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

Dear Lisa: I have a 9-year-old Shih Tzu and I have been wondering if I could leave the house at 60 degrees or lower during the day? I have it at 65 now. What would be the right temperature to keep him comfortable? – Thermostat Trials

Dear Thermostat: A dog’s normal body temperature is approximately 101.5 degrees F. Small dogs may have a slightly lower temperatures and large dogs slightly higher. Dogs can handle some shifts in air temperature but are unable to handle wide swings in their body temperatures. Because of this dogs have wonderful internal mechanisms that keep their body at the correct temperature at all times, regardless of the air temperature. Dogs have an insulating coat which keeps them both cool in hot weather and warm in cool weather. And their panting which people associate with keeping a dog cool, in reverse, actually helps keep them warm.

A dog uses the panting mechanism to rid his body of excess heat. A dog breathes in air through his nose, where it picks up moisture from tissue (i.e. a wet nose) which then captures the heat generated from the body and it is exhaled through the mouth. This rids the body of the excess heat, thereby keeping the body at a normal temperature. In the reverse, if the dog wishes not to lose body heat, like in cold weather or cooler indoor temperatures, he breathes in air through his nose and also exhales through his nose to hold the body heat in. And from my experience, while the thickness of coat plays a small role in keeping dogs warm, we have all seen that if a dog is kept a few degrees cooler it does tend to grow a thicker coat to help with the insulating properties.

Just to keep your dog comfortable, I would also make sure your dog has access to a warm bed up off the cool floor and maybe a blanket to nest in as well for a little extra protection. You could also put the temp down over the weekend, put on a jacket and after a few hours see if your dog appears to be too cold with shaking or cuddled up into a very tight ball and then adjust the temperature accordingly.

Dear Lisa: I have an 11- month old Siberian Husky. She's absolutely beautiful and we adore her. The issue is this: about 3 months ago she started chewing on herself. More specifically, to her left hind side. Just above her hind leg. I noticed this patch of hair missing and immediately took her to the vet. He couldn't identify any problems and, at that time, we had no idea what caused it. Over time, we realized that she was chewing at herself. We have tried everything. Even to the point of putting a muzzle on her when we notice that's what she is doing. I don't want to keep doing this and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. This morning, after our walk and after she ate, we noticed that she was doing it again. Only this time, all the way down to the skin. I am beside myself and really need advice as to what to do to stop her from doing this. – Chewing Sib

Dear Chewing: Many times a dog will start to chew or nibble on itself due to a legitimate problem like dry skin, allergies, flea bites, etc. Sometimes even after the cause has been cured, the dog develops the chewing behavior as a habit even though the cause of the discomfort has subsided. I had a similar problem with one of my bitches nibbling on an area of her back after a wart was removed. The only solution I found was to place an Elizabethan Collar on her to physically stop her from reaching the chew area. I kept this on her for 3 months until the area healed completely. Once I could reliable leave her alone and not notice any chewing, the collar came off for good. It worked well because it caused her to modify her behavior mechanically without my intervention in behavior modification. I couldn’t be with her 24/7 to correct her chewing so I needed a solution that didn’t rely on me for success. That was several years ago and no problem has resurfaced. I suggest you take your dog back to your veterinarian and get a collar as well as work with him to treat the area to heal while the collar is on. Hopefully, using this method will change his behavior and heal the “hot spot” as they are sometimes called so everyone will be happy again.

Bark Bark ~ Reader comments on the January column:

Dear Lisa: I read with special interest the letter about the Welsh Terrier who hides from the leash. My Kerry Blue Terrier whom we have had since he was twelve weeks old does something similar. When I get the leash he cowers as if someone is going to beat him. As soon as we begin our walk he resumes his usual spirited behavior. I am so curious as to why he exhibits this behavior because I know he has never been abused. – N.R.

Dear N.R.: We can never really know what might trigger a dog’s reaction. Perhaps as a puppy, a leash inadvertently snapped him in the nose and caused alarm. It might have been something you didn’t even witness. Or he may be exhibiting overly submissive behavior to you and not feeling any fear whatsoever. Just continue to build his confidence with positive reinforcement exercises regarding the leash and you may be able to discontinue this behavior.

Dear Lisa:I read with interest concerning the lady that had two Labs, dog and bitch. I have found one perfect way to eliminate unwanted puppies, when the bitch is receptive, I board my male. This might sound cruel and a bit expensive but it sure works for me. I can sleep at nights knowing that there won`t be an “oops” litter. Enjoy your column. – E.D.

Lisa 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 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.