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

A Click to Learn

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

Volunteering at Dogtown

December 27th, 2009 by Jenna


My friend Erika recently took a trip out to Kanab, Utah to hang out with the four-legged stars of National Geographic’s show, “Dogtown.” The show takes place in the canine section of Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no-kill sanctuary in the US. Their 25th anniversary was this year and with support from volunteers, they have become a 90 acre home to 1,700 dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and more. Each animal is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by twelve counselors who either decide to accept the animal or find other alternates to offer. Best Friends specializes in the unique care required to rehabilitate tough cases–animals otherwise considered to be “unadoptable” because they are too old, too ill, or too unsociable like the dogs they rescued from Michael Vick. Some of their animals find new homes in a few weeks while others need long-term, sometimes permanent care.

Erika took a tour around the different sections of the facility and saw several people from the TV show as she visited a variety of animals including pigs and horses! She said she saw volunteers feeding the pigs popcorn and that there were harnesses for taking them out on walks. She choose to volunteer with the dogs–you can spend as little or as much time as you’d like and even do doggie sleepovers. She choose to take Harley, an Australian Cattle Dog and he turned out to be quite the celebrity around Kanab. While she was walking him, a guy eating at a restaurant ran out to say hi and when she took Harley out to dinner with her, even the owner knew him. Harley was very well behaved though Erika mentioned that Best Friends has such a specific training program that they tell you not to do any training with the dogs because it might interfere with their process. She tried to take Harley for a jog too but he was real relaxed and didn’t seem to understand why this crazy lady kept trying to get him to run!


What a great vacation! She got the gorgeous backdrop of the canyons and helped brighten Harley’s day with affection and exercise.

Check out more about Dogtown on the Best Friends website. You can follow blogs and the progess of dogs seen on the TV show or join in some of the workshops they offer including a week-long intensive seminar on starting an animal sanctuary, Behavior and Handling classes, art and even Jin Shin Jyutsu for your dog.

Remembering Alaska

December 27th, 2009 by Mike Cronk

Cold weather and snow always kick start my memory of living in Alaska in the early ’50′s. My Dad was career Army and stationed in Fairbanks. At the time he was a Captain in charge of a company, so he was gone for training 24-7. That left Mom and four children living in a log cabin which was heated by a coal fired stove. It was rough going, but we didn’t know it since everybody we knew lived the same as we did. This was before T.V., so we didn’t know what we were missing. We dealt with the nine months of winter and three months of summer that was more like spring. I remember going and coming from school in the dark- the sun came up about 9:00, and was going south around 3:00. On the other hand, in the summer we were playing in daylight as late as 10:00PM!!

I don’t remember much but with out a doubt, one of my stongest memories was of the care and treatment of dogs at that time and in that place. We didn’t own a dog, but many neighbors did. Most were kept on a chain attached to a dog house. Alaska is the home of the sled dog, and the packs were cared for purely as working dogs. Even today, most Huskys and Malamutes are chained up to the doghouses and the poop and pee freezes for a nice brown and yellow mess. When the snow was 2-3 feet deep, the dogs actually tunneled to their houses- chain and all!

Given our perspective with the companion dog environment (where FiFi sleeps in our bed, sits on the couch and is served chopped chicken over rice), the Alasken dog owner would be reported to the humane society with a recommendation that they be chained to a dog house buried deep in the snow. But these ancestors of the wolf existed naturally in far harsher conditions. At one time, they raised their young in an earthen den, and traveled thousands of miles during the day in a pack, hunting everything from mice to baby elk. Life was rough, and a case of pure survival. Maybe having someone provide food and water and blankets in a doghouse for a sleigh ride isn’t so bad after all!

But I still am a little haunted when I remember those burrows deep in the snow, knowing one of my favorite animals lay below.

Essential Training for the Grooming Table

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.

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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:

www.barkbusters.com, or call Alison Wilson 434-973-5516

Bark Busters

Breed Facts

October 3rd, 2009 by Mike Cronk

One of the breed books I own “The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds” by D. Caroline Coile, PhD., grades each breed on various characteristics from 5 (the best) to 1 (the worst).Two of the categories are friendliness towards strangers and friendliness towards other dogs – both crucial to pet grooming where we are strangers and your pet is surrounded by other dogs. Here is a sampling of the findings.

Breed Facts

Over 200 professional dog obedience judges also ranked 110 dog breeds by intelligence. The top five in order are: Border Collie, Poodle, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and Doberman. The last five in order are: Borzoi, Chow Chow, Bulldog, Basenji, and Afghan Hound.

Our Evolving Relationship

July 7th, 2009 by Mike Cronk

~ Not “Just a Dog” ~

As society has progressed so has our relationship with dogs. For over a thousand years dogs were kept and trained to hunt, guard, rescue, find and retrieve. While technology has developed to fulfill some of those tasks and others are no longer essential for our survival, the dog has not become obsolete. We’ve grown from a communal society to an individualistic society. Families may live on opposite sides of the country and children move out often to live alone, at least at first. This leaves us with a need for companionship that the dog has stepped in to fill throughout the length of our lifespan. This endearment with dogs is getting deeper with every passing year. Breeders are breeding for friendliness just as they do a sense of smell or sight. With effort, Pit Bulls will have their aggressive nature bred out of them as only the most gentle are bred in the future.

It is not unusual to get a Christmas card signed by parents, children and Fido. Even the President of the United States had to decide on a “First Dog” within short order of raising his right hand. That event alone has raised the Portuguese Water Dog to such notoriety that breeding is lagging far behind demand. Remember when Eddie Murphy starred in Dr. Doolittle years ago and we were treated to the animals talking? Now movies and commercials regularly use anthropomorphic (anthro-human, morph-shape) dogs as a critical part of their entertainment and message. The more we humanize dogs, the more we expect and yes, demand that they be treated “humanely.”

~ Endearment through our Life Stages ~

I.  Single

With marriage happening later in life, young single people may take a dog in for company. With nothing else to compete with, the dog is the reliable go-to partner in everything from exercise to lazing around on the couch. A requirement for future relationships quickly becomes “love me, love my dog.” Rather than being a farm dog sleeping outside with the fleas, the dog may find himself welcome on the bed. As a partner in so much, the dog early on establishes a relationship of companionship that blurs the line between pet and friend. When the dog comes first, he often remains #1 or close to it. When I was starting out as a captain in the army, I got my pick of dogs and started with a German Shepard named Duke–macho guy, macho career, macho dog.

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II.  Marriage

The first thing my wife and I did upon returning from our honeymoon was get a dog. We were planning on starting our family right away, but the dog came first. Without any other demands on us outside our jobs, he was the child substitute and thus the focus of our affection. We behaved similarly to young couples I meet today during the grooming process who do trips to the park, running, hiking, couch sitting, and even bed sharing. Anything the dog wants, he gets–almost to a fault. And all we want in return is some basic obedience–and a lick in the face. As long as there are no children, this bond remains strong and increases with time.

Jenna adds: For those who take on a dog before a spouse or with a fiance, the answer to “should my best friend be included in my wedding” is more and more frequently becoming an emphatic “yes!” As you can see in the picture, my friend Ruxandra and her husband included their dogs not just at the wedding but as part of their wedding party. A picture of their dogs was even used as the cover of their invitations. “The Associated Press” recently published an article that includes tips for owners who want to include their dog in their wedding.

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Stage III.  Family

The only competition your dog has before kids is either a partner or demanding job but then comes child #1. Having kids tends to put our dogs back in perspective as pets rather than human substitutes. Over the years, Scruffy the Cairn Terrier, Sugar the Cocker and Margaret our Scottie joined us–all great family dogs but more a side show to raising and trying to feed four children. When the kids were in their teens I switched to my “impression making” breed and gentle giant, the Great Dane.

When my young lady customers get pregnant, I congratulate them but I can’t help teasing them a little bit that their dog will soon get bumped down the ladder of priorities. This is adamantly denied–not their Fifi! But more often than not that’s exactly what happens. Baby is number one and Fifi competes for attention. Fifi goes from the expensive hand scissored haircut, aromatherapy and satin pillow to a short utility cut for easy maintenance and cleanliness around Baby. Fifi better watch out or she’ll be staying in the kitchen behind a child’s gate. Then the barking begins and the demand for the attention we craved from the dog a year ago becomes a pain in the butt!

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Stage IV. Seniors

Hey all you Baby Boomers, remember when you were in your 40s and your parents in their 60s were called “senior citizens” and you thought that was appropriate because, after all, they did look older. How about that medicine cabinet–my folks both looked like they had stock in pharmaceutical companies–pills galore! Well hello grey hair, sore joints and age spots. By the time I finish taking my pills in the morning, there’s no room for breakfast! My favorite song since I turned 63 is Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.” Without the kids around, we come back to the dog to be our companion and help us through life.

So comes my relationship with Lizzie, my Golden. Boy do I like that dog! As you can imagine, I’ve always had a strong fondness for dogs, hence the career. The better behaved, the closer the relationship. She is certainly the best mannered dog I have ever owned; no barking, heels well on and off lead, gentle and loving with everyone. The key to her endearment to me? An intense desire to please. When it comes to training, I never had to use treats or coax her to learn–she wanted to make me happy so much she learned quickly and was exceptionally happy with her reward of praise and a good petting. Bottom line is this dog is nothing but pure fun and both my wife and I are increasingly crazy about her. When you combine this with the absence of our children, I find myself getting way too attached–this one’s got me “hook, line and sinker.” Not having experienced “Stage IV” before or understood how these little old couples walking their dog in the park seemed so enamored with them, now I know. It is a predicted course when you get the right dog at the right time and if you happen to hit a home run, dog ownership provides great pleasure. Stage IV is a ball!

~What does this mean for us Financially?~

You wouldn’t give a squirrel a flea bath, or would you? As you can see in our Over-accessorizing article, we’ve gone far beyond supplying dogs their basic necessities. The retail industry has capitalized on our complex relationship in order to sell us raincoats, booties (can you imagine a farmer worrying whether his Border Collie might get rained on?) and all manner of toys geared more toward us than toward our dogs. In 1994 it is estimated that consumers spent $17 billion on their pets. In 2008? $43 billion with an estimate of $45 for 2009. There is a lot of social pressure urging us to give our dogs the best of the best if we really love them as companions and not “just dogs.”

This leads to the question of medical care. A farmer had no need to keep a dog around if he couldn’t work and while we might have some sympathy for a wild animal that appears sick there are few people who would spend their family’s money to take every raccoon in to see a veterinarian. But our dogs are our family members and the veterinary profession has evolved to accommodate our emotional attachment to them. Not too long ago, a dog just received a rabies shot and only got a check up when very sick. Now you have annual shots and office visits, heart worm medication, preventative flea and tick treatments–the list goes on and on, growing every year. Just last week I saw in the nightly news that dogs are now receiving MRIs.

Instead of veterinarians having a general practice, there are now specialists in orthopedics, oncology, urology, etc. Veterinary clinics have become veterinary hospitals. Treatment for cancer or a hip replacement is no longer out of the realm of possible treatment but will sometimes be an expectation. Just a few years ago, we complained about vet visits that cost up to $100. Now we’re lucky to get out having spent only $200-300. And the grooming profession is not far behind. Brushed your dog’s teeth lately? Does Fifi come in for an aromatherapy treatment, pedicure and mud wrap to boot? And, oh by the way, we can color your poodle pink and paint her nails too! Nothing a groomer, vet or pet store owner would like more than to make you feel guilty if you didn’t spent the time and money lining their pockets paying for products and services your dog just can’t live without. Where do we draw the line?

When it comes to things as outlandish as diamond ring shaped squeaky toys and multi-level luxury dog houses, it’s easier to say no than when dealing with health care expenses. No one wants their companion to suffer. But the cost for treatment has risen dramatically. Having enough cash on hand to cover treatment costing several thousand dollars is going to be a struggle for most of us, especially in these hard economic times. Hello pet health insurance. While it’s not a new industry, its purchase and use is not that common but it soon will be. Choices involving general treatment, major medical and deductible amount can cause prices to vary but by and large $50/month is the magic number. That is $600 more you would need to put in your annual budget. I don’t have pet insurance but if I had been paying it, I would have spent $1500 since Lizzie is now two and a half years old. If she stays healthy for another two and a half years the cost of insurance would be $3,000. What to do? Nothing and run the risk of early injury that I can’t afford, saving $50 a month in hope that she will be a healthy dog and in five years have $3000 to use for her or the rest of the family? Or pay $50 a month for insurance just as we do for our own health, a car, our home, etc. If things keep going as they are, no doubt I will opt for insurance in the near future-after all, we are talking about Lizzie here! Then again, maybe Obama can put universal health care for dogs on his to-do list. Was that a collective sigh of disgust I just heard from the Republicans and a “right on” on behalf of the Democrats? It’s nice to be an Independent.

~ What does this mean for us Morally? ~

We have a lot of difficult choices to make. If our relationship with dogs is equal to human companionship, should we be making them home-cooked meals or is kibble still “good enough”? Do you want your dog to have a salon style hair cut for her birthday? Is she going to be dressed to the nines at your side on your wedding day? How many children can you afford once you’ve budgeted for your dog? How many toys do we buy to make up for spending time at work? Is preventive treatment necessary and if not, what’s more important than the comfort of our family members? What if your dog falls short of expectations either mentally or physically, is it right for owners to be subjugated to their care and well being regardless of the return?

This confusion revolves around one main idea–what value do we place on dogs?

Are they less than human, equal to, or better than us? Do all God’s creatures really have a soul? Do they go to Heaven? Shouldn’t we spend time and money on them just as we would ourselves and maybe more since they are dependent on us? It’s bad enough I have to debate whether there is a God, Heaven or everlasting life for me, but now I wonder just what’s in store for my dog, Lizzie. As much as we may not like it today, not too many years ago the working dog was “gotten rid of” if they failed to learn quickly and do their job. Do we really think the sheepherder would keep a bad dog who failed at his work? It was hard enough feeding a family, much less a worthless dog. It would be replaced. Fast forward to the Michael Vick Saga. We bent over backwards to save the fifty or so Pit Bulls he trained for fighting in an effort to find them new homes and spent hours and lots of money on rehabilitating them. PETA would say “right on”-others would want the money spent on homeless children in Africa. But now our dog is no longer a mutt who sleeps under the house and is fed scraps. The dog is a family member and we really hope that “all dogs go to Heaven.”

So we’re caught in a period of transition and deciding what moral path to choose won’t be easy. We wouldn’t let a dog suffer in old age without “putting them to sleep,” but we allow our eighty-five year old parents to suffer from lung cancer for days and weeks, hyped up on morphine to ease the pain until they finally succumb to their last breath. Been there, done that, and it wasn’t fun. The answers won’t come easy and they will be accompanied with ever increasing costs.

Over-accessorizing

March 10th, 2009 by Mike Cronk

The pet industry is really hot right now. Animal Planet and Discovery Channel are full of programs about breeds, training and grooming. The Retail Industry is pushing the humanizing of our best friend and Pet Supply catalogs reflect the tastes of the “Hollywood” crowd. It’s one thing to buy a short haired dog a coat or sweater for the winter, but a name-brand dress or pajamas? How about faux suede coats, rucked satin dresses, East Side Collection Tigress dresses, Velour Royalty hoodies–the list goes on and on. And if you want to dress alike, how about an Andover Argyle hat and gloves for the owner and a matching sweater for your pet?

Sorry folks, Paris Hilton and her ilk can take a hike. I need to make a living just like anyone else, but this marketing of dogs like Barbies is crossing the line. The relationship I have with my Golden Lizzie is one I hope includes dignity and respect. Dogs, in addition to being the best companion animal, are constantly being challenged to find new and unique ways to use their sense of smell, sight, and hearing. Sniffing out illegal drugs, explosives, and tracking people has been around for years…and now we are looking into cancer detection. The bond a K-9 Police Officer has with his dog is powerful. Can you imagine him putting PJ’s on that dog at night?
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Marketing doesn’t stop with the Retail Industry….grooming is just as bad. Seen pictures of any white poodles dyed pink lately? Most of my grooming magazines are full of new and unique ways of making money, but most of it is just a gimmick to get you to spend. Now, in addition to giving a haircut, I’m supposed to offer such services as pedicures with a paw soaking bath. The dog must stand in a pan filled with a moisturizing solution for 5 minutes. After being toweled dry, each foot is individually massaged with a moisturizing creme, yada yada. These are the same paws that need to walk on the sidewalk and run through the woods in a variety of weather conditions. While we need to watch them for cracks and sores, a certain amount of toughness is necessary. This treatment can be followed with a facial, moisture wrap and therapeutic massage. And if that’s not enough, throw in an exfoliating “mud scrub.” Guess what? I’m not going there and Charlottesville doesn’t want it anyway. Maybe in New York, Chicago or San Francisco–but not here in good ol’ C’ville.

Success in grooming here comes from a sincere effort to provide the basics: a good brushing, thorough bath and proper haircut when called for. It’s not a marketing ploy or a money grab; it’s about keeping your dog’s coat and skin healthy. It’s about good work and the golden rule. We’re happy to top it off with bows or a bandana for that added sparkle but not if it makes your dog uncomfortable.

The “Poop Shoot”

March 10th, 2009 by Mike Cronk

Fido eats something you’re unaware of and later that day develops a bad case of diarrhea–oh boy, “make my day!” If your dog has a thick coat on his hind quarters, more often than not you end up with quite a mess. For Collie, Sheltie and and Golden types we can blend some of that hair away when they are here for grooming, making it a cleaner process. While we do cut back on hair length, we only remove what is necessary….leaving as much as 2 -3 inches of coat. If your pet tends to have loose stool anyway, give this a thought. Simply say, “Poop shoot please.”

…Can He Sniff Out a Bomb?

March 10th, 2009 by Jenna

How long did it take you to teach your dog to fetch? Honestly, my Springer Spaniel never learned how! Imagine the intensive training that dogs must go through to become trusted members of not only the police force, but the military as well. As early as ancient Roman times, dogs have been used in war. They were sent to bite and claw enemy soldiers while wearing sharp collars. During World War I, dogs were used to kill rats in the trenches. The use of working dogs surged in World War II when the US Military deployed more than 10,000 dogs for use as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors.

German Shepards and Belgian Malinois make excellent military dogs due to their intelligence, loyalty, athleticism and even their aggression–it is war, after all. But even the most loyal dog requires training. A typical program starts with 120 days of lessons from basic obedience to how to sniff for various substances including firearms, ammunition, explosives and even people in hiding. Army Col. David Rolfe is the director of the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog Program at Lackland Air Force base. Rolfe says the reward during this training is a ball or a rubber toy and some play time because “food works only so long. What the dog really wants you to do is play with it.” After becoming certified, the dogs must spend a month acclimating with their handlers and then must continue to be certified annually.

Dogs have a leg up on humans and machines. Staff Sgt. Andrew Mier, a military working dog trainer, explains that dogs strike fear in an aggressor in a way that humans can’t. “A dog creates a strong psychological deterrent.” The loyal heart of a dog is also a boon. It may take 50 years or more before a machine can replicate the sensitivity of a dog’s nose (a sense of smell up to 10x that of a human’s). Even then, a dog has an urge to please. Rolfe says, “a dog will go looking for something on its own where a machine won’t.”

There is no other animal that we trust in a life or death situation. But that very trust is a two-way street and I’m not sure how I feel about sending dogs into a warzone. It helps to know that the military respects their working dogs as soldiers. Work is under way for improved body armor and gas masks that can be fitted to a dog’s face. There are also pills in development that may help working dogs survive a nerve-gas attack. Temperatures can reach as high as 135 degrees in Afghanistan so cooling vests are also being made. Now there’s some clothing a dog could really use! Ray Booska, head of the company making the vests, says, “These dogs save the lives of our sons and daughters and we’re going to do everything we can to help them.”

Grooming and the Economy

November 27th, 2008 by Mike Cronk

I’ve been in business since 1975–that’s 33 years of dog grooming and consequently I’ve seen lots of ups and downs in the economy, but nothing like this. While business has been slower for most of this year (around a 5% decrease), August was especially bad. While it is generally slower due to last minute vacations and kids going back to school, it seemed like instead of a gradual leak, someone took the plug out of the tub…..and it was a big plug! Down about 25%! The reality of the market has really come home to roost, and I’m told it’ll be perching for another 1.5-2 years. OUCH!
I started to get concerned a couple of years ago when credit card purchases became the norm and home values experienced annual double digit increases. I dropped my Jeep Grand Cherokee like a hot potato and bought a Toyota Yaris (40 miles to the gallon). Now you can’t give away an SUV. Glad I saw that one coming! We’ve known for years that false increases in real estate appraisals couldn’t be sustained, and we were right. Now we are in a banking crisis that is being financed by loans from China and oil cartels, to go along with a near doubling of energy costs. And where is the money coming from for relief after hurricanes Gustof and Ike? How is California paying to fight all those wild fires?
When I tell people that grooming is taking a hit as well, they seem shocked. After all, “everyone just loves their dog!” Right. You should see the condition of some of the dogs that come in–the horror stories I could tell. Anyway, professional grooming is a luxury item that many of us need to budget for and it doesn’t quite measure up to buying groceries, paying the rent, or buying the gas to get to work. Notice I said “professional” grooming, the quality you get from paying a skilled artist. Just because you may not be able to afford our services doesn’t take you off the hook to take care of your dog. While I obviously can’t sustain my business unless most of you find us within your budget, reality says some of you may do more at home and others take more time between visits. Now is a good time to consider a shorter haircut that’ll last a bit longer. Please take a moment to read our article on Matting so you can understand what we need from you if you do wait longer between visits. Also read our Brushout articlewhich thoroughly describes our process and should give you some tips for maintaining your dog’s coat (and thus health and comfort) between visits.
So, imagine our customers who used to come in 4 times a year are now stretching it to 3, that’s still an annual loss of 25% in gross sales for us-without losing the customer. What are we doing about it? A couple of months ago I gave my employees a $2.00/hour raise to help cover the increase in gas prices so they could get to work – three of them live in Greene County. This resulted in a grooming price increase of between $2 and $4 on most services. Having done that, my next objective was to streamline the business without sacrificing quality. I lost a groomer to pregnancy and she won’t be replaced. Jenna, who was my full time office manager, now lives in Savannah, Georgia. While she still works online for me, it’s only for 5 hours per week. Her receptionist and office duties have reverted back to me. I also had a part-time person close in the afternoons who I let go so I’ve taken on that job as well. I had my windows cleaned and floor waxed twice a month by outside help–a great service that adds real shine to the shop but not a necessity. I’m now taking on that cleaning too. You’ll notice that bandanas, which have increased in price by 30%, are no longer free. While not essential to grooming, they are a nice touch for some and will be available at cost – $1.00. What won’t be changed is our effort to provide quality service and professionalism.
My son Michael, owner of The Pet Motel and Salon, questioned whether we should lower prices to see if we could increase business, but I’m not convinced that we can. My employees and I are just like everyone else. We find ourselves needing more money to meet expenses, not less. And you can bet that the business needs it too–just like bandanas, our supplies are getting more expensive across the board and there are some we just can’t do without.
So there you have it. The economy is in crisis, predicted to get worse and we are all going to have to adjust to stretching our dollars to cover higher costs. Keep in mind, while grooming certainly makes your dog look good, it’s more importantly about cleanliness, comfort and health. Try to keep us in your budget, but if you can’t don’t let your dog suffer. Frequent brushing and an occasional bath can go a long way.