must be cautious about everything we feed our dogs. It may be a long time before we know whether or not Nutro Dog Food is causing these problems, but the fact that an investigation is underway to determine the truth is a good thing.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Survives Eating Underwear
Intimate issues Down Under

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in Australia required an expensive life-saving surgery to remove a blockage. The culprit turned out to be a black lacy G-string; the elastic had gotten tied up in his intestines. Naturally, many folks are having a laugh over this embarrassing (to his guardian) discovery now that the dog is okay, but blockages caused by ingesting non-food items are serious and scary because they can be life threatening.

Dogs who like to eat items that are not food are common. Most go for socks and underwear, but ask the average veterinarian, and you are bound to hear stories of towels, ace bandages, stockings, carpets, gravel, pens, knives, spoons and, of course, the proverbial homework. Prevention is the safest path since few dogs give up this habit unless all temptation is removed, and it’s by far the least expensive. If you have a dog who is an “eater” you have excellent motivation to thoroughly dog-proof your home, which includes training all members of the household not to leave clothes or other items of interest to the dog within reach. With practice, the result is an exceptionally clean house and a safe, healthy dog.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Training Tips for The First Dog
Advice from professional trainers

With the eyes of the nation on the Obamas’ new dog Bo, many people are interested in what training methods the first family will use. Positive techniques have become increasingly common in recent years, and there is no better way to get the message of their benefits to more people than through the actions of the President and his family with Bo. Most professional dog trainers are hopeful that the Obamas will use these methods, which are more effective and result in a better relationship between people and their dogs than old-fashioned coercion-based techniques. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers has posted training advice for the new first dog, which applies, of course, to any new dog.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bo Obama
Adorable puppy, less-than-ideal name

President Obama has had many opportunities to comment on his own name. I laughed when he joked that “Barack” means “that one” and when he kidded around that he got the name “Obama” from his Dad, but that “Hussein” came from somebody who obviously thought that he would never run for President. Clearly, he knows that a name is important.

At least he knows that for people. By now, we’ve all read about his new Portuguese Water Dog, Bo, who apparently was named partly as a reference to the fact that his father-in-law had the nickname “Diddley.” Naming new family members with respect to other relatives is charming, and I generally encourage it. However, a side effect of this particular naming is that the poor dog’s name rhymes with “No.”

Dogs are often startled into stopping or at least pausing in undesirable behavior by sudden exclamations of “No!” or “Hey!” which is why I always encourage clients to avoid names that sound too much like either one. It can be quite confusing for a dog to think he hears his name said in an abrupt way, which is the way that “No!” is most often said to puppies. Ideally, puppies should associate their name with feeling good, not with feeling startled.

Barack Obama is thriving in spite of various nomenclature challenges. Let’s hope the same good fortune follows the adorable Bo. Here are some tips on naming a dog.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Behavior: When New Puppy Barks at Men

Question: Shiloh is a six-month-old terrier mix female from the rescue shelter that we brought home February 2. She is terrific and has taken well to our household including our five-year-old terrier mix male. My concern is that no matter when my husband enters a room she barks at him like she has never seen him before even though he talks to her using her name first. The barking is continuous, not just a short bark. He plays with her, even hand-feeds her at times, pets her and does all he can to help her bond with him and she seems willing to let him do this.  She seems to be “easy” around females and shies away from most males. Shiloh bonded with me right away.
 
Please, any suggestions would be appreciated as it is making my husband increasingly uncomfortable. Thank you.

--Audrey Silberman, Durham, N.C.

Answer: Shiloh seems afraid. Often the scariest situation for dogs is the appearance or approach of a person with whom they are not yet comfortable. Many fearful dogs react more to men than to women, especially men who are tall, have deep voices, broad shoulders, a strong jaw, or facial hair.

To help Shiloh exhibit better behavior when your husband enters the room, it is essential to change the way she feels in that situation. Focus on changing her emotions so the behavior will stop rather than trying to stop the barking directly.

There are two ways your husband can help Shiloh overcome her fear so that she does not bark at him in this context. One technique is to present himself in the least threatening way possible. When he enters a room, he should turn slightly to the side, lean ever so slightly away from the dog, and squat.

The second technique is to teach Shiloh to associate the appearance of your husband with feeling good. The basic idea is to consistently pair up what Shiloh loves best with your husband entering the room. For most dogs, this means steak, chicken or freeze-dried liver (no dry biscuits!), but some dogs adore balls or squeaky toys. Instead of her thinking, in some canine sort of way, “Yikes! He’s here and he’s so imposing!” we want her to think, “Here he is again! Oh boy oh boy oh boy, where are those super treats (or toys)? I’m so happy he’s here with that magical stuff!”

To make the combination of these two techniques most effective, every time your husband enters the room, he should do so calmly, position himself in the non-imposing stance, and immediately (within a second) throw the treats or toys to her. Ideally, he will toss them to her before she reacts, but he should toss them anyway, even if she’s already starting barking. It’s better to toss them as opposed to handing them directly to her. That way, he does not have to approach her, which could set her off. Her special favorite item should be reserved for this situation only to make the pairing with your husband as tight as possible in her mind.

Hopefully, your husband will soon have a special place in Shiloh’s heart. Best wishes and paws crossed for all of you.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Don’t Try This at Home!
Five common misconceptions about dog training and behavior

Since dog training has become so popular that it’s even a form of television entertainment, misconceptions about canine behavior have multiplied. Faulty information entrenched in popular culture means that a lot of what “everybody knows” isn’t actually true. Here are my top picks for myths in need of busting.

1. It’s best to stare down an aggressive dog. To dogs, a direct stare is a threat. Staring at a dog who is already considering an attack is more likely to escalate the confrontation than to diffuse it. Furthermore, fearful dogs who are unlikely to behave aggressively can become so frightened by your threatening stare that they panic and bite in response.

2. Kneeing a dog who likes to jump up on people is a good way to teach him not to do it. Kneeing a dog can cause injury to the dog’s neck or chest even if you don’t use much force. Additionally, when you lift your knee, you automatically lean back a bit, thereby ceding that space to the dog. Dogs respond to the angle of your torso, and when you lean back, they are more likely to jump up on you because you are yielding space to them. Leaning toward exuberant greeters is one way to prevent jumping, and that is the opposite of what happens when you lift your knee into them.

3. Dogs love to be hugged. Putting your arms around a dog’s neck and shoulders may feel loving to humans, but to dogs, this is rude and potentially threatening behavior. Every week, I see pictures in magazines of celebrities hugging their dogs. The human stars look radiant, but the dogs look miserable and display common signs of stress such as tongue flicks, a tightly closed mouth, pulled back ears or a furrowed brow. Hugging is a primate form of affection, but not one that is appreciated by the canine set.

4. Alpha rollovers are a way to teach your dog who’s boss and control his unruly or aggressive behavior. Actually, an alpha rollover, which consists of pinning your dog on his back and staring directly at him, is not a way to discipline your dog or teach him anything. It is, however, a way to terrify your dog and cause him to lose his trust in you completely, possibly inciting rather than preventing aggression. An alpha rollover is an aggressive move that dogs are more likely to interpret as an unpredictable human lunatic picking a fight than as a form of leadership.

5. Fearful dogs should go to classes or the dog park for socialization. Socialization refers specifically to the process that occurs during the sensitive period— between three and 12 weeks—when the puppy is becoming aware of the social world and learning how to behave within it. Proper socialization requires providing a young puppy with many positive interactions during this brief period of development. Taking a fearful dog to training classes or to the dog park is not socialization, and is unlikely to help a fearful dog become less afraid. Many dogs become overwhelmed in a class or at the park, which only confirms how scary it is to be around other dogs and people. A dog who is repeatedly frightened is not learning to like being around people or dogs. Rather, he’s having additional experiences that confirm how scary it is to be around them, which usually makes those fears worse. Neither training class nor the dog park provides a good situation for helping dogs overcome their fears.

Many of the most humane and effective training techniques are not intuitive and may not be the ones most often mentioned. The best information about dog training and behavior comes from people who are highly educated on the subject, few of whom do their work on camera, so when you have questions, seek the advice of a true expert and get the straight scoop!

Good Dog: Studies & Research
Yawns Are Contagious!
Catch one from your dog.
Dog Yawns

A new study provides the first scientific evidence that dogs yawn in response to human yawns. The contagious nature of yawns has previously only been demonstrated in humans and other primates, but in a recent issue of Biology Letters, scientists Ramiro M. Joly-Mascheroni, Atsushi Senju and Alex J. Shepherd report that dogs can also “catch” human yawns.

The dogs in the study each spent five minutes with a human stranger. In these trials, the experimenter said the dog’s name; when the dog established eye contact, the experimenter gave a fake yawn, complete with vocalization. The experimenter continued doing this for five minutes, which resulted in 10 to 19 yawns, depending on how long it took to establish eye contact. In the control condition, the experimenter followed the same procedure, except that instead of yawning when the dog established eye contact, non-yawning, mouth-opening actions without vocalization were displayed. Of the 29 dogs in the study, 21 yawned in response to the experimenter’s yawns but none did so in the control condition.

Even reading or thinking about yawning can induce yawns, perhaps most notably among people with high levels of empathy. If you find yourself yawning right about now, take the opportunity to get your dog’s attention, yawn some more and see if your dog catches it.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
8 Tips for Vet-Visit Bliss
Play by the Numbers
Dog & Vet

Many dogs dislike going to the vet. Their objections can take the form of unruly behavior, signs of stress (shaking and salivating), or even aggression.Unfortunately, we can’t point out to our dogs that these medical appointments are highly beneficial and for their own good, or simply explain to them in plain English that even though it might not always seem like it, the vet has their best interests at heart.How then—for the sake of our dogs, ourselves and our veterinarians— can we help our dogs to love (or at least calmly tolerate) a visit to the vet?

1. Choose the right vet. This is obvious, but important. Of course, you want your vet to be up on the latest in the field of veterinary medicine, but equally important is someone who is willing to take time with a skittish, anxious or even just highly exuberant dog. The entire clinic staff should be sensitive to any needs your dog may have. Shop around—if a vet isn’t interested in accommodating you, find one who is.

2. Make vet days “fun days.” Follow every vet visit with a favorite activity, such as a swim, a visit to the park or a walk in the woods.Knowing that a good time will follow the vet visit can help your dog feel better about being there.

3. Train your dog to relax in response to your touch by practicing massage at home. Then, give him a soothing massage during a vet visit, especially while in the waiting area. To increase its effect, practice it in a familiar setting rather than trying it for the first time at the vet’s office.

4. To alleviate the stress your dog may feel at being physically manipulated, train him to do things that translate to the exam process—for example, to step up onto a small platform when asked, a “trick” that works well for the vet’s scale. Other cross-over tricks include “belly up” for abdominal exams; “shake” to present a paw for blood draws; and “down/stay” for vaccinations, exams and anything else that requires him to remain still. Besides making visits to the vet less stressful, training your dog to perform these behaviors on cue also shortens the visit, which in turn makes them less objectionable for everyone (and may even leave more time for you to discuss your concerns with the vet).

5. Make your first visit to the vet an opportunity to get acquainted—to sniff around the waiting room, meet the vet and the staff, and have a pleasant experience free of pesky exams or shots. If your dog is comfortable getting on the scale, a weigh-in is fine, but if not, skip it. Have everyone your dog meets be a source of the highest-quality treats you can provide—hamburger, chicken, real steak. If your dog is crazy about balls, chew toys or squeaky toys, have the vet and the vet tech each give your dog one while in the exam room. You want your dog to think that this is a place where the most wonderful things happen. I call these appointments “meet and greets” and I advise them for dogs of any age. Simply call the vet and say that you’d like to make (and pay for) an appointment during which your dog is introduced to the facility and the staff. If they’re unwilling, consider looking for another vet.

6. Have everyone at the clinic give your dog lots of top-quality treats at every visit. This is “Love Your Vet 101” advice, but it’s popular for a reason: It works. If a dog learns that he gets the most delicious treats in the world while at the vet, then he is more likely to be cooperative about going there. To be successful, two important aspects of this strategy must be observed: First, use extra-special treats, not the ordinary kind; dry biscuits are just not going to have the same emotional impact. (Which would you find more motivating, a chocolate chip cookie or a cracker?) Second, unless it’s inappropriate for your dog’s health condition, be generous—multiple treats make more of an impression.

7. Plan your clinic entrances and exits to make them as free of stress as possible. Many dogs’ objections to the vet are really objections to the lobby or waiting area. If this applies to your dog, there are ways to get around the situation. Ask if there’s a back entrance that you and your dog can use; also, try using your car as an alternate “waiting room” and ask if someone will let you know when it’s time for the exam; at some clinics, a staff member will come out to your car or give you a call on your cell phone to let you know it’s your turn.

8. Finally, maintain a calm frame of mind yourself. Your emotions are contagious— the more cheerful and relaxed you are, the more you can help your dog. So, use whatever works for you— chocolate, relaxing music, deep-breathing exercises—but try not to stress!

Regular vet visits are important to our dogs’ health and well-being, but getting our furry “patients” there is only half the battle.Having them be happy and cooperative is the real victory—which is why I advise making this a fundamental part of every dog’s training and education.

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