AnimalsDog Days

Archer – 6 Months

10th November 2018 — 0



It’s been a while since I’ve found the time to post an update on Archers progress but given he’s just coming up for 6 months old I’d thought I’d provide an insight into some of the fun he’s had in the last month. Autumn has finally arrived and we are both loving wading through the multi-coloured sea of leaves. We’ve done quite a few kilometres of walkies in October:

It’s already obvious that mud is going to be a nightmare come the winter especially given Archer’s whiter than white coat. A fact fellow dog walkers love to remind me.

Pup Development

Needless to say he has doubled in size again in the last month and judging by the size of his paws he’s not done yet. He still looks a little lanky and his front legs and chest look out of proportion to his rear section. It’s most notable when he tries to sprint as it often looks like his rear legs are trying to overtake the heaver front legs.

He thankfully made it through teething in just over a week helped along by some rigorous sessions with his pull toys. It really was quite staggering the speed at which the adult set have grown in. He’s now sporting a full set of shiny white gnashers that he’s always happy to flash in my direction. Best of all his breath has returned to just being doggy rather than smelling of rotting fish.

His coat continues to undulate and weave down his back and for the most part he still remains white rather than cream. That is of course when he isn’t just mud coloured. The only problem with the waves on his back is at a distance it looks like the vertebrae of his spine, giving the illusion of him being criminally malnourished (see photo above).


As a dog owner one of key things you are desperate to ensure is that your pup is socialised, that he/she interacts well with other dogs and humans. It’s drilled into you that it’s critically important in those early months to ensure your puppy gets as many diverse social experiences as possible.

At this point Archer is amazingly social, bordering on being over socialised. Yes it turns out your dog can be over socialised and by that I mean he is not always correctly reading the body language of his victim, sorry, his new friend. His impulse to be friendly overrides good manners, which manifests itself primarily in how he interacts with adult dogs.

Adult dogs run a spectrum from timid to aggressive (just like humans really) with the majority luckily being somewhere in the middle. Dogs in the middle of spectrum will typically tolerate Archer’s social faux paus. Even when he sneaks up on them and sticks his cold wet nose right where it’s not wanted.

Those at either end of the spectrum are where Archer is currently struggling. Timid dogs (if left to his own devices) he will continuously pester and try to goad them into some kind of play. It obviously never works, but that’s not going to stop him from trying it seems. Not surprisingly smaller dogs tend to be more timid and as he grows bigger it is becoming more of a problem – one that will need to be kept in check.

But the real issue is aggressive dogs, there are many reasons why a dog may be aggressive and sadly in many instances it’s good owners trying to correct the damage previous owners have inflicted. I have a lot of respect for the people who take on such a challenge and a lot of sympathy for the poor dog when a puppy decides to throw itself at them.

The issue isn’t that there are aggressive dogs, it’s the fact that Archer can’t yet read their body language, he’ll blunder into their personal space and having been given a clear warning, usually a snappy growl, he still continues to edge in towards them. Almost as if he’s trying to fix the situation, which he really can’t. Again left to his own devices he will leave a threatened dog no recourse but to snap and I have no doubt ultimately really bite him.

Clearly neither of these situations are great. Archer is learning but at the extremes of the spectrum he’s still struggling to realise it’s better just to walk away.


As discussed dog temperaments cover a wide spectrum and where a dog lies on that spectrum seems to be a mixture of nature (their breed) and nurture (their upbringing). That said, there is one breed that appears to universally hate Archer with a passion, Border Collies!

Now I love Border Collies they are beautiful, intelligent and the most obedient of all the breeds. We came very close to getting one ourselves. But for some reason they take an instance dislike to Archer. It’s reached the point now where he’ll shove his tail between his legs, do a 180 and skulk off in the other direction if he sees one.

The old adage about there being no bad dogs just bad owners is very true. I was recalling a particularly aggressive Border Collie attack to a fellow dog walker and she described to a tee the offender and it’s owner. A sweet frail old lady, her dog had no collar and she had no lead (that’s a clue in of itself) and clearly lacked the strength to pull her dog off of another animal.

It wasn’t just Archer her dog had mauled and the poor thing had quite a reputation evidently. So the words of the old dear saying “She’d never done that before I don’t know what’s got into her” where either senility, denial or a flat out lie.

That incident aside, Border Collies are always very instantly stern with him. I have two theory’s on the subject:

  • their body language on seeing him immediately telegraphs caution. They tend to stop in mid stride and start moving very slowly, with that piercing focus only a Border Collie can give. With other dogs that is usually an invitation to approach slowly with many Border Collies though it’s more an indication to stop, lay down and prepare to be checked over. Failure to correctly interpret this signal is punishable by a strict telling off. It seems to me given their own natural intelligence they have a low tolerance for puppies who don’t learn this basic lesson quickly.
  • they think he’s a sheep! Bare with me, his white coat and general size at the moment could be mistaken for a sheep on a foggy day by a dog with cataracts. I believe his very visage triggers something instinctual in the oldest of Border Collies and they seem to go on a crusade to unmask this sheep in wolfs clothing.

I’ve now doubt given Archer’s prodigious socialisation skills he’ll figure it out, he is so eager to please everyone dog/human he meets. Growing out of being a puppy will help and if all else fails I could try camouflaging him so he doesn’t look quite as much like a little lamb.


My sister visited in October and brought her 18 month old chocolate lab Luna. We’ve been waiting for this get together to see how the two retrievers pups would get on. There seems to be a common theme amongst chocolate labs they are all totally mad, the general consensus from owners I’ve come across is they seem to be wired slightly different to their lighter and darker cousins. Something that I can definitely attest to.

By the end of the week I was simply referring to her as the land shark and I had taken to feeding her at a distance greater than an arms length, having almost lost a finger or two. It seems that Luna has been raised as a lap dog, a job she took deadly seriously and was not up for debate if you chose to sit down. That of course was assuming she wasn’t doing her other job of acting like a scarf around your neck. So much energy in comparison to Archer.

The pups of course got on like a house on fire. We had expected the wrestling but I think we both thought after an initial bout it would all settle down. A week later they were still locked in good spirited ear, tail and leg chewing at every opportunity with no clear winner. Archers bigger size was nullified by Luna’s greater experience and speed. If we had sold pay to view tickets no one would have complained about not getting their money’s worth that’s for sure.

Being focused on the dogs getting on, none of us had given a thought for how Luna would handle the two cats. Let’s just say it was a good thing that October has been so mild outside, poor things.


Our primary reason for picking a Golden Retriever is we wanted a dog that was “bombproof”. No, that doesn’t mean you can blow him up when he’s being a sod. It means he’s solid, dependable not prone to being startled or scared, sociable and generally laid back. Archer ticks all these boxes even as a 6 month puppy.

His biggest test was our annual Guy Fawkes firework party. The house is packed with kids and adults and the highlight of the evening is 30 minutes of the loudest fireworks that can be commercially bought in the UK. We had considered putting Archer to bed, but in hindsight it would have been a terrible mistake.

At it’s busiest there were people packed in 2 small rooms and over spilling into the kitchen. Archer loved it he greeted each new arrival, without jumping up, just his broad grin and wagging tail. At one point I spotted him winding his way around making an effort to ensure he had seen everyone. He was gentle with the kids, even when they were jumping on him and pulling his ears. Most amazingly he didn’t snaffle a single cocktail sausage off a child’s plate even though they where tantalisingly at eye level. It really was amazing to watch, and as the evening went on and he got tired (he’s still a pup) he snoozed under the table, with all the chaos going on around him.

As for the fireworks. He had been out in the garden with me for a good half an hour before the guests turned up as all around us other peoples fireworks where going off and he honestly didn’t seem to care. When our fireworks went off he just hung out inside with a couple of the kids and parents who didn’t like the loud bangs.

He made it through his first Guy Fawkes in spectacular style not putting a single paw wrong. We have been very lucky with pets as both of our cats are hugely sociable as well, they tend to turn up half way through the evening after the kids have calmed down a bit, But they too love to press the fur, so the sight of both cats and the dog circulating was amazing.


The temperament of Golden Retrievers is legendary, having covered what Archer is like both outside and inside when socialising I think it’s worth describing what he’s like behind closed doors. Being only 6 months he still loves to sleep. He WILL sleep for 18 hours minimum a day, in fact try and stop him getting 18 hours and he will literally just pass out on you.

When he’s out, he’s literally gone the loudest noise won’t stir him or even pushing and prodding him. In fact it’s a regular past time to re-pose him while he sleeps. But don’t be under any illusion he’s not alert. Say the right trigger word or rustle a treat packet and he’s on his feet heading in the direction before he’s even fully come to. If you think the Alexa keyword is amazing on an Amazon Echo you should see what an eon of evolution can produce.

Archer is not a lap dog, he’s not a huge fan of a cuddles either. He prefers to sleep alone. In the instances I’ve scooched up to him he invariably gets up goes and sleeps on the other side of the room. It might just be I smell having given up showering, what’s the point when you have a puppy? He’s not allowed on the bed, which is totally not a problem as he won’t get on it. He’ll get everything but his back legs on the bed, not to sneak up but to just get attention that he needs something.

Wen told him to go to bed the other night, took of his collar and turned the landing light on for him. He took himself upstairs (still a funny sight) alone and went to bed. The gate on the bedroom was open but he just went to sleep, that’s how serious this pup treats his Z’s.

I hate the term “old soul” and it’s implication, but at 6 months it truly is the best description I can give of Archer. His mannerism’s when not out in the field being a full on puppy are more of those of a 14 year old dog than a young whelp.

The Cats

I’m still hopeful that this years Christmas cards to friends and family will feature Archer, Itchy and Scratchy all curled up together. As you would expect after so many months they are relaxed to the point they’ll stand right next to each other, although there is still a personal space boundaries.

For example Itchy every morning will sit himself in the kitchen doorway preventing Archer from getting out into the garden to relieve himself. Archer won’t push past him and Itchy knows exactly what he’s doing, the stand off only ends when I push Itchy aside, reminding him it’s his own breakfast he’s delaying. Kitty mind games for sure.

They still don’t play together, Archer still hasn’t figured out that snarling, bouncing up and down with tail wagging is not how cats play. But he can walk up to them (when they allow it) and sniff them. They will even bond together if I’m late putting their food down (or the clocks go back and they are out of whack for a week), I’ll get both cats and the dog now turning up as a united delegation. Mind you cats always get fed first, those are the rules I didn’t make them.

Scratchy keeps a very careful eye on Archer, particularly in the garden. At this point I don’t need to see Archer to know if he’s up to mischief I just need to see Scratchy. If he sees Archer doing something dubious he basically stares at me and then at the dog and back at me with a “are you seeing this s****” look. He’s a right proper tell tale.


We continue to train Archer on the basics. He’s currently between puppy schools having finished a 6 week program at the end of September. He will be enrolled in a new school shortly, one that ideally follows the Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Scheme.which will provide a clear progression and set of goals. Going back to the point we want him to be “bombproof” he’s off to a great start but it’s going to require work for us and him.

We have of course continued to re-enforce the skills he’s already learned and Wen continues to take a worrying amount of pleasure of putting treats all over his person and getting him to wait for the “yours” command. Poor pup you should see his little face, if dogs could sweat it would be poring off of him.

Which reminds me of a mistake I made while feeding him. Before we put his food bowl on the floor he is required to sit, we put the food down, he must then wait for the “yours” command before he launches himself at the bowl.

One day I was having a conversation with Wen while putting his food down, he was sat ready and I accidentally said “yours” in the conversation with Wen. I saw him just launch at the bowl, not realising what I had said and stopped and told him off.

Wen pointed out I had just said “yours” that’s why he was going. Realising my mistake I apologised to Archer and told him “Yours”, he just looked at me, I pointed at the bowl, gestured towards it, repeated “Yours”. Still no go, “It’s yours, go on”, nope! In the end it took me a good 3 minutes to convince him that he was allowed the food. I have honestly never known a dog like him.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 11-12

1st October 2018 — 0



Archer continues his inexorable journey to adulthood, now weighing in at a hefty 18kg (39lb) which according to online charts and tables is just a little over the average for the breed at this point of his development. He is well into teething. every day he’s missing another needle like milk tooth, unfortunately his breath smells like rotten fish and he is leaving a trail of blood on anything that goes near his mouth. Hopefully he’ll get through this fairly quickly, it’s typically 4 weeks by all accounts. He’s got some new chew toys to hopefully see him through.

Training Update

Every day is a training day for Archer, practise and repetition being key. He is doing amazingly well considering his age having mastered sit, down, stand, wait, heel and paw all work in the living/class room. The real trick though is to make the commands work in the wild when out in the field, ideally at distance, that is still a work in progress. We are working on stop of late, which should halt him in his tracks, but he’s struggling with the concept of not moving.

The most impressive and fastest training I’ve seen him absorb was actually done by the trainer at the puppy club in 2 minutes and solved a problem we were having with putting his food down. He would typically have his nose in the bowl before it hit the ground. We had trained him using wait but it wasn’t hugely successful, dependent on how hungry he was. The answer was to put the bowl down and as he goes for it lift it back off the ground. If you do that for about a minute you can see the point the penny drops. You then give him a command “yours” in our case to allow him to eat the food. He now will sit and wait until he’s told he can eat, which makes feeding him a significantly less dangerous activity. We are now extending it for all food put down for him which is taking a little longer.

The most important command we’ve been working on is his emergency recall “touch” command after the horse paddock issue a few weeks ago. I make a point on every walk of recalling when when he’s distracted. i.e. far away, out of sight, approaching dogs on leashes, middle of playing. We’ve also been working on general recall so “come” will generally do the job probably 80% of the time to normal treats. So far “touch” has been 98% effective, mainly due to it always giving him the top quality treats.

We’ve also been playing a lot of hide and seek, Archer will often walk ahead, so if he gets too far I make a point of calling his name and then hiding. This has turned into a fun game for both of us. More importantly it forces him to keep an eye on me, because I can (and do) run off at any moment. So he’ll typically now stay within a 10m range and look over his shoulder a couple of times a minute just to make sure I’m still there. Sometimes I just disappear without calling his name, just to shit him up. It’s good to remind him of his dependence on me once in a while.

Our off leash walking is really coming along, he spends about 3/4 of the walk now au naturel. Interestingly he behaves far better off the leash than on it (even the 10m one). What’s nice is we can now walk away from other dogs/owners having said a quick hello most of the time. Unless they have also have a pup who wants to play in which case it’s time to get the tea and sandwiches out.

Toilet training is almost there helped by the fact he can now hold his bladder longer than I can. If the back door is open he’ll take himself out. If it’s closed he’ll come and stare at me and dart his eyes to the back door. He doesn’t use the pads in the house anymore and we are slowly phasing them out. The only issue is he increasingly doesn’t use the latrine in the garden, favouring to ruin my grass, something I’ll need to start correcting. It does seem that standard treats are not enough of a reward to give up urination freedom.

Fight Club

Archer loves to play with other dogs and on the whole he knows how to change his play style to suit his play mate. Most adult dogs are not interested in puppy nonsense and they’ll generally try to ignore him. The ball obsessed dogs I’m fairly sure operate on a different plane of existence, one where for all practical purposes Archer is invisible. But he is difficult to ignore when he’s stuck to you like glue, bouncing up and down like a demented energiser bunny.

It comes as no surprise that from time to time the adults will have to flatly tell him off, usually with a growly reminder of “look what big teeth I have”. Sometimes Archer will get the message, but more often that not he’ll need a second reminder of “look what big paws I have”, they’ll typically land a paw on his head to hammer (literally) the point home. If that doesn’t work, well there’s no choice, they’ll lean in close to his ear, teeth bared and snap “all the better to eat you pup”. That always does the trick, he goes white as a ghost (probably), message received the bounce drains right out of him.

When he does manage to goad a pup (or adolescent dog) into playing it can take a number of forms:

  • running/chase – the smaller and more agile dogs just run him around in circles playing chase until he collapses in a defeated heap. It doesn’t take long, his gangly frame takes a lot of effort to throw around a field.
  • herding – those breeds that are bred to herd, never miss an opportunity to put him through his paces. Unlike running they’ll chase him forcing him to do what they want. It doesn’t help that his bright white coat makes him look a little like a lamb.
  • wrestling– is rare, unless of course the other dog is a retriever (pure or cross) and which point they’ll just go straight to ground, usually until one of them yelps out or they run out of energy.

Of course Archer’s favourite type of play is wrestling. He’s had a few bouts now and they look brutal with flashes of teeth and claw and often blood spatters on his beautiful white coat. Try and stop him or throw in the towel to early and he’ll sulk for the rest of the walk.

He’s has a couple of pink scratches on his black nose at this point, battle scars, you should see the other guy, who’s also wagging his tail with his tongue lolling out, eager to continue “playing”. As a retriever owner you will find yourself inevitably inducted into the dark underworld of puppy fight club and needless to say you can’t talk about it. But I’ll break the silence just this once to recall Archer’s favourite “play” session this week.

Lady’s and gentlemen, in the left hand corner hailing from just down the road and weighing in at 15kg, the lawn destroyer, Archer! In the right hand corner, hailing from just round the corner and weighing in at 11kg (give or take), the dark nemesis! A lovely lab cross (not sure with what a pinscher of some sort judging by the pointy ears), The lab is giving up a clear 2″ inches in height to Archer, so on paper it’s Archers’s to win.

This will be a 5 round bout, of 60 seconds a round, no holds barred and the scoring of the owners will decide the outcome. My score card:

Round 1 went to the lab, he was quicker out of the starting blocks and he’s caught Archer off guard, pinning him to the ground for the last 20 seconds of the round. Lot’s of growling flashing of teeth and madly wagging tails.

Round 2 also went to the lab after Archer finally managed to get back to his feet, promptly runs sideways into a tree knocking himself back to the ground. The agile lab is back on him in a flash, working the ears. It’s all looking very one sided, I’m thinking I might have to step in but he’s making it pretty clear he wants to fight on.

Round 3 and Archer slowly starts to turn the tide, using his weight advantage he rolls the lab using his longer levers, forcing it to the ground, he follows up with some solid neck work. Like a shark his eyes roll back into his head as he literally stamps his authority. Tails on both dogs by this point are a blur of frenetic wagging.

Round 4 and the lab knows it’s in a fight, it manages to get to its feet and run 5 yards before Archer slams into him sending him back to the ground. Archer has the panting lab just where he wants him, but it’s obvious they are both starting to feel the pace, their lunges slower, laboured and more considered.

Round 5 – into the last round. Archer is flagging badly and the agile lab is starting to drag himself out from his grip. They are both back on their feet, it’s gone to paws, like two tired gladiators the pups are leaning against each other panting, their tongues hanging loosely from foaming mouths. I agree with the other owner that they’ve had enough and decide to call it a draw on the round and the match.

It takes another minute to fully pull them apart and calm them down. They would have been happy to keep going until total exhaustion, but then who’s going to carry them home? It’s not the first time he’s played with this particular lab, last time he lost badly having to tap out after some overzealous bites, so it was good to see him stepping up his game and more importantly having a fantastic time.

It does seem vicious at face value, but on closer scrutiny just like real wrestling the bites and swipes are all pulled, the growling excitement not anger. Either pup can stop at any time simply be yelping, so they both push it to the limit, cautious however not to over do their fun and bring the play session to a premature end. Not surprisingly with such rough housing there are a few bumps and scrapes, but in spite of these I can guarantee you Archer is eager for a re-match.

Vet Visit

We ended up taking Archer back to the vet’s this week, the final straw being a mild case of pink eye or conjunctivitis if you want to get technical. It appears to be par for the course with retrievers, my parents and sisters dogs having similar infections from time to time. With all the bacteria breeding in his warm moist bloody gums it comes as little surprise that he might get an infection.

The vet put some staining eye drops in Archer’s eye so he could eliminate any scratches to the cornea. Unfortunately it left him looking like a zombie dog, with florescent green eyes and bright green snot coming out of his nose, the picture above really doesn’t do the eyes justice, outside in daylight it was quite unsettling and he got some very odd looks on our walk home.

In addition to picking up some new doses of Advocate to protect him from a scary list of parasitic critters, We asked the vet to give him the quick once over to put our paranoid minds to rest. After a bit of prodding and poking, which he tolerated with good grace the vet gave him the thumbs up and put our minds to rest that he was indeed a perfectly healthy pup.

Archer enjoys his visits to the vets, thanks to the puppy socialisation classes they ran he thinks it’s a fun place, which makes a stressful situation a lot easier for both him and us. It’ll be interesting to see how long that lasts especially when he goes in for the chop in a few more weeks.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Weeks 9-10

18th September 2018 — 0



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.

Bad Wolf

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).

Dig Dug

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.

Puppy School

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!



AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Weeks 7-8

3rd September 2018 — 0



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 visa 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 eye sight, on the odd occasion he is I will find him chewing on something, my least favourite was the dry wall 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 before hand. 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.

Just like his size I keep having to remind myself he’s only 4 months old, he’s doing really 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, with only a few gentle reminders of why we are standing out here. 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 sun-beam 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 afternoons 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 to any perceived favouritism. If Archer is is having a bad day (gastronomically) 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 of other treat.

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 days 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 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.

Digging It

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 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 round 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. Yes 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 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 law suits. 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 cross wind 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 eye lids 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 thought. I wondered if dog applied?

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 any eye open is a fruitless task. I put him in case crate for bed, walk over to turn the lights out look back 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 course 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.


AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 6

18th August 2018 — 0


Archer week 6, has it only been 6 weeks? It seems like an eternity. He’s now just over 3 months old and continues to grow at an incredible rate. He looks very gangly at this point with legs that are far too long and paws that look like hand-me-downs from an older sibling. I’m sure he’ll grow into them. In addition his front end appears to be growing at twice the rate of his back end, so he’s starting to look like he’s skipping leg day at the gym.

Along with his physical growth he continues to mature as a stroppy, arrogant, opinionated little bundle of attitude. He’s almost perfected his sad puppy eyes look, which he pulls out anytime he’s asked to do anything. He just needs his bottom lip to wibble and he’d be able do a very passable impression of a rain soaked orphaned child from a Dickensian novel. It’ll be a future Oscar winning performance for sure. The only cure for such attacks is to pull out a treat, which has the instantaneous effect of returning him to being a lovely cuddly model of man’s best friend. It’s fair to say this Jekyll & Hyde act is running a little bit thin.

Rice and chicken

As far as I can make out, raising a puppy especially a Golden Retriever appears to be mostly about trying to secure a solid poop. I can now measure the quality of my days by the firmness of my pups faeces. After last weeks bout of diarrhoea we managed to get Archer back to solids. Unfortunately this only lasted a couple of days before I was facing another 3am double cleanup; at least this time he didn’t walk it round the room.

We knew it was bad when Wednesday morning he decided he wasn’t going to have breakfast, he didn’t even go and look at the bowl. This was a first, he’s always eaten his food no matter what consistency it might be coming out the back. We gave him until lunchtime to see if he’d turn it around, no joy. It was time to break out the secret weapon – rice and chicken.

For a pup that had 10 other siblings, Archer has surprisingly never been what I would call a food oriented dog. He sits quietly and watches me prepare his kibble, I put it down, he’ll stroll over and slowly chomp it down over a few good minutes. In fact this week I was deliberately putting my hand in his bowl and taking bits out while he was eating it, an exercise from puppy club to stop him being possessive around food, and one Archer clearly didn’t need.

Until of course he tasted rice and chicken, he literally breathed the whole bowl down in 10 seconds flat and I was in no doubt that if my hand had been in the bowl I’d now be fingerless. This was his first taste of chicken and it might as well have been the first time he’d ever eaten. He had to go back and check his bowl several times to ensure that he hadn’t missed anything before trying a “Please sir, can I have some more”  act for several minutes.

He had rice and chicken for supper as well, breaking his previous speed record by a clear 2 seconds. The good news is, it sorted his bowel movement out beautifully. He made it through the night and delivered a prize albino deposit the next morning. The only issue now is he won’t eat his scientifically balanced puppy kibble anymore. We tried for two meals and he skipped both, in the end we ended up having to put a bit of chicken under his dry food to get him to eat it. So it appears we’ve made a rod for our own back.

I Have A Voice

Archer has well and truly discovered his voice. What started as a whimper which tended to scare him more than anyone else has developed into a full throated and at times ear piercing bark. I’m trying to convince myself this is a good sign of his ongoing development, What isn’t so great is it’s now his go to form of communication, he’ll bark when he’s happy, excited, frustrated or upset. Which pretty much covers all the waking states of a 3 month old puppy. And if you thought there was at least respite when he sleeps, think again he whimpers, chomps and muffled barks his way through the nights as well.

When left in the garden, invariably to let him get on with his number 2’s as he doesn’t like being watched (don’t go there), he used to just sit at the gate when he was done. Those days are gone, now it’s barks of “Oi! I’m done” echoing around the neighbourhood at 6:30 in the morning or 10 in the evening. Best of all if he keeps barking for more than 30 seconds he’s joined in serenade by at least two other dogs in the vicinity.

The real problem is the first and most important rule of training him not to bark, is to never return to him when he’s doing it. Whoever came up with that sage piece of advice I wager has never had to balance it’s application against continuing to let your pup wake up the entire neighbourhood. During the day I let him bark his heart out, but it’s not a strategy I can employ at all hours, unless I want a brick through the window. We are going to make a few changes to his morning, evening routine to reduce the chances he’ll need to feel the need to bark.

He’s also taken to barking when he’s frustrated, either because someone isn’t playing fair with him (usually me) or if someone is doing something interesting (i.e. anything) in another room and he isn’t involved, he’ll whine and then start barking. These two are much easier to correct, although I’m not sure I can resist winding him up.

The last form of barking is insanely overexcited barking, if he thinks he’s getting chicken in his kibble (see above) he literally loses it. He honestly just doesn’t know what to do with himself, so he’s taken to barking out of sheer joy, I suspect if he wasn’t barking he’d have exploded in a puff of furr. It’s an easy one to fix, but funny as hell to witness.

Puppy Club

He finally made it back to Puppy Club this week, and in addition to the usual pups:

  • Teddy the tiny Maltese terrier cross (I’m not sure what with – possibly an ant). He’s tiny!
  • Lucy the Golden Retriever, a month older than Archer
  • a Pomeranian (I keep missing the name of)

We were joined by two lovely French pugs, whose names I didn’t catch either. The usual round of letting them off their leashes, leaving Lucy and Archer to last. The other pups tentatively explored the room and carefully introduced themselves to each other, all very civilised. Then the terrors were unleashed and all hell broke loose, with the usual violent play of two retrievers going at each other hammer & tong. Archer as normal spent most of the time on his back with Lucy at his throat, tail wagging, like a concuss boxer pleading for the towel to NOT be thrown in.

Amazingly the other dogs where starting to get the hang of this game, the french pugs joined in. Archer had Lucy and the two pugs on him at one point. Still loving it, still pleading for one more round. When Teddy the Tiny Terrier launched himself into the fray as well, trying to bite Lucy’s legs out from under her there was almost a cheer, this was the dog under the underdog. I think it’s the first time I could see the attraction of such a small and tenacious breed.

This weeks command was “wait”, we were on shaky ground as Archer has yet to fully grasp the temporal aspects of anything. If a dog year is equal to seven human years, a dog second equates to about a micro-second, I’d  tried to teach him the command a dozen times over the last few weeks and it always ended up with a confused pup. Luckily Wen had decided she was going to do this weeks command before we got there.

The rest of the pups did fairly well, in fact one of the pugs was doing so well that it took several minutes for him to actually realise he could have the treat. When Archer’s turn came, the first attempt as far as Archer was concerned was a complete success. Sit, Wait, Treat (all in under 3 micro-seconds). To the casual observer it might have looked like he had gone straight for the treat, but with the right equipment it’s possible to see him sit, look at his gangly leg at an imaginary wrist watch and then casually get up to retrieve his reward. No point waiting for the specific commands, better to anticipate.

His second attempt, was helped by the lady running the session firmly holding still for approximately 2 seconds given the definite impression of a planned wait.

Pooping Feng Shui

I’m sorry to labour the pooping anecdotes, but it’s a big part of my life these days and I need to get this observation of my chest if only to ensure I’m not going mad. Archer’s trip to the garden for number twos should be a straight line from patio to poop spot, on a chilly evening that would be by my reckoning the most efficient way to get this simple task done.

Why therefore does he spend a good minute of his (and my) time, nose down tail up darting around the lawn like he’s trying to find pooping nirvana. As far as I can tell the route to the spot is as close to seemingly random as I’ve ever seen in nature. I’ve been fooled on occasion into thinking he’s found it only for him to change his mind at the last minute (the tease), the stars clearly did not align. Before I waste the rest of my days trying to find order in this chaos, I’m hoping someone already has some insight.

In the last week he’s also taken to doing a final flurry after pooping, where he walks forward two steps and makes a token gesture of trying to bury it with two quick kicks backwards before walking off. He does it with such gusto he looks like a prancing Matador, after an epic victory. What in all of nature is the purpose of this move? He’s not buried it, at best he’s taken another two notches out of my lawn. If someone could please explain to me what the purpose is other than a puppy fist pump at another successful delivery, I honestly would sleep better at night.


Last week we were enjoying some lovely walkies. This week Archer has given up walking in favour of sitting and staring into the middle distance or working on his orphaned child impression. This has taken what should be 15-20 minute sessions and extended them out to roughly an hour. A combination of treats and tricks usually get’s him moving again. On the couple of occasions I’ve been tempted to drag him (I am only human) he goes down more spectacularly than Ronaldo in the penalty box, so it’s hardly practical.

It’s frustrating to say the least, there is definitely a pattern here where he will learn something, do it correctly for a period of time then regress, we keep seeing it playing out in different forms and has to be hands down the hardest part of raising a pup.

Highlights of this weeks walks, was meeting a truly humongous gentle St Bernard. The paws of which were the size of Archers head, when he went to unceremoniously sniff him between the legs (as is their way) his muzzle was larger than the gap between Archers front and back legs, sending him onto his back. All the time covering him in a wall of drool. What a fantastic creature, I’m not sure Archer was so impressed he seemed to have pissed himself. I doubt he’ll meet many dogs larger, which is a real shame.

I’m sure we’ll get the walking back on track, I have to keep reminding myself he’s only 3 months old. Patience, grass hopper!

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 5

12th August 2018 — 2




We’ve been on several walks now and Archer is not surprisingly loving them. He loves being constantly fussed over by every passerby. He invites it, pulling at the leash to meet each and every new friend. Most people (80%) will take the time to run through the “ohhh he’s so cute” routine, usually asking his age and pointing out how fluffy he is, just in case I hadn’t noticed (my black t-shirt covered). He laps it up.

I do however worry about the odd person who doesn’t interact with him in some way, not even a smile. I’m not talking about runners or otherwise occupied people or the small number of people who are obviously afraid of dogs, you can spot them a mile off, their body language gives it away and I make a point of putting him on a very short leash. I’m talking about the very small number who upon seeing a puppy making a bee line for them, show absolutely no interest. It seems unnatural to me, and I find myself thinking Archer is a natural Voight Kampff test, and worryingly not all of these people are passing it.

After the attention, it’s the smells he loves the most, the little nooks and crannies that have obviously been turned into doggy bulletin boards. He reads each one avidly decoding the secret messages left by his kin. Occasionally he’ll just stop, head up, nose twitching he’s definitely having a completely different experience to me on these dewy morning walks.

He had been pushing his luck when greeting other dogs in the park for the last week. Clearly not showing respect and tending to bounce around a little too over excited. That was until a lovely German Shepherd finally annoyed by his over zealousness decided she had enough and gave him what for, pinning him to the ground and giving him a close up look at her very impressive set of teeth.

He got the message and it stuck, since then he’s approached all dogs (big or small) with a little bit more respect Getting down low and reducing his bouncing as much as any excited pup possibly can. It’s funny to try and see him get lower than a terrier, especially as he gets bigger.

devourer of worldS

At home things have not been so great. He loves to chew things, all things. If it fits in his mouth he’ll chew it and given half a chance swallow it. The biggest problem with his chewing is it’s left him with an upset stomach for the last week. He couldn’t make puppy class, for fear of leaving a stream of brown stinking liquid across the vet reception. It’s hugely frustrating that he doesn’t seem to connect his predicament at the back end with what’s going in at the front end.

The lowest point was 3am on Thursday I’ve awoken to a godawful stench I’ve got up and gingerly tip toed to the light switch to discover a chocolate milkshake. Luckily he had hit the puppy pad and so in my bleary eye state I’ve started to clean it up. I tie it up in a bag and take it downstairs. On my return I’m hit again by the smell, only to realise he’s done a second equally large pool of poop, again on the remaining pad (good boy). I then realise in horror that’s he stepped in this one and walked it around the room. Quarter of an hour later and another bag of liquid poop, I head downstairs to lose the bag. On my final return to the room, I find Archer on my bed, on my bed with uncleaned paws. I think that’s when I lost the will to live.

The next day I woke up in a fowl mood, too little sleep and the smell of doggy poop still in my nostrils, worse Archer also woke up on the wrong side of the bed and he was being extra arrogant too boot. We spent the morning huffing and puffing at each other. I finally went for a run to clear my head and get some alone time, to get my shit (no pun intended) together.

He continues to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable at all times, it seems like a battle of will’s most of the time. In many instances the only way to win is to distract him with treats, but it’s a hollow victory to have to cheat.

Back to the vet

By Saturday he’s dropping dark (although thankfully solid) black poops, which can be a danger sign of an upper intestine/stomach bleed. He’s not got any other symptoms, in fact he’s his usual arrogant self. But we resign ourselves with a trip to the vet, if only to put our minds to rest. Waiting in the vet reception (the same one he plays in weekly) he’s loving meeting all the dogs and people going past.

A gorgeous border collie sits down next to us, 2 years old and a professional working dog the owner tells us, in fact on his way up to Yorkshire tomorrow for two weeks worth of competition trials with the rest of his pack. I can’t recall seeing a dog that was so focused, just sitting there looking around the room you could see it analysing everything, it interacted with all the other dogs and people.

When Archer decided to do his puppy play nonsense the border collie growled and bared it’s teeth, Archer was being very slow on the up take, continuing to annoy her, until she had no choice but to make her annoyance clear. As with the German Shepherd earlier in the week he was solidly put in his place. It is a lesson he needs to learn, not every dog wants to play, especially a working dog that has little tolerance for the bullshit of a puppy.

The vet finally calls us in and gave Archer the once over, everything was normal he wasn’t presenting any  issues, he maybe a little bit gassy. The vet took his temperature for the first time, catching him off guard, but it too was normal (i’m not sure Archer agreed it was normal). The general consensus was whatever it was it looks like he was practically over it, obviously keep an eye on him and he should be fine.

The vet had also reminded us to sort out his Pet Insurance, Archer was covered a few more days under the original policy thrown in when we picked him up. We had been umming and ahhing about it, trying to make that financial vs risk judgement call. The situation was rapidly resolved when the vet, pointed out a foreign body removal in a big dog could be problematic and they’d just done one that ran to £3k. Imagine a couple of those in the first two years, my sisters lab had already suffered similar self inflicted problems, luckily avoiding a worse case scenario.

Building Bridges

If there’s one area that has made progress, beyond archers ability to grow millimetres with every sleep, it’s his relationship with the cats (photo proof above). There is now mutual respect, he understands not to bounce at them and they’ve twigged if they don’t run he won’t chase them. In fact it’s gone the other way the cats will lay in the hall because they know he won’t pass. If he still puts his nose where it’s not wanted he gets a hiss, with the constant threat of a double tap to the head. I’m starting to think the animal approach to dealing with puppies seems to be far more effective than my treats and kind words.

It’s been the toughest week so far, between his dodgy tummy and Archer’s increasing bloody mindlessness it’s not been a huge bundle of fun this week. The only silver lining is I might still be on target for a Xmas card with cats and dogs sleeping together, fingers crossed.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 4

5th August 2018 — 0



It’s been an exciting week for Archer between puppy club and his first walk, he’s continued to grow at a prodigious rate. An update on a few of the key areas:

  • he’s finally learnt to climb the stairs on his own, just in time because he’s getting a bit to heavy to be lugging around. We are still working on coming down them, which involves me animating him like a marionette, but he’ll get there.
  • toilet training is going well. He can now almost get through the entire night, and the number of accidents has dramatically reduced. His clear preference is to get outside now. On the odd occasion if I’m busy/distracted and forget to take him, he’ll now come over to me and make it clear he wants out.
  • his relationship with the cats continues. They will often now pass each other without incident, it’s a bit cagey but they are getting there. Archer has had to be told to “back off” a couple of times by the cats with a double jab to the face, it’s a language he understands all to clearly. Wen discovered that the cats love for catnip overrides any fear they still have of the dog. Wen will spray the catnip on the carpet and both cats will get down of their perches and push past the dog to get to it. That’s been hugely helpful because calm (high) cats are far more tolerant, and because they are relaxed Archer realises it isn’t play time and is calm as well. Hopefully we’ll close the last few inches in the next few weeks. I have a target to send out Xmas cards with both cats and Archer sleeping together, Archer with a Santa hat and the cats with elf hats, I can dream and there’s always photoshop.
  • training hasn’t made much progress this week, we’re still bedding in the basics (come, sit, down, paw). The biggest priority is to nail “come” in all situations. To that end i’ve got some “higher commodity” treats in the form of cocktail sausages, which I’ll only dish out if “Come Now” is successful.
  • his food bowl has been moved out of his crate into the kitchen, it’s simpler and less prone to me spilling on the carpet. The kitchen is also where his remaining accidents where occurring, I’m hoping by putting his food there he’ll get the message.
  • being able to sleep through the night means we have a much more solid routine and are generally in a better mood on both sides.
  • he had his 2nd bath this weekend. I can’t say he was happy, but he accepted it with good grace and he really enjoys being dried off and the general pampering Wen gives him afterwards. Just before he goes and rolls in the dirt again. He was a very dirty dog judging by the colour of the bath water.
  • he’s been far less belligerent this week. He’s had a lot more opportunity to socialise than in previous weeks, both at puppy club and more visitors. Coupled with a bit more freedom in the garden, as I blocked the last of the areas he would get into the most mischief. He seems to be more relaxed than last week.
  • puppy maintenance, we had to cut his claws again (only 2 weeks since last time) and I finally had enough of the pissy stained wick of hair hanging of his old boy, and got the scissors out. Shudder, the things that aren’t discussed about puppy ownership, oy vey.
Puppy Club

On the Monday he had his first of four visits to the vet’s for puppy club where he has an opportunity to socialise with pups of his own age and the nurse briefs us on aspects of owning a puppy we might not have considered. There were meant to be 8 pups but only 4 made it (it is after all summer holiday season). The pups that made it beside us, included:

  • another golden retriever female called Lucy. 4 weeks older than Archer and it showed, she was a inch taller and a few kg’s on him
  • a pomeranian, a lovely bright eyed ball of fluff about the size of two hands
  • a tiny terrier cross, which could literally sit in one hand

The nurse did the introductions, and we got into the main event letting them off the leash. First was Lucy and the pomeranian, not surprisingly the pom was overwhelmed by the attention of her boisterous new friend and made her feelings clear, bringing their first brief encounter to a curt end. Next Lucy had a run at the tiny terrier, Lucy tried to be a little less scary, sensing she needed to be more gentle, but dialling it right down from 11 was still to full on for this pups first outing.

Then it was Archers turn, I was in two minds whether he would go the way of the first two pups, or if he would be up to the challenge. I needn’t of worried 30 seconds later he’s on his back there’s flashes of teeth and claws and he’s loving it. Lucy is beasting him, and he’s having the time of his life, tail going part in submission and out of sheer excitement. The other two pup owners look on in horror at the violence of the scene, the nurse reassuring them it might look like something from Fight Club but it’s actually quite normal for this breed (and Lab’s).

They are in danger of going at it all night so the nurse get’s us to break it up and runs through the finer details of Coprophagia a word I’d never come across, which is surprising given I’d eaten enough in my career. Archer I’m afraid  is most definitely a coprophagia connoisseur, favouring cat then bird. Luckily he’s not a huge fan of K9 either his or the foxes. He should grow out of, in the interim I’m doing my best to reduce his access.

Next it’s the sit demo. First up the terrier who does a sterling job, although to be fair his bottom is only 1cm from the ground so it’s not exactly a challenge. Lucy after a bit of coaxing mangers her sit, followed by the pom who was straight in there. Then it’s Archers turn, he’s been doing sit for weeks, we’ve got this one in the bag. Sit Archer, nothing. Out with the treat, Sit! He’s too interested in the other dogs especially Lucy. Sit! I’m trying to get his attention and it isn’t happening, I take him further away and stand in his line of sight so he can’t see the other dogs, Sit! The nurse offers up a new treat. Sit boy! Nothing. In the end I finally managed to get his attention by shoving the treat in his mouth and taking it out again, I seize the opportunity and bellow SIT! Finally, he puts his arse down, thanks mate!

The nurse weighs each of the pups during the evening as well to make sure they are hitting their targets (for each of the breeds). Archer has put on the best part of a kilogram since his measurement 3 days earlier, proof that we’re not going mad and he really is growing millimetres during every sleep, and he still sleeps a lot!

The session ends in another all out royal rumble, this time the terrier and pom start to come out of their shell if only to egg on the ongoing prime time Lucy and Archer bout. Archer still looks like he’s losing, and loving it. Every time Lucy’s owner calls Lucy off to give him some respite he’s diving straight back in. His interaction (when he gets a chance) with the terrier and pom is much more nose bumps and sniffs.

The nurse hands out some free samples and the session is over. Lucy & Archer definitely loved it, I’m not sure the other two pups were quite as impressed. He slept well that night, whimpering and kicking Lucy in his sleep.

First WalkIES

FINALLY the day had come, a week after his 2nd set of jabs and “I” was allowed back out. Sweet freedom, oh and Archer was allowed out the first time as well. We’d been training him to walk on leash in prep and he’d been for a few car rides by now, so it wasn’t going to be a complete shock. I’d arranged to meet with a friend and her dog Syd, a lovely old girl (the dog that is). His first outing was going to be at the local country park a leisurely stroll around the lake.

So on with the leash, the 4 photo montage (see above) was pretty much his reaction:

  • photo 1 – walkies? I don’t know what that is but I’m excited because you are, let’s do it!
  • photo 2 – actually I really don’t know what walkies are and the leash means we are going out
  • photo 3 – out is scary, so many noises and smells
  • photo 4 – i’m scared, let’s just sit here a while

In the end end I gave in (again) and carried him to the car and clipped him in the back. The irony that in a couple of weeks he’ll be chewing my arm off to get out the door and in the car. not being lost on me, so we’ll entertain it for now.

We get to the park and have to drag him out of the car, he’s not a happy pup. I start him slow walking towards the path round the lake. Everything is getting super sniffed, he’s very skittish, totally overwhelmed by it all. Then he spots our friend and her dog and his tail goes up wagging and he forgets how scared he was. In a split second he’s now all about a walk with the pack and making new friends.

So we walk around the lake a couple of times enjoying the weather and the cool breeze. He’s as good as gold, walking nicely on the leash. He greets everyone he meets as a long lost friend, he’s gentle with the small children and respectful to the bigger dogs. All in all a perfect walking companion even at this point.

I’ve decided he will be better of on a harness than a collar and I’ll investigate getting an extending leash, not that it would have been usable today but there will be more open walks in the near future. I have to keep reminding myself that he is still a pup and try and it keep these walks to 15m tops, especially in the sun. We’ll keep it to one walk a day until he gets used to it. It’s obvious even from this first walk that the stimulus he gets is going to make a huge difference to his and my general temperament during the day, and it’s the perfect antidote to the weeks of cabin-fever.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 3

28th July 2018 — 0



It’s week 3 and we’ve lost our lovely puppy, he’s missing. Replaced instead by a feral egotistical belligerent bundle of teeth and attitude. I know they grow up quick but this is ridiculous, how did we get to the terrible two’s in 3 weeks?

Physically, he’s easily doubled in size and I know it sounds impossible but every time he sleeps, wakes up and stretches he’s noticeably bigger. Two days ago he didn’t have a chest, now when he struts (and trust me he struts) it’s puffed out like a prize rooster’s. His stubby little legs, are gone, in their place long muscular limbs, he barely has control of. The darker (slightly goldy) cream that tipped his ears is now flowing down his back to the tip of his tail.

I think it’s fair to say he’s settled in. We are now the peasants in his glorious kingdom and as the ruler he obviously doesn’t need to heed our commands anymore. It’s not that he’s forgotten what NO and COME mean, it’s that they obviously don’t apply to him anymore. A NO at this point will often elicit a snarl and a couple of air chomps, puppy speak for know your place pleb. Training this week has if anything gone backwards, having made such great progress in the first two weeks, it’s a little bit frustrating but evidently normal, so we’ll just work though it.

The situation has been exasperated by a heatwave baking the UK, with temperatures above 30c for over a week. Being the UK of course there is no aircon and therefore no respite, during the day or night. So it’s fair to say patience on all sides is running a little thin. Worst still we still can’t go out as he hadn’t had his 2nd set of jabs, so there was a definite case of cabin fever kicking in, and I’m not even talking about the pup.

The poor bugger spent most of these dog days on his gel filled cool mat clutching one of two 2 litre bottles of ice water that get rotated to/from the freezer. But come midnight, he’s got to unload all that potential energy in the way only dogs know how, zoomies! The nights I’ve spent teeth flashing past me in the darkness. Between the pup and the mosquito’s feasting on my legs, I’ve felt like a fatally wounded antelope hoping for a quick end to it all.

I was sharing our stroppy pup woes with my sister one scorching afternoon. She has a year old chocolate Labrador, and had been through a lot of these problems already. Having described the symptoms, her advice was to do something to push him out of his comfort zone. He was likely far too comfortable in his little cabin-fever world and probably needed a different perspective on the situation.

Great idea, we have to expose him to lots of new things in these critical weeks, planned amongst them was trips in the car. The car also has the added bonus of having sweet sweet aircon.

Car Drive

I got the car ready, aircon on full blast and dismissed the forge workers who were using it to melt iron, blanket on the back seat, pup on his leash I coaxed him towards the front door. He was being his usual belligerent self, right up to the point I opened the front door. The sight of a huge expanse probably blew his mind. The noise of cars and people in the street added to the experience.

Yep, I think he was definitely outside of his comfort zone, it took 10 minutes to get him 10ft across the drive and into the car.  With him clipped in with his dog seatbelt, rear windows down an inch or two and sun roof open (aircon off at this point we can’t cool the planet) we went for a half hour drive. After some initial whining he settled down, I wouldn’t say he was enjoying it but he was hanging in there (not like he had a choice). After 15 minutes I pulled over, checked on him and gave him some water, he’s definitely outside his comfort zone.

By the time I’d got him back home and back in his safe space I had a happy, compliant little puppy again. I can only assume he decided there might still be a use for these peasants in his world. We’ll see how long it lasts!

Vet Visit

On the same day of his first car drive, we shoved him back in the car and took him to the vet for his 2nd set of jabs and a quick checkover. We were sitting in the vet’s reception for a few minutes and I’ve got Archer in my arms, he can’t touch the floor, I’m not sure if it’s because it’s lava or germs. He’s being a good boy, or more specifically he’s freaking out quietly, looking for re-assurance. There’s only one other animal in reception and it’s a stunning border collie with piercing blue eyes, being a very good boy, he’s just sitting on a seat waiting his turn. One day that could be us!

We get called in by the vet and I plonk Archer down on the table, expecting the mad scramble you usually get with vet visits, but he just sat there. For the entire session he just froze, even after being poked, prodded, injected and weighed (8.3kg at just over 10 weeks) he didn’t move, he didn’t whine, he just took it all in. I’ve never had a pet like him, and he’s undermining my tales of woe to the vet, clever bugger.

The vet checks Archer’s white puppy coat and spots something, out with a comb and wet tissue and sure enough the poor sod has fleas in spite of having Frontline only 3 weeks earlier. Then the vet spots one of the little blighters and kills it. Damn! The chances are they are cat fleas, the cats had their treatment just before he turned up but with the weather as it is, it’s inevitable they’ll be in the house and garden. Ho hum! The vet gives us some better flea treatment that covers a bunch of doggy maladies. Fingers crossed it does the trick.

Other than a few extra passengers, the vet gives him a clean bill of health. We enquire about socialisation classes and luck out filling the last spot in the next class held at the clinic on the coming Monday, fantastic. He can terrorize something else for an hour and will learn to associate the vet with fun, what a great idea.

The last week has been tough on Archer and his staff. But just one week to go and he can finally go out into the big blue room proper and we can start having some real fun. Extra leash training this week in preparation, for freedom!


AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 2

20th July 2018 — 0



We’ve made it to week 2 and I have to say he’s come along leaps and bounds literally, he appears to have practically doubled in size from when we got him, or he’s just found a way of stretching across the sofa more efficiently.

Let’s review the top 5 problems of last week and see what progress we’ve made:

  1. he eats everything – he still continues to eat everything and to be honest reading up on it online, that’s not going to change. So if it’s grass/moss, leaves, dirt etc I leave him to it now, if it’s holly, stones, my flowers or deposits from other animals (a particular favourite) I obviously still intervene.
  2. toilet training – much better, switching to being proactive rather than reactive has made everyone’s life easier. We have a solid routine, as soon as he wakes up we go to the garden. He has a drink of water, I call him over to the latrine (with a treat), he very rarely uses it of first asking. He wanders around the garden has a pee (sometimes remembers to get back to the latrine), then usually within 10 minutes has a dump. I clean it all up get the worst of the piss up with paper towel and pickup the number 2’s with toilet paper and flush it down the loo. When he does hit the latrine he gets a ton of treats. Once he’s done we either play or go back inside (usually to play) dependent on the weather/mood. That’s the routine we don’t deviate and since we’ve started it the ONLY mistakes where when I didn’t follow the routine. I still have to carry him to the garden, because he struggles to get down 2 steps (even though he routinely throws himself off the sofa now, which is much higher), that and I believe he would have too many accidents on the way.
  3. night time – huge improvement, the routine is 11pm we go to bed, I take his collar off he gets in his crate and goes to sleep. He wakes about 5 in the morning, he will pee probably one or two times in the night on the pads in the room. I still let him wander around the room at night, but that’s more down to the heat than anything – he does prefer to lay on the cold floor in this weather. He now seems reluctant to poo on the pads, I’m guessing he’s got much better control over his bowel movements than his bladder. He will start to get restless and whine. I’m going to change this routine tonight to again be more pro-active, that is close the door on his cage, set an alarm for 4:30 to get up, take him out, go back to bed till the morning. He’s not a huge fan of getting up in the morning I almost have to drag him out of the cage.
  4. the smell – we gave him a bath on the Saturday and although there is an improvement, there is no way of avoiding he smells like a puppy. He wasn’t a huge fan of the bath but gritted his teeth and bared it. We also cut his nails as they were like needles by this point.
  5. separation anxiety – much better. Over the week I’ve regularly disappeared from his view for several minutes at a time. He tends to yelp a few times and that’s it, I have never returned to him when he’s been barking or whining. He’s bonded much more with Wen now as well so if she’s in the vicinity he doesn’t think he’s been abandoned anymore.

So overall a huge amount of progress in a single week. I grant you it felt like a year, but you take your wins where you can. I’m genuinely surprised by the progress he’s made, he’s also learning the basic commands:

  • Come – still a challenge when he is distracted or in some instances just being plain belligerent – e.g. he’ll stare straight at you and then make a point of ignoring you.
  • No – I’m fairly sure he knows exactly what I meant but would rather carry on doing it anyway.
  • Sit – if anything it’s his go to move after being called, nailed sit.
  • Down – fairly new basically involves putting the food on the floor so he has little chance, will typically only do it if starting from a sit position. Need to mix the commands up a bit.
  • Paw – always happy to throw a paw in your direction, easier than down in many respects. The only issue on calling him you now get a sit, paw, down movement at at once where he anticipates the next commands.
  • Stay –  early days and he hasn’t really got a handle on it yet.

The main focus for this week will be to nail these commands down, get to a pro-active night routine and increase the accuracy on his toilet.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – Week 1

13th July 2018 — 0



We are slowly getting there. I’ve had to learn as much as him this week about what works and what doesn’t, so it’s been exhausting on both of us. I suspect this will be the worse week though, I guess we’ll see when he starts teething in a few more weeks. I have discovered one of the rope toys works perfectly as a gag if I pop the rope round his neck. doesn’t seem to phase him, just chews it for 20 minutes.

A bit more of his personality is coming out. He’s now started to show the odd sign of affection, wanting to lay near you on occasion and sometimes even giving a shit he’s just bit you, again. Along with it is emerging a wicked stubborn streak. He is relentless if he wants something, be it holly leaves or cat food and when you challenge him you can see the calculated defiance in his eyes.

In spite of all best efforts he managed to get into the cat bowls once and now is on a singular mission to get more of that tasty cat food. We’ve put another gate up to prevent him getting to it, but occasionally it’s been left ajar – it’s a main thoroughfare through the house.

His favourite past time when we are finished in the garden, is to race the long route (he can’t use the short route because the door is usually closed) and try to be in the cat food by the time I can traverse the short route. It’s something like 100ft vs 25 ft. The problem is he’s still proving successful once in a while (because the gate is ajar), and despite my beratement I’m not going to undo the effect of a few mouthfuls of Felix. We’ll be relocating the cat foods to somewhere he can’t reach shortly.

Toilet Training

I watched a few toilet training videos that suggested that being proactive rather than reactive was the way to go. That is, you should be aware before your puppy that it needs to go. So having sent some mixed signals on the subject of toilet training, I’ve gone back to primarily trying to get him to go outside in the garden, ideally in the latrine. I was allowing him to go on the patio, but it’s too much work to cleanup and hose down.

I now show him to the dog latrine, still carrying him most of the way to be fair. He very rarely goes there. But when he does he gets the motherload of treats. I don’t praise or correct him if he goes the toilet anywhere else on the lawn, it’s not like he can do much damage at this time of the year the grass is already yellow, I just clean up the worst of it and move on. I keep him out in the garden until he’s done what I would expect him to do. Hopefully if we persist at this for a bit of time he’ll realise the latrine is the target. I think part of the problem is he wants to walk around before squatting and there isn’t enough room in the metre square latrine to easily do that.


He’s eating Primula Beta puppy food, of which he’s meant to have 4 meals of 50 gramms. The food is wetted to make it easier for him to eat. For the last few days we’ve struggled to get him to eat it all. Reducing the amount of water may have helped (or his appetite has returned) who knows, but he’s starting to woof it down. Apart from cat food (see above) and treats, the rest of his diet still seems to be made up of leaves, stones, sticks and dirt anything he can hoover up in the garden. It’s still a concern but difficult to stop. The good news it’s getting rid of all the crap on my lawn one pebble/leaf at a time, the bad news I’m a deft hand now at getting my fingers down his throat.

Night time

Night time routine is starting to come together, we’ve been aiming to give him supper about 10 as that settles him down and then be in bed shortly after 11. I take his collar off and put him in his cage/bed, he’ll normally take a walk around the bedroom to make sure he knows where everything is and then goes back and sleeps in his bed through to 4-5 when he needs to do his thing. The advantage of having the gate door open at the moment is he just gets up and does it, without having to wake me up. Although he inevitably does, usually because he frets around afterwards rather than going straight back to bed.

I will be closing his cage door all the time next week, and set an alarm for 4:30 to get both of us up, then back into the cage. A couple of more weeks of that and we both might be allowed back in the master bedroom. I’m not taking him outside to toilet at the moment there’s a bunch of puppy pads in the small room. We’ll see how next week goes and consider moving him to defecating outside all of the time. Which would be the ideal, it’s just I don’t fancy a visit to the garden at 4:30 in the morning.


Have I mentioned he stinks, he’s really starting to hum, we’ll be bathing him Saturday to give his coat chance to try dry out in heat of the day. He needs it really bad. I’ve been playing with the hose with him when watering the flowers to get him used to water and being a bit damp. His puppy coat is not very waterproof that’s for sure. My hygiene is only slightly behind his even with daily showers.