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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


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



This Saturday (9/30/17) is our 8th Annual Adopt-A-Rama and we are so excited to see adoptable pets find new homes! This event has grown so much over the years and we now have over 20 shelters and rescue that will be attending to educate you on adoption and meet their dogs and cats.

If you already have a pet at home and you want to another, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to go about picking out and introducing a new pet into your home.  Here is a quick checklist of things to look for:

  • Consider the personalities of your existing pet(s), look for a new addition with specific traits. Adopting an older pet has a big advantage – most older pets have already been exposed to other species in their past, which can really streamline the socialization process.
  • If your dog tends to aggressively chase, pin, or otherwise “manhandle” cats, it’s probably best to consider getting another dog instead. And, a cat who constantly growls and bats, or hides from dogs would probably prefer the company of another cat.
  • If you have a pup who loves chasing things, consider avoiding a fearful or shy new addition. This can sometimes trigger a dog to chase.
  • Ignore the old wives’ tail – Bringing a highly energetic, rough-playing pet home could bring “new life” to your existing elderly pet companion. This pairing could actually terrorize or even hurt your older furry friend. Look for an upbeat, but calmer new addition. The extra company can still do wonders for an older animal.
  • Pick a neutral location to introduce your existing pet and the prospective new pet. Pick a somewhat airy, open area that neither pet considers “home turf.”
  • After bringing you new furry friend home, periodically rotate which pet has freedom to roam and which one is more confined for the first few days. This allows each animal plenty of space to investigate the other one’s scent.
  • Never leave two newly-acquainted pets alone together and unsupervised. This should be managed very gradually over about 3-6 weeks.
  • In the case of dogs and cats, the cat will often “claim” higher territory and let the dog “have” the floor spaces. Try adding a few high up perching features (shelves or pieces of furniture) to your living area to help both animals feel comfortable.
  • Don’t hesitate to work with a qualified animal behaviorist who can often suggest very specific and effective strategies for helping new furry family members get comfortable with each other.

If you have other questions about introducing or training a new pet, Allie Bender, owner of Pet Harmony will be on hand at Adopt-A-Rama this weekend to talk to you and answer your questions! We look forward to seeing you on Saturday at Two Bostons, Springbrook from Noon-3:00 pm.


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





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


Fall isn’t here yet, but school sure is and when starting a new routine, even when we have done it over and over, year after year, a quick check is always good!  There are some early-season hazards that can harm our furry friends unless we’re careful.  Here are some of the main culprits to monitor:

  • MyDogAteMyHomeworkSchool Supplies ~ What?? Yep – items like magic markets, erasers, and glues sticks are actually considered “low toxicity” when it comes to our pets. They can cause serious digestive upset and gastrointestinal blockages if consumed.  Be sure your kids keep backpacks and miscellaneous school tools well away from the four-legged family members.
  • Engine Coolant ~ Ethylene glycol-based coolants are incredibly toxic…and many pets find them sweet-smelling, so they’ll sample any spills left behind. If you change your coolant in the fall, always clean up even the tiniest spill immediately.  Better yet, switch to a propylene glycol-based coolant.  These aren’t 100% non-toxic, but they’re less damaging than other options available.
  • 112275-850x565-Garden_Snakes_IntroSnakes ~ In autumn, garden snakes and other varieties get ready for hibernation…and they can get kinda cranky if they cross paths with other animals.  Even a garden-variety snakebite is painful and traumatic to your pet.  So keep a close eye out when walking in heavily wooded areas or tall grass this time of year.


  • Rodenticides ~ The use of these substances increases in the cooler weather, as mice and other critters scurry indoors for warmth.  Remember that these are poisons — they’re highly toxic to our pets, and can often prove fatal.  If you do opt to use these products, always place them in an area inaccessible to cats and dogs.
  • Mushrooms ~ Spring and fall are mushroom time – and while most mushrooms have little or no toxicity, a small percentage can cause life-threatening medical issues.  The real trick is trying to distinguish one kind from the other. Your best bet is to keep pets away from any area where mushrooms are growing – and contact your vet right away if your best buddy happens to eat a wild mushroom.

TreatsDon’t forget that one of the best ways to keep pets safe is to keep them in your presence and occupied…and fall is a great time to work on training command and brand new tricks!  So stop by and stock up on Northwest Naturals Freeze-Dried Treats.  The convenient nuggets break easily to allow for quick and easy feeding while training.  These treats are available in Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Bison and Salon and are a single ingredient treat, grain free and gluten free.

You can get these for 20% off until 8/31/16 along with Northwest Naturals Raw and Freeze-Dried Food.


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


Out-U-Go!-LogoDuring summer is a great time to make some exercising goals and because we want to be outside, those may include our dogs.  Lindsay Gray, Top Dog at Out-U-Go! Naperville provided us with some helpful pointers to make sure that you and your dog have fun while being safe.

  1. Just like all training, this is not something you should expect to happen perfectly on attempt #1.  Remember that this is a new exercise for you and your pup and you need to be patient. Instill a lot of what you would do with normal training and techniques and remember to stay positive and patient.  Your first run might be more of a walk to get used to each other, and this is okay!
  2. Having the right equipment can make all the difference!  Many runners appreciate a hands-free leash that attaches to your waist (Like the Roamer or Flat Out Dog Leash by Ruff Wear). A harness is a good idea to keep the stress off your pups neck and provide you with a bit more control while you are running.  And don’t forget the poop bags and water!dog-walk-on-leash
  3. Not all pups are going to be a great running partner.  Make sure they aren’t too young and can comfortably keep up with the distance you plan to run.  Small dogs need to run a lot faster than a larger breed to keep up with you and might be better suited for brisk walks.
  4. Some simple commands will help your run move more  smoothly.  You will want to keep your pup from stopping to go potty on every tree, so make sure to keep them tight to you and have a Heel command ready. Leave It, or some other distraction technique, would be great for the obstacles you are bound to pass on your route.
  5. After walk care is just as important as getting them ready to go! Make sure to keep an eye out for pads that are wearing down, check the areas of their body around their equipment for chaffing or rubbing, and give them a cool and comfortable space to cool down when you are done!

Lindsay will be one of our experts presenting at our upcoming Dog Walking/Running Clinic on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at 6:00 pm at Two Bostons – Springbrook.  Bring your walking or running buddy with you and she will provide you more tips and tools to help you accomplish your walking and running goals this summer! Visit our website for more information!