Pantops Pet Salon
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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
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504 Pantops Center
Charlottesville, VA 22911

Archive for the 'Dog Behavior and Psychology' Category

Dogs Love Routine And Discipline

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 by Mike Cronk

If you have a consistent schedule for feeding, walking, playing, brushing and quiet time, you and your pet will be happy!  For example, Here is what Lizzie’s daily routine is:

5:30 a.m. Rise and shine for a 3 mile walk through the neighborhood and surrounding woods.  2 1/2 miles on the road at heel and 1/2 mile free on a path through the woods.

6:30 Breakfast – 1 1/2 cups dry food.

7:30 Off to work with me!  Salon Receptionist.

12:00 Brief walk and bathroom break.

3:00 Head home and turned loose in fenced in back yard.  Free play till dinner.  I am usually working in the yard and throw her a ball occasionally between chores.  Training during year one (sit, stay, come & heel).

6:30 p.m. Dinner 1/2 cups dry food.

7:30 Light brusing on the back deck paying attention to the ears, tail and chest.  Retire to the family room till bedtime between 9:30 and 10:00.

This schedule is adhered to every day as much as possible.  She loves it, anticipates it and is happy!  Yes, on weekends we alter it some, which she is flexible enough to accept, but for the most part routine is best!

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.

Dogs — We Made them that Way

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

I just watched a fascinating program on National Geographic Explorer called “The Science of Dogs.” It covered the evolution of the dog—a “must see” for dog lovers. I can’t do the program justice here, but I will relay some of the highlights.

Dogs originated from the wolf about 15,000 years ago. Archeologists speculate that early hunters were interested in having animals around as company and wolves responded the best.

Studies show that dogs still have 99.8% wolf DNA—that leaves only .2% for all their varied behavior, sizes and shapes! This .2% of genes has a remarkable amount of plasticity unique in the animal kingdom. Cow genes only allow for slight variations—you won’t see a cow the size of a mouse nor one the size of an elephant.  Plasticity means that dog genes are much more flexible thus we are able to breed dogs from one end of the spectrum to another-compare a Newfoundland and a Chihuahua, for example!

The first time a dog was bred for a purpose was 5,000 years ago in Egypt. Today’s Saluki was originally bred to be a sleek, swift hunter. Over the next 4,000+ years, man guided the breeding of a few select mongrels that exhibited qualities he felt would be useful for hunting, herding, and guarding.  The TV program called this selective breeding “eugenics” which means the forced direction of evolution, something that has been heavily debated in regards to human genetics.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, the upper-middle class began to fancy their dogs just as they did their gardens and architecture. The “companion dog” became a status symbol for the well to-do and breeding reflected the dog’s new purpose. Over the past 100 years, 320 of the 400 recognized breeds were created (80%).

Because small dogs can be bred as often as twice a year, a new breed can be developed in less than 20-30 years. Aggressive manipulation of the breeding process to design and shape the perfect pet led to more sizes, shapes, and colors than any other species of animal. That’s what dog shows are all about– a public measuring of the success of breeders. Hunting dogs have their trials, scent dogs theirs, and earth dogs too.  Research has also been conducted to explain a dog’s affection for us—which has been heightened through selective breeding. Dogs look to man for guidance and imitate our behaviors. We have become a team and man serves as pack leader. 

Unfortunately, careless breeding in small gene pools has caused a sharp increase in genetic diseases such as cancer, blindness, hip dysplasia and epilepsy. Most dog books will list the health problems that have a higher incidence in certain breeds like hip dysplasia in German Shepherds and blindness in Dalmatians. There is an ongoing effort by professional breeders to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” The best breeders are knowledgeable about the genetic defects that have come up in the breed so they keep thorough health records and refuse to breed any dog with defects.

As we continue to selectively breed dogs to our standards I do not see comparing them to wolves anymore than we compare man to monkeys!  The underlying biology may be similar but the behavior and physical appearance are very different.

National Geographic often repeats its programs—look for this one under the explorer series.

The Pain Threshold

Friday, August 10th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

In general, dogs are fairly stoic animals when it comes to pain—much like the rest of the animal kingdom.  Human beings are the exception.  For dogs, it is all about survival of the fittest and concealing any signs of weakness.  Nursing mothers will not feed a pup if it can’t make its way to a teat and other pups will push it out of the way.  From the very beginning, dogs must not show signs of weakness or the pack will turn on them—there is no room for stragglers in the hunt. 

This is evident to us in grooming—we see some health situations in our dogs that would drive a human crazy, but the dogs show very few signs of pain.  That survival instinct is still prevalent in many of our breeds and showing pain is just not fashionable!  Think about flea and tick infestation—could you imagine living with 30+ fleas biting all over you?  Some of the chronic ear infections we see surely cause excruciating pain and headaches.  When our older pets become arthritic and lose muscle tone in their back legs that’s got to hurt.  I know at 61, my joints aren’t what they used to be and an occasional Tylenol is helpful.  Keep in mind that when dogs are healing from surgery or a broken bone the use of painkillers may not be wise.  The associated pain will keep your dog inactive while the healing takes place—otherwise he may re-injure himself. 

On the other hand, breeding has certainly minimized this instinct in many of our companion dogs—especially the Toys.  If you heard and saw some of our pups getting their first haircut you would think we were really being mean—their fear of pain certainly isn’t held back.  Once we show them through patience and firmness that we are not trying to hurt them, they generally settle down.  As dogs are bred for companionship more than work, many traits, instincts and sense abilities are being altered like this.

Nature and Nurture

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

There is an on-going debate on whether animals and humans are born with “what you see is what you get” or if they can be developed through environmental factors.  Which is more important?  Let the scientists argue.  I think we can agree that both the nature and nurture sides of the debate play an important role.

Those of us with children know that each is born into the world with a certain personality and it is up to us to shape it.  My son Michel owns the Pet Motel and Salon—an apple that didn’t fall far from the tree.  My daughter Laura is a mother of three and helps in the business—she said she could care less about attending college.  My daughter Rebecca was a gifted swimmer and as parents we encouraged that through college—and it paid off.  Our son Carl on the other hand was born with cerebral palsy and no amount of love or education was going to change that.

When you select a puppy, be aware of the traits that that puppy is born with.  It has been established that selective breeding over generations increases the likelihood of offspring that resemble their parents.  Proven race horses can demand top dollar to become part of a breeding pair because their offspring are likely to have the same racing ability.  The science of animal husbandry is mandatory education for farmers who deal in livestock as well as for breeders of dogs.

While not guaranteed, your chances of getting a dog that closely resembles the traits of the breed are much higher with a conscientious breeder who only breeds the best.  In a litter of 8 pups, a breeder may determine that 1 or 2 have a fault they don’t wish to be passed on.  It may be as minor as some white on a dog that must be totally black to something more serious.  These pups are usually sold as “pet quality” (rather than show quality) for substantially less money than the others.  My second Dane, Belle, was from such a breeder.  Belle was extremely shy.  She was by far show quality in appearance but required special care from me in unfamiliar situations or with strangers.

After selecting your pup, you must rely on nurturing the traits.  What we bring to the table to form, change, and reinforce the behavior, appearance, and health we desire of our dog.  We have several articles that go into detail in these areas.  Where nature claims that “what you see is what you get,” nurture says that with emphasis on the environment, we can shape the behavior and well being of our pet.  I think we have to make a concerted effort in both areas—pay close attention to breeding when selecting a pup but realize that your dog won’t meet its full potential without regard to how we train and care for it.

Furry Therapy Goes a Long Way

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

Our fourth child was born with cerebral palsy and is now 27 years old.  He recently became a resident of the Wiseman house here in Charlottesville which is owned and operated by the ARC of the Piedmont.   We make an effort to visit him at least once a week—I like to leave work in the early afternoon and take him home to play with Lizzie in the backyard.  I don’t have any scientific proof, but I’ve always felt that all of our dogs, past and present, had a particular relationship with Carl.  It’s almost as if they could sense his innocence—they seemed calmer in his presence and formed a unique bond with him.  I know Lizzie is good therapy for me and I can see that same effect in Carl.  He laughs and enjoys hugging her, throwing her sticks and watching her play.  Sometimes, just being in the presence of a good loving dog is all that we need to make this hectic world an OK place.

Jenna adds:
When I worked at The Virginian, a retirement community in Fairfax, there was a regularly scheduled visit from a group of therapy dogs.  That day was always the most cheerful for our residents.  At Cedars-Sinai, a hospital in California, there is a similar program called POOCH.  The creator, licensed social worker Barbara Cowen, notes that after the therapy dog visits, the patients have slower heart rates and require less pain medication.  The July issue of “Journal of Gerontology:  Medical Sciences” describes a recent test using the UCLA Loneliness Scale.  After half an hour a week with a therapy dog for six weeks, 45 patients reported that they were significantly less lonely compared to a control group.  I’m sure that research will continue to prove the benefits of therapy dogs.

Roberta Taylor, LPN compares the use of therapy dogs to the use of medication including recommended dosage and potential side effects!   Click here to read what she has to say.

The Sense of Smell

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

Put your dog in the back yard and watch his behavior—more often than not his nose will go up in the air and you can see him work his nostrils and begin identifying what’s out there.  Their olfactory bulbs (scent decoding centers) are four times larger than those of humans.  Depending on the breed, it has been estimated that dogs can identify smells between 1,000 and 10,000 times better than humans can.  With this in mind, we have trained our canine friends to sniff out drugs, bombs, cancer, lost children, escaped prisoners, and the list goes on and on.  It is what is behind what I call the “Butt Check.”  Feces, urine, and associated secretions not only provide an identity between dogs but also indicate a state of health, what was for dinner, am I pregnant?, size (how high on the tree did he hike his leg?), etc

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The Five Senses

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

Understanding the Dog — Introduction and Focus on Touch

The Gustatory Sense (Taste)

The Sense of Hearing

The Sense of Sight

The Sense of Smell

The Sense of Hearing

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

My in-laws have lived with Loretta and I for the past seven years and Pop would often spend his late afternoons sitting on our back deck with my Great Dane Molly.  He always marveled at Molly’s ability to differentiate my car coming up the drive from any other.  When she heard my engine, she would get up and come around to the front of the house to greet me.  She didn’t do this for my wife, our kids, or anyone else for that matter—she was my dog.  She learned the sound of my car engine and could identify it.  This experience is not unique.  It can be attributed to the canine sense of hearing.

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The Sense of Sight

Thursday, January 18th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

Through educating ourselves about the five senses in dogs compared to our human capabilities, we develop a much greater understanding of the world our canine companions experience.  Sight is our bag!  Our visual system has a greater portion of the brain devoted to it than to any of our other senses—not true for dogs.  The amount of light taken in by the pupil and the amount of the light interpreting structures within the eye (cones and rods) are markedly different between man and dog.  Since dogs originally were active hunters during dawn and dusk, they are more sensitive to levels of brightness but their ability to perceive color falls by the wayside.  When compared to other animals, though, the dog has relatively good vision.  Based on current research, here is what we know:

 

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