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Pantops Pet Salon & Spa
Charlottesville's Professional Dog Grooming

It's what we do -- it's all we do.

(434) 293-2424
Fax: (434) 293-8231
504 Pantops Center
Charlottesville, VA 22911

The Tough Side of Nature

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

In the nature vs. nurture debate, I often wonder if dogs can be born with some of the same “special needs” that humans are. We all know from experience that they are born with certain personality traits; shy, over-friendly, dominant, lazy, etc. These traits taken to the extreme require more intense training to overcome or at least control. I have seen dogs that are lazy – just as soon sit around and get fat as anything else. Here in the shop we call them “sit down dogs.” During the grooming process they are constantly trying to sit down, making brushing and clipping almost impossible. And wouldn’t you know it, along with being lazy, they are fat. Some are so fat it’s no wonder they want to sit down. Which came first, a dog that had a voracious appetite that due to lack of exercise became fat or slow metabolism and laziness that led to being fat? You know, that vicious cycle. Then there’s the hyper dog that won’t sit still – and forget about leash training. He is the one that’s prone to nonstop barking as well. And at what? Nothing in particular, just for attention.

When I was growing up, I never imagined we would label a behavior on the part of dogs as “separation anxiety.” Yet I think these personality traits can usually be dealt with by spending a lot more time in training and controlling the environment than would be normally required. But what I really want to know is if dogs can be handicapped as my son Carl is – with cerebral palsy or mental retardation. The kind of “special need” that can’t be overcome regardless of the amount of time, training, or love spent.

You see, Carl operates on a 3-5 year old level, and we organize his world and ours around that. The range of mental retardation can range from faintly detectable to something far more serious and dramatic.

For the past two years, we have had a Cardinal at our window feeder that bangs his beak on the window – loud and hard. He works himself into a frenzy and actually stares in wildly and pants. Now understand, we have lots of birds of all stripes and colors use that feeder — to include many other Cardinals — and it is only this bird that behaves that way. We think he looks and behaves a bit deranged.

I wonder if we see more frequent “special needs” behavior in dogs and humans because we take care of them. They aren’t left to “survival of the fittest” as in the early stages of their evolution.

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