Dear Mercedes,

I'm beginning to dread the coming of summer! I know it should only be fun in the sun because of family vacations, long walks at sunset and the kids are home from school. But…oh the pain! Every summer my people shave my coat completely off so when I'm outside, I roast in the hot summer sun. They think I get too hot during the day with my long coat. How do I let them know this is torture?! If they only knew how burnt my skin becomes during a single day, they wouldn't do it! Please help me explain to my owners I'm being tortured in Texas!
Tortured in Texas!

Dear Tortured,

Oh my-gosh! That is pure torture. Don't they know that dogs don't have sweat glands all over their bodies like humans do? Dogs only have sweat glands in their tongues and the pads of their feet. Also, the coat is the most crucial thing to a dog in the heat of summer because it helps block harmful UV radiation. This is really important because dogs' skin does not tan, but burn. Sunburns can not only accelerate cancerous growths on the skin, but also make a dog really sick! Sunburns disrupt the healthy flora of the skin causing its defenses to weaken and become more susceptible to secondary infections. I suggest while you are eating their Sunday newspaper and showing your painfully red sunburn, find the local ad for your ISCC Certified Pet Stylist and give it to your owners. Keep doing this until they call and ask for advice on a "summer trim" that's healthy for your skin & coat!


Dear Mercedes,

My owners and I love to go on walks. I enjoy sniffing everything around me and lifting my leg on a few of them. When I get really excited, like when another dog or squirrel or best of all a cat crosses my path I take off after them only to be brought up short by a painful yank around my neck. I am an energetic dog who loves to run and test the limits of my leash. But this always brings such a painful yank to my neck. Any suggestions or am I doomed to whiplash or giving up the pursuit?
Sore Neck in Saskatchewan

Dear Sore Neck,

I know how hard it is to go on a walk and not get excited and want to run after something. I think the best option would be for your owner's to buy you a harness. A harness fits snuggly around your torso and saves your neck from being yanked painfully. Harnesses can be found at your local pet supply store in a variety of sizes. They should fit comfortably, with a 2-finger space between your body and the straps, much like your collar. I have heard some dogs tell me that they even feel more secure with a harness on. Owners have marveled over the ease in walking and the increase in control of their dog. Some have even noticed that their once "wild child" has calmed down considerably during walks. Hopefully this will help you and your human enjoy walks together and most importantly, keep you in "hot pursuit" without the sore neck!


Dear Mercedes,

Recently, I was adopted from the local shelter. I thought I died and went to heaven! Overnight, I went from sleeping on a lonely, cold hard floor to owning my own bed, toys and all the rawhide treats I can eat! However, every time my new owners ask me to come, sit, or stay, they use this horribly loud voice that makes me feel like I am in trouble. I get very scared! Maybe I am not doing it right or fast enough. It's so hard to learn a language so different from your own. Although I love my new family, I never know if I'm worthy or not to have them. Is there something I'm doing wrong?
Worthless in Washington

Dear Worthless,

Hey don't feel worthless, feel pride in yourself. You're their new best friend and there needs to be a period of adjustment. Remember patience is a great virtue, especially in friendship. However, it does sound like your new owners need to learn how to give commands. All pet owners need to give commands in a stern and authoritative manner, firm without being overbearing. Commands shouldn't be given in a loud yell - you are not deaf! Dog ears are very sensitive to sound vibrations, and loud noises can be frightful. If your owners learn to use a more stern, authoritative voice, you will find all your insecurities will melt away because this voice will signify they are the ones in control. Although dogs may not necessarily understand every word our owners tell us, we do understand emotional cues within their voice inflections. If your owners can understand this is how dogs and humans communicate, then they will begin using proper tones appropriate for the situation. Then when you do please your owners, they are more apt to use happier tones, while quickly rewarding you for your good behavior.



Dear Mercedes,

Last week my owners started to give me my monthly summer flea bath. Although this shampoo worked last summer, I've noticed it's no longer working! Help Me! Do you have any suggestions on how to de-flea my coat? I can no longer stand these pesky parasites using me as dinner!
Flea-ing in Florida

Dear Flea-ing,

Yikes! It seems to me like several things have gone wrong. It could be that you are very dirty and matted. Severe dirt, oil and mats provide a great place for fleas, ticks and mites to hide. This could make the bath ineffective. If you think this is the problem, then keep jumping out of the tub and running around the house during your bath. It will force your owner to reapply the shampoo several times while they try to keep up with your antics. Also, this will allow the lather to stay on your coat for a longer period ensuring saturation time so it can kill those itchy critters! Another problem may be that the shampoo is old, outdated and harboring unhealthy bacteria and other microorganisms. Since it may be difficult for you to determine whether this is the problem or not, knock over shampoo bottle every time you jump out of the tub. Pretty soon it will all dump out and your owner will be forced to buy a fresh bottle. The best alternative though may be a visit to your Petcare Professional. Not only will they be able to get rid of those annoying bugs, but they will also be able to offer your owner long term solutions, such as a flea and tick control program. Also, if tangles and mats are a problem, they will be able to take care of that too!



Dear Mercedes,

I have no one else I can turn to. I have been suffering from Fly Away Coat Syndrome for sometime now. It begins every month after my bath when my coat becomes super charged with static electricity. Before I know it, the cats are playing "Zap the Dog" - their idea of an amusing game. Not only do I get zapped every time they touch me, but their dead dirty hair is getting trapped in my coat! After awhile, my skin begins to itch leading me to think I'm allergic to cats! How can I stop the static and keep those cats under control?
Whisker Zapped in Wisconsin

Dear Whisker Zapped a.k.a. Cat Toy,

Wow! How Humiliating! Those cats are toast! I've heard about Fly Away Coat Syndrome, but I've never seen it. It sounds to me like you need a good coat conditioner. A conditioner helps neutralize the charge that is left behind in the coat after each shampooing. This charge may attract allergens and environmental pollutants that could trigger an allergic reaction or cause skin problems. Allergies make your skin red, irritated, and inflamed that could ultimately lead to secondary infections. This could cause you problems further down the road. Conditioners make your hair manageable, soft, and smooth while keeping the skin moisturized. Most humans use a conditioner for this very reason. So before you get in the bathtub next time, hang a sign around your neck proclaiming "Will Behave for Conditioner". Or take them the business card of the ISCC Certified Pet Stylist that your neighbor goes to once a month. Now for those cats…come up with your own amusing game, perhaps "Dunk the Kitty" the next time you get in the tub!




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Last Update: August 23, 2004