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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
Keeping an Eye on Your Pets
Surveillance isn’t just for the government anymore.

If you want to keep track of your pets via a live online video feed, you can now do that. The Vue personal video network lets guardians watch their animals at home while they’re at work, or anywhere else with Internet access. If you worry about your pets when you’re away from them, this system will allow you to see with your own eyes that they’re okay.

The system uses small wireless cameras that can be put anywhere in your home, and the batteries last up to a year. By logging onto a secure website, guardians can ease their minds by seeing how their pets are doing. You can even set it to record for short times, so that you can watch past events, too.

Of course, cameras with a live feed can be used for a variety of purposes, and the company is not just marketing this product for pet watching. A traveler can watch a family member blow out the candles on a birthday cake, employers can check up on their telecommuting employees, parents can track their kids---the possibilities for suspicious spouses are endless. The company considers these options among the many features and benefits of their system, which costs just under $300.

As a behaviorist, I’m intrigued that this system could reveal more about what is going on when there are behavior problems. For example, if I wanted to know which dog in a multi-dog household is soiling the carpet or chewing the couch, The Vue could help. In cases of possible separation anxiety, it’s useful to know when the associated problem behavior starts. When the barking, destructive chewing or eliminating happens immediately after the guardian leaves, that’s consistent with separation anxiety. If the problem behavior starts hours later, a more likely reason for the trouble may be boredom, inadequate house training, or a reaction to some other stimulus.

I will be curious to hear about anyone’s experience with this system. Would you consider buying it, and if so, what is it you hope to see?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Education Becomes More Humane
University of Cincinnati to stop using purpose-bred animals

The University of Cincinnati is a role model for other schools in choosing not to use purpose-bred animals for educational purposes. Dogs and cats, as well as other species of animals, have long been bred in horrendous conditions for profit. These animals have been used for surgeries and dissections to train each generation of veterinarians (as well as biologists and physicians), who go into the field, ironically enough, because of their great love for animals. Hopefully, many other institutions will follow UC’s example.

The use of animals bred in laboratories for students’ education has long been a controversial issue. One big issue is whether using such animals is morally acceptable. That question concerns whether or not there are equally good ways, such as videos or computer simulations, for students to learn the same information. This question is an interesting one because as much as I always hated dissections, there is no doubt that many students, including me, have learned a great deal from them—just not enough to make it worth it to me.

Another issue is whether other animals are available who were not bred for this purpose. For example, can veterinary students learn to spay and neuter shelter animals who require the procedure anyway?

As a high school student and as an undergraduate biology major, I participated in some really yucky dissections. By junior year, I realized that I wasn’t comfortable with the process. I made a big effort to avoid working on animals bred in labs and still complete my major. That is, I took plant physiology instead of animal physiology. I took a class on the biology of higher vascular plants instead of animal anatomy. And finally I took a class on marine algae instead of a class on neurology. All of these choices allowed me to avoid working with frogs, mice, sharks and cats either in dissection labs or in other ways, such as using internal electrodes to monitor these animals while alive.

If you have done dissections or surgeries as part of your education, was it worth it to you? Do you think students should be required to perform them, or should they have other options? Do you consider the source of the animals used in education to be important?
 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pets Are Expensive
Some animals are more costly than others.

Money is on everyone’s mind lately, and that interest extends to pets. A few months after starting to write a weekly animal column for my local newspaper, I asked the editor if there was anything particular that he wanted me to cover. His first request was a column about the expense of having pets, which we both agreed was relevant in these troubled times.

For people who have had certain types of animals for years, the costs of buying and maintaining them come as no surprise. However, it’s easy to be startled by the expenses associated with animals that we have not had the pleasure of having in our lives. For example, unless you’re experienced at keeping birds, it may be news that you can easily spend thousands of dollars on housing for your avian companions. Similarly, unless you have competed seriously in Agility or know someone who has, it might be hard to fathom the way money flows in torrents from each paycheck, going directly to lessons, equipment, matches and travel.

What’s your biggest canine expense?  Have you figured out strategies to trim your budget without compromising your dog’s quality of life?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
All My Patients Have Tales
Check out this great new book!
Veterinarian Jeff Wells has written a new book called All My Patients Have Tales about his adventures and misadventures as a mixed-practice vet. The vignettes about the lessons he has learned provide insights into what it takes to become an experienced vet.   The highly amusing adventure of him chasing a client’s feral cat around his office and receiving multiple injuries in the process will ring true to anyone who has ever dealt with a feline escapee. It will also draw understanding from anyone who has ever had on-the-job training. Having to deal with a traveling circus requiring blood tests for its animals, he provides the zinger, “At no time during veterinary school had anyone mentioned how to go about finding a vein on an elephant.”   From dealing with porcupine quills in a horse’s leg to a bizarre blockage in a puppy’s intestines, Wells’ love for animals is the link that ties these stories together. I’m excited about this book and equally excited about sharing it with others. Published about three weeks ago, it is on its way to making a big splash in the animal world.   Wells has been inspired by the writings of both James Herriot and Garrison Keillor. The charm and humor that made these authors so popular also appear in All My Patients Have Tales. When I asked Jeff Wells what he thought of comparisons to the legendary James Herriot, he laughed and replied, “I’ll take that any day of the week.”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fighting A Mountain Lion
Dog saves people’s lives—would yours do the same?

Yesterday, Hoagie, a Lab mix, was walking with his guardians in the Santa Ana Mountains when they were attacked by a mountain lion. The dog was seriously injured in his attempts to fight off the large cat. He required surgery to treat his injuries, but is expected to survive.

We all hope that in an emergency our dog would protect and defend us, although obviously nobody wants their dog to be so seriously injured.

Unless a dog has specifically been trained as a guard dog, it’s extremely difficult to predict how a dog will behave in a dangerous situation. (By the way, I recommend against training pet dogs to function as guard dogs. It’s far more likely that the dog will attack your child’s playmate or the UPS driver by mistake instead of the rare dangerous intruder.)

I’ve been asked many times by clients if I think that their dogs would defend them if they were attacked by a person or by another animal. The majority of dogs I work with have aggression issues, so it makes sense that many people wonder whether the dogs would behave aggressively in situations in which that might actually be helpful.

You can only know the answer to this question if the situation presents itself and you observe what happens. Some dogs go hide under the sofa in a bad situation, some will defend you to the death, literally, and some make friends with burglars, perhaps thinking that they will get some treats if they show this nice man where you keep your jewelry and spare cash. You’d think it would be easier to predict than it is. Perhaps you’d expect that dogs who tend to be fearful are members of the hide-under-the-bed set, but sometimes the fearful dogs attack and defend out of panic—and often very effectively. Confident dogs who seem to take all things in stride might be expected to be heroes, but some of those types of dogs are socially savvy dogs who know how things should be, and when things get weird or tense, their alarm bells go off and they become too afraid to act.

Sometimes I know a dog really well and have a strong intuition that if it came down to it, this dog would step up and give his all to defend loved ones, but it’s no more than an intuition. I’ve also known dogs I felt would stand behind the family’s youngest child and hope not to be noticed in a bad situation, but I wouldn’t bet on it. This unpredictability is not surprising. It’s the same for people in that it’s hard to know who will step up in an emergency and who just doesn’t have it in them.

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.

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