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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.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dogs Help Us Be the Greatest Version of Ourselves
Bringing Out Your Best

Sometimes I feel like I’m falling short as a wife, a mother, a collaborator, a friend, a sister, a daughter or in any other role in my life. I’m not beating myself up over this because every day I fight the good fight and try very hard to do my best. I don’t live with constant guilt because I put in a solid effort, but I know in my heart that many times I don’t quite succeed to the degree that I want.

The funny thing, though, is that I feel much better about how I come through for dogs. I don’t know why, but I’m generally more confident that I am doing better by the dogs in my life. Don’t get me wrong—sometimes I still have dog-related guilt and a desire to improve, but not as often as I do with people. On the one hand, it’s not as complicated to provide for dogs’ needs, but the real issue here is, I think, that dogs bring out the best in me.

Sometimes, I’ve been too tired to play with my kids and I’ve answered no to their request to go to the park, but I always manage to walk dogs. At the end of an exhausting day, I may leave dirty dishes in the sink, but if a dog needs to be brushed out, I find the energy to get that done.

I’m more likely to comply with the majority of the Boy Scout Law with dogs than with people. (For those who are not familiar with it, this law says that a Boy Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.) I’m not sure whether it is the vulnerability and complete reliance that dogs have on us that brings out the best in me, or if it’s just that dogs don’t tend to be as demanding as people, so it’s easier to measure up. (Yes, I realize that some dogs are unbelievably demanding, but my experience with such dogs is a small percentage of my interactions with the canine set.)

It can be really hard every day to face not quite being as good as I’d like to be, and I’m so grateful that dogs provide an area of my life that is less prone to causing such feelings of failure.

If dogs bring out the best in you, why do you think that is?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Flagstaff Dog Running
This dog running company is great business idea
Dogs love to run!

Like many runners who have lived in Flagstaff, Ariz. Adam Vess is a professional runner. Adam is also, like many people in Flagstaff, a dog person. He found that if he runs 4-6 miles with his dogs Alex and Macy before going to work, they are happier and easier to live with. His business began with the thought, “Could other people use this, too?”

The answer was yes, and Flagstaff Dog Running was born. Now that Vess has moved back to the east coast, there is not anyone in our area offering this service. Vess spent many hours taking dogs out to run on the trails or fire roads around town to keep their joints and the rest of them safe from the dangers of the streets. Dogs were always on leash, and were with him for up to two hours. He ran them long enough that they’re fatigued, but not anywhere near exhaustion. Most dogs are happily tired out in 30-40 minutes, though some dogs need well over an hour to reach that point.

The charge was $25 a session, and $40 for two dogs. They never ran more than two dogs at a time because of safety concerns, and 10-12 miles is the maximum distance he took any dog. That was only for fit dogs who have gradually and safely built up to running such distances.

Adam originally planned to expand his business to exercising dogs at boarding kennels. People boarding their dogs would have been able to request and pay for the running as a special service. The exercise and the opportunity to go on an adventure as well as to have some company would all have enhanced their kennel experience.

If you lived in a town with a dog person who was a professional runner, would you consider hiring that person to exercise your dog? Does anyone in your area offer this service?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Is More Always Merrier?
How many dogs are in your bed?

A three dog night refers to weather so cold that three dogs had to be called into bed to keep a person from freezing to death. We don’t know whether this expression originated in the Australian outback, or far north in either the Americas or in Europe. What we do know is that for many of us who sleep comfortably indoors in houses with central heat, having only three dogs in the bed is for amateurs. There are a lot of dog lovers out there with four, five or even more dogs sharing a pretty limited sleeping space.

My cousin Leslie posted this picture of her husband with four of their dogs sharing the bed with him. (It’s not obvious where my cousin sleeps, but she jokingly claims to have rights to the other corner of the bed.) These four dogs are small, but anyone who has settled in for the night only to have 16 additional feet and their attached bodies climb aboard knows that crowding is a hazard. Dogs of any size can steal the covers, cause you to overheat and wake you up multiple times.

They also keep you cozy while making you feel safe, secure and very loved. It’s a wonderful feeling to have dogs snuggle up at night, or even during a nap. Many people sheepishly admit that their dogs sleep with them, only to find out that the person receiving this confession also has canine bed buddies. There’s so much love and joy when we share the bed with our best friends, so I’m happy that judgment about it is less common that it used to be.

In some families, there are dogs with bed privileges and dogs who are given their own comfy bed or a spot on the rug. It may be the dog’s choice, but more often, the guardians make this important decision. Sometimes size influences a dog’s sleeping position, with extra large dogs interfering too much with sleep. In other cases, it’s dogs’ behavior that determines whether or not they are welcome on the bed. Dogs who settle down and sleep calmly all night are welcome in the big bed while dogs who spend the night walking around or who mistake the comforter for a tug toy are more likely to find themselves sleeping on the floor.

I know of many couples who must compromise because one person wants the dogs in the bed but the other person wants the bed to be for people only. In those cases, often just one dog is allowed up. It may be the same dog every night, or they may rotate so each gets a turn.

How many dogs share your bed and how is that working out for you?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Break-Ups and Good-Byes
Sometimes people miss the dog the most

I remember a college friend commenting that he considered himself lucky to have gotten out of a bad relationship but also mentioning how much he missed his ex’s dog. He probably would have been completely happy about the break-up if it hadn’t been for Peaches. Most people discuss the person that they have broken up with, but in this case, our entire social circle heard about the dog, not the ex-girlfriend.

It’s common for people to ache from the pain of missing the children of their ex, so it’s no surprise that there is great sadness when people no longer get to live with or even see the dog they’ve come to love. When members of a couple adopt a dog together, there are sometimes visitation rights discussed during a break-up or written into a divorce agreement. If, however, you were with someone who had a dog before you were in the picture, you are unlikely to have any legal recourse. You will be allowed to see the dog if your ex lets you, but otherwise you are simply out of luck.

Sometimes people take the high road and allow their former partner to see the dog either because they recognize that it is good for the dog, or out of a loving kindness to the person with whom they just split. Sadly, denying access to a dog after a break-up is often done as retaliation, just to be mean and spiteful. (The same thing happens with children, which is extremely troubling.)

Were you allowed visits or some time with your ex’s dog after a break-up or a divorce?

 

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Photographs of Old Dogs
The most beautiful images of all
Champ, 9, South Dakota

Photographer Nancy Levine sees beauty in old dogs, and in her new book, Senior Dogs Across America, the rest of us can, too. Levine photographed her own dogs constantly, and as they aged, she was inspired by the grace and dignity of their changing bodies. Having developed an interest in such dogs, she spent over a decade seeking out elderly dogs to photograph.

Levine traveled around the United States asking friends, veterinarians, rescue groups and sanctuaries about old dogs she could photograph. Her goal was loftier than a book of adorable pictures of dogs. She wanted to compile photos that showed dogs’ individuality and emotional expression. Avoiding close-ups, she chose to photograph dogs in their environment, whether that was out in the fields of South Dakota and Oklahoma, or on the streets of Manhattan and Baltimore.

Some of Levine’s subjects were stiff and had trouble moving, but others at the same stage of life still ran energetically. The beauty of these dogs is in their uniqueness, which comes down to their personality, expression and behavior as well as their physical appearance.

Levine’s has a special love for older dogs, and all her images, from the cover photo all the way through the book, reveal it.

Cecilia, 12, Baltimore

Murphy, 10, Connecticut

Red, 12, Connecticut

Lolli, 15, San Francisco

Bottom to top: Phyllis, 12, Logan County Rescue; Englebert, 9, Denver Dumb Friends League; Loretta, 12, Denver County Shelter; Eeoyore, 14, Denver Dumb Friends League; Enoch, 5, Denver.

 

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Olympic Trials Runners and Their Dogs
Canines take their share of the spotlight

Watching the US Olympic Trials in track and field is filling much of my recreational time this week, but my thoughts are never far from the world of dogs. More and more often, announcers comment on competitors’ dogs, as do the athletes themselves. When discussing that Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix has had a rough year, the broadcast team spoke of two issues. One problem was an injured ankle that leads to pain with every step and the other was the death of her beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Chloe. Chloe is well known to fans of Felix, who often tweeted about Chloe. Felix has said that Skyping with Chloe when she traveled to races helped her to settle her mind and to feel in touch with home. The two even appeared in a commercial together.
 

 

The importance of dogs also came up in an interview with Brenda Martinez. Martinez was expected to qualify for the Olympics in the 800 m event, but that dream slipped away when she was tripped up by another runner near the end of the race. When asked how she put that disappointment behind her in order to focus on her upcoming 1500 m race, she emphasized the role her dogs played. She said that she and her husband had brought all four of their dogs with them and that being with them made her happy and helped her move on emotionally. She visibly relaxed when she spoke of her dogs despite the high pressure situation she is in.
 

Few of us face pressure as intense as what these athletes are dealing with this week, but many of us still rely on our dogs for relief from the stresses of life. Do you?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Not So Secret Life of Pets
Real dogs just as funny as movie versions

I was quick to roll my eyes and grumble that the makers of the film “The Secret Life of Pets” went for cheap laughs over more believable depictions of our pets. I had to eat my words, though, when I saw this ad showing dogs acting just like their movie counterparts. Some crazy things that I’ve never see in the real world include a dog turning on the music and then rocking out to it, and a Dachshund taking advantage of electric beaters to get a back massage.

 

In what way does your dog act like the dogs in the clip?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Cat Burglar Dogs
What has your dog broken into?

Some dogs would make excellent cat burglars. They seem to be able to break into anything. Secure trash can? Not so secure actually. Treats high up on top of the fridge? Not high enough to be out of reach. Storage bin that you can’t open without tools? Some dogs have all the tools they need inside their heads and mouths.

There are dogs capable of climbing to seemingly inaccessible spots, and dogs who can have a snack whenever they want just by opening up their dog proof food canister. Here is a video of one methodical dog patiently working out how to pull the top off a container of food.

Don’t even get me started about the dogs who actually open the fridge! If it weren’t for YouTube, I would have no idea that this is so common. Over the years, I’ve had a few clients tell me about dogs who do this, but if you look at videos online, you can find tons of examples. This collection of fridge-opening dogs features individuals using paws, noses and mouths to get inside and help themselves to the treasures within.

Dogs who can break into supposedly secure places to get what they want are probably quite happy and find many aspects of their world exceedingly convenient. What has your dog broken into that was supposed to be off limits to dogs?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
How Does Your Dog Relate to Other Animals?
Friends Across Species

Dogs and people are truly the best of friends, but that doesn’t mean that dogs can’t be buddies with other animals, too. Though dogs and cats are often considered natural enemies, countless households have a dog and a cat who very close. They play together, sleep together and generally prefer to be near one another.

Less common, but still far from rare, are the dogs who have strong social connections to other species. I have one client whose dog loves to head upstairs in their apartment complex to hang out with the neighbor’s rabbit. A friend of mine has a ferret who plays daily with her dog until they are both exhausted.

Dogs and pot-bellied pigs can be great chums, and countless canines love spending time with their horse pals. There are plenty of dogs whose friends include sheep and goats.

I know of a couple of parrots and parakeets who socialize with dogs, and one pair of these vocalize together with great regularity. I’m not going to lie—the howling dog and the screaming bird don’t sound pleasant to me, but they seem quite happy with their symphony, and that’s what matters.

If your dog has a friend outside the dog or human species, how do they interact?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Comical Dog Moments
Watch just for laughs

This video of “Dog Fails” by FailArmy is filled with moments that show dogs being just like us at our worst—a little uncoordinated, confused or just plain silly. It even shows dogs acting unlike dogs by loving the vacuum cleaner or disliking meat. There are a few clips included that are a little scary either because of the risk of injury or because a dog seems scared. The rest are pure entertainment.

Can you describe an all-time favorite goofy moment featuring your own dog?

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