I’ll be honest, I’m starting to get a little worried. Every seasoned dog owner I meet takes one look at Archer and having learnt his age (4 months) pronounces “He’s going to be a big one”. Typically they say it in a laughing knowing voice while they appease their own monstrous Cerberus. Personally I prefer big dogs but this is starting to get a bit ominous.
It’s not helped by the fact that he’s starting to bulk out in the last couple of weeks, and put on some real weight which he loves to throw around. All of that weight is muscle, bone and skin. He already has powerful front legs and chest, the hind quarters are still slightly behind. As for the skin it ranges from being taught against the muscles on his legs and rib cage through to almost 2 inches of unused folds on his back and neck. Plenty of growing room. His soft puppy coat continues to be replaced by the river of cream swirling hair that is flowing down his back, in the right light he almost looks like an exquisite sculpture.
His whiskers also continue to grow, his cute little face is framed by them, above his eyes, around his muzzle and under his chin and they are in some cases several inches long. You would think with all that catfish sensory input he’d be able to catch a treat, you’d be wrong, he’s hopeless.
Chewing continues to be a source of frustration, as you would probably expect given he is essentially a set of teeth on legs. It doesn’t help that he’s starting to show signs of teething. On the whole he’ll stick to his toys or the cat scratch tower that is seeing far more use under his machinations than it ever did under the cats. The garden is taking the brunt of the damage so I guess I should be grateful. He has a special interest in ripping up the lawn in critical obvious places, chewing on trees and digging holes. I wouldn’t mind except for the fact he knows he’s not meant to be doing any of it, and still sneakily does.
The good news is he doesn’t seem to be trying to swallow stuff as much as he was in the past, he’ll often mouth something and then drop it again without me having to dive in. There are of course a few exceptions mostly poop related (horse, rabbit, cat – quite the connoisseur).
Digging is becoming a thing, he loves to dig which is not surprising given the huge paws and talons. He’s been on a mission to dig a patch between the storage bin and latrine. The problem is the cats love the loose dirt and they take every opportunity to deposit treats. They seem locked in some scatalogical symbiosis, with Archer essentially farming cat turds. It’s proving difficult to break these self-rewarding systems. In fact I’m fairly sure I spotted one of the cats goading Archer into digging another patch, by getting his attention and flip flopping in the dirt.
When he’s not actually digging he’s usually practising digging:
Off Leash/Off Piste
I was talking to a fellow dog owner and we were discussing when is the right time for the pup to get off the leash. His point of view was that it’s as big a deal as “I” wanted to make it. Fair point, there would never be a zero-risk scenario so I would just have to cut the apron strings and give it a whirl. So at one of the big parks far from the roads and with some large fields we gave it a whirl and it went very well. He kept up, was obviously happier and we both had a much more pleasant walk.
The second off-leash walk at the same park went well, except he ran off after another leashed dog and by the time I’d got there the poor owner had been forced to restrain him because he was likely to get attacked by her dog. I made my apologies and that ended off-leash walking for the remainder of the day’s walk.
Third time off-leash walk was going well and we were heading back to the car after a good walk. The park is criss-crossed with bridleways. It’s fairly rare to come across a horse on these tracks. But as you can already guess today there was a lady riding a near shire horse sized beast. She spotted Archer before I spotted her ( thank god) and shouted. The problem was Archer was about 20ft ahead of me, the horse 20ft ahead of him. None of my calls dissuaded him from continuing to move forwards, I’ve no doubt he was thinking it was just a big dog to make friends with. My chasing after him needless to say just made the game all the better.
The lady did a fantastic job of keeping the horse calm as I finally managed to get a hand to Archer’s collar and pull him aside. I made my apologies and thanked my lucky stars that the rider had been so vigilant.
The last time and I mean the last time EVER Archer will be off-leash he decided he would go through 2 wooden and a barbed wire fence to enter an adjacent horse paddock. Where he commenced to chow down on horse poop. Luckily the horses were at the other end of the paddock at the time or this would have been a car crash. But for 10 minutes I could not get him back, no call, nice or berating worked, falling to the ground, walking away, jumping up and down it made no difference. If anything he was slowly heading towards the horses. Finally my friends dog managed to lure him back to where he could be grabbed.
By this point my heart is pounding in my chest and all I want to do is throttle the little b*******. Instead I counted to ten, reminded myself it wouldn’t make any difference and at the end of the day it was my mistake not his. I resolved not to let him off again until I had a bomb proof recall command, if only to safe guard my blood pressure.
He’s booked in for 5 weeks at puppy school. The lessons take place in an old barn the other side of Bluebell Hill and are run by a European lady. Neither myself or Wen have managed to nail down the accent. But we are leaning towards German and not just because she has a huge German Shepherd. Needless to say her beautiful dog was the demonstration model, it followed her every command like it had done it a thousands times, which it no doubt had.
We were expecting a laid back puppy socialization experience with some light training, as it had been at the vet run puppy club. In reality it was a proper education and I’m not talking about the pup. It became clear 30 minutes into the session that it was the owners who were being trained. The teacher rattled off new command after new command, walking around to ensure her instructions were being implemented correctly. There was a 5 minute break at half way for the pups to have a quick drink of water before we got back to learning more of the basics – sit, down, stay, heal etc.
The most useful new command was “touch”. You get your pup to bump it’s nose against the palm of your hand and give him the best treat and biggest praise. Why is it useful, beyond being a fun game it also works as an emergency recall command. So it is used sparing, ideally when the pup is otherwise occupied and only when it can be rewarded. It’s a command I’d wish he’d learned a little earlier and needless to say we’ve been practising in earnest.
The puppy school ended with a tunnel run. There were 4 tunnels of different lengths ranging from approx. 15 metres down to 3 metres. The more experienced pups would run up the longest with some gusto. The new pups had to be thrown into the short section, usually with the teacher holding the entrance end up in the air to prevent the pup trying to get back out. Archer did fairly well, a little reluctant but at least he wasn’t one of the pups desperately scrabbling to get back the way they came in.
It was a really useful class and we ended up with homework – to work on all the basic commands in the coming week. We need to keep on top of these. I suspect there might be an exam!