Meet Our Board: Dr. Karen Overall

Dr. Karen L. Overall (BA, MA, VMD, Ph.D; Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and director of the Behavior Clinic at Penn Vet for over 12 years) is one of the IWDBA’s dedicated board members. Her work continues to have significant influence in the working dog world – from promoting academic advancement in the field of animal behavior to developing foundational behavior protocols that are now used world-wide.

Overall’s research focuses on neurobehavioral genetics of dogs, the development of normal and abnormal behaviors and how behavior is assessed, especially concerning working dogs. An example of this work has been referenced in one of our recent articles on tial injuries in high drive dogs, available for both members and non-members here.

Overall is also the founding editor-in-chief for Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. This international publication focuses on all aspects of veterinary behavioral medicine, with a particular emphasis on clinical applications and research.

“I really enjoy the research I do, and the discussion that comes along with it,” said Overall. “We started that journal because there were so many papers describing various research that didn’t have a home. Once we got it started, things just exploded with scientists wanting to publish their papers but had no place to have that done. We provided that.

“There are examples where we can provide more space to an important piece of research than some other publications. I often think, 17 years ago, no such paper would likely have been published.”

Among her other achievements, Overall is widely known for her creation of 1997 Protocol for Relaxation, which is a program offering foundational behavior modification techniques – teaching dogs (and cats!) to be calm and relaxed in a manner that scientifically sets them up for success despite stress influences, critical under-socialization, or poor innate stress resilience. The field of behavior modification and ethical handling has seen significant development in the past 25 years, and much of this is with thanks to Overall’s own contributions. The protocol can be found on Overall’s own website, or downloaded by clicking here.

Presently, Overall is a Professor of Behavioral Medicine at Atlantic Veterinary College, and lectures at veterinary schools world-wide. Overall also consults with governments globally about legal and welfare issues of pet dogs and behavioral, welfare and performance issues pertaining to working dogs. Overall has served the IWDBA since its inception and continues to contribute to the mission of the IWDBA through her work.

By Jed Weisberger