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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 'Training' Category

How creative is your pet?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 by Jenna

“Reaching the Animal Mind” by Karen Pryor is an awesome training book is opening my eyes to just how creative animals can be. Karen has trained a variety of animals—dolphins, wolves, gorillas, etc She trained her fish to go through a hoop for food although one time she wasn’t ready with the treat to reward him. The fish dropped to the bottom of the tank, respiration doubled. She said she didn’t know a fish could get so upset! You can see it happen in this video.

A whistle marks a correct behavior for dolphins. After they hear the whistle, they get a treat. Typically, Karen uses this technique to convince an animal to repeat a behavior, or to move closer to the desired behavior so the treats are repeated. With Malia the dolphin, she decided to try a game now called Show Me Something New. So she would only whistle/treat a new behavior, thus encouraging Malia to be creative and explore new ways to earn her fish. The first few behaviors Malia came up with were normal things that dolphins do… waving fins, a tailslap, etc Eventually she ran out of those behaviors and began to branch out. She offered aerial flips and twirls, even a beautiful upside-down jump that Karen has never seen another dolphin do.

Then, there was Malia’s art project. The cement at the bottom of her tank was covered with a thin layer of silt. For her new behavior, she swam circles at the bottom of the pool and used the tip of her dorsal fin to make beautiful loops in the silt. Karen tried the Show Me Something New game with another dolphin. Hou did a few flips, spit, and nodded. He “was able to innovate, but Hou was not Malia. Malia, face it, was an artist.”

You can try the Something New game with your pet—not just dogs, if Karen can train a fish then cats can be trained too! A version of the game is called 101 Things to Do With a Box. Set a box on the floor and say ‘Yes!’ (or use a clicker, etc) and treat each time your pet does something new. Don’t cheat and give suggestions, just wait it out and see what happens.

If you’d like to know more about Karen’s style of training (clicker training, in the dog world), the best resource I’ve found is actually a free e-book called Mind to Mind: Training Levels. I do highly recommend “Reaching the Animal mind” for the psychology involved and hilarious anecdotes but “Mind to Mind” has more practical instructions.

Let us know what your pet comes up with!!

A Click to Learn

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 by Jenna

I’d heard of clicker training but couldn’t understand why a dog would care about a clicking noise. Still, it’s a method used by many people who train their dogs for complex tasks like agility and freestyle (doggie dancing) so I began to research it. The first thing I learned is that the clicker is not a remote control! It creates a marker sound (click!) that signals a correct behavior and a coming reward (rewards can be food, tug-o-war, praise, etc). Because it’s short and immediate, it can be precise. With treats alone, you might try to give your dog a treat for sitting but then he gets up to get the treat…so what he’s really being rewarded for is getting up. You can use a verbal marker like ‘Yes!’ but variations in tone and emotion, not to mention it being a word used outside of training, means this isn’t as clear to the dog as the sound a clicker makes.

The fascinating thing for me about this type of training is that it gets your dog’s brain working. Typically, I have trained my dogs to sit by luring them with a treat. But they’re not really thinking about sitting, they’re thinking about the food and happen to come into a sit position because I lift the food over their head. I’ve also tried pushing my dogs into position—it’s not harmful but it’s not getting them to think either. Using clicker training, I instead “shape” behavior by click+rewarding each step the dog makes toward the desired behavior. Once they’re doing the behavior consistently, you can begin adding a cue/command and gradually decrease the treats. If you’re lucky, you can also “capture” a behavior. For example, a sit. Even wild puppies eventually sit down for a break…there’s your chance to click+reward. Once your dog realizes that his actions make you give him a reward, he might even start “throwing” behaviors at you to see what he can earn!

You can see an example of teaching a Great Dane to go to bed in this video.

For more about clicker training (and an entertaining read about a crazy Border Collie), check out “Shaping Success” by Susan Garrett.

Some other training tips to keep in mind:

-“Charge” your marker at the start of each session by clicking/rewarding for nothing

-Keep training sessions short and fun (timing depends on the dog)

-Avoid corrections (ie if your dog lays down instead of sitting let the lack of click/reward show that it’s not what you wanted)

-Aim for success—keep your reward criteria easy enough that your dog is earning a treat 70% of the time

-Vary rewards (sometimes no reward, sometimes a great reward)

-Heighten the criteria for rewards to be earned

-Use jackpots (lots of treats/really good toy) for breakthroughs

-End on a high note even if it means going back to a much simpler behavior

Essential Training for the Grooming Table

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 by Mike Cronk

It is my contention that good manners and being nice are a prerequisite for companion dogs. We expect politeness and respect from our children and each other, why not from our dogs? A dog that is extremely affectionate and “just loves everybody” can be great but not if she’s jumping on a young child. Even small dogs can scratch your legs or the face of a toddler. I use the same correlation with my children and grandchildren – you can make straight A’s and score every touchdown, but if you’re not nice, who cares? Kinda like “pretty is as pretty does,” a saying my wife grew up with.

Imagine how we feel as groomers when a dog has to be dragged in, jerking its owner all over the place and unresponsive to commands. What do they imagine is going to take place when we require that same dog to be still three feet off the floor on a grooming table with scissors and noisy clippers around him? It’s impossible for us to train a dog that we only see once every 6 to 8 weeks. Remember, initial basic training needs to happen a couple of times a day, every day, for at least a half an hour.

Not only is a well-trained pet easier for us to handle, but that dog will be more comfortable during grooming. Let’s take a look at that process and figure out what kind of training (education) and exposure would help your dog accept it. Yes, I say “accept.” Expecting your dog to “like” grooming is like expecting us to like the dentist! Honestly, we are content with a certain level of tolerance and if we get an occasional lick on the face or a tail wag, that’s a bonus. It only makes sense when you consider what your dog likes to do and what actually happens here. Your dog loves to run freely, smell everything, play ball, go for a walk and eat. Here, she needs to stand still on a table while we brush out tangles, poke in her ears with cotton swabs, take vibrating clippers over her body to cut hair, then into the tub for a bath and scrubbing with a brush, followed by blow drying from a noisy machine. And let’s not forget her favorite activity, getting her nails clipped. For your dog’s sake and ours as well, there is some basic training you can do.

House Breaking: As in your home, it applies here as well as at the veterinary clinic or friend’s house. We all appreciate a dog who knows that the bathroom is outside, not inside! In addition to training, ensure that you take your dog on a good walk before coming in–poop and pee please. With your permission, we will walk puppies and geriatrics as age may dictate more frequent needs. Now that I’m sixty-three, when I need to go, I NEED TO GO. So I’m happy to walk the older dog.

Lead Training: We groom with scissors and clipper blades, both of which are sharp enough to cut hair so they can be dangerous. In order to stabilize a dog and keep them centered on the table, we use a grooming noose. This simulates a lead and collar (which, when used properly, keeps your dog under control and by your side). If a pet responds properly to being on lead, holding still on the table with the gentle assistance of a noose makes sense as well. Even dogs who run free on a farm or in a fenced-in back yard benefit from lead training.

Blow Drying: Introducing your dog to a hand held hair dryer at home helps in two ways – he can get comfortable with both the noise and the feeling of forced air. First, simply introduce the dryer by turning it on and keeping it at a distance. Don’t get emotional, stay calm. Any anxiety on your part will be reflected in your pet. When your dog is comfortable with the sound, bring the dryer closer and eventually make contact on the back, above the tail where they love to be scratched. Don’t go near his face. After many brief sessions of turning the dryer on and rubbing the back, you can gradually move around to the rest of the body. In addition to the noise, he will learn to accept the vibration, something the clippers will do. We have some dogs that come in for a first haircut and are so laid back that they accept each phase with ease and grace (I want some of what they’ve been smoking!). Others may well go ballistic. Training is a very personal thing and depending on your dogs predisposed personality, you may have to spend more time in each phase. Maybe it won’t work at all. Even dogs from the same litter can react to the world in completely different ways.

Paw Holding: Most dogs don’t like their paws messed with and nail clipping is high on the list to get a “don’t you dare!” reaction, most often expressed by a raised lip and growl. Same goes for tails. Teaching your dog how to “shake” is a good way to start. Each time you take his paw in your hand, try to hold it for an increasingly long period. Once he will let you hold on for a while, begin to massage the toes separately. Increase the duration and we will probably be able to clip nails and scissor around paws with ease. Brushing and clipping the leg will also come easier. You can use a similar method with the tail. Take it gently and hold it for longer each time so that your dog can accept the position.

Socializing: Get your dog out and about at an early age. Introduce her to other dogs as well as people. Remember, when you first introduce your dog to us, we will be total strangers. Some dogs are instinctively more wary than others simply because of breeding. My golden Lizzie never met a human she didn’t like…and that was from day one. Most guard dogs are not that way. Keep in mind, we are a grooming Salon and have as many as 25 – 30 pets here during our busiest times. While we don’t allow dogs from different owners to share a run, they are next door and your pet needs to accept that.

All that being said, happy training and thanks! Every bit you do at home makes an impact with us. If you would like some help with your training, we would like to recommennd Alison Wilson, a local operator of Bark Busters Home Dog Training.


My name is Alison Wilson and I am the owner/operator of Bark Busters Home Dog Training. I am a certified behavioral trainer of dogs and their owners. The Bark Busters method focuses on a dog’s need for consistent leadership and education to become a good citizen in our community. Dogs don’t instinctually know how to behave; we need to teach them how to be socially acceptable in our world.

I became a Bark Buster trainer after my work experience at the SPCA. I saw many dogs being passed over for adoption because of their exuberance or what some may have misinterpreted as behavior that can’t be changed, but was merely fear in the kennel. I saw dogs being surrendered by their owners to the SPCA for reasons that I knew could be corrected with training, guidance and consistency. These were great dogs; they just needed a good education.

Like me, Bark Buster company founder Sylvia Wilson worked at an RSPCA, but in Australia. She developed the Bark Buster method by observing how dogs communicated with one another, how they let each other know when they were pleased and not so pleased. She and her husband launched the company in Australia in 1989. Bark Busters Home Dog Training has since helped well over 550,000 dogs and their owners world wide.

By teaching my clients how to better communicate with their dog, their frustration and embarrassment becomes a thing of the past. These dogs have a much better chance of remaining in their homes. I have worked in sales, marketing, and advertising, but no career has been as rewarding as Bark Busters. I love being able to help families come together and start enjoying their lives with their four legged best friend. For more information about Bark Busters:, or call Alison Wilson 434-973-5516

Bark Busters

A Video of Beginning Lead Training

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

“Dog Whisperer”

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

“Dog Whisperer” and Grooming

Cesar Millan and Treat Training

Dog Whispering — Leashes

The Koehler Method

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

The Koehler Method of Dog Training
We have discussed Cesar Millan’s method of rehabilitating dogs and the philosophy behind it.  His methods are fine and dandy for trying to get rid of unwanted behavior, but for teaching the basics to a new family member I recommend a book by W.R. Koehler called “The Koehler Method of Dog Training.”  To find out more about his book and method, visit his website:

Archived from “The Paw Report:”  Issue #9, March. Read the rest of this entry »

Cesar Millan and Treat Training

Thursday, January 18th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

We have discussed Cesar Millan in previous issues but there are a variety of training methods available.  In fact, a recent “People” magazine examined the “war” going on between his method and a method which relies on the use of treats.

Archived from “The Paw Report:”  Issue #7, January

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Dog Whispering – Leashes

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006 by Mike Cronk

Archived from “The Paw Report:”  Issue #4, October
In the last issue, I explained the time commitment Caesar Millan suggests for daily training—a 45 minute walk in the morning followed by basic obedience sessions.  Keep in mind that the walk he describes is brisk and the lead is kept short with the collar high on the neck—no harnesses or lengthy leads there!

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Time Commitment

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006 by Mike Cronk

I’ve now seen over 25 of Cesar Millan’s shows and am still fascinated by his skillful handling of each situation.  I’d like to comment on a different aspect of his presentation throughout our newsletters.  He does explain that all the nuances of his technique are based on three points of emphasis:  exercise, discipline, and then affection (in that order).  The main thing I noticed when he is making a correction is the time involved on the part of the owner.  First, there must be a 45 minute walk daily—without exception.  This is followed by consistent behavior modification at every breech of good behavior.

Archived from “The Paw Report:” Issue #2, July

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“Dog Whisperer” and Grooming

Thursday, August 17th, 2006 by Mike Cronk

I have recently been watching a great show called “Dog Whisperer” starring Cesar Millan. I was really amazed at how well-versed in animal behavior he is since he has no formal education—his philosophy comes instead from first-hand, on-the-job training. Initially he worked in a veterinarian’s clinic, then later as a dog groomer’s assistant. After my own 31 years of dog boarding and grooming, I can really endorse much of his teaching. Whereas he works with dogs that already have problems, I prefer that the dog-owner relationship be established before problems arise.


Archived from “The Paw Report:”  Issue #2, August


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