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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), or


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), or



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), or



A common concern I receive from parents is their dog ignores their small child (from toddler through grade school, even high school). Whether it is the dog pulling on sleeves and pants or jumping on the children, the bottom line is the dog isn’t listening to anything the child is saying.

Most kids only know how to be kids. Kids are loud, fast, darty, bouncy, goofy, and confusing. All of this is interpreted by the dog in a million different ways. Here are a few of the biggest mistakes I see kids making:

Run Away. Of course a kid isn’t standing there while his dog jumps, nips or chases. The child is going to do what his DNA says to do. Run Away! However, this speaks as more fun for the dog! Instead, we teach children to Be A Tree, while calling or counting loudly. A cue to a parent to intervene quickly. Stop, look at your feet, fold your hands. Start calling loudly to parent. Dogs don’t chase trees. Be A Tree.

Yelling. I frequently hear kids yelling. First they are yelling just because kids can be naturally loud. But that turns into yelling cues to the dog or yelling at the dog to stop the unwanted. Or yelling louder because the dog is ignoring them, but the dog has tuned out the yelling.

Rapid Fire Cues. I hear parents faulty of this but I hear nearly 100% of kids rapid fire at their dog. “Fido! Sit Sit Sit Sit Sit Sit. Fido! Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit!” Usually including a finger point or sometimes a sharp finger to the dog’s shoulder. The dog tunes out the rapid fire cues, I would tune you out too, if you said, “have a seat on the couch, have a seat on the couch, have a seat on the couch.”

What a dog trainer’s kid does: I started guiding my Little on proper training and interactions around 18 months old with our Hadley, our Yellow Labrador. Up until this point, there was non-stop management and re-direction to keep both kid and dog safe.

Height helps. I used a 2 level step stool. The height helps the kid have some confidence and keeps safe distances from dog to eliminate silly kid reactions if the dog does something unexpected. She would run through our dog’s behaviors with my guidance. Kids love to help with training sessions because they think its magnificent when the dog listens to them. The height also helps the dog learn high value kid treats are tossed to the floor so dog will learn to keep space from kid and turn focus to floor once kid is on the floor.

Delivering cues. She uses both hand cues and verbal cues together. Then she would use only hand and then only verbal. Then she would squeal when Hadley would respond. Ha!

Ask/Wait. My Little learned on the first training session from her stop stool, We ask Hadley ONCE then count to 5 before we ask again. We never rapid fire cues.

Kiss A Hip. My Little always offers our pup love in the morning when she wakes and in the evening before bed, but she will always kiss/hug Hadley’s hip. Never Hadley’s face or mouth. Never her nose or feet. She shows respect to our dog by kissing the least offensive or intimidating part of the dog. The back end!

Stranger Dogs. My daughter would never run up to any dog. She knows to ask permission from the owner before touching. She know to let the dog approach her because not all dogs want to be pet. She knows to pet on the shoulders or hips.

As soon as your child is old enough to understand what you are communicating to them in life, teach them to properly communicate to a dog!

You can contact Amber Walker at (630) 53-PUPPY, or visit her website

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, or visit her website





“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:

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

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

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

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

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 or visit her website at




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

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, or visit her website at


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 or


Amber Walker

Amber Walker, owner and lead trainer at Animal Intuitions, Inc. provided us with some great insight on prong collars and why you will not see them in any Two Bostons stores.

Walking is one of the greatest activities an owner and dog can do.  It builds a great bond and is a good work out.  It can deplete a dogs’ energy lessening unwanted behaviors that a bored dog does like chewing, barking, and digging.  And walking is just plain fun!

Sometimes, we find ourselves not going on walks because our dog pulls, lunges, barks at other dogs, zig zags, and makes the walk horrible.  How can we change all that?  A change of walking tool is sometimes all it takes!

Animal Intuitions or Two Bostons will never recommend the use of prong, pinch, or chain collars and but most important, we want you to understand why.

First, prong collars work. We are not denying that fact.  Function is not the matter of why we don’t like them.  There are three main components as to why we won’t use them, sell them or prongcollarrecommend them: 1. Your dog’s anatomy, 2. their use as a training tool, and 3. the inconsistency with their use.

1. Dog’s Anatomy

Your dog’s neck is actually very delicate and includes the vertical vertebrae, trachea, jugular vein, tonsils, epiglottis, larynx, esophagus, nerves and veins.

Repeated stress (mild to severe) to this area will not only cause pain and problems to the immediate areas being touched but also can lead to neck, back and even eye problems and injuries.  Optical nerves in the neck can cause blindness.

Our dogs appear to not be especially sensitive so we are more likely to use greater and greater force.  By the time evidence of permanent damage is identified, it is too late.

2. A Training Tool

It is especially important to Animal Intuitions, that your dog learns how to walk because we are teaching them to make that decision through positive reinforcement i.e. PAIN FREE.  No human or animal can learn when he or she is in pain.

Our goal is teaching the dog to control himself and the owner won’t need to physically control the dog.

As with any tool, there is a right and wrong way to use them.  More often than not, these collars are used incorrectly.  And even if they are used ‘correctly,’ you still won’t see us using them.

To use positive punishment (adding something [pinch collar] to decrease a behavior [leash pulling]) it must be administered at the correct time.  Timing is important in clicker training too.  Wrong timing in clicker training means your dog gets a free treat.  Wrong timing in a pinch collar ‘pop’ means a lot of confusion for your dog, including the possible association with what the dog sees (dog, child, car, bike, etc.) at the time of a leash pop leading to fear and aggression, “That thing made me hurt and now I will be [insert dog emotion].” It must also be done with enough force to stop the behavior.  OUCH!

3. The Inconsistency

The use of the prong and/or pinch collar is not consistent.  It varies from person to person and from situation to situation.  Take the following for example:

  • The dog pulls and the owner follows (or is dragged) and the dog is positively reinforced for what it wants to do/where it wants to go because the dog still gets to move forward.
  • Sometimes pulling is corrected with a jerk other times it is not.
  • Collars are fitted incorrectly so the dog never gets relief even on a slack leash.

In the end, your dog has been habituated to the constant pressure and it no longer means anything.
It’s possible that the dog may develop a punishment callus.  This causes the owner to escalate the level of correction while the dog is reinforced by pulling to get to whatever he wants and it outweighs the punishment of the pain.

boxerfullharnessSo what do we recommend?  We do want you to use a tool that will be helpful to you and your dog.  There are certainly a variety of options that work for some and not for others.  We highly recommend the Freedom Harness or Sporn Harness.  You can get this at Two Bostons.

Positive Reinforcement is very important to Animal Intuitions’ training team and we want our clients to understand why we are so passionate about it.  AI has trained over 100 zoo and pet animal species with the same training techniques, methods, and science…every time! We can’t wait to show you our successful methods with all your dogs and dogs to come.

For more information on Amber and Animal Intuitions, Inc. visit them at