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Ask AKC
with Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson with her Norwegian Elkhound Jinx.

Dear Lisa: We have an eight year old Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. He has been swimming in our chlorinated pool since day one eight years ago. This is the first time we noticed that his hair is turning green. Yes, actually changing color to "green". Could it be the chemicals in the pool? He has no other adverse reactions to the pool water such as irritated eyes, dry skin, ear infections, etc. – “Luck” of the Irish.

Dear Luck: Perhaps your Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier is just trying to show his Irish heritage by turning green? But seriously, it appears that hair turning green happens to blond or light-colored hair people more often when it comes to this phenomenon. And not only do Soft Coated “Wheaten” Terriers have that fair golden hue but they have “hair” versus a dog coat which might also make them more susceptible. It’s a myth that it is the chlorine that actually turns the hair green, but it does play a role. When there are dissolved heavy metals in pool water - like iron, cooper, manganese - and they come into contact with the chlorine, they can oxidize and cause a greenish residue which then attaches itself to the hair shaft or cuticle. Chlorinated pool water also tends to strip dogs of their natural oils which might make their hair more susceptible to turning green from the residue.

My theory is that there is something different about your pool water and / or sanitizing chemicals this year versus previous years. It’s time for some detective work. Is the pool’s source water different this year maybe ground or well water versus a municipal source? Do you have your pool filled professionally versus using the garden hose? Maybe the pool water company used a different source water this year that happens to have a slightly higher cooper content than previous years. Also, maybe your sanitizing chemicals aren’t quite addressing that shift in the dissolved metals enough to keep them from oxidizing with the chlorine and turning your terrier to a touch of green.

Recommendations (for humans) to keep this from happening have ranged from conditioning the hair prior to swimming to protect the hair shafts from absorbing the green residue to washing and shampooing right afterwards to rinse the residue out of the hair.

In the interim, I would definitely rinse him after playing in the pool to keep that residue in check. You might also want to find a doggie conditioner to spray on before he plunges into the pool. Good luck and keep me posted on the results.

Anyone else ever have this problem? Come to AKC’s Facebook Page and post a solution.


Dear Lisa: I would like your opinion about which training collar you would recommend in training your dog. There are so many opinions and products out there it can get pretty confusing. – Confused About Collars

Dear Confused: My motto has always been the less is more when it comes to collars. There are three basic, simple and safe types to recommend - choke, buckle, and martingale. Depending on the breed of dog you have, his coat type and what activities you want to be involved with will depend on what collar to get.

I would recommend you get two collars, a choke collar and a buckle collar. The choke collar has two rings on each and is one long piece of nylon, cotton rope, small chain links or even rolled leather that you slip through one of the rings to create a loop. This loop, when held in front of the dog head while looking at him should look like the letter “P” before you place it over his head. I remember this by saying P is for Puppy otherwise it will be on backwards and once you pull it the choke part will not release! The choke can give a nice amount of control for a rambunctious puppy or an adult dog that is prone to pulling. It’s easy to take on and off and doesn’t readily slip off over the dogs head. With this collar you can pull and release with ease to aid in training. I use a nylon choke for daily activities such as walking outdoors and going for a ride in the car.

Combined with positive reinforcement training using food, praise or a clicker (or all three), buckle collars offer great control too and can be nicely secured around a dog’s neck. Buckle collars also come in nylon and cloth. I use a rolled leather buckle collar for obedience training indoors but they can also work well outdoors for walking a well behaved dog. Martingale collars, a hybrid between a choke and buckle collar with an adjustable ring loop in the back, is popular with sighthounds and smooth coated dogs. My only issue with a martingale collar are some dogs (read my thick coated elkhounds) are smart enough to figure out how to stop quickly to release the tension and back out of the collars (voila I’m free!). Stay away from anything electronic or that requires a remote control. Those are best left to the professionals. I’ve also seen many people with prong collars, which I’m not in favor of in untrained hands, because owners are relying on the collar to stop the dog from pulling versus training them to properly heel on a loose leash. For some excellent training tips on teaching your dog to heel or stop pulling, go visit Mary Burch’s Canine Good Citizen® blog. In the end you just want something that fits well, doesn’t rub smooth coats or break hairs on long coats and one that has an easy access ring or hardware to easily attach a leash.


BARK BACK ~

Dear Lisa: I have subscribed to a lot of dog magazines and I have read your emails every month for almost 5 years and you like the rest have never said anything about the Boxer Breed. Why is that? There couldn't be a sweeter, kinder more loyal dog than a Boxer. They are extremely easy to train and intelligent and above all, very loyal to a family. – B.T.

Dear BT: All I can say is tune in to AKC’s Facebook Page on Monday, August 15th and check out our Breed of the Week! Tell us if you “like” what you see!

Dear Lisa: I just read your suggestions on thunderstorms but have a different problem. My Bouvier does not run and hide, cower or shake at the noise. My Bouvier barks and wants to confront the problem. I have had no success in lessening this protective behavior toward loud noises. Do you have any suggestions? – T.S.

Dear T.S. Read about this remedy from two readers below!

Dear Lisa: Just had to reply on this issue. I have recommended the Thundershirt to at least half a dozen pet owners whose dogs were panic stricken in storms. Without exception, every one has seen dramatic improvement. Some of them no longer even fret, some are still not happy, but not one has continued the crazed behavior from the first use of the Thundershirt. One of these dogs, a Bouvier actually jumped through closed windows on two occasions before getting the Thundershirt, and completely ceased drooling and trembling, just would look unhappy. I don’t own stock in Thundershirts, but I wish I did! A wonderful product. An owner can see an example of the effect by simply wrapping their dog in a tight wrapper (the entire torso) or even gauze bandaging. The Bouvier responded well to this, as she spent her days in her dentist owner’s office (after the window jumping escapes, when she was at home alone). – N.D.

Dear Lisa: You should try the "Thunder Shirt" for dogs in thunderstorms. This shirt is AMAZING! I bought one for our 5 year old Aussie who is terrified of fireworks for 4th July. She went from a pacing, panting, panicked mess to fast asleep within minutes. Their website is a bit cheesy but the shirt works - much to the surprise of my skeptical partner!! www.thundershirt.com – W.G.

There you have it! Unsolicited testimonials from readers. Jinx & I love to hear from you!


isa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at askakc@akc.org 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.