Home
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.

News: Guest Posts
Biff the Boxer Stars in John Lewis Ad
Animals take center stage this holiday season

The upscale UK department store John Lewis has a history of emotional commercials that often feature animals. This year, animals once again take center stage, with Buster the Boxer (played by five-year old Biff) in the starring role.

Buster watches foxes, a squirrel, a badger, and a hedgehog bounce on the trampoline that was set up on Christmas Eve to surprise a little girl the next morning. He appears envious of the wildlife enjoying themselves while all he can do is watch through the window. When the back door is opened the next morning, the little girl runs joyfully toward her new gift, but Buster beats her to it. At last, he can have the bouncy fun he has been craving.

The advertisement cost a millions pounds to make, and the company will spend six million more airing the commercial. Naturally, they hope sales—including of the trampoline, the girl’s pajamas, books featuring woodland animals and plush versions of the animals in the ad—will make the commercial worth it.

For the socially conscious, it’s worth noting that this advertisement marks the first time that John Lewis has cast a black family. Additionally, the company will be donating a percentage of the money from all toy sales to Wildlife Trusts in the UK.

This is my favorite dog commercial so far this season. What’s yours?

Good Dog: Studies & Research
Premature Graying in Dogs
New study shows links with anxiety, impulsiveness and fear

We know that premature gray hair in people is a result of a variety of influences. Many parents swear that their kids are making them go gray. Before and after pictures of U.S. Presidents show an astounding increase in gray hair in eight—or even four—years. Of course, genetics is also known to play a role, as is disease. A recent study called “Anxiety and impulsivity: Factors associated with premature graying in dogs” in the journal “Applied Animal Behavior Science” suggests that premature grayness in dogs may be correlated with a number of factors, including some with emotional associations.

Their results are based on a study of 400 dogs in the age range of 1-4 years who were recruited with flyers at veterinary clinics, dog shows and dog parks. Each dog was photographed from the front and from the side so that the degree of graying on their muzzle could be assessed. They were scored 0 = no gray, 1 = frontal gray, 2 = half gray and 3 = full gray. Additionally, their guardians filled out a 42-question survey. Data on anxious behaviors, impulsive behaviors, fears, size, age, sex, number of dogs and cats in the household, time spent unsupervised outdoors, whether they were spayed or neutered, medical issues and participation in organized sports or activities were collected.

Researchers found an association between graying on the muzzle and anxious behaviors, impulse behaviors, fear of loud noises, unfamiliar people and unfamiliar dogs. The extent of grayness was positively correlated with age, and female dogs were more gray than male dogs. There was no link found for premature grayness with size, being spayed or neutered, medical problems (which were rare in the sample), reactions to thunderstorms, fear of unfamiliar places, number of dogs or cats in the household, time spent outside unsupervised or being involved in organized activities.
 

Dogs were only included in the study if it was possible to determine how gray their muzzles were. (White dogs and those with merled coloring didn’t make the cut, causing 43 dogs to be excluded from the study.) The people who evaluated the photographs were not the same people who had any knowledge of the questionnaires, which prevents accidental bias in assessment of the degree of graying. The survey was designed so that guardians were unaware of the purpose of the study. (They were simply told it was a study involving dog lifestyle.) In addition to questions that assessed the factors of interest in the study, there were so-called distractor questions to prevent people from biasing their answers based on what they thought researchers were investigating. Distractor questions included “Does your dog have hind limb dew claws?”

This research adds to our understanding of premature graying in dogs, and what’s most exciting about that is the possibilities it opens for helping dogs. Being anxious or fearful and struggling with impulse control are hard on dogs, and any help dogs receive for these issues can be beneficial. If premature graying provides a tip-off to professionals that these issues may be present, intervention may be more likely to happen and to happen faster. If behaviorists, veterinarians, trainers and other dog professionals know that a gray muzzle in a young dog may indicate that the dog suffers with these issues, perhaps they will more thoroughly assess them, or refer them to other people for evaluation. It’s just another way that people can potentially make life better and easier for many dogs.

Do you have a dog who has gone prematurely gray? If so, do you think anxiety, impulsivity or fear is an issue for your dog?

News: Guest Posts
Service Dog Kicked Off Flight For Being Too Big
Airline staff said the dog was too big
Bryant and his service dog Chug

During the recent Thanksgiving weekend, one family’s travel headaches were made even more unpleasant because of American Airline’s treatment of a service dog and the people with him. The family was forced to get off the plane when a manager came on board and told them the dog was too big.

Chug is a 110-pound Labradoodle and a service dog who goes everywhere with twelve-year old Bryant. The dog’s job is to detect an oncoming seizure and to assist the child during the seizure. The family had no issues on the other three flights with Chug during their travels and had completed all the paperwork required in order for him to fly with them. Before being forced to deplane, a flight attendant had told them that the dog had to be under the seat, and the family complied with that request.

Because they were kicked off the plane, they had to stay overnight in a hotel on Thanksgiving, and were booked for a flight the next day that went to St. Louis, Missouri, which is three hours from their home, instead of to Evansville, Illinois where they live. They rented a car, drove three hours, and had to return the car to the airport as well.

American Airlines is looking into the incident, which occurred on a flight operated by a regional carrier. They have apologized to the family, who has been contacted by customer relations. Even taking into account the low standards most people have of airline’s customer service, the way this family was treated fell far short of expectations.

News: Guest Posts
Greek Café Hosts Stray Dogs
It’s a full house each night

The Hott Spott in Mytilene, Lesbos in Greece does more than serve the people of the area. The café also gives stray dogs a warm place to sleep. Every night after the place closes, the owner lets dogs in so they can spend the night out of the cold.

When this photo was posted on Facebook, the photographer (Eustratios Papanis), included a request to join the page to help animal protection efforts. The laws in Greece are generally supportive of good care for animals, but the sinking economy has led to a much larger stray dog population than before. Many people are abandoning pets who they cannot care for properly, and there are still issues with neglect and indifference.

With refugees flooding the area, resources are stretched thin, yet according to Papanis, compassion towards people as well as animals has created a solidarity of kindness among many residents. One café that takes in a few dogs each night is just a sign of the love towards animals so prevalent in this country.

The comments to the original post are in many languages and from many countries, showing that this photo has truly touched hearts around the world.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Fur of Every Color
No outfit is safe anymore

The neighbors at the end of our block recently adopted a fourth dog, which no doubt has made for many changes in the household and a lot of adjustments for everyone. All the dogs get along, and the transition seems to have been smooth. I’ve only heard one comment about the new challenges, which is “Now no color is safe to wear!”

That’s because once the fourth dog joined their family, the household contained dogs of every color, meaning that no matter what anybody wears, at least one dog’s fur will show up on it. Enzo is a reddish Golden Retriever, Sake is a black Shiba Inu and Luna is a Pointer and Blue Tick Coonhound mix with black and white mottled fur. The best guess about Candy, who is white with reddish markings, is that her lineage includes Border Collie, Australian Shepherd and Jack Russell Terrier.

Not only is fur of every color always present, the guardians of this handsome crew swear that the dogs know what they are wearing and choose to give extra love each morning to whoever is wearing a contrasting color. It does seem as though fur is drawn to outfits that will show it to best advantage, and it’s not much of a stretch to think that the dogs are in on the strategy of making their fur visible.

Fur color is a big deal when it comes to planning one’s wardrobe. Naturally, I am never far from a lint brush, but my best defense against the look of unfashionable dog hair on my outfits is to wear colors that match the current dogs in my life. I have always worn black a lot, and my black dog Bugsy could shed on me without it ever showing. I once traded dogs for the afternoon with a co-worker who had an American Eskimo and within hours, I was streaked with white. My co-worker fared little better, and after a few hours with Bugsy, her crisp khakis and white shirt looked less professional than when she began the day.

Do you have an abundance of colors of dog fur in your life?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Asking For and Accepting Help
A skill worth developing by dog guardians

Dogs are a lot of work, and though many people take it all on themselves, asking for and accepting help is advantageous for all. That’s especially true for puppies who often require more attention and require it more frequently. The thought of raising a puppy on my own with no assistance practically makes me hyperventilate with anxiety, and though I could probably do a passable job, I would never do so on purpose. Whether you are single and live alone or are part of a large family of dog lovers, outside help can make a big difference. Everyone, especially the dog, stands to benefit from a team effort.

If you have other people in your life who you know you can count on to help you, it relieves a lot of stress. If a friend or neighbor can let your dog out or refill his water bowl when you are late coming home, that’s good for you and your dog. Your dog is cared for and you need not worry. Yes, many people have very regular schedules, but a flat tire, an emergency with a co-worker or icy roads—among many other speed bumps along the road of life—can cause unexpected delays.

There are advantages to asking for and receiving help beyond the immediate benefits. In addition to giving you time to go to work and to deal with the other things you must attend to in life, your dog has experiences with other people. That provides socialization opportunities for your puppy, and also has the side benefit that other people fall in love with your dog, too. (You can never have too many people who love your dog!)

When people help out with your dog, things may not go exactly as they usually do for your dog, and that’s generally okay. In fact, it can help many dogs be flexible rather than routinized. I think routines are wonderful, but so is the ability to cope with changes in that routine.

Despite the obvious advantages of a group effort with our dogs, especially puppies, it is very hard for most guardians to ask for help. Many even struggle to accept help when it is offered. Why is that? Our society often emphasizes a strong go-it-alone attitude and approach to life. There is often a perception of weakness if you can’t do everything by yourself, or if you choose not to. Many people do not want to impose on others, even if the others don’t feel imposed upon in the slightest, and in fact are very eager to help.

I would love for offers to help with a new dog to become more commonplace in the dog community and for every dog guardian to learn to accept graciously all reasonable offers of assistance.

Are you able to ask other people for help with your dog?

Good Dog: Studies & Research
Dogs Smell Passage of Time
Their noses take them to the past

Dogs tend to live in the moment, accepting each treat, snuggle, or toss of the tennis ball as the whole reason for their existence with a charming singlemindedness. Yet, their understanding of time can be complex. Many dogs are able to anticipate predictable events accurately, which is why they leap on the couch to look out the window when the kids are just about to come home from school or adults are nearly home from work. Even more dogs appear to know, from their own stomach’s rumblings, that the dinner hour fast approaches. And according to researcher and author Alexandra Horowitz, “Dogs smell time.”

What does it mean to smell time? Horowitz writes in her new book “Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell”, that their powerful noses allow them to perceive the passage of time. This is not mystical or other worldly. It’s just that dogs can understand much about the past because of the extreme sensitivity of their noses.

Odors change over time, sometimes predictably. When you leave the house to go to work each day, the smell of you in the house decreases with each hour of your absence, and your dog can detect the difference. Perhaps your dog has learned through repetition that when the smell of you has weakened to a specific degree, you come home. In other words, the strength of your odor predicts the time of your return.

This degree of scent discrimination is not hard for most dogs. Many dogs can, for example, tell which way to follow a scent trail by heading from where it is weakest (oldest) to where it is strongest (most recent) when the difference is miniscule. Stronger odors are often newer and weaker ones are older. That means that when dogs smell weak odors, they are perceiving events of the past. Because dogs can detect both new and old odors, they are perceiving events and substances across intervals of time.

Each day, even in the same place, smells help dogs understand the passage of time. As air heats up over the course of the day, air currents change and move around in space, taking the molecules responsible for odors with them. Dogs, with their sensitive noses and large olfactory lobes are able to sense the movement and presence of chemicals people barely sense if at all.

Though we humans may detect daily patterns in light or even sound, our ability to smell clues about the passage of time, is barely worth a mention. Yet, dogs detect odors that reveal past happenings to them in complex ways we are only beginning to understand.

News: Guest Posts
Co-Star of “Cooking With Dog” Dies
Francis the Poodle will be missed

Francis the Poodle and the woman known only as “Chef” entertained and informed over a million viewers on their YouTube show “Cooking With Dog”. The dog is an integral part of a show that has demonstrated how to make a variety of Japanese dishes as well as cuisine from other regions of the world since 2009.

The format of the show is that Chef cooks and Francis narrates. Chef speaks in Japanese, while Francis talks in English. The use of English by the dog was a conscious choice to enhance one goal of the show—introducing the cuisine of Japan to people elsewhere in the world. In addition to reaching many foreigners, the show has a large following in Japan.

Chef was chosen to be on the show due to her culinary skills, but there were two reasons that the creator/producer decided to include her Miniature Poodle as a co-star. 1) Chef had no background in television, and the creator/producer hoped that the presence of her dog would make her feel more relaxed, and 2) He hoped that Francis would increase the appeal of the show and make it stand out to viewers who have many options for cooking shows to watch.

Francis passed away last week at the age of 14 years and 9 months. He has many fans who, along with Chef, will miss him terribly.

Wellness: Health Care
Dogs’ Mouths Damaged by Ladybugs
Who knew this was something to worry about?

There are plenty of things to worry about when it comes to keeping our dogs safe. We must protect our dogs from traffic, overly exuberant children, toxic plants, choking hazards like rawhides or small toys, onions, chocolate, Xyitol and everything else under the sun that we know can cause them harm.

Now there’s another thing to fret over—a species of invasive Asian ladybugs that poses a danger to dogs. In Kansas, veterinarians report seeing cases of dogs with dozens of these insects inside the mouths of dogs, which is painful for them. Ladybugs can cause chemical burns to the dog’s mouth because of the insect’s toxins.

According to veterinarians who have treated dogs with this condition, if your dog is foaming at the mouth, drooling, lethargic or refusing to eat, these ladybugs could be something to check for. (Each of these symptoms can be caused by many other problems from minor to extremely serious. A mouthful of these insects is only one of many possibilities.)

Many guardians have been able to remove the insects themselves using their fingers, a spoon or even a wooden tongue depressor. Your own dexterity and your dog’s willingness to allow you to work on his mouth in this way will determine whether you can remove them yourself or whether a visit to the veterinarian is required.

Have you known of any dogs who have suffered due to a mouthful of ladybugs?

News: Guest Posts
Failed Fosters Dog Adoption
An odd way to describe a successful match

“She’s a failed foster,” is commonly said with a smile and a shrug in certain circles. That’s because a failed foster just means that a dog found a forever home one step ahead of schedule. Often, a foster family plans to help a dog get ready to be placed in a good home but falls in love with that dog. Unable to give up the dog, the foster family adopts him, and voilà, it’s a failed foster. (Though many people like the term and find it charmingly ironic, others object to the use of negativity or humor related to the serious issue of dogs in need of homes.)

On the one hand, the situation is obviously positive because a dog has found a home. Even better, that home is with people who really want him, are committed to him, and are okay with whatever issues, if any, he happens to have. On the other hand, many rescue organizations lament failed fosters because it limits the space they have available for future fosters.

A lot of families who adopt their foster dog take a break from fostering to devote time and energy to their new dog, which makes sense. In other cases, the former foster family may not be able to take in a foster dog because their home now has the maximum number of dogs allowed, according to local ordinances. In a year, a typical family may be able to foster two, three or even six dogs during their path to a forever home. A failed foster can mean that rescue organizations have to find two, three or six spots for other dogs in need of temporary care. It’s not easy to find really good foster situations with dog savvy families who can welcome dogs on short notice to a dog-proofed home.

Despite the drawback in terms of lost foster space, it’s hard for me to hear of a failed foster without great joy. When someone’s decision to adopt a dog is motivated by pure love and acceptance, that’s a great moment, even if we joke about the “failure” it represents.

Have you ever had a failed foster?

Pages