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with Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson with Jinx
Lisa Peterson with her Norwegian Elkhound Linx.

Dear Lisa: I have an 11 month Polish Lowland Sheepdog. So far, we have been keeping his hair natural with frequent brushing and professional grooming. People have recommended that we give him a haircut (or "puppy cut") for the hot summer months. Since PONS do not have a tail, I think that a puppy cut will look silly. But, I want to do what is best for his health. Does he need a summer haircut? – Haircut Horrors

Dear Haircut:
The heat this summer across the country has been stifling for both hounds and humans! Most people think that by cutting off or shaving down the coat they are doing the dog a favor but in reality this may do more harm than good.

Canine Insulation

The coat on a dog acts as insulation from both hot and cold air temperatures. The coat traps the air close to the body which is the same temperature as their body. When a dog is hot, it not only pants to regulate its body temperature (since dogs don’t sweat through their skin like humans) but their coat traps the air closest to the skin and keeps it the same temperature as their ideal body temperature. Keeping their coats well groomed helps the coat do its job better. Matted, wet or shaved hair can’t trap the body temperature air close to the skin to keep the dog comfortable in all climates. And, if you shave a dog down to the skin you not only increase the risk of heatstroke but sunburn. Breeds that are normally clipped year-round, including a puppy clip on some breeds, can continue the practice but don’t turn your fluffy into a smoothie anytime soon. And for those hairless breeds, don’t forget the sunscreen!

Dear Lisa: I own a Black and Rust and a Chocolate Miniature Pinchers. My Black and Rust has a really bad habit of licking everything and me, all of the time. She makes everything wet and I just cannot get her to stop without using force, which I don't want to do. Do you have any suggestions that may help me with her problem? Or is it my problem? – Well-Washed

Dear Well-Washed:
The licking of ears and face is a form of communication that goes back to the dogs’ ancestors, the wolves. Wolves needed a method of clear communication that was easily understood and obeyed each time. It was based on their different senses and because it worked every time, it ensured the survival of the pack. No mixed messages from anybody.

Licking for most dogs begins with their mother cleaning them and stimulating certain body functions. But as pups grow, their littermates join in the licking fun. They help each other out with cleaning out-of-the-way places like ears, back and faces. It is an act of friendly cooperation. I imagine that your black and rust Min Pin may be a younger pup, still very much in the adolescent phase, and is licking as a sign that she is trying to be friendly.

Will Lick For Food

On the other hand, she might be licking to gain food. In the wild, mama wolves regurgitated digested food for their puppies. Puppy licking of the face and lips would trigger mama to give it up. But in the modern day domestic dog this reflex is very slight, which is a good thing. Pups in an attempt to quell their hunger might try to elicit some food from you through ear or face licking.

As the you puppy matures, licking the face of an adult dog or human could be a sign of respect to the dominant head of the pack, which hopefully is you. A submissive lick lets you know that your dog accepts your leadership role. Her velocity of licking should calm down with age. I would suggest placing her in a crate once and while to help break her of this since it appears it may be becoming a habitual behavior. Just put her in her crate when you need some “dry down time” and also it will keep her from constantly licking everything. Also give her a toy with treats inside to keep her occupied and happy while in her crate. As a precaution, you should take her to the vet for a check-up just to make sure there is no medical reason for her licking.

Bark Back ~

Here’s another hot summer weather-related question. Readers do you have any additional suggestions for this pet lover in Texas? Send me your suggestions at and I’ll list them here next month. Stay cool.

Dear Lisa: I have a 10-month old AKC registered Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I live in an apartment complex, so my pup walks on concrete a lot of the time. It is hot and dry now in Texas and I have noticed her pads are dry. What would you recommend I put on them to help moisturize and soothe the dryness? One vet recommended olive oil, but I am not sure.

P.S. Don't worry I don't walk her during the heat of the day, so her feet won't get burned. I only walk her early in the morning and late at night. – C.S.

Dear C.S. – Congratulations on being a responsible dog owner and realized it’s best to walk your dog early and late and not in the heat of the day. One product that I think works great on dogs pads is Bag Balm. It’s a medicated ointment for bovine udders and I’ve been using it for years on my dogs and horse keeping rough areas soft and free from infection. You can find it at most garden centers in the pet section or pet supply store.

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.