Like nervous schoolchildren waiting to be vaccinated, the line of dogs watched anxiously as a chubby basset hound shivered in the washtub. Ten pairs of puzzled brown eyes followed the gloved hands sponging liquid onto droopy ears.

Randy, the soggy, sad-eyed hound, was less than thrilled with his unsolicited bath.

"Some of them are a little shy of the water," Tahira Shane-Jamison, director of the Howard County Animal Control Facility, said with a smile.

During the steamy dog days of summer, pups large and small love to romp through woods and fields, sniff along stream beds and roll about on front lawns. In the process, itinerant fleas adopt the dogs' fur as their homes.

So the facility, in Columbia, is holding free flea dips on the first Saturday of the month through September. More than 100 dogs were dipped, sponged and splashed in flea-and-tick solution during July's "Dog Dip Day."

"Does this kill the eggs too?" Columbia resident Carla Workman asked an animal handler.

"It'll kill anything on the dog," the handler, Patricia Mathis, replied.

Workman said she brought Britches, her terrier mix, to be dipped because "I'm taking her on a long car ride to Florida, and I don't want fleas on her."

Baltimore resident Jill Grossarth, Randy's owner, brought the hound and her two other dogs, a yellow Labrador retriever named Beezee and a black Lab named Shadow, to the dip. "I didn't want to try to do them all at once," she said, as she struggled to rein in the frisky Labs.

Fleas have been worse than usual in Howard County this year, facility workers say. Dry, hot weather in recent weeks has helped the local flea population thrive. The flea dip used by the facility contains pyrethrin, a chemical that kills the ticks and fleas on dogs and acts as a repellent for several weeks.

Most dogs have fleas, Shane-Jamison said.

"They're a very good host to fleas and ticks. They {fleas} love dogs and cats," she said.

In addition to the free dips, the facility holds drive-in rabies clinics in October and April. The next flea dip is Aug. 4.