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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I’ll admit it I totally underestimated how full on a puppy can be, we’re 4 days in and I smell more like a puppy than he does, I’ve given up changing shirts (what’s the point), my arms and legs have countless little scratches and my hands are dry and withered from the urine/soap/water cycle. Essentially I think he’s dragging me down to his level, but at least I’d be able to hit the puppy pads with more accuracy.
The cats are clearly starting to lose their patience with him, especially when he encroaches on the favourite parts of their routine, treat and cuddles time. The photo above was of Scratchy at 11pm in the evening after a full day of puppy bullshit, he was deliberately dangling his paw over the side of the sofa goading Archer.
I was on the cat’s side, they have been more than accommodating but the puppy knows no boundaries or limits. It still thinks they are playing and will bark and bound at them, in spite of posturing and hissing. Even having the naivety to chase them on a couple of occasions, which is a huge no no.
But they have bided their time and have been analysing him for days now, every time he sleeps one of them is watching him for hours at a time. At one point in the afternoon Scratchy bumped noses with a sleeping Archer, they know he’s comatose when he sleeps, after 4 days of non-stop analysis they almost have the full measure of him.
There’s no way of avoiding the fact Archer has some additional training coming up and it will probably start with a long planned paw to the face, which will redefine their relationship. I suspect given the leniency they’ve shown him though, the first warning is likely to be clawless.
We are still having a high number of accidents, if I’m not reminding him to go pee he will often completely forget where he is and let himself down. Overall I’d say the hit ratio is probably around 60% I’m not sure I want to keep real stats. At least now he understands that it is wrong, a couple of days ago he didn’t even realise that, he’s starting to learn my happy and annoyed tones. On his side he’s also homing his “I’m in the dog house” look, started off a bit weak but will probably be an Oscar winning performance within the month.
Last night he slept in his bed in the new 30″ cage (perfect fit), with the door open from 11pm-3am. He got up and relieved him self on the pads and had a drink. But then he struggled to go back to sleep, he couldn’t seem to get comfortable and started fretting around (still half asleep mind you). So I got him to go back in his cage and I closed the door, he whined for about a minute, I stroked him through the bars and he gave a big huff (he’s good at huffing) and went back to sleep.
As with most mornings, I have to wake him up, it was 8am again before we stirred. He reluctantly dragged himself out of his cage, went pee on the pad and we headed down and out into the garden for a proper morning constitutional. Breakfast, a bit more play, some more training (I think sit is almost registered, we’ll move onto down next).
He goes through a routine every 3-4 hours which consists of:
pee – almost immediately
poo – typically only after a few minutes of activity, i’ve come to the conclusion that anywhere in the garden counts at this point, we’ll narrow it down later.
eat / drink (5-10m)
he’s not a hugely food oriented dog, he’ll often need coaxing to eat and will leave quite a bit. Most dogs I know woof a bowl down with a single sharp in breath, and there would be no left overs.
pee – again
playtime (20-40m) – minutes made up of:
me playing with him, with the various toys, playing chase/tag, or just play fighting.
me training him (his name, sit and today down).
today we were also learning how to do stairs, there’s 2 steps to get round the side to the patio and it freaks him out, so we’ve been practising that, mainly by putting ever increasing number of treats on the floor and then giving him a push every so often. It is a bit pathetic, he goes up them readily enough and each step is probably about 5 inches in height.
I try to leave him for 3-5 minutes at a time as well, most of the time he will whine but he doesn’t keep it up for long and I make a point of never coming back if he’s whining. Occasionally he’ll have left me a welcome back present. Bad boy!
playing by himself – probably about a 1/3 of his wake time he just wants to play on his own with a toy. Sitting quietly in a corner chewing or pushing his Buster cube (unfortunately the treats are a little large and the reward rate is therefore very low).
pee – always with the pee!
twilight zone (5-15m) – this is the witching time when he gets tired and his wolf part starts to take over:
he gets tetchy, bitey, scratchy, less likely to respond to commands
humping – oh yes, even at this age if the conditions are right, anything soft about 6 inches in height, he climbs on top of is going to receive a rude awakening. Disturbing, and hilarious at the same time, bad boy!
most of his peeing accidents happen around this time.
so this is often how he ends up going back to sleep back in the dog house, under the tea table (he can only just get under it now, it won’t last) huffing and puffing giving me the evil eye.
And that’s it over and over again, it’s like a very unfunny version of the movie Ground Hog Day where we’ve got to get through the day without an accident or a huffy pup. Might take a few weeks and I’m sure one of these mornings I’m just going to throw the alarm clock out the window and skip it and we’ll sleep through.
So we are making progress. We switched up the sleeping arrangements and Archer slept with me in his bed in the backroom. He was as good as gold, he slept in his bed until about 5am when he relieved himself on the pads I’d put down. Unfortunately he missed the pads on his numbers 2’s. Nothing wakes you up quite as quickly as the smell of warm dog poo, I praised him for being a good boy, cleaned it up and then went to the toilet myself (not on the pad). He whimpered for about a minute but for the 10 minutes I was away he was mostly quiet. When I got back he went back to sleep and we slept through to about 8am, past his 7am feeding time. In the end I had to get him up because he’d have been happier to sleep all morning. His new (smaller ) crate turns up today, so I’m planning to put his bed in that tonight and probably not lock it for the first night, so he gets used it.
He mostly comes to his name now, we’ll continue randomly calling his name today and giving him treats when he comes over. Also started on “sit” so we’ll see how quickly he picks that up.
He’s been full of beans this morning, probably because he slept well too. He had a few accidents because he was so excited. I’ve realised I was a little over optimistic about training him directly to the outside latrine given it’s 50ft from the front room. It was putting a lot of stress on the both of us, we’ll transition in a few weeks when we’ve got some of the other fundamentals sorted, it’ll be a lot easier when we are communicating better.
In the frontroom & bedroom, I’ve put down 4 puppy pads (1m square) so he’s got a better probability of hitting the target, I don’t want to cover the place because I want him to learn there is a difference.
I’ve now got my act together on cleaning. So frontroom, has spray / toilet roll / kitchen towel / puppy training pads and a black bin bag. Toilet roll used to pickup his poo and kitchen towel to wick pee out of the carpet. So I can deal with 90% of issues quickly and efficiently. The back bedroom and the patio has the same,
Generally he seems much happier, more playful, more relaxed more engaged. I hadn’t realised what a blank slate he would be, literally all he knew was not to defecate in his bedding. Everything else needs to be taught including the fundamentals of communication.
I’ve stopped him going onto the lawn it was too tempting to eat any old rubbish and he doesn’t need all the space yet. It’s also easier to wash poo/wee off of the patio. We’ve installed a 2nd gate before the cat food to stop him getting to that and allowing a little bit more freedom/control.
I’m trying to expose him to as many different experiences as possible, today he was hunting for treats in packing paper, a valuable life skill for sure.
We are 36 hours in at this point and it’s a living hell, interspersed with the occasional moment of respite. There’s a lot the intelligence community could learn about interrogation techniques from a puppy. There are times where waterboarding might actually be a more humane option, than the 10th visit to the latrine to watch a puppy just eat pebbles.
Top 5 problems in priority order:
he eats everything – grass/straw, stones, bugs, dirt, paper, cat food and his favourite dried spikey holly leaves – I think we need to call him Dyson he’s doing such a good job. My fingers spend more time in his mouth than his own tongue, as I try to scoop out whatever new morsel he’s found. I have visions of being at the vet looking at an expensive x-ray of the contents of the garden in the near future.
toilet training – not surprisingly toilet training, his accuracy rate is about 50% at the moment, he started off well hitting the pads and using the latrine. But we’ve yet to tell the subtle difference between I want to play and I’ve got one in the bomb bay doors. I’m thinking of getting a utility belt with cleaner, wipes etc and wearing it 24/7 as I think a NHS nurse with OCD is not washing their hands as much as I am at the moment. We are also going to need a LOT more kitchen towel, a lot more!
night time – it was clear from the first night he was going to whine for longer than the neighbours were going to be able to put up with it, especially as everyone has their windows open because of the heat. Last night wasn’t too bad, gave him supper just before 10 and I took him to bed. We tried to get him to sleep in a dog basket on the bed. He wasn’t interested far too warm to be curled up in that – so he planted himself horizontally across the bed. We managed to get through to about 2pm, I noticed he was getting a bit antsy, moving around the bed. So I took him down for a quick toilet in the dead of night in the garden. We went back to bed until about 4 at which point he was wide awake, so an hour long play session, more toilet trips before he was dozing again and we went back to bed from 5 to about 7. Not too bad, but not the solid 8 hours I’m used to.
the smell – he gives off is a somewhat unpleasant whiff that is now my new eau de cologne. I stink of puppy and I’ll be enjoying one of those few moments of calm before the storm, and the fan will blow it across me.
separation anxiety – he’s already imprinted on me, much to the annoyance of Wen and if I’m out of sight for more than a minute he starts whining even if Wen is in the room comforting him. Which is frustrating for her because it just makes her feel like he’s not bonding with her.
And to balance the post out a little, here’s a few good things:
he is cute as hell, especially when he’s asleep and I have an hour to myself. His routine at the moment is:
pee(100% time)/poo(50% time) – 10 minutes of messing around
play for 20-25m
fretting 5m, when he doesn’t know what to do with himself, he’s getting tired but he doesn’t want to sleep and he can’t seem to find the optimum place to sleep
asleep again – 1-2 hours (repeat like a metranone).
the cats have been amazing with him, neither of them have attacked him in spite of his provocation and not understanding the cat for “sling your hook mate”. They have hissed at him when he’s backed them into a corner and then doing the play jump towards them. Which is fair enough he needs to know there are boundaries. Other than that I think they get it, god knows they been watching him like a hawk since he got here. What they’ve learned so far:
when he is asleep he is totally out, completely soundo and they know they can get very close to him. Proof of the pudding was me, Wen, Archer, Itchy and Scratchy all in the same bed at 5:30 in the morning.
he currently can’t get up on the side of anything – sofa, tables, cat towers etc, he only works in 2 dimensions, as opposed to the 3 (or more) the cats do. So they’ve taken to leaping over the gate into the front room and over the sleeping puppy. For that matter he can hardly get down anything either – a stair is a complete novelty.
he is definitely getting preferential treatment, at the determent to their human time.
he is completely hopeless at running, his legs go in every direction and the net result is hilarious, and you know how cat’s thrive on the misfortune of others.
ultimately they know he’s an adolescent, he’s a bit of a strange kitten but one they sense they have to get used to.
in spite of his accidents he does have the basics of toilet training, his mum at least taught him the basics. Most of the time he’ll try and head for a pad or make a noise to indicate he needs to go and like all of us he pees if he gets over excited (just me then?).
Did I mention he’s cute, it is his only redeeming quality at the moment. If I’m honest the ratio of upside to downside is not in his favour, but that’ll change as we get into a routine. He thinks he is good at helping clean up his accidents, he helps by taking the kitchen towel and running away with it, or the pissy rags, he doesn’t care.
Things to work on today (this week):
get into a routine on toilet training, we are trying to train him to go to the dog latrine in the garden but for a puppy it’s a long old walk. So he also has an emergency pad in the front room.
we need to get hime crate/cage trained, at the moment his time in the cage has been less than 30 seconds to fetch a toy (we keep throwing them back in there). I’ve been inching his food/water towards his cage and his next feed will be with the food in the front of the cage. I’m hoping to get him comfortable with the crate. The only issue is it’s so warm in the cage compared to the cool breeze in the doorway.
we’ve “agreed” myself and Wen (you can imagine how that conversation went) I’m going to sleep in the back bedroom with him for the next couple of weeks, for a number of reasons:
primarily it’s too disruptive having a puppy in the bed, between the worry of him having an accident or just being squished, that and Wen is working and it’s not particularly conducive to a good nights sleep. We can’t just go cold turkey and stick him in the crate all night, given it’s a semi-detached property with plenty of neighbours.
the back bedroom has a single bed, we can get a mattress protector for it, more importantly it’s mostly empty already as I was using it as a gym room and it has padding on the floor rather than carpet which is easier to clean.
I can setup another crate up there, being at the back of the house I can get away with him whining a little more without annoying the neighbours. I will have to just let him work it out over time.
the goal will be to get him going through the night in his crate in the next few weeks, before Wen is on holiday. And then we both might be allowed back in the master bedroom 😉
start getting him used to the basics:
his name and coming when called
get him to bond more with Wen so he doesn’t see my absence as the end of the world and Wen get’s some time when he’s being cute as a opposed to defecating for England.
good boy vs bad boy – and NO, means NO
get him acclimated to the TV, we are having to stick to PG stuff at the moment as the cacophony of grown up TV is a little bit scary.
Finally the long wait was over and it was the day Archer came to his new “forever” home. For some reason the forever bit is sounding a bit more ominous today. Unfortunately Archers arrival coincided with a mini-heat wave in the UK and an England World Cup quarter final match. We had to arrange with the breeder to pick him up earlier in the day to ensure we could get back in time for the kick off.
I’d got up early to finish digging the dog latrine I’d started digging earlier in the week, a work only exceeded by the building efforts of the Egyptians. By about 11am it was sweltering and my back was killing me from the unusual hard labour. The hour long drive down to Folkestone in an air condition car came as a welcome relief. When we arrived the breeder lady had done a fantastic job of having everything prepared, including:
vaccination details – including when the next set were due
feeding – type of food and current schedule (7am, 12pm, 5pm, supper)
worming details – Panacur 3, 5, 7 and 1/2 weeks
flead – frontline
pedigree details including his pedigree name
Kennel Club registration details
contact details if there are any questions
a couple of days worth of his puppy food
a sheep skin blanket with his mothers/siblings smell on it
a rope toy
all in a lovely bag with his first “grey” collar tied around the handle (nice touch)
The puppies were in the dining room where we had seen them before. It was sweltering and they were mostly all asleep having just been fed. The mother (and uncle) were eager to say hi as always and I went over and fussed with them. I was feeling a little guilty for stealing one of her pups away from her so I promised her (and his Uncle) we’d take good care of him. I’d like to think it translated.
We completed the paperwork, and said our goodbyes, promised to send photos and keep the breeder up to date with his progress. Wen got in the back of the car with Archer, and we buckled him up with a car leash. I went to get in the car and in doing so something went twang in my back, I didn’t think anything more of it.
Archer and Wen were very docile on the drive back, we had the aircon on full (music off) and they dozed most the way, stopping en route to pickup some more of his puppy kibble.
As soon as we got home we got him out of the car and straight to the dog toilet, guessing he’d need to relieve himself. I went to get out of the car and my back spasmed doubling me over, I struggled to get around the car, get Archer out and carry him through to the toilet. All the time my back giving out every couple of yards, not quite how I imagined this precious moment.
We reached the toilet and in one last effort I lowered him down onto my handy work, my back finally giving out. He wandered off a few yards and peed on the lawn, I raged silently at the rejection, luckily the sun had already bleached the grass to yellow sawdust.
Wen followed me out after dropping Archer’s stuff off and as usual had two cats in tow. They got within a few metres of Archer before realising he was a living breathing animal. Their reaction amazingly was very subdued, they backed off slowly to a more comfortable distance and proceeded to scrutinise him from afar. Not all together impressed but not aggressive either. I think we were hugely lucky that their first meeting was on open ground.
I was not feeling quite so lucky, Wen had to help me back up and into the house, where we bought Archer into the living room and he crashed out again. It was 30 degrees by this point (with the fan going) and there was little respite especially if you happened to be wearing a lovely fluffy coat.
We had family round to watch the England game. Archer slept through out the whole match, good boy, laying near the door where there was a slight breeze. He even managed to sleep through the cheers when England went 2-0 up, I was jumping up and down through out the entire match like a frenetic meerkat as my back continued to spasm.
After the game we fired up the BBQ and headed out to the patio (under the gazebo) where it was a little bit fresher. Poor Archer was still struggling with the heat and I was by this point having to hand over BBQ’ing duties as the family were getting tired off my shuffling hunchback pace and occasional muted screams.
Archer’s contribution to the BBQ was to drop a truly stunning turd at least as long as he was (he had clearly been well fed) in the middle of the patio, he had tried to make it to the grass area, bless him, but we had cordoned it off. I can tell he’s going to have a great sense of timing already.
We finished the BBQ, Archer had spent the last half awake and burrowing behind me in the sofa. I’m sure he was trying to help with my back, but he’s a shit masseur. The Russia/Croatia game was at the halfway mark and we finished watching it before the family made their excuses and headed out.
The first night proved difficult partly because of the pup and partly because my back continued to spasm at the slightest provocation, often sending me sprawling. There are only two rules to a pup’s first night we knew them and they were the cornerstone of our strategy:
ignore his whines, because he will whine it’s natural. If we give in all he will learn is that he gets what he wants when he whines.
never, ever let him in your bed, ever! It sends all the wrong signals and you might as well go sleep in his crate for the use you’ll get out of it.
We had decided to put him in a pen in the bedroom with his bed and blanket (so we could hear him if he had a real problem) turned off the lights and went to sleep. Of course he started crying 2 minutes later, first as a low sad whine and finally as a yelping scream of desperation.
We gave it 10 minutes before giving in, mostly because it was 1 in the morning and with the heat all the windows were open. In the UK opening a window passes for aircon at the height of summer. So although we would have been willing to put up with his crying, it’s fair to say most of the neighbours would not be enjoying his performance.
We took him out of the pen and comforted him (see Rule 1), we were all exhausted and at this point and if getting some sleep meant kicking a pup a few times in the night so be it. We put him on the bed (see Rule 2).
They say no plan survives first contact with the enemy but this was a complete rout. We can at least take some solace in not being the only generals to have our plan scuppered by the weather. Who would have guessed at a mini heatwave in the middle of summer, in the UK it’s unthinkable.
Once on the bed and after a bit of kicking and biting (him not us) to set some basic guidelines he finally settled down and went to sleep. We amazingly managed to make it through to 5 in the morning. I rushed him down stairs to the toilet and he did his first pee of the day on target on the AstroTurf. What a glorious sunrise and totally worth getting up at the crack of dawn and crippling myself for.
Things can only get better as the old D:Ream track goes!
There are dog people and there are cat people, I’ve always been more of a dog person myself. I grew up with dogs and I prefer the engagement you get from a dog to the airy ambivalence I get from cats most of the time. Wen, my other half is a cat person, she has always had cats and if it wasn’t for my intervention she would be a crazy cat lady by now.
We currently have two cats, Itchy & Scratchy we prefer to get them in pairs. Before Itchy & Scratchy was Riker & Troi (STNG was at it’s peek back then), so it’s fair to say it’s been a very much feline environment. Which worked out well, we were both working and their independent nature, which is to say sleeping 90% of the day fitted perfectly into our lifestyle. But in the back of my mind I had always told myself as soon as I retire, I’m will finally get a dog.
Having worked for two decades in the City I decided that I’d had enough and it was time for something different, starting with getting fitter, I started by walking a few miles and after a couple of months I was easily doing 50 miles a week and switched up to running (see C25k) to get the old ticker going. In those many hours of walking however I would pass countless dogs and their owners and I my longing to have my own furry walking companion grew.
I had seen this one guy a few times walking his cat, it wasn’t going very well, I remember on one occasion thinking he was a up to no good in the bushes, only to realise he was trying to dissuade his walking companion from mousing. On another occasion he was trying to get the cat off a roundabout but it has spotted a dog 200 yards away and had stubbornly gone to ground. Cat walking is not for me, or I suspect our cats!
The situation came to head, both my parents and sister had got Labrador puppies in the last year. My last visit down to them in May I spent some quality time with both puppies (and oh I guess the family) and I made my mind up. I’d done the ground work over the years to prepare Wen for this inevitability, so we talked it though, benefits and pitfalls and the key decision was made, we were going to get a dog!
So much choice
But what kind of dog? When I was a kid breeds didn’t really come into play, every dog we had was a mongrel, getting a dog was more about who you knew who’d had an unplanned litter. These days there are more breeds than you can wave a stick at, and new hybrids seem to be turning up every year with increasingly bizarre names.
Luckily myself and Wen are broadly on the same page with our dog preferences. Neither of us find ourself drawn to breeds in the toy, utility, terrier or hound groups to use the kennel club taxonomy. So we rapidly narrowed the choice down to:
Pastrol – Border Collie
Working – Husky / Malamute
Gundog – Retrievers – Labrador / Golden
So the next step was to research the breeds on our short list and really try t0 get a gppd understanding (good & bad) of living with each of these breeds.
Starting with the border collie, which to be quite honest was our first choice, in a big part probably driven by watching them play Flyball at crufts. Unfortunately it became fairly obvious in our research that a Border Collie might be a bit too full on. My favourite quote was an owner who said collies had OCD and if you don’t give them a job, they will create one and it’s typically herding kids and animals in the family. The thought of our cats being herded around based on the dogs fantasy schedule, was really tempting. But in the spirit of harmony we came to the conclusion a Corder Collie was probably not the best fit.
We both love Huskies and Malamutes mainly because you can still see some of their wolf origins, they are spectacular looking creatures. But again it was obvious in our research, that they have been bred to run and run, are strongly independent and take a huge amount of exercise if you don’t want a problem on your hand. So reluctantly we had to admit they were’t going to be the breed for us, A real shame because they look like real characters.
That left us with the good old retrievers. Both breeds are well known for their easy going temperaments, they are good with other animals (i.e. they won’t try to herd or kill the cats). So which to choose? There are subtle differences between the two breeds but ultimately they are not so great I believe to elevate one above the other, in the end we selected the golden retriever simply because of their natural smiling happy expression, and simply to buck the trend of getting Labradors in the family.
But it doesn’t end there, Golden Retrievers have a huge spectrum of colours from light cream all the way through to practically red. It wasn’t a deal breaker but we tended to find ourselves leaning towards the lighter cream end of the spectrum, if there was a choice.
Gender wise (a dog or bitch) we didn’t have a strong preference. I read a number of forums where people had asked similar questions and the general response was it doesn’t make a huge difference, IF you get them spayed/neutered. Which was going to be our plan anyway – we are not looking to breed.
Lastly to get a puppy or to get a full grown (likely to be rescue dog). We really wanted a puppy, we had taken in rescue cats before (Riker & Troi) and we had naively under estimated the challenge of taking in animals that have not had the best start in life. Especially when it’s a lifetime commitment. In addition Wen had never had a dog and I think it was only gets the full experience (snigger).
My biggest suggestion to anyone thinking of getting a dog would be too do your homework, dogs span a huge spectrum and in most instances your circumstances, lifestyle, environment can preclude many breeds if you are honest to yourself and your prospective pet.
Finding the Right SELLER?
This is the hardest part, finding a respectable breeder or seller that isn’t in it to make a quick buck. There’s a lot of good information about how to vet sellers and spot the puppy farmers, and of course in these days of people leaking their private information all over the internet it’s generally quite easy to back ground check how committed breeders are. Casual sellers can be a bit trickier.
On an aside we did look at rescue centres first, but there were few with puppies (not surprisingly) and I was put off by the fact in many instances we had to fill in a huge questionnaire and submit to extreme vetting measures simply to get on their waiting lists. I understand they have a duty of care, especially for rescued animals, but there was something that annoyed me about having to justify ourselves using such a blunt bureaucratic process. In my experience you can tell more about a person by meeting and talking to them than by what they might write on a piece of paper, and yes I understand it’s a filtering mechanism, it’s just that it’s filtering out a lot of potentially good homes IMO.
In the UK pedigree dogs can be KC registered, this is not a guarantee of “quality” but most of the serious respectable breeders will have KC registered parents and will aim to register the puppies. Of course all of this comes at a price, and as always in life you tend to get what you pay for. Looking at pedigree golden retrievers prices ranged from £600-£1500, which is big spread and a lot of money any way you look at it. When you start sifting through the details there are several criteria that allowed us to start rating prospective sellers:
KC registration, paperwork that you can view and copy
HIP, Elbow and eye screen results for the parents – particularly important for retrievers
the breeder wants to vet you, in some instances demanding someone is always in the home
ability to view mother and pups
the pups are being brought up in a family environment with exposure to all that entails
they spend at least 8 weeks with their mother
backgrounds on the parents, ideally that they have multiple members of the same line
jabs, chipped and puppy packs (the food they are on, a blanket with their mothers scent etc)
geographical closeness, least important but if you are going to make multiple visits could be a factor
In the UK there are a couple of websites (pets4homes and preloved ) that seem to be the mostly used mainstream sites for people selling puppies. So we started scanning those on a daily basis, hunting for a good fit.
PICKING A PUP
Acquiring a dog may be the only
time a person gets to choose a relative
— Mordecai Siegal
It took us a few weeks of searching (it wasn’t like we were in a hurry) to find a seller that ticked all the boxes for us, in the end we found a lady in Folkestone, who’s bitch had a litter of 11 (10 dogs, 1 bitch). We arranged to go down and visit her and the pups on a fantastic sunny afternoon, nice drive down to the coast.
The mother and pups were in her dining room in a wooden pen that occupied most of the room. The room was clean and airy and we were greeted by what we assumed was the father of the pups (turned out to be the uncle). A very good boy, and both me and Wen spent some time fussing over him, evidently passing the first test in the process. I was surprised by how much bigger the uncle seemed to be in comparison to most labs I had seen, emphasised by his wide solid head and huge paws. I’d be over the moon if our pup turned out like this prize specimen.
Top tip – the seller told us she had to turn away a prospective puppy buyer who waded in to the pen without permission and without interacting with any of the other dogs in the house. I guess dog people can spot dog people fairly easily, that and manners maketh man.
The poor mother had that drained look of any new mother, especially one trying to feed 11 pups 24/7. She took the chance to get out of the pen and came over to vet us as well before taking a well deserved snooze in the corner.
Then the moment of meeting our prospective pup, you look into the pen and look for that connection which will single one out of the 10 dogs, the owner was going to keep the bitch for breeding. I’m afraid it’s not like the movies, at only a couple of weeks old they are blind, wiggling balls of fluff who’s only job in life is to feed. So we watched the mother climb back into the pen and out of the wiggling mass picked one purely based on its size, willingness to screw over his siblings to feed and ultimately his light cream coat.
We picked him up (he had a grey collar) and looked for all the world like a little polar bear. We attempted to bond, which basically came down to having a finger sucked. Took a ton of photos and let him get back to feeding, and tried to ignore the fact he spent 5 minutes sucking his mum’s ear. Maybe not the brightest pup in the pack. And that’s how we narrowed down the selection, hardly the way you think such a moment should unfold.
The owner showed us the father’s paperwork, a Czech stud dog with a pedigree slightly longer than my arm and the mother’s who had come from a long line that her parents had started breeding. So we exchanged details, put down a deposit and arranged to catchup for a socialisation/bonding session in a few weeks when older grey collar was able to see and walk. Oh and the seller would send us weekly progress photos, fantastic.
What’s in a Name?
I think we managed to get as far as the motorway before we started the inevitable conversation about what we would be calling grey collar, being die hard GoT fans he almost ended up being called Grey Worm right there and then. By the time we were pulling off the motorway it was fairly clear that Wen was going to get her way on this and the best I could do was at least veto Fenton!
Given our current pets Itchy & Scratchy Wen wanted to buck with tradition, so my suggestion of Poochie wasn’t going to fly, plus it didn’t past the “shouting it in the middle of the night” test. In the end Wen came up with Archer. Really? A good British name (as Al Murray would say), smacks of strength, cider on the village green, listening to BBC radio 4. I’m sure that’s what she had in mind.
Unfortunately in my mind I’m thinking Sterling Archer, the irreverent bumbling Bond rip off, yeah baby I can live with that. So grey collar got his name … Archer, not Archie Wen was quick to point out, Archer! (secret spy).
The countdown had started – 6 weeks until Archer would be coming home and there’s a lot to sort out.