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Hi, I’m Sandy Kubillus and I’ve been a dog owner for over fifty years. I work as an environmental consultant and an adjunct instructor, so my focus involves dog-related issues involving the environment. I’m working on my first book, a memoir with a working title My Broken Dog. It’s about my trials and tribulations associated with a Springer Spaniel that survived a 75-foot fall with a severely broken leg, her recovery, only to get cancer that required amputation, then paralysis in her later years, and how it affected my life and my relationship with my husband. I also have become a copywriter specializing in dogs with the website

Beach Safety Tips for Your Dog

An entrance guard at Myrtle Beach State Park told me that the beach was open to dogs before 10 am and after 5 pm. She warned that the sand gets too hot in the middle of the day and could

Cocker spaniel at Myrtle Beach sign

Buffy at Myrtle Beach for BlogPaws 2017.

burn my dog’s paws. Have you ever thought about the hot sand on your dog’s paws while you run down to the water in your flip-flops or sandals? I know I’ve come close to burning my feet a few times. So think about your dog’s paws too.

Beach Safety

  • Watch to see if your dog licks their paws–she might have stepped on something sharp.
  • Bring cool drinking water for your dog. Salt water is nasty to drink and I’m sure your dog will try to drink it, especially if they’re used to wading into freshwater lakes.
  • Keep your dog on a leash. It’s scary to have a strange, loose dog run up to you since you don’t know how it will react. Leashes are usually required and provide safety especially for children on the beach.
  • Always bring a poop bag. There’s nothing worse than stepping in dog poop in your bare feet at the beach.
  • Don’t let your dog poop in the water—I’ve seen this happen. Poop allows bacteria to thrive which can cause people who ingest the water to get sick. That’s why local health departments test the water at swimming beaches regularly. One poopy diaper can produce enough bacteria to shut down a beach for a day or two.
  • Beware of the effect of the sun on your dog. Some dogs can get sunburn through their thin coats, or on their noses. You may want to put a wet t-shirt on your dog to prevent sunburn and keep him cool, or use sunscreen made especially for dogs. Human sunscreen containing zinc oxide is toxic for dogs.Cocker spaniel at the beach
  • Don’t let your dog eat fish bones or other things at the beach. My springers spaniel always loved to eat stuff. Fortunately they didn’t get sick.
  • This one goes without saying—don’t let them roll on dead fish! Why do they love to do this?
  • Beware of sand flies and other insects on the beach. If bugs are biting you, they’re biting your dog too.
  • If it’s very windy and the sand is blowing hard–then leave the beach for another day.

Water Safety

  • If the water looks like green paint—don’t let your dog swim or drink the water. It could have a blue-green algae bloom, which may produce toxins.
  • Don’t force your dog into the water to swim; this can cause them to hate it for the rest of their lives. I accidentally pulled one of my dogs underwater by dragging her into the water. Don’t pick up your dog and toss her into deep water with the mentality of letting your dog sink or swim. My dad did this to my first dog and she never got over her fear. Coax your dog gently into the water with treats or a ball, but let the dog decide how far she wants to go.
  • If your dog loves to swim, don’t let your dog swim too far from shore. I’ve seen some Dog at shoreline at sunsetambitious owners lob a tennis ball far into a lake. Rip currents or an undertow could catch your dog and drag him out farther from shore. If your dog is pulled into deep water and struggling to get back to shore–don’t go after it! We’ve all heard stories of caring owners that drown trying to rescue their dogs, while their dog survived. If there is a rip current walk along the shore to encourage your dog to swim parallel to the shore instead of straight back. That should help him get out of the rip current.
  • You may want to have a life jacket for your dog, especially if your dog does not swim well.
  • Beware of hypothermia. Some water can be quite cold even while the beach is warm.

After Leaving the Beach

  • Use a towel to wipe down your dog before he gets into the car.
  • Have extra towels and a designated area for your dog to sit to reduce the amount of sand in the car.
  • Brush the loose sand off their coat or give them a rinse or a bath in fresh water.
  • Clean your dog’s ears, especially if your dog has long, floppy ears like my spaniels. Ear infections can occur with damp ear canals, so clean them with an otic solution with a drying agent.

These are some of my experiences with dogs at the beach. Please comment and add to the list. This isn’t quite a Wordless Wednesday post. Please read and comment on other posts below. If you would like to receive new posts, please sign up with your email address.

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Should You Shave Your Dog for the Summer?

Just a simple walk around the block when it’s above 70° can leave my cocker spaniels lagging and panting, then I know it’s time for a buzz cut. Afterwards they abound with energy, want to play more, and can walk farther without tiring. But some veterinarians think it’s not a good idea to shave your dog, so should you?

I used to walk Cassie, my springer spaniel, over three miles to work and back each day for

Cocker spaniel before haircut

Chipper before his haircut

exercise, to help the environment, and save money on fuel (I saved a gas tank a month). We did this year round anywhere from 5° to 85° through snow and rain, as long as the weather wasn’t too extreme. But summers, especially the month of May, could be a challenge for the heat, especially for the walk home at 5 pm. May was challenging since our bodies had to adapt to the heat. But I always noticed that Cassie perked up and tolerated the heat a lot more after I gave her a buzz cut.

Advantages to shaving your dog

  • Cools them off
  • Easier to find ticks & fleas
  • Allows better air flow for floppy eared dogs (like my spaniels)
  • Less shedding in the house
  • Easier to groom
  • They look neater
  • Easier to notice if they need to shed a few pounds
  • Easier to trim their nails (especially for dogs that have very hairy paws)
  • Able to clean themselves better with shorter fur under their tail
  • They dry faster—if your dog likes to swim

Disadvantages to shaving your dog

  • Your dog could get sunburn if shaved too close to the skin.
    • My cockers are indoors most of the time and our yard is shady. Buffy’s fur grows so fast, within a month she needs another haircut, so this has not been an issue for my dogs.
  • Breeds with undercoats could become warmer if they are shaved.
  • Shaving of short-haired dogs is not recommended.
  • Fur helps protect your dog from thorns and twigs, so you may not want to have your hunting dog shaved but give them a trim instead.
  • The fur may not grow back evenly
  • Their fur may also help control skin allergies

My experience has been with spaniels, especially cockers who grow fur like sheep.

Should you shave your dog yourself or hire a professional?

  • A professional will definitely do a better job, but could cost a small fortune. When I tried my friend’s groomer, he wanted $70/cocker. This was up from $40/dog where my mom had
    Shaved cocker spaniel

    Chipper after his haircut

    taken them.

  • The groomer will have your dog for a several hours. When I arrived to retrieve Cassie from the groomer, I could hear her frantically barking from the parking lot. They said she had barked since I dropped her off over 4 hours before! For her separation anxiety, it was better for me to shave her.
  • You need to buy a good clipper–the low-cost ones will likely not do a good job.
    • I have two clippers which I switch when they get hot. The Oster Turbo A5 works well for getting most of the fur off, but it is noisier. The Andis AGC 2 speed is better for fine trimming, or finishing, and is quieter. These models are quite old, so they may have changed some. But if you take care of them by cleaning them and oiling with clipper oil, they will last a good many years and so will the blades.
    • Make sure the clipper doesn’t get too hot and burn their skin. This can happen after about fifteen minutes of use, so let it cool or switch shavers.
      • One of my mom’s cockers often developed tiny bumps a day or so after returning from the groomer. They disappeared a few days later and she thought that they were due to small burns from using a hot clipper.
    • Buy attachments for the clipper so you can leave their fur longer in the winter.
  • It will take some time and make a big mess. I usually use my picnic table outside so that I
    Grooming setup to shave a dog

    My grooming station

    don’t have to get all the fur, but now I have a station in the basement for poor weather clipping. Have a bucket or can, broom, and vacuum cleaner nearby. Put the fur in your compost pile.

  • Your dog may not like it and you will need to reinforce your role as alpha. Buffy almost falls asleep until I get to her front paws, which she hates. Chipper gives me a hard time and I need to use the table harness. I also found that if I flip him onto his back and sitting on him, then I can shave his paws and trim his nails a lot easier. He doesn’t like it, but he never holds a grudge. Yes my dogs may be stressed for a little while, but it’s better than being stressed for hours at a strange place.
  • Your dog is not exposed to germs from other dogs. Cassie developed an autoimmune disease and my veterinarian told me not to take her to groomers and dog parks, so I had to groom her myself.

Don’t forget to trim their nails after you shave them and give them a bath to wash away the fine fur. This makes for a tidy, neat and clean dog. Wear old clothes since you may also need a shower afterwards!


  • At least one good clipper, two is better (~$100/each)
  • Clipper oil (~$4/4 oz. bottle)
  • Grooming arm with loop (~$45). You may not need this for some dogs
  • A table (I clamp a small rug onto it to make it non-slip)
  • A bucket
  • Wisk broom and broom, maybe a vacuum cleaner
  • Nail clippers
  • Scissors for trimming around their nails (optional)
  • Dog shampoo
  • A laundry tub to wash your dog

Set all this equipment up ahead of time since your dog won’t like being left on the table by himself and may jump off.

Dog getting a bath

Don’t forget the bath!

I’ve been shaving my dogs for many years. Sometimes their haircuts are not perfect, but their fur grows out quickly. It takes me about an hour per dog, and they get haircuts about every six weeks during the summer, less often in the winter. Their first cut in the spring takes a bit longer since I’m removing inches of fur. Shaving my dogs myself has saved me a ton of money and time. They also like the attention.

Let me know your experiences with shaving your dogs by leaving a comment below. Also sign up to receive new posts by email or contact me.


Cocker Spaniels Union

I have two cocker spaniels and Chipper is the union steward of local 633. He is always informing me (his employer) when it is time to eat, when to get treats and which type. He makes sure we follow the cocker spaniels union contract at all times. He warns us if we are late in providing these benefits and if we are in danger of violating the contract.

Cocker spaniels wearing bandanas

Buffy & Chipper in their Cocker Spaniels Union Local 633 bandanas.

Plaque Home is not a Home without a Cocker Spaniel

Chipper & Buffy agree that a home is not a home without a cocker spaniel.

Who rules your house and do your pets have a union?

Please leave a reply. This is a Blogpaws Wordless (or nearly) Wednesday blog hop. Please visit others.

Blogpaws wordless Wednesday

Tick Season – Is it time to change your routine?

  • What do you use for a flea and tick preventative?
  • Do you use the same product year after year since it works?
  • Did someone recommend the product?
  • With new stories about flea and tick preventives available, are you rethinking your usual strategy? I know I am.

For many years, I was against using flea and tick pesticides on my dog. I took her hiking and camping with me through the north woods of Wisconsin down to the Smokey Mountains. She often had many ticks, which I pulled off her.

One night while camping in the Sandhills of Nebraska next to the Niobrara River, my springer spaniel, Kaylee, must have lain in a tick nest before entering my tent. All night I kept feeling ticks crawling on me. I pulled off at least half a dozen that night as I tried to sleep between her and my husband, who, of course, didn’t feel any ticks. I hate that feeling—of a tick crawling on me in the middle of the night. Then I’d continue to feel as if ticks were crawling on me for hours.

Still, I wouldn’t use pesticides on Kaylee. I’d comb her and thoroughly search any tiny bumps every day from March through November. She didn’t mind my extra attention with extra pets and rubs, but barely tolerated combing her thick fur and pulling ticks out of her skin.

Fleas were a problem in the late summer and I religiously used a fine-toothed flea comb every day, drowning the ones I found in a dish filled with soapy water. Occasionally Kaylee had too many fleas and I had to give her a flea soap bath. She hated waiting the ten minutes required to kill the fleas as she stood with soapy fur in the cold basement laundry tub. The flea soap was mild and only killed the fleas on the dog at the time, so a few days later she could need another bath. When we lived in a log cabin style house, the fleas found crevices to live in and stayed around all winter, even with me vacuuming the rugs almost daily. Looking back, I’m amazed at how much time and effort I put into flea and tick patrol.

My aversion to pesticides ran deep. Back in the mid-1980s, my parent’s dog was given an insecticide dip by the vet. According to my mom, Skippy deteriorated within days of the dip, becoming disoriented and shaking uncontrollably. Notably, he was an old dog, around twelve, but he was my best friend during my teenage years. They had to euthanize him because of his suffering. My fear of poisoning Kaylee was why I refused to use pesticides. I knew there was a risk of catching a disease from the ticks—but I thought it was minimal.

But in October of 2003, my next springer, Cassie, developed paralysis in all four legs within the course of about twelve hours. The vet said one possibility was a tick-borne disease, like Lyme disease. About six weeks before, Cassie had hundreds of tiny deer ticks bites and I had used a spot-on treatment given to me by her agility trainer. The ticks fell off and I had forgotten about it until her paralysis. Cassie had been vaccinated for Lyme disease, so her blood tests showed her having antibodies. But Lyme disease symptoms include generalized muscle weakness that progresses at a slower rate.

A neurologist diagnosed Cassie with Coon Hound Paralysis, an autoimmune disease that leaves the dog temporarily paralyzed. It’s very similar to Guillain-Barré Syndrome in people. After five days of observation at the emergency veterinary hospital and thousands of dollars, Cassie made a full recovery.

My vet told me to use a spot-on treatment for ticks since they can cause so many diseases. So I did, for many years. I never thought about changing my routine since the vet had recommended it, even the brand I should use. Cassie loved walks in the woods, so I always used the pesticides, but she passed away two years ago. Now I have inherited my mom’s two older cocker spaniels, which are homebodies. I mostly walk them around our neighborhood where the lawns and shrubs are well kept—not prime tick habitat.

Dog getting a flea & tick treatment

My cocker spaniel, Buffy, getting a spot-on treatment.

I’ve been noticing articles discussing alternative methods for flea and tick control, so during our annual visit last month, I asked my vet what she thought. She said that if the cockers stay in areas with manicured lawns, then they probably don’t need tick preventives during the spring and fall, but I should use a flea preventative during the late summer.

What is your dog’s exposure to areas that have ticks and fleas?

Ticks are most active in spring and fall, although in the Chicago area, I’ve seen them as early as the middle of February and as late as November. They are more common from April through early June, but I’ve also seen them throughout the summer months. They usually occur in tall grasses and forested areas. I’m outside a lot for my job and sometimes I’ve had ticks on me from walking only a few feet off a gravel trail for a minute in the forest preserve, but have not found them when walking in dense woods on islands. So ticks can occur almost anywhere—it’s hard to predict.

If your dog stays in the city or suburbs around manicured lawns, its risk for exposure to ticks is minimal. But you should still check for them, usually by giving them a thorough petting once a day—that they love!

Fleas flourish in grasses—even mowed lawns. I’ve found that some houses and yards have more fleas than others depending on if dogs with fleas had lived there and built up a population, and if there is good habitat. When I moved away from the log cabin house where fleas survived inside, to my current house, the fleas disappeared on my dog—even though it was during prime flea season in the middle of summer.

What are spot-on treatments?

Spot-on treatments are pesticides that are absorbed through the skin. But these chemical have also been found in their organs and fat. Several chemicals used for spot-on treatments include:

  • Fipronil—is the chemical recommended by my vet, and I have used for years in my Frontline Plus treatments. It works well, but according to Animal Wellness (Vol. 19, Issue 2); fipronil can cause nervous system and thyroid toxicity, cancer, and other conditions, as well as hair loss at the application point.
  • Imidacloprid—is in the chemical class of neonicotinoids and is a neurotoxin. This chemical can cause thyroid, liver, kidney, heart and other organ problems. Imidacloprid is a common chemical used in flea and tick pesticides and may be used in combinations with other chemicals.
  • Pyrethrins, pyrethroids, and permethrins—are often thought of as safer chemicals since pyrethrins come from chrysanthemum plants. Pyrethroids and permethrins are synthetic alternatives. But actually, these chemicals have a higher toxicity than the others mentioned and have caused some fatalities.

What are the alternatives to spot-on treatments?

Alternatives to spot-on treatments are becoming more available and I recommend researching these products more thoroughly.

  • Oral chews are now available for monthly or longer treatments, such as Bravecto—that claims to last up to 12 weeks for most ticks. This product requires a prescription from your veterinarian.
  • Topical sprays and squeeze on’s may be better if your dog only occasionally visits tick-infested areas, like my cocker spaniels. Petzlife has a topical spray that lasts several weeks as does Ruff on Bugs, Wondercide, and Only Natural Pet. I’m sure there are many others. They all use different chemicals, so you should do some research.
  • Powders added to your dog’s food. These may take a week or so to be effective.
  • A tag placed on your dog’s collar. It uses your pet’s bio-energy to create a natural preventative to biting insects. It takes about three weeks to become effective and lasts about a year. Only Natural Pet produces this product.

What do I recommend?

As you can see, there are many alternatives out there and I highly recommend researching them. Your vet may only recommend products that they sell, are easy to use, and have a long history. So keep an open mind and think about trying some of these alternatives. I certainly will—once my Frontline Plus supply is used up.

Please leave a comment on your experiences with flea and tick preventives or leave me a note on my contact page or sign up to receive future blog posts.  Spot-on Flea and Tick Preventives, Volume 19, Issue 2 Dr. Foster and Smith article on pet education, Ingredients in Flea & Tick Control Products.