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News and Information about Dogs, Cats, and Pet Products

Happy Holidays!…or were you a bit embarrassed by your dog’s behavior at Thanksgiving and now anxious about Christmas? Your dog was probably anxious too with all the smells of incredible food and the extra carousel of visitors coming and going.

Now with Christmas in sight, in addition to the foodie smells and visitors, the whole house seems to have changed decor too! There are 4 levels of anxiety that you can quickly figure out how stressed out your dog is and if Fido should stay to hangout or if your visitors should be letting Fido have a solo holiday in the other room.

Amber Walker, KPA CTP, Owner & Trainer, Animal Intuitions, LLC. You can contact Amber at 630-53-PUPPY (630-537–779),  Amber@aitrainers.com or www.aitrainers.com

 

When I told my Mom I was writing a blog about giving pets as gifts, she said, “You are preaching to the choir. Your blog followers already know this.” She’s right. So I ask that if someone mentions in passing you that they are “getting so-and-so a dog for a present,” please share this information!

I have 3 short stories to open with:

Story #1: My friend Kim adopted a German Shepherd puppy from Chicago Tails. This 5-month puppy was relinquished because a first time grandpa gifted it to his daughter. She had just had a baby 5 months earlier and he wanted the puppy and baby to grow up together as the same age.

Story #2: My friend Meredith has her dog because a woman gifted her father a Labrador as a companion while he was recovering from knee surgery.

Story #3: A vet-tech friend is helping to re-home a sweet pit bull puppy that was given as a baby gift at an 18 year old’s baby shower.

As an outsider, all of these stories are obvious that a dog isn’t a good match for these life circumstances but every one of these dog presents is a sweet gesture with genuine intentions. No one went in (I assume) and said with an evil laugh, “Ha! Ha! Ha! I will gift you a dog to make your life difficult!” They truly believe it’s a great idea.

The only time a pet is an acceptable gift is if the recipient is fully aware that they are being gifted a dog and have consented. In that case, it may still be a gift but it’s not a surprise. The only time a dog surprise is an acceptable gift is if you, yourself, are personally going to be hand on with the dog, such as a gift to the family member inside your home.

If a dog is being gifted, it’s likely that the recipient does not already own a dog so let me remind you about being a first time dog owner or first time in a long time owner. And if you are the gifter, you probably aren’t donating your time or money to the dog’s new family!

Last year, Americans spent $62.75 billion dollars on their pets. The first year of new supplies for a dog can be about $500-$1000. The first year of new puppy vet bills can average around $1200. Training is required and necessary. Working with a certified trainer in group classes or private training in your home will be hundreds, even thousands of dollars. If you are training your dog without a professional, then swap thousands of dollars for thousands of hours! The first year, for some owners, can average up around $6,600! In addition to the cost, the time needed to invest into a new dog is 24/7. 24 hours a day because with a new puppy or dog, your overnight hours are likely being committed to the dog also in potty training or acclimation to the new home. Just like with children, the dog owner doesn’t get a day off.

Talk to your recipient before you gift a dog or any other living being!

Amber Walker, KPA CTP, Owner & Trainer, Animal Intuitions, LLC. You can contact Amber at 630-53-PUPPY (630-537-8779),  Amber@aitrainers.com or www.aitrainers.com

 

 

Halloween can be a really stressful time for many dogs. They’ve already had to learn to maneuver an environment dominated by humans and then we have these random days throughout our lives where we do really weird stuff! From loud booms on July 4th to totally creepy creatures during October 31st, our dogs endure a lot of potential stress. A ton of dogs will be dressed up for Halloween as they march in pet parades and accompany their humans door-to-door.  There are good, better, and best ways to dress your dog and there are a few things we just shouldn’t do at all.

I would like to add in a really important one I intended to mention but did forget (you’ll see why in the video!). Please do not ever ride your dog. No matter how large the dog, no matter how small the child. This will set the dog up for a lot of potential mental stress and future health issues.

Happy Halloween!!

 

Amber Walker, KPA CTP, Owner & Trainer, Animal Intuitions, LLC. You can contact Amber at 630-53-PUPPY (630-537-8779),  Amber@aitrainers.com or www.aitrainers.com

 

 

When a client calls me on the phone and describes their dog as “aggressive,” I have my own picture in my head of what aggression looks like. But what is their picture? What exactly does aggressive look like to them? So I ask.  And I ask a very specific question.

“How do you know? What exactly does your dog’s reactivity look like that makes you think this?”

Did you see what I did there? I changed their word “aggression” to “reactivity” because the bottom line is, the dog is simply reacting to a stimulus. The severity of the reactivity is what I’m trying to find out.

“My neighbor came over and my dog jumped on her and barked” VERSES “My husband was in the ER because our dog bit him.”

I never give advice about reactivity/aggression over the phone. Not until I see it in person, I need too much additional information before I can begin. However, there is some information that I can give that is an overview no matter what or how severe the reactivity is.

Reactivity is mostly fear-based. I would even go as far as to say 99% of all aggression cases are based and rooted in fear or they started there even if they have morphed into something else today.
The humans frequently make the reactive behavior worse on accident because of how they react. You should become aware of how you react and everything you do. This includes your voice and your body language.

Threshold. No matter how reactive the dog is, no matter what the dog is reacting to, no matter the location where the dog is reacting, the dog cannot have his mind changed about anything unless he is under threshold. The dog must be in a position to learn. Once a dog has reached the height of his reactivity, it is too late to train or learn, the only option then is management. Begin implementing training under threshold. This usually means distance from stimuli. Distance is always your best friend.

Counter Conditioning. When a dog is reactive, the dog has already made a decision about how he feels about the stimulus. That’s why he is reacting! Changing how the dog feels about the stimulus is the most common, and often, the easiest technique. Associate a positive interaction with the aversive. Present a beloved chewy water bottle as you need to pass another dog on a leash.  Allow the dog to begin to associate happy things happen when the bad things enters the scene.

Incompatible Behaviors/Replacement Behaviors. IBs teach the dog to do something that causes him to be physically unable to do the unwanted behavior and RBs are performing a wanted behavior instead of an unwanted one. For example, it is physically impossible for a dog to jump if he is sitting. This same idea can be used with reactivity. Replace lunging at the end of the leash with eye contact to you. Or train the dog that a tight leash is a cue to find you so if he does reach the end of his leash, he is able to cue himself out of lunging!

Be a Detective. Why is your dog reacting? Sometimes if you can find the root, you can fix the problem. Most of the time we don’t have the originating situation to cause this but sometimes we do know! A client called me recently about their dog now displacing reactivity to anything that beeps. But she also knows the exact moment it happened! The dog was home all day when the smoke alarm battery started chirping. The dog now associated the obnoxious noise with being afraid and fear turns into “aggression.”

Earlier the better. The sooner you can recognize there is a fear or reactivity starting, the easier and quicker it can be reversed!

No practicing. Practice makes perfect so every time the dog gets to practice the reactive behavior, it gets better and stronger and more default. Management and prevention can play a huge part in reversing a guarding behavior.

Don’t hesitate to consult a positive reinforcement trainer or your veterinarian for more information.

 

 

 

Since I’ve been away on my Mommy Sabbatical, my colleagues have been telling me they have seen an increase in a behavior commonly referred to as Resource Guarding. This is when a dog finds something valuable and wants to protect it from the humans or other dogs or pets. The behaviors can look as minimal as walking away with the valuable item or can be as severe as biting. This behavior is unwanted by us but still totally normal and not a dog trying to claim a status of dominance.

There are some things all owners should be doing and not doing to prevent resource guarding with the family dog! If your dog is already showing signs of Resource Guarding, have hope that it is a changeable behavior. There are a few things to keep in mind.

Resource Guarding DO:

Do an exchange with your dog for everything to take. Take a toy, give a treat. Take a stuffed KONG, give a toy. Etc. The mistake made is “I’m your master,” when in fact your dog is just interpreting you as a jerk and learns to guard instead. This is most helpful when a puppy or dog is new to a family.

Do leave your dog alone when eating meals or snacks other than dropping goodies. Always and forever.

Do prevent the opportunity to guard. Separate multiple dogs food bowls and chew toys. Always and forever.

Do train your dog. Training as many behaviors as possible gives your dog default options to offer you to gain access to things they want. It’s important to include a drop and leave it in the mix of behaviors.

Resource Guarding DON’T:

Don’t put your hands in your dog’s food bowl while he eats. Can you imagine if a restaurant server stood at your table with his hands on your plate?!? Just leave the dog alone unless you’re dropping an extra yummy in.

Don’t take anything from your dog and walk off.

Don’t allow you dog access to things he can guard.

Resource Guarding CHANGING BEHAVIOR:

Do have your dog work for everything. No free handouts.  All food, treats, and toys require eye contact, sit or down behavior.

Do hand-feed. Hand-feed can come from your actual hands or from a pouring container. Ask your dog for eye contact or a sit and pour a small amount into their bowl. When the dog finishes, ask for behaviors and pour a small amount, repeat. Include high value food into their diet when your dog automatically begins to offer these behaviors.

Do train a give release or drop cue.

Do train a leave it or off cue.

Do make yourself valuable so your dog knows that when you are around, good things happen and less guarding will “need” to exist.

Don’t punish or challenge a dog displaying resource guarding.

And don’t hesitate to contact a positive reinforcement trainer or your veterinarian for questions or additional help!

You can contact Amber Walker at (630) 53-PUPPY, amber@aitrainers.com or visit her website www.aitrainers.com

 

 

 

 

“Hi Amber, it’s “Noel.” I am on vacation this week and was browsing the Internet and found a cute puppy’s picture at the animal shelter.  I’m going to head over there and pick her up.  I don’t know anything about this breed, can you tell me before I go?”

cute-dogFirst, I’m grateful Noel called me first.  More often than not, I get the call once things aren’t going well about a week or two after adoption or purchase.  After a few questions of Noel’s lifestyle, habits, and honest reasons for wanting this particular puppy, we decided together this dog was *not* a good fit for her.

Unfortunately, a lot of pet purchases and adoptions are made from “really cute pictures online.” Don’t get me wrong, cute dogs sell!  My Instagram page is devoted to cute dog pictures with plenty of followers!  Plus, my next dog is likely a yellow Labrador and I will check out the Internet to see who is out there.  Then make meet and greet appointments based on availability and pictures. Where this goes wrong is “what a cute face! Let’s bring this one home!” Not all breeds are created equal.

Breed research is vitally important before bringing home a dog.  It is truly necessary to match a dog’s breed to your lifestyle. Unfortunately, breed behavior can conflict with owner expectations and management. Though the dog will vary on an individual basis, you should make yourself aware of what their genetic DNA programming is.

Generally, breeds can look like this:

Herding
Job: ability to control movement of livestock
Turns into: easy arousal of movement including children and cars

Workingnational-dog-day
Job: various tasks, guarding, pulling sleds, search and rescue, police, military
Turns into: Resource guarding, protective of person or property, excessive leash pulling.

Hound
Job: Hunt using scent, sight, and speed
Turns into: distracted by smells and easily lose attention to owner, chasing.

Terrier
Job: Hunt and kill vermin
Turns into: Digging, chasing, killing rodents in yard or home such as hamsters and guinea pigs.

Sporting
Job: assist humans with hunting by pointing and retrieving.
Turns into: Carrying things in their mouths like laundry and shoes, possible destruction of items.

Amber WalkerSo, before you bring home the next “OMG that dog is so cute!!!!!,” a little breed research can make or break the happiness and compatibility success of both your family and dog!

Amber Walker is the owner of Animal Intuitions, you can contact her at (630) 53-PUPPY or amber@aitrainers.com or visit her website at www.aitrainers.com.

 

 

 

Amber WalkerIf you have read my Blogs from 2013 (Ask the Trainer ~ Baby Time and And the Baby Came Home: Helping Dogs Adjust to a New Baby), you’ll recall my dog’s initial reaction to bringing home Baby K was to immediately return the baby back to the hospital for a full refund!

Now in 2016, Baby Z is 3 months old and the experience couldn’t have been more different!  I’m glad my Labrador gave me the learning of being difficult the first time around and then a “been there, done that” mentality for Round 2 <wink>

Regardless of how your dog accepts your first, second, third or more babies, there are always a few things that are still good practice!

Prepare ahead of time:

Keep the routine as close as possible to being the same.  This includes meal times, walks, etc.

Do as much training before the baby comes as possible.  If dog’s behaviors are already fairly well in place, brush up on everything to make sure they are sharp.  Train replacement behaviors for the dog’s unwanted behaviors or create management plans for the dog. For example, I chose to put up a window film to prevent barking at dogs on the sidewalk of our very busy, dog-friendly community.

Preparing Dog For Baby, Newborn (6)Brush up on recognizing normal healthy dog stress signals (like yawn, lip lick, whale eye, body shakes, etc.) so you’ll be able to recognize when they are stressed and adjust the environment. (Guest Blog: Dog-Friendly Families: Body Language for more on stress signals)

If you’ll be utilizing a dog daycare or neighborly friend to help watch the dog, research or arrange that ahead of time.  My dog spent 2 weeks at my in-laws house only making short visits home to see us and meet baby Z. After 2 weeks, we had a better idea of how to manage 2 kids and Hadley was wore out from her 2 week vacation.  She was a fabulous dog once she “moved back home.” We did not do this for Hadley when Baby K was born and I regretted that, especially seeing how well it helped her get use to Baby Z.  I highly recommend letting someone else care for your dog while the new parents adjust.

As baby gifts arrive, put them where the dog can smell and investigate.  Nothing like bringing home hundreds of dollars of new stuff and a baby all at the same time.

There must be a baby-free zone option for the dog.  They must have a place they can get away to without anyone bothering them. This can be a bed or crate in a separate room.  Teach all the humans that that when the dog goes here, leave the dog alone.

After the baby arrives:

Go slow.  Your dog and baby do not have to be best buds in the first 20 minutes.  Allow your dog to sniff baby feet, blankets, cribs, etc. at their own pace.  Don’t force the dog by dragging or restraining them.dog-and-baby-600x379

Lower your criteria and expectations.  The excess crying (by both baby and post-partum mama!) plus lack of sleep, puts everyone on edge, even Fido. Don’t expect perfect behaviors from your dog during these stressful changes.

Bring a blanket home from the hospital for the dog to sniff.

Put a cup of kibble in every room in the house.  Just do it, and you’ll thank me later!

Try not to get mad at the dog.  They could be as stressed as the new parents are and yelling will only add to the stress.

Visitors and gusts may not be stressful, even if they never were before.

Congratulations and good luck!!

For more information or questions contact Amber at amber@aitrainers.com, or visit her website at www.aitrainers.com.

 

Amber Walker*Sigh* It happened again.  Another dog bite. It happened to my friend, we will call her Angie.  Angie went to a friend’s house about a week ago to meet their rescue dog.  Angie reached to pet the dog and he bit her hand. I cannot tell you the dog’s name, age, breed, gender, weight, or eye color. And it doesn’t matter.  Normal, healthy dogs all have the same communication.  I also don’t know the history of this dog but there is a good chance, that didn’t matter either.

The breeds ranked as the number one family dogs are my number one cases for aggression. 

According to Angie, it was a decent bite that she probably should have gone to the doctor for.  But she didn’t go and no one will ever know. Angie said, “I’m sure the dog was telling us he didn’t want to be pet but we just didn’t know.”

 

It only takes one.  One growl, lunge, air snap, or bite will end any dog in a shelter and SO many of them could have been avoided.  Once a dog has a bite history, it is almost *impossible* to re-home, and most rescues will not take him.

On a fairly regular basis, I see dogs in the community being put into situations they clearly do not want to be in and the owners have no idea. Just today, I saw the second largest dog bread (100+ pounds) being forced to greet a complete stranger on the street by its owner.  Imagine the damage if the dog decided to bite. “Yes, come pet him.  It’s good for his socialization, ” I heard the owner say to the stranger.  “Not if he doesn’t want to,” I said in my own head.

About 1,000 people EACH DAY receive emergency care for a dog bite and 77% of all dog bites are from family or friend’s dogs.  I feel like I need to say that louder: THERE IS A 77% CHANCE YOUR DOG AT YOUR HOME RIGHT NOW WILL BITE SOMEONE YOU KNOW.  Only 23% of all bites come from a stranger dog the person didn’t know.

Do not force your dog to meet anyone! If your dog does not want to say hello to Aunt Meg, Barack Obama or the Pope, he doesn’t have to!508102843_53b1f641ce

What to LOOK for in a normal health dog: 

  • Lip licking (like peanut butter on the lips or chewing cud)
  • Yawning
  • Leaning back or pulling away from people
  • Face turning away
  • Whale eye (point your chin down and look up, that’s whale eye)
  • Tripod stance (on 3 legs, 4th leg is a bent knee)
  • …and more…

Growling, lunging, air snapping or biting are all a last resort! 

This is not the first time or the last time I will educate about dog bites.  And my 2016 goals are to communicate to the masses about dog body language to help prevent bites!!  Look for me on TV, online, media, magazines, social media and local seminars to learn more.

For more information you can contact Amber Walker at amber@aitrainers.com or www.aitrainers.com.

 

Amber Walker

 

There are two types of travel: Traveling with your pets and traveling without your pets!

 

There is a lot to talk about so I’m going to try to highlight the big stuff only, in the hopes that I plant ideas you can further research.  The internet really is a great source for finding more.  There is very little “mis-information” on this topic but always use common sense and keep your pet’s best interest in mind!

 

Local, at home options:

If keeping your pet home is the best option for them, there are some great choices.  Pet sitters, neighbors, or friends that come to and/or stay at your home, family and friends that are willing to take in your dog during your absence, and various boarding opportunities.  But again, keep your pet’s needs in mind.  My dog, Hadley, is almost 12 and can *never* be in a boarding situation.  The negative outcome of boarding scenarios for her [OCD and anxiety issues] far outweigh the travel with ease and peace of mind.  Some dogs are perfectly fine with the boarding option but research them first.

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles! General information for taking your pet with you…

For the pet that is adventure-ready, start with these tips.

They should have a collar with tags on them at all times and even better if they are micro-chipped with up-to-date information.  And don’t forget the leash too!

Remember that even the most relaxed pets can become stressed during travel.  Essential oils, Thundershirts, calming pheromones or calming oral supplements, and vet prescribed medication can be helpful for travel.

Your pet may become very thirsty while traveling…even if you can’t have access to food, water should always be accessibledogs-in-cars-03

Chew toys and other occupying activities.  Just as humans bring “things to do” during travel, your pet should have something too.

You pet will need a crate or seat belt while traveling.  Crates should be large enough they can stand up, turn around and lay down.

Waste disposal.  Your pet will poop!  Make sure you have a way to clean it up.

It’s not a bad idea to plan ahead knowing where the local veterinary clinics are along your way in case of emergency.  Unfortunately, there’s no 911 for pets.

Make sure your final destination is pet friendly!  Don’t assume.

…and I haven’t even scratched the surface!

Let us know your pet travel questions below, or you can email Amber Walker at amber@aitrainers.com, or you can of course, always stop in or call on of the Two Bostons stores and one of our team members can help!

Amber WalkerLast month to celebrate National Hugging Day, we had Amber Walker provide the blog: Hugs and Kisses, about pets and hugging safety.  After reading that blog you might have asked yourself, “Ok, so, what body language should I be looking for?” As a follow up, today’s blog will help answer that question.

 

The Presidential Elections have me on my own campaign…I want to create dog-friendly families everywhere!  Most seem to know that they should train their dog and take them on a walk daily, but I am always shocked when the knowledge and education stops there.

I’ve been using the term “Dog Friendly Family” with my clients for a while, and when I Googled it, nothing of significance came up…

Webster Defines a Dog Friendly Family as…Nope, not there.

Google Defines a Dog Friendly Family as…Not there either.6-21705-top-10-family-friendly-dogs6c-1350065750

So until the angry originator knocks on my door…I am taking responsibility for the phrase and creating the definition!

Amber’s definition of a Dog Friendly Family: “An individual or a multiple person family that meets the dog’s individual mental and physical needs, provides a home that accommodates the dog’s safety and comfort, and clearly communicates to the dog while listening and responding to the dog’s own body language.” 

I blogged about why every dog might not want to partake in National Hug Day. How do I know not every dog wants a hug and kiss? Because I am fluent in dog body language and it’s a great idea that ALL dog owners learn that too!

First, reduce the use of labels.  The dog is not fearful, aggressive, submissive, destructive, anxious, nervous, scared, sad, sleepy, hyper, happy, friendly, etc.  Let’s look at the dog’s ears, eyes, tail, mouth and feet to get a larger story.

A dog handler describing a “happy or friendly” dog, is actually seeing:

  • happy-dogOpen mouth, relaxed tongue (in or out of mouth)
  • Eyes looking around
  • Ears relaxed: “floppy” or “up” changing directions listening all around
  • A tail on its own is hard to read, it is best when a tail is read it is combined with other exhibited behaviors, may be stiff or wagging

 

 

A dog handler describing a “fearful, aggressive, nervous, or scared” dog, is actually seeing:

  • Tightly closed mouth (usually dogs grit their teeth before they bite)
  • Lip licking (like peanut butter is in their mouth)dog-scared
  • Heavy panting (outside of being hot or thirsty)
  • Eyes darting (to get away)
  • Ears to the side or flat back or floppy ears against head or pulled back
  • Again, the tail on its own is hard to read, but you may see a tucked tail, stiff tail or wagging tail
  • Some other things you might see is yawning, the tri-pod stance (only standing on three legs), “looking busy” like sniffing the ground at nothing, phantom itches, or excessive water drinking, stiffening, showing teeth, growling, air snapping, biting

After a dog experiences anything above, they should do a full body shake (like a dry dog shaking off invisible water).  This is one most owners see, miss and ignore!  We should instead give this a grand verbal praise.  The dog is choosing to re-set, start over, and relax again.  Body shakes can happen during or after fun play or stressful, scary moments.

There is a ton more to body language but if you start here and become quickly observant with this, your dog will thank you!
If you have questions about training, behavior, or her services please visit her website or email her at amber@aitrainers.com.