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Tech

A Bloggers Guide to Being Hacked

25th August 2019 — 0

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I haven’t written many technical posts of late. I’ve been having far more fun writing fiction. My flights of fancy, however, came down to earth with a bump earlier this week when I discovered a couple of my sites had been hacked. Including this blog.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – 11 Months

16th April 2019 — 2

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It’s been a truly British spring with a good mixture of showers, that one week when it seems summer has arrived early and everyone gets super excited, followed by the inevitable and entirely predictable icy cold temperature reality check.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – 10 months

15th March 2019 — 0

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Where does the time go, another month has shot past. The influence of testosterone on Archer’s growth is becoming pretty obvious as he has started to look a bit “hench”, as the kids would say. He’s pounded on muscle especially around his neck and chest. It’s reached the point that his head is starting to look a little too small for such powerful shoulders. His feathering also seems more pronounced on the back of his legs, stomach and most noticeably his tail. On the odd occasion that something kicks him off, he truly is something to behold, chest out, head and tail up is enough to give anyone pause for thought, usually followed by a bounding climb down and lots of licks.

Along with the physical changes he’s starting to show a more than playful interest in some female’s, specifically a Newfoundland we bump into regularly. Twice now I’ve had to pull him away, he’s still not sure what he’s doing so he just does a bit of snakey hip dancing behind her, but the intention is there. Worse still when I’ve leashed him and done the walk of shame to the other side of the field, he’s feigned non-interest and as soon as I look away he shoots back off across the field after her. I suspect he’s going to find himself on a long leash more often than not at this rate.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – 9 months

18th February 2019 — 1

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Incoming

We are now 3/4 of the way through Archers first year. He’s still very much a puppy, I’ll grant you he’s a big puppy at 33kg as I discovered to my cost when he and a 20kg Vizsla hit my knee full-on at over 10 mph. For the nerds, that’s 625 joules of energy enough to light a 100 watt light bulb for 6 seconds, which is half the time I needed to have a light bulb moment myself; never ever take your eyes off a frolicking pup. My top tip after several such encounters is to try and keep your knees bent (just like a parachute jump) it’ll give you something to do while your life flashes before your eyes.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – 8 Months

18th January 2019 — 0

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First NOEL

Archer thoroughly enjoyed his first Christmas, between countless presents, extra treats and generally being fussed overnight & day by my nieces. The highlight as far as he was concerned however was being part of a pack. He spent the majority of Christmas playing with the rest of the family’s dogs (see photo above). He had met my sister’s dog (chocolate lab) earlier in the year but had not met my parents (golden lab) before. Needless to say, all being gun dogs they got on like a house on fire, even with all three dogs having very different characters.

It appears dogs are like children when it comes to unwrapping presents in their tendency to be more enamoured with the wrapping paper than the contents. All three dogs had great fun shredding ALL the wrapping paper. Archer is still working through his new toys halfway through January. His current favourite is a soft toy duck (see above) that’s he’s starting to get a little over friendly with.

Even at 8 months, Archer is a good bit taller than the two labs each of whom are approx. 18 months old. To be fair both labs are quite small for the breed but even so it’s a good indication of how big he’s now getting. That said he was definitely still the pup of the pack with the older wiser dogs putting him in his place, lest he forgets.

Boxing day was a fun trip to a mostly deserted local beach where all three pups managed to splash around in the waves. Archer spent the majority of the time eating the seaweed. Thankfully the weather continued to be mild over the festive period.

The only downside to Archer’s fun was the 6-hour car trip there and back. He’s used to travelling in the car for journeys up to an hour. Unfortunately, the longer journey stressed him out quite badly, he refused to settle down for the entire trip and by the time we got to the other end he was utterly exhausted. On meeting his family he managed to rally and shake it off. On the way back, after another 6-hour ordeal (2 x 3 hours) he was done for. When he finally got home he made a beeline for my sofa spot and flatly refused to do anything for the rest of the day. A very unhappy pup, in the future we’ll need to give him a sedative for his own benefit.

Overall though Archer had a fantastic time and he really misses his family pack.

Growing Pains

With each passing week and month, our little puppy is transforming into a full-blooded adult dog. In the last month, he’s started to show some “new” behaviour. On our most regular walk, I noticed he had started urinating in the same spots on the way around and then finally last week he cocked his leg for the first time. I’m not sure if I’m meant to be proud or not, but the implications are definitely not lost on me. He’s also starting to take an immense interest in seemingly random fauna, logs, walls etc. Stopping on occasion for minutes at a time to ensure he’s fully read what are no doubt smelly messages left by other dogs.

I think his awakening began a couple of weeks back having literally run into the back of female in heat. One minute he was a happy go lucky pup minding his own business the next minute:

You could see even he was struggling to understand what was going on, not quite sure what it meant but knowing that it was really really interesting. I had to leash him and take him home as I couldn’t get much sense out of him. So too did the poor lad who was walking the female, I’m not sure he had actually realised she was in heat as it was his Aunt’s dog, that or he didn’t understand what chaos it would unleash in the park that morning.

The other notable behavioural change is he appears to be going through another fear phase. Odd things will scare the bejeezus out of him and it will be totally random things, a bag in the wind or smell on a tree stump will trigger him to cower and run. I’ve let him out in the garden a few times only to have him come running back in tail between legs looking like he’s being chased by the devil himself. I’ll admit on occasion he’s even got me concerned enough to look out the window before going to the back door, such is his conviction. When in reality it was probably a leaf landing on his head.

The best example of this irrational fear response was I ordered a new brush for him, his coat needs some daily attention at this point. Anyway, the brush is delivered, I pull it out the bag and Archer takes one look at it and totally loses his s****. In such times of abject horror, he’ll run to where I sit on the sofa and curl up there. So, of course, I take the brush and try to show him it’s just a brush but he can’t even look at it, I try to use it on him and he runs upstairs and hides under the bed. It’s been a week and every time I pick the new brush up his tail goes between his legs and he’s gone. I honestly don’t understand what happened but it looks like he’ll need therapy to get over it. In the meantime, I have a very good brand new brush gathering dust rather than hair.

To compensate for this lack of confidence he has in the last week on two occasions gone the other way, stood up tall, pushed his chest out and raised his tail and confronted what scared him. There’s a photo above of him confronting a plastic sheet that was proving particularly threatening. The other occasion was a chap standing at a gate who was shouting for his dog that had decided to have some fun in the wood. Archer actually got between me and him and made himself look big and butch and barked at him. Which was unprecedented, he also thankfully had the good sense to back down when the chap matter-of-factly said good morning to him.

I have yet to see any of the other testosterone-fuelled behaviours but it’s only a matter of time and it will force me to make a decision on when to get him neutered. The conventional wisdom for years had been to neuter early before 6 months for males but there is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest neutering before full development can have a significant detrimental impact. Specifically, this paper would indicate up to 500% increase in joint problems in neutered male golden retrievers. So, for now, I’ll gather more information.

Breed Traits

Archer is the product of 150 years of breeding to produce a gun dog that is specifically designed to retrieve shot waterfowl from lakes. Now I don’t shoot and I have no plans to start, our reason for getting a golden retriever was for its legendary temperament. But what I am increasingly discovering is all that breeding is hardcoded into Archer’s very DNA, in addition to his physical adaptions (webbed feet, double coat) his very instincts have also been modified.

This became apparent the last time we were at the dog pond. After months of cajoling him into getting wet, it finally clicked. I’ll grant you it took a surreptitious literal push in the right direction but he finally got it. He’s not swimming quite yet, the pond in question isn’t deep enough (I wouldn’t have pushed him otherwise) but he did discover a number of logs floating in the middle of the pod. What better water and sticks and I can tell you he has never had a happier moment in his entire life than pulling half a tree out of the pond onto the bank where I would obviously push it back in. Something clicked and I truly think he found his raison d’etre in retrieving logs from that pond.

There are other more subtle examples, like the way he’ll pick up a thrown soft toy. Every dog I grew up with would literally rip the toy a new one. Archer picks the toy up with such delicacy that you’d think he was retrieving eggs.

Or the fact he doesn’t care about loud noises. We walk around a country park that has bird scarers that sound like a shotgun going off, an almighty bang. I’ve met fellow dog walkers heading for the exit because their dog is terrified of the noise. Twice now we’ve been very close to these devices, enough to give me a start. Archer, however, is either deaf (I don’t think so he can hear a treat packet being opened 3 rooms away) or simply doesn’t give a damn. We didn’t train him to deal with loud bangs it appears to be instinct again.

What amazes me, is how much of his behaviour is nature as opposed to nurture (background). He’s never been shown these behaviours, I never taught him them and his mother hardly had a chance. The instructions must be encoded in his DNA and made physical in the very specific way his brain developed. He is the direct sum of 150 years of choices, this feature over that feature, minute little changes generation after generation guided by human hand. As a software developer, I can only marvel at the patience required to encode instructions in such a way.

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – 7 Months

15th December 2018 — 0

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Big Boy

At 7 months Archer is a very healthy 28kg of muscle, skin, hair and slobber. He looks better proportioned in the last month as the hindquarters have finally started to catch up with his bulky chest. He continues to be very lean, his considerable bulk being mostly muscle. He still has big folds of spare skin particularly around his neck but I’m starting to suspect that’s more to do with defence than the extra growing room. Other pups love to get a mouthful of his neck (or an ear) and I’ve seen him pulled around by it on more than one occasion, without much of a care.

His coat remains snow white with a hint of gold on his ears. When wet (see photo above) his coat looks majestic especially his mane. His two-layered coat serves him well, a lot of dirt can simply be brushed out when dry.

Where once he would sleep under the coffee table now he can’t even get his head between its legs. Which of course doesn’t stop him having a go. Overall he’s about the same size as most adult Labradors he comes across, which means the latitude given to him as a puppy is starting to wane. Where once his bounding would be greeted by excited “Oh he’s a puppy” now it’s more than often likely to be greeted by screams and rapid attempts to protect loved ones. It’s another lesson Archer is struggling to come to terms with given that from his perspective nothing has changed.

Daily Routine

He still sleeps a LOT, a typical day is broken down into 1.5hr-2hr walkies, 2 hours of general chewing/light play, which means he still spends 18-20 hours a day dozing or sleeping. He typically sleeps from 8-9pm through to 6am in the morning demonstrating far better bladder control than I can.

Archer’s body clock is as accurate as any atomic timekeeping source. 6am every morning he climbs onto the bed, not fully he’s not allowed on the bed, just the front legs and bulk of his 28kg torso applied skilfully to Wen’s legs until she pokes me and tells me he’s awake. I don’t know why he doesn’t wake me up directly, maybe he’s tried and I’ve just ignored him. At this point, it’s a bleary-eyed stagger (for the both of us) to the back door to let him out, feed the cats and give him his breakfast. He’ll then go back to sleep and if I’m lucky I’ll join him.

9am is the next key milestone on the pup’s busy daily schedule. He’ll start to get restless if it gets to 9:30 and I haven’t made a move then he’ll sit in front of me, turn his head to look out the window and then look back at me. To be clear most of Archer’s non-verbal communication involves looking at me and then looking at what he wants and back at me. It’s a work in progress at the moment, basically looking right means walkies that’s easy, however looking left could mean toilet, food, water or the cat’s in my way again.

Midday is dinner (he’s still on 3 meals – possibly not for much longer), this is usually about when we get back from walkies so he’ll woof his food down and then get into his afternoon siesta until about 4-5pm depending on how tough a morning he had. It’s then playtime for an hour, before his tea around 6pm.

Wen and I typically don’t eat until gone 7pm. When we do we’ll give him a Kong or chew stick while we eat as his treat for the day. By 8pm you can probably imagine he’s totally worn out, poor thing.

Mud Glorious Mud

We covered another 100km+ walkies in November and amazingly the weather (on the whole) continues to be mild with only a couple of nights of frost. Unfortunately, the side effect of this has been rain and many of Archers’ favourite walks have been reduced to quagmires of slippery deep mud. Not that it bothers him in the slightest, in fact, the muddier it gets the happier he seems to be.

The final straw was a walk around St Mary island a paved route devoid of mud, 45 minutes in and he’s spotless, bored but spotless. I almost made it off the island but on passing the dog pen for once it was full of dogs playing and I’m not that cruel. It also didn’t look that muddy so I let him off much to his delight, bounding around and playing with the other dogs the way only a 7-month pup can do.

Now I was aware that there was a hole that the dogs liked to dig in, you can probably see where this is going quicker than I did. The last time I saw this hole it was about a foot deep and it was dry, by the end of November it was now about 2ft deep, a foot of which was liquid mud. Worst still one of the other dogs had dropped his ball down it, he kept returning to try and dig it out and Archer is always so very willing to help. You can see the results in one of the photos above, on the long walk of shame back to the car.

It was at that point I gave up fighting it and accepted that trying to keep a white pup clean during Winter is my Kobayashi Maru test. I decided to accept defeat with good grace and a hose.

My first attempt to deal with mud was to bath him, it took 30 minutes of him splashing about and by the end, both myself and the bathroom was soaked and caked in mud. It took another 30 minutes to clean that up, which is clearly not a tenable situation. After the next walk, I decided it was going to have to be the hose in the garden, so holding him by his collar I proceeded to spray icy water on to the worst of the mud. In the blink of an eye, he reared up twisted around and proceeded to simultaneously crush my hand and garrote himself. We mutually agreed that didn’t work.

In the end, I built a pen out of spare metal fencing and dragged him into it, The next 5 minutes were to be fair harrowing, I’m not going to sugar coat it. I might as well have been spraying him with acid from his reaction Keep in mind this is the same pup that will happily wade through water up to his ears just for fun. I was finding it hard to reconcile that with the shaking mess staring up at me. I finally let him out (clean) and he shook the worst and bounded at the towel I was holding. Twenty seconds later he was a happy go lucky pup again.

We’ve been through this process a few times now. Archer’s still not a fan but he at least now accepts it and will now walk into the pen with a “get it over” attitude.

Dirty Dog

The puppy honeymoon period is well and truly over and we are now getting into details that weren’t covered in the handbook. As discussed in previous posts Archer love’s to socialise, he’s never happier than when he finds a playmate. Unfortunately, somewhere in all the close quarters play he appears to have picked up the Canine Oral Papillomas virus or to give it, it’s more common name puppy warts. Yes, it turns out that’s a thing, it’s common in puppies and they appear as warty cauliflower appendages. Luckily he has only a few small polyps on the inside of his cheek at this point, hopefully, it won’t spread so we’ll be keeping an eye on it and keeping him away from too much fun.

The general advice is to let him grow out of it unless they get infected or prevent him from eating (not likely). Evidently, we can look forward to them just dropping off at some undetermined point in the future, lovely.

Nemesis (Part 2)

As covered in a previous post Border collies have proven to be Archer’s nemesis when out in the field. But he has made some good progress in the last month and is starting to understand what’s required to pass a border check (no Brexit pun intended). In fact, he again came across the collie that attacked him on one walk and realising who it was (just in time) he proceeded to give him a good 50ft leeway. It’s the first time I’ve seen him adapt his engagement strategy from the default bound in and hope for the best.

His other nemesis at least if you are to believe the old adage about cats and dogs should be our cats Itchy and Scratchy. But having seen him from a pup they’ve had as much input on his upbringing as myself and Wen and he’s been schooled in good feline etiquette. Although he’ll still push his luck, it usually only involves a paw waved at him these days for him to get the message. You can see in the photo above they are more than happy to share prime seating spots.

PlayTime

Archer definitely favours his own breed when it comes to playing. The style of play between Retrievers (and to a lesser extent all the Gundogs) is boisterously unique and mainly involves wrestling with little running around and it can appear to be very violent. It’s also usually silent, other than the odd growl. I’ve only see Boxers (the breed) engage in similar play.

Other breeds tend to engage in various different styles of play, my generalised observations by class:

  • Pastrol – you can see the instinct instantly. They chase, herd, bark, nip and dominate. Having got Archer on the ground they don’t press the attack. Instead, they’ll let him back up, he’ll wander around a bit and then they’ll chase him back down. The objective of the play always seems very much about control. Archer doesn’t care play is play.
  • Hounds  – needless to say, if it’s a Whippets/Greyhound it’s about speed in fact usually straight out drag racing. It’s not Archers forte and any hound worth its salt can make him look like he’s standing still. It’s funny to watch though. They typically size him up in a few passes and carry on about their business.
  • Toy – practically all of the toy breeds are not interested in playing with Archer even on his best behaviour it’s clear he has little control of flailing limbs and they are far from stupid to engage with such an oaf.
  • Terrier – there’s nothing funnier than a Jack Russell terrier giving him a good run for his money (literally), usually involving a lot of bouncing, barking and running. The funny thing is the sheer energy level of some of these little guys (god help him if it’s a Staffy) is insane and they’ll literally run Archer into the ground, before dancing off to find another play date.
  • Utility / Working – it’s a shame, other than Boxers Archer hasn’t had much opportunity to play with breeds from these categories. He comes across a lot of huskies/malamutes but their owners tend to keep them on a tight leash.

Of course, you’ll always come an exception to the rule usually when a particular breed has been brought up around another breed. It’s always fun to come across the exceptions.

Swimming Lessons

Golden retrievers are known for their love of water, Archer literally has evolutionary mutations for swimming (double coat, webbed feet). So I ensure that a couple of times a week (tides allowing) that he gets an opportunity to get his feet wet. The trick at the moment is to ensure a muddy walk ends with a body of water so he can clean himself off (otherwise it’s the hose).

He still hasn’t quite got to the point of swimming, but he loves to paddle just as long as his feet are still on terra firma. My attempts to push the process along a bit have not gone so well, having got him to fall off the wooden ramp (see pond picture above), he steadfastly clung to the ramp with his front paws like a drowning man. Embarrassing not only because the water was only 2ft deep (if that) but because his whining attracted a number of good samaritan’s who were willing to lend a hand to save him. I had to wave them off pointing out that it was, in fact, a swimming lesson, no matter what Archer’s vocalisations might have been suggesting to the contrary.

In the end, I had to admit defeat, having pried his front claws off the ramp so he was left standing in the water he steadfastly refused to acknowledge that he wasn’t about to drown. So I plucked him out, he shook himself off and then proceeded to give me a proper bollocking, barking and jumping up as if to say you b******. That was a first, it’s usually me telling him off.

 

AnimalsDog Days

Archer – 6 Months

10th November 2018 — 0

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It’s been a while since I’ve found the time to post an update on Archer’s 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 has 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).

Socialisation

As a dog owner, one of the 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 the spectrum will typically tolerate Archer’s social faux paws. 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 timider 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.

Nemesis

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 and we’d come very close to getting one ourselves. But for some reason, they take an instant 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 its 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 no 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.

Lunacy

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 arm’s 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 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.

Bombproof

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 overspilling 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 were 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 a 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 halfway 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.

Temperament

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. It’s become 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 aeon of evolution can produce.

Archer is not a lap dog, he’s not a huge fan of 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 on up but to just get some attention that he needs something.

Wen told him to go to bed the other night, took off 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 the 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 is more of those of a 14-year-old dog than a young whelp.

The Cats

I’m still hopeful that this year 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 boundary.

For example Itchy every morning will sit 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 standoff 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 telltale.

Training

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 in putting treats all over his person and getting him to wait for the “yours” command. The poor pup you should see his little face if dogs could sweat it would be pouring 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.

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