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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
Training Your Foot Warmer
Sitting in an odd place takes practice for dogs

Previously, I wrote about using a visiting Pomeranian as a foot warmer, and I mentioned that I had to teach him to sit on top of my feet. The first time I lured him over and gave him the cue to sit, he looked a little confused and was not as quick to respond as usual. He started to lower his back end hesitantly, unlike the usually sharp way he sits on cue. I praised his initial lowering to let him know that even in this unusual context, he was doing the right thing by sitting on top of a part of my body. I then gave him a treat, though his training is usually well beyond the point of requiring a treat to reinforce the right behavior in response to a simple cue like “Sit.” For many repetitions over several days, I asked him to sit when to do so meant that he would be on top of my feet. After this work on my part and his, I could get easily get him to perform the behavior I desired—sitting on my cold feet and making them cozy warm. He seemed comfortable with the cue in this context and willingly sat when asked.

Dogs don’t tend to generalize well. If you think your dog knows how to sit on cue, you may be right, but if you think he knows how to sit in all contexts to that cue, there’s a good chance you are mistaken unless you have specifically trained him to respond in a variety of contexts. To many dogs, the cue “Sit” means to do what they were taught in training class—to sit in front of you while you stand there.

Many dogs know how to sit when asked in their own living room, at training class, or when on a leash in the backyard and the person who gives the cue is standing up. Change any part of that context, and your dog may not respond. So, if you ask your dog to sit when you are lying down in bed, when you are not facing your dog, when there are visitors at the door, or a cat is visible out the window, he may not do what you ask. The fact that he does not respond is more likely to mean that he hasn’t been trained to respond to your cue in that context than that he is disobedient or being stubborn. Dogs need to be trained to respond to cues in different contexts if we expect them to do what we ask. I think this is one of the big secrets known by experienced dog trainers, but not by people who are novices in the field: Teaching the dog what the cue means is the easy part. The hard part is getting them to respond to the cue no matter what is going on and no matter where you are. This is especially true of difficult behaviors such as heel and come compared with a simple behavior such as sitting.

I had never trained a dog specifically to sit on my feet before so it was a bit of a learning exercise for both of us. (I have had dogs sit on my feet when I was just asking for a normal sit, but who hasn’t had that happen?) However, we had the advantage of my knowing that it might pose a challenge for Tyson so I knew to take it slow with him, helping him out by reinforcing his efforts and not expecting too much too soon.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Warming My Feet
Dogs contribute in so many ways

As I write this, I have a little ball of fire keeping my feet warm. Specifically, Tyson, an eight-pound Pomeranian sits right where I asked him to—on my feet. I like having him sit on my feet because my feet often get cold. My view is that he creates a lot of heat and I believe in sharing. He generally likes to be close to me, though when I first asked him to sit on my feet, he seemed puzzled as though he doubted that I REALLY wanted him to sit on them. Once I actually trained him to sit on my feet, he was more than willing to do so whenever I asked.

I’m happy when Tyson helps me out this way, and I’m all about getting as much out of the relationship as possible, as long, of course, as the dog is happy too. Do other people have services that their dogs provide that may not be standard?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ask Me About My Granddog
What’s your favorite dog-themed bumper sticker?
I was stuck in a little traffic yesterday, which could have been a major bummer except for the entertaining car in front of me. I had the good fortune to be behind one of those cars decorated from roof to hubcaps with bumper stickers, and many of them were dog-related. Naturally, they had Bark’s own “Dog is my co-pilot” prominently displayed on the actual bumper, suggesting it was one of the first acquired. Here are some of the others:   My windows aren’t dirty. That’s just my Corgi’s nose art Caution: This vehicle is infested with dog hair. Enter at your own risk The more people I meet, the more I like my dog. Ask me about my granddog Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? My Corgi would herd your honor student Your honor student is merely a pawn in my dog’s world domination plot wag more bark less I adhere to my Corgi’s radical ideology squirrel whisperer on board Your car would look like this too if you owned a Pembroke Welsh Corgi At one end of my leash sits a dog. At the other end stands a voter. STOP B.S.L. [Breed Specific Legislation] Caution: wiggle butt zone  

What canine-themed bumper stickers do you have on your car? What amusing ones have you seen on other cars? 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Power of Rescue Groups
A feel-good video makes the case

Beautiful pictures of rescue dogs who now live in loving homes make for a video with a high CQ (Cute Quotient.) And the fact that it is set to the Queen song “You’re My Best Friend” makes it captivating. I wasted an embarrassing amount of my precious writing time watching the entire video multiple times. I kept telling myself I had to know the video thoroughly before writing about it, but the truth is that I just liked watching it.

 

I love knowing that these are dogs who, though once without a family, are now cherished by the people who adopted them. Perhaps the best thing about the video is that it contains many before and after pictures. These pairs of photos allow you to see dogs in need of care and then see their well-groomed coats, healthy bodies and happy faces. My favorite pictures were of Dolly, Marco and Hotlips, but tons of others were charming, too.   Most of these dogs were fostered through Border Collie Rescue of Northern California, though that group was not involved in making the video. They currently have a playful, energetic dog named Mouse available for adoption to an active family. Check out his video on YouTube to see his story.   The video set to the Queen song video is thoroughly enjoyable and will make you feel good. It shows that rescue groups do terrific work getting so many great dogs into homes. And everyone familiar with rescue groups knows that they do it with small monetary budgets but with endless quantities of volunteer hours.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
January 2010 Is for the Dogs
It’s National Train Your Dog Month!

They say every dog has its day, but soon they will actually have their own month! The Association for Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) has proclaimed January to be National Train Your Dog Month. This new annual event promotes the benefits of socialization and positive training, which include enhanced and healthier relationships between people and dogs. January is the perfect month for emphasizing training because it is a time for new goals and because so many dogs have just joined new families over the holidays.

  Training is a great way to interact with your dog and to have fun together. It is also essential for keeping your dog (and your home!) safe. Well-trained dogs have better, happier lives because they can be allowed more freedom such as being off leash and getting to go more places. Most of us try new things in January, and training your dog more, or even getting started with training is a great way to kick off the year.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppy Mouthing
Saving your hands and your sanity

Puppies use each other as chew toys, so when they move away from their littermates and start hanging out with humans, it is only natural that they should continue their mouthy ways. Trouble is, we humans have skin that is so very delicate. In fact, it breaks when our puppies chew on it, and that is no good for anybody.

  There are many suggestions for stopping puppy mouthing, and only some work for each puppy. My favorite, which I consider the standard technique for stopping puppy mouthing, is the startle and redirect method. This strategy consists of making a high-pitched sound that is best written as “AWRP!” This sound startles most puppies enough to make them release their hold on you. Then, you redirect your puppy’s mouth to something appropriate to chew on, such as a chew toy or other toy. Many people are really good about remembering to startle but then forget to redirect their puppy to something that can be chewed. The result of this mistake is that the puppy goes back to mouthing the person’s hands or clothing and the person thinks the technique doesn’t work.   There are other effective ways of dealing with puppy mouthing, but I advise against any aversive methods, even if they are commonly advised. For example, don’t hold the puppy’s mouth shut or stick your fingers in it, yell, or use physical force to stop the dog. Basically, anything that frightens or hurts the dog is not an option.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Winter Fun
Dogs love playing in the snow

Like many areas of the country, we have had some extreme weather this week. Specifically, up here in the mountains of Arizona at 7,100 feet above sea level, we have had a blizzard. I’m not just exaggerating to make a point, but using the term “blizzard” as a technical term. We’ve had nearly two feet of snow and winds over 40 miles per hour.

  Luckily, we love snow and played in it a lot. And if there is anything more charming than a dog enjoying the first big snowfall of the year, I’ve yet to come across it. Here’s a video of what was going on at my house yesterday. It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes, spoken by Doug Larson: “The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.”  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Holiday Pet Safety
‘Tis the season

This time of year is filled with special foods, decorations and activities. I love the celebrations, but I am also cautious about them in some ways. At the risk of sounding un-festive, I always feel like shouting, “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye!” (Actually, since becoming a Mom, this is actually something I HAVE said, and not just as a joke.) Perhaps because I have heard tragic tales of every type that relate to beloved pets, I am eager to share what I know about the dangers to avoid. I recently wrote about pet safety during the holidays for my local paper.

  For dogs, the main risks related to the various holidays celebrated around the time of the winter solstice are poisoning (plants, chocolate, grapes and raisins), choking (tinsel, ribbons, turkey bones, small ornaments and hard candy), and excessive fats (turkey and ham drippings). Fire is also a danger. Whether the candles in your house are kindled for eight days, serve as a reminder of the light that appeared in the east, or simply provide ambiance, open flames require constant tending.   Take care over the holidays. I don’t want to hear any sad tales this year about you and yours.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Decorating With Pets
Having dogs is compatible with style

 

Pet-focused design is popular today. Interior designers are frequently asked to consider pets when decorating clients’ homes. Some common issues and solutions in pet-friendly designing that appeared in an AP article called “Pet Owners Can Decorate Stylishly, Strategically” are summarized below.

 

 

To handle the chewing, scratching, and shedding that can ruin furniture, designers recommend indoor/outdoor rugs and fabrics. To prevent chewing and scratching damage, they suggest buying furniture with metal legs or bases and covering corners with plastic covers intended for childproofing. To deal with shedding, they advise decorating in fabrics that match your dog’s fur and choosing textured fabrics over those that are smooth. For overall aesthetics, they propose covering dog beds with a fabric that matches your sofa or your own bedding.   Designers even have ideas for quick company readiness: Keep a blanket on your dog’s favorite chair and remove it just before company is expected or put a throw over furry spots right before they arrive. Use “pet centers” with drawers to hold pet supplies including food and water so that these items can be tucked out of sight quickly.   I think all these ideas are useful, but I personally have no objection to homes whose overall décor says, “Our dog lives here and is happy.”    

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
There’s A Dog at School Full Time
His job is drug enforcement

There’s a new staff member at school, and he works cheap! Raidin is a five-year-old Belgian Malinois and he was taught to detect four basic smells at Kingman High School: marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Like many dogs, his training is about finding specific substances rather than apprehending and subduing suspects. His searches are usually in buildings, vehicles and parking lots, and never on students.

  If Raidin signals that he smells drugs on a student, he has to be pulled away, because to search a student would violate that student’s Fourth Amendment Rights regarding unreasonable search and seizure. Although Raidin’s detection skills have led authorities at the school to find marijuana in backpacks, in a locker and in a classroom, the hope is that Raidin’s presence will serve as a deterrent for students who would otherwise bring drugs to school.   Raidin’s reward for working is play. Like many members of his breed, he has a high play drive, and he has been taught to expect a game of catch when his handler cues him that it’s time to work because the game always follows the work session.      

 

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