Time is flying, summer is officially over and we are into Autumn. There is a definite chill when standing in the garden at 6:30 in the morning waiting for Archer to get his day started. He is now 4 months old and has been with us for 2 months and he continues to grow at a staggering rate, unfolding like an organic transformer to reveal a full-size dog.
I don’t think I fully realised how much he’d grown until I recall him fitting with ease under the small coffee table we have in the front room. His days of snoozing under the table are long gone, he can now easily straddle the table. Of course, it doesn’t stop him trying to get under it on occasion.
He still continues to make progress:
- socialisation – he loves meeting dogs and people, in that order. He’s probably met another hundred people and their pets in the last couple of weeks. He had his walking buddy Syd over for the day to get him used to other dogs in the house. He’s also booked into a new puppy club next Sunday.
- cats – no longer a problem they walk past each other, even when Itchy is being a miserable sod and meowing at him. Scratchy has wanted to play with Archer and vice versa but they are talking a different language. As Wen pointed out, a dog tail wag means friend/excitement, a cat tail wagging usually means I’m annoyed back off. I’m sure they’ll figure it out and be frolicking before long. But this is a huge win for peace in the house.
- training – we are still bedding in the basics, there’s learning and then there’s just reacting. I don’t think the commands are truly in there until he reacts without thinking. If he has to ponder a command there’s a good chance his belligerent side will often step in. Wen has bought a book of 101 tricks to teach your dog, there’s optimism.
- toilet training – every time I think we are pretty much there we have a mistake. I literally got off the phone to my parents, saying how he hadn’t had an accident indoors only for him to lay a mostly liquid deposit in the middle of the living room. I swear he was listening, more likely I wasn’t! I’m sure he probably gave me a few clues. Someone said if you can go 14 weeks without an accident you can say he’s trained, I haven’t made 14 days yet, but at least we are beyond 14 hours.
- hoovering – his incessant need to eat anything he can fit in his mouth continues. It means he can’t be out of my eyesight, on the odd occasion he is I will find him chewing on something, my least favourite was the drywall on the side of the house and that was after being just being fed.
- swimming – no luck yet, I’ve tried him a few times once in the river and once in a lake but he’s flatly refused in both cases. Even when there is an adult golden retriever goading him into getting in and teaching him the ropes. I’ve no doubt it will come, maybe when his proper coat grows out.
- separation – we’ve been crating him and going out, thanks to modern technology there is a webcam we can use on such occasions so that we can keep an eye on him. Typically he’ll whine for a couple of minutes, before giving a big sigh and going to sleep. He is good for an hour in his crate, 2 hours if he’s been properly fed and worn out beforehand. We, unfortunately, pushed it when we were at a family BBQ, he can’t make 3 hours. I was ten minutes too late, our bad.
I keep having to remind myself he’s only 4 months old, he’s doing extraordinarily well when you factor that in.
A day in the life
We have settled into a bit of a routine which starts early usually with him huffing and puffing and fidgeting around, just enough to ensure I can’t sleep but without being accused of waking me up. I put his collar on, get dressed and carry him downstairs. Yes to the world he might be a big pup now but behind closed doors, he’s still a pussy. We can’t afford the 10 minutes of drama it would take to get him to get downstairs on his own. So I still carry him downstairs, he must be hitting 16kg by this point, all bones and licks.
He does his morning business, needing only a few gentle reminders of why we are standing out there. Then to breakfast, cats get fed first, those are the rules. He then gets his mix of chicken and kibble. He’s got a new insanely expensive special tummy kibble we mix in to settle his stomach as he still continues to have episodes where he’s fast and loose. Not really a surprise as he still continues to hoover up everything and it’s not all going to agree with him.
After breakfast he goes back to sleep until about 9am, usually basking in a sunbeam and I can get on and do some work. We then head out for walkies to one of several parks, I try and mix it up to keep it interesting, dependent on the weather, the tides (I kid you not) and the availability of his walking mate Syd.
Dependent on the venue we usually walk around for a couple of hours, and yes I am aware he’s only meant to have 20 minutes of exercise at this age, but I honestly don’t classify walking 10 yards and getting fussed over exercise. The seasoned dog walkers just laugh and tell me we’ll be out here for hours, and as always they are right. It’s more an exercise in socialisation at this point, meeting as many different types of people and dogs as possible. I know most of the dog owners and their pets temperaments by now.
After walkies, we go back home so he can squeeze in another quick snooze before lunch. More food to bolster him up for the afternoon’s main event, sleeping. This is my other window to do some work in the day. He’ll typically wake up about 4 or 5 when we’ll do a tour of the garden and have a bit of a play. He’ll then occupy himself for an hour, usually chewing something, sometimes even things he’s meant to be chewing.
Somewhere between 6 and 7, he gets his last meal of the day, as always the cats get their evening meal first as they can be less than tolerant of any perceived favouritism. If Archer is having a bad day (gastrically) he might get some of his kibble replaced with rice, just to bind everything together. He loves rice and I love the benefits the next morning.
Early evening is playing and otherwise messing, we bought him a new snek friend I’m getting lots of fun out of tying it around him like a Boa constrictor and watching him walk around with it, I think he likes it as well. He’ll often get a frozen Kong (filled with cheese/meat) or some other treats.
This evening play session usually ends with zoomies, where for 5 minutes he will go bat shit crazy and race around like he’s on fire, burning up the last of the day’s energy. Then by 8:30 he’s done and falls back to sleep until somewhere around 10-11 where I wake him up (I get my own back for him waking me first thing) for one more visit to the garden, or moth collecting as I like to call it.
Finally, Wen takes his collar off and we take the long walk up the stairs to bed, he can go up them, it’s just down he hasn’t mastered. He’ll go to his crate, curl up and go to sleep with only the odd growl or scuttling of feet where he’s dream running.
Rinse and repeat, the next day with a slightly bigger/heavier pup. I still don’t lock him in his crate overnight and he’ll get up in the night and have a wander around and sleep in a few different places, seems to mostly based on temperature and stretching.
I finally took Archer down to the local dog pen. A large fenced area where I could let him of his leash and he’d get an opportunity to properly practise his socialisation skills without the safety of me inches away ready to intervene. There was a father, his daughter and their beagle and for a quarter of an hour Archer had the stuffing kicked out of him by the beagle, he loved it. He’s never happier than when he’s on his back with a set of teeth around his throat. Every time you think it’s gone too far he pops back up tail wagging, eyes wide desperate for more.
After a good roughhousing the pups calmed down and started playing with the little girl. She had a stick and was quietly digging patterns in the sand and they were happy to help out with the hard work of turning her scratched sketches into trenches. Truly a joy to watch, although I have to admit a pang of envy at the speed she had both pups under her command.
As fit as a butcher’s dog
Archer’s weight and size is a constant subject of debate. He’s growing at an extraordinary rate but not in a uniform manner. He seems very lanky with large paws and knobbly knees on his long legs. He has a relatively small head on a long and thin neck, huge chest, skinny stomach going back to a rear section that lacks a lot of the muscle power of his front legs. And it all ends in a tail that has a strange kink in the fur half way along. His coarse coat has been growing down his back in swirls, when he’s excited it turns out he has hackles that extend all along his back, making him look like he has a Mohican.
When he stretches you can often see his ribs and in the wrong light with his long legs flailing about he looks like one of the victims of neglect off of one of those terrible shock TV ads. A situation not helped by bumping into a couple with a 5-month-old golden retriever that was a good 2 inches taller, super fluffy and well rounded. Even at Archer’s prodigious growing speed, I’ll be amazed if he’s that size in just 4 weeks, we shall see.
He lost the first of his puppy teeth, the top two at the front (see photo above) they have already been replaced with adult equivalents. The rest of his baby teeth seem to be hanging in there for now.
Overall he’s a super fit and ungainly puppy. Most retriever owners I’ve met on my travels have thought he looked fit and warned of the dangers of going too far the other way, especially for this breed. I’ll just be a bit happier when he broadens out a bit as opposed to tending towards looking like a whippet.
An Eye for an Eye
Someone told Wen that there was a Nerf gun that fired tennis balls and she took it on herself to immediately order one. It turned up and sat on the table for a couple of days before I finally unboxed it and took the pup out in the garden for a trial. I must admit I’ve had (and modified) Nerf guns in the past and on the whole, they always lack power, not surprisingly in this age of kids wrapped in cotton wool and lawsuits. So I wasn’t really surprised when the first shot hardly travelled 20 yards, the pup still doesn’t get the idea of chasing balls, so he was even more nonplussed than I was.
I reloaded the gun and fired it again, ok that was a little better, it got some height and another few yards but it was far from spectacular. Archer decided it was so much fun he was going to go back to digging up moss out of the lawn in his favourite patch. I walked over and picked up the ball and reloaded the gun.
I shouted back at Archer to stop chewing the lawn, he was literally making a meal of it. He just looked up and gave one of his s***-eating grins before returning to his mossy meal and me with a loaded gun. Yes, I shot the ball in his direction with the intention of hitting the fence near him. and hoping the noise would be enough to wipe the grin off of his face.
Instead the Nerf gun launched the tennis ball like it was a rail gun and in spite of a crosswind and the fact that Archer was moving it hit him square between the eyes with such force as to throw him onto his back legs, he reared up in the air making an ungodly whining noise, his eyes blinking rapidly. There was no doubt he really was stunned, when he got his senses back he’s skulked off tail between his leg and hid under a bush.
I’m mortified, trying to coax him back out he’s just flickering his eyelids at me, oh no. I finally get him out from under the bush and fuss over him, he’s still not a happy pup. He continues to blink oddly all the way back to the house, where I threw the gun in a storage bin before checking the safety information to confirm that it did, in fact, say in strict terms not to be fired at people, who would have guessed that it applied to dogs too?
We get in the house and I have a proper looks at his eyes, his left eye is definitely not right, he’s refusing to open it fully, probably because I keep poking my fingers at it. He seems OK though, it was probably the shock I tell myself, he’ll be OK I’m sure he’ll walk it off. Wen gets home I confess that HER gun has damaged the dog. He’s still half asleep, but he’s still not opening the eye fully. Wen did point out that the aim is to fire the tennis ball away from you when the pup is with you.
Anyway we get to the evening I’m still not sure his eye is good, and I’m seriously worried I’ve blinded him. By this time he really is half asleep and trying to keep an eye open is a fruitless task. I put him in case crate for bed, walk over to turn the lights out, look back and he’s looking at me, one eye wide and one not. Oh crap, I rush him downstairs to show Wen and he’s fallen asleep in her arms, still unable to tell the extent of the damage. It’s too late for the vet, so I spend a sleepless guilt fueled night, thinking of all the worst case scenarios.
Next morning we’re checking him over, it’s a trip to the vet for sure. His left eye isn’t opening up normally, his right eye is fine. Wen’s looking up their opening times and I look down as Archer turns around, his left eye is open and bright and his right eye is half asleep. What the hell? A couple more blinks and both eyes are staring up at me …. got you! I could almost see the doggy grin!
It turns out a half-asleep retriever will often have squiffy looking eyes, I just never really had cause to scrutinise him that closely, but I have no doubt he took the opportunity to teach me a lesson. I got the message, he, on the other hand, is still eating all the moss.