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 to 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 around 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 its 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 fur. It’s an easy one to fix, but funny as hell to witness.
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 were 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 week’s 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 microseconds). 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 wristwatch 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 the patio to the 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 back kicks 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 gets him moving again. On a 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.
The highlight of this weeks walking was the opportunity to meet a truly humongous gentle St Bernard. The paws of which were the size of Archer’s 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, grasshopper!