Category Archives: Helpful Hints for Dogs

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.


Am I Overpaying my Dog Sitter?

I’ve been paying 2010 prices and hiring friends or relatives. The pet-sitting market has changed dramatically since then—prices have decreased and services have increased.

But what do you really want in a dog sitter?

Cocker spaniels behind a door

Leaving Chipper and Buffy behind while I go on vacation.

Seven years ago, when my elderly father-in-law lived with us, I needed to find someone to walk my energetic springer spaniel once a day while my husband and I took a one week vacation for a wedding and sight seeing. John could let Cassie out into our yard and feed her, but his frail condition and shortness of breath prevented him from exercising her and I figured Cassie would go crazy without a good long walk at least once a day.

I found the price in 2010 for a 30-minute visit at $28. Since Cassie had an autoimmune disease and was an anxious dog, I did not want to hire a stranger who had been exposed to many dogs. I wanted to hire a friend who knew and liked Cassie. I finally convinced her at $25/day to drive Cassie to the local forest preserve for a 1 – 2-mile walk. She brought her dogs for a group outing and everything worked out well.

My concerns when hiring a dog walker included:

  • Someone who knew my dog
  • Someone who could take my dog for a long walk, preferably to the forest preserve
  • Price

Notice that price was the lowest item on my list.

I had not needed to hire a dog sitter again until 2015, for another out-of-town wedding and vacation. Now I had two cocker spaniels since Cassie had passed away, and I had inherited my Mom’s dogs. Based on the rate I found years ago, I offered a neighbor $75/day to walk the cockers 3 – 4 times a day, feed them and let them out one additional time before bedtime. Everything went well and our neighbors cared for the dogs several times over the next few years. This last vacation, I hired my oldest granddaughter, now 21, to stay with the dogs for five days, mostly since she was in need of the money.

My concerns for a dog sitter included:

  • Someone who knew my dogs
  • Someone who could take good care of them
  • Someone I could trust with a key to my house

Price didn’t even enter the equation for a dog sitter.

During that trip, I spoke with my retired sister, who said she had dog sat a few people for $20 – $35/day. Wow, that was a lot less than I was paying. In researching this article, I decided to find out the going rate. For my area, the price for dog walking has decreased to about $15 – $20/walk and $30 – $50 for overnight stays.

What a shock—especially in the days of professional dog walking services and doggie day care centers. Many dog walkers and pet sitters now also have insurance!

This research has opened my eyes to the wide range of services available in my area, although I will probably still hire our neighbors, or my granddaughter, at $75/day since I trust them to do a good job and they could use the money. But if my usual dog sitters are not available, I feel a lot more comfortable knowing I have many other options—likely for a lower price.

What do you do with your dog when you go on vacation?

Would You Buy a GPS Tracker for Your Dog?

I definitely would if I had a young dog. Currently my two older cockers barely leave my side. They’re Velcro dogs. A young dog is more likely to wander. But even with an older dog, who knows what goes through their heads when they see, or smell an opportunity?

I still remember Chipper, our family’s cocker spaniel when I was eleven years old back in 1970. He was about eight at that time and always hung around the yard when we were outside. We didn’t have a fence. One day I was in my yard with friends and we decided to go to one of their houses. Chipper was just lying on the grass and I “forgot” to bring him into the house. Really, I was just lazy.

Sandy Kubillus & Chipper in 1968

Chipper and me when I was 9.

An hour later, I came home and Chipper was gone. My Mom, older brother and sister all went looking around the neighborhood for him. He had never run away before. We hoped Chipper didn’t go towards the busy street only a block away. I rode my bike around the neighborhood and called his name everywhere. It grew dark. No one found him.

Needless to say, we all had a miserable evening. I never told anyone until now, that it was my fault. The next morning—Chipper had not returned. I must have looked miserable at school, since my teacher called me out into the hall and asked me what had happened. We thought Chipper was gone forever—likely hit by a car.

Twenty-four hours after we had last seen Chipper, a police officer called and said they found a dog with an expired rabies tag. Back in those days, no one followed up if a dog didn’t have a current rabies vaccine. Chipper only had the tag since he had reportedly bitten a kid the year before from an open window in our parked car. Because of that bite (which my dad said looked like a scratch), Chipper had his shots updated. If he hadn’t had that tag, we would have never seen him again.

Chipper had walked five miles straight north, past multiple busy streets, and collapsed on the street in a cul-du-sac. The kids in the neighborhood mentioned seeing a dog at lunchtime, but everyone thought he’d wander away. He didn’t move. Finally, one parent decided to call the police, who checked his tag and called us.

My whole family piled into our car to go retrieve Chipper. He could barely stand, but wagged his stumpy tail when he saw us. Dad scooped him up and placed him on my mom’s lap for the ride home. Chipper slept through to the next day and survived another four years. Mom bought a name tag with our phone number and kept his rabies tags up to date. We never knew how Chipper had survived, but Mom resolved never to let it happen again.

Pet GPS Trackers

I just read an article in Veterinary Advantage about pet gps devices. I hadn’t known these existed before, but it makes sense with all the other tracking devices that people use like Fitbits. Of course I have heard of radio collars to track wildlife, but now anyone could buy one for their pet. When I googled “GPS devices for dogs,” I found many on the market. Most are attachments to the dog’s collar.

Two types of trackers exist:

  • Radio trackers, which are what they use for hunting dogs, but they have a limited range, similar to a Walkie Talkie. These have been around for a long time.
    • According to Top 13 GPS Trackers for your Pets, the range on some can vary from 400 feet to 9 miles, and batteries can last from a day to several months. Costs range from $100 – $800.
  • GPS trackers use new technology and real time data. They typically require a monthly subscription since they use cellular data.
    • Range is not an issue with gps units, but the battery life typically is only a few days to at most two weeks. Costs range from $100 – $250 with monthly subscriptions from free (for the more expensive models) to about $10/month, according to Top 13 GPS Trackers for your Pets.

Both types have limitations. With the battery needing constant recharging, it’s hard to see gps trackers as worthwhile. But I guess it’s like our phones, which can only last a day or two. Just if you decide to buy one, make sure you keep it charged.

According to the Pet Wearables article, gps trackers are just in their infancy. Maybe by the time I get my next young dog, we can implant a gps device like their identity microchips! Hopefully that won’t be too far off. J

Please let me know if you would buy a gps tracker for your dog, and if so, would you remember to keep it charged?

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Help Your Puppy Sleep through the Night

When Cassie arrived at our house at just under 8 weeks of age, she woke me up every night, whining and scratching at her cage. I thought she had to pee, so I’d carry her out into the frozen backyard. Cassie refused paper training, having been house broken before I adopted her.

To warm her up, I’d put her under the covers in my bed with me for a few minutes before placing her back in her cage­­—a big mistake I know. But she was a tiny puppy and needed comforting. Every night, like clockwork, she’d wake me up. I expected this for the first week or two, but when it dragged on for a month, I wondered what was going on.

We lived in a hundred-year-old house with leaky windows. To save on energy bills, we turned our thermostat low­—down to 53 degrees. Often my bedroom was colder especially on windy nights when the outside air dipped to near zero degrees.

Cassie had very thin puppy fur and no muscle mass at that young age, so I already had her sleeping in two layers, a sweater and a coat. I thought she’d be warm enough.

Cocker spaniel in a cage covered with a blanket

Buffy in her cage covered with a blanket to keep her warm.

After several weeks at a puppy obedience class, I asked the instructor if she had any idea why Cassie might be waking me up when she seemed house trained.

“Have you tried covering her cage with a blanket?” she asked. “Cassie might just be cold and want to snuggle into your bed.”

That night I covered her cage with a blanket and for the first time, she slept through the night. The blanket covered the openings in the cage to allow her breath and body heat to warm the crate while leaving enough circulation for fresh air.

Now every winter, even with mature dogs, I leave a crate open in my bedroom with a blanket covering it. When they get cold enough, often they will wander inside for a while.

What do you do to keep your puppies warm?