Dear Old Trainer: We just got a 6-week-old mixed breed puppy. Flaco has some Lab in him and has short hair. I was surprised to see he has a lot of fleas. Is it OK to use flea medicine on him?
-- Gil, Albuquerque, New Mexico
A: Flaco is too young for any flea product that contains chemicals, and all flea products contain toxic chemicals.
To get rid of fleas on a puppy, bathe him in a solution of dish washing liquid -- most experts advise Dawn because it is said to be the mildest -- and warm water, or baby shampoo and water. You can sit the puppy in the mixture or keep the liquid in one container and the puppy in another and apply it little by little. It works either way.
Work the mixture all through the fur and around the ears and head -- carefully around the head because you don't want it to get in the eyes -- then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
Dry him with one towel, then wrap him in a dry towel for a few minutes to make sure he stays warm. After you remove the towel, run your hands through his fur and give him a thorough check to see if any fleas remain. If you find any, pick them off and drop them in the mixture.
Put down fresh bedding. Wash the old bedding and the towels you used to dry him each time you shampoo him.
Wash the pup and the bedding every few days. Check the fur every day for fleas and pick off any you find.
Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth on the bedding if you wish. It is not a chemical, and kills fleas shortly after contact. You can buy it at any health food store. Make sure you rub it into the bedding so there is nothing for the puppy to lick.
Dear Old Trainer: Speedy, my 3-year old Border Collie, gets skin irritation from the grass every summer and big red spots appear. They make her miserable and she scratches all the time. Is there anything I can do to help her?
-- Lynn, Palo Alto, California
A: Here is an easy way to treat skin problems, Lynn. You -- and anyone else out there who has a dog suffering skin irritation -- can cure 95 percent of skin problems by following these steps.
Prepare a solution of one-half water, one-half apple cider vinegar and apply to all irritated spots. Let it dry, then rub hydrocortisone cream on any red spots that remain. Do it every day until the irritation vanishes, then do it every third day until cool weather arrives.
Be aware that flea medication may be causing Speedy's problem, not grass. It is common for liquid flea products to cause the irritation you describe. The above treatment will solve the problem in either case, but you might consider switching to a flea product taken in pill form and see if the problem ends.
Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.