Dear Old Trainer: I have Lucy, a 1-year-old German shepherd and Irish setter mix. She has a very thick coat and summers here are hot. I think I should get her hair cut, but a neighbor said dog's coats actually keep them cool in the summer. Is that true? If not, should I get her trimmed?
— Eric, Sacramento
Answer: Eric, ask your neighbor to show you how that theory works by putting on a fur coat and taking a stroll in the Sacramento heat.
It is definitely not true. It is one of those old tales you hear now and then that is so absurd you wonder how it ever got started. A fur coat does the same thing for dogs it does for humans — keeps them warm in winter, smothers them in summer.
Lucy needs a summer cut and you have two choices:
Take Lucy to a groomer and have her clipped back to one-half inch. Both breeds you mention have a thick undercoat and you have to clip it that short to ensure you thin it out. Make sure the groomer knows that you do not want her shaved. It takes less time to shave a dog, so they will do that if they think they can get away with it.
Even better, groom her yourself. My dogs prefer I do it and I prefer to do it. Dogs get stressed at a grooming shop with dogs barking all over the place and a stranger cutting off their fur.
I'm not much of a groomer; I just cut away everything that doesn't look like a short-haired border collie. My dogs may look a little shaggy for a few days, but they look better than De Niro did after he cut his own hair in "Taxi Driver."
Heat kills a lot of dogs every summer, so don't take a chance with Lucy. Even after her cut, never take her in the car with you unless you will be in the car with her at all times. Leaving a dog in car with the air conditioner going is a bad idea. If the car dies, the dog dies. Don't take a chance.
Alert to all dog ownersJuly 4 is a dangerous time for dogs. Their hearing is so acute the booming of fireworks can terrify them. Many of them — 25 percent by most estimates — become disoriented from the noise and vibrations. Some run for miles, trying to escape the noise. Animal shelters take in a wave of dogs every year at this time. To protect your companion:
Don't take her outside without a leash
Make sure she is wearing a collar with identification
Don't leave her outside. Let her pick the spot in the house where she feels most secure. Turn on the radio or TV to mask the racket.
Put a toy or item with your smell next to her
Ask your vet about the use of tranquilizers if the fear is severe
Don't scold her and don't baby her. Show her the pack leader is confident and there is nothing to worry about
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